I’m staring at a powerline, watching a hundred birds in silhouette sit and preen, sing and patiently watch the sun go down. The scene is both hopeful and full of gravity. Hope changes as you get older. In the beginning, possibilities and opportunities seem strung out in front of us, like birds on a powerline, too many to count.
As the years pass; some birds fly away while others stick around, some we pass by and others still, seem to fade from view. But there are always birds on a wire, somewhere in front of us, keeping our eye on what’s to come. Always look up, I say – speaking to the hopeful wanderer within me.
Trouble is, the more birds that fly away, the more important the ones on the wire become. In fact, those little birds start to carry a mighty weight. The weight of expectation, anticipation and trepidation. Even now, looking out my window, I can see the powerlines starting to sag under the pressure. Who ever guessed that hope could be so heavy?
The burden of my hope, once spread on the shoulders of a hundred sparrows, cripples the few now left to carry them.
The longer we live seeking out the opportunities that will fulfill our hopes, the more important each one becomes on the journey of contentment. Being hopeful isn’t just about blind belief – hope is stirred within us once there is a possibility in sight, once there’s a bird on the wire.
Hope isn’t always what you need though. Sometimes hope is a red herring and a distraction. Hope spends all it’s time asking for you to cast your eyes up, to watch and wait, expecting and looking for something to pass into the shape of your dreams on the horizon.
I’ve watched a few birds fly off recently – projects that didn’t work out the way I dreamed, relationships that haven’t turned out to be smooth sailing, things that used to excite me that just don’t have the same energy to them anymore.
Long hoped for places of belonging have become reminders of my alienation, my distinctness and, at times, my isolation. Hope doesn’t have much for me right now – but being grounded does.
Being grounded and looking at the world through eye-level for a while, might just save me.
Be careful where you promote hopefulness as a cure-all to the disease of loneliness and sorrow, to the mother recently miscarried or the lover recently betrayed. Some birds need to fall before they can learn to fly. Carrying on is what we need to learn.
Carrying on for a moment can be enough. One foot after the other on the ground. Taking our eyes off those little birds and grasping what’s in our hands. Right now, in the present.
You can cast your eyes up to the sky some other day, but first maybe you need not to drown in the longing or the waiting. There is a time to mourn and a time to dance. When you’re drowning, it’s not the time to be distracted by thoughts of the birds overhead. It’s time to swim to the other side.
And the birds up on the wires and the telegraph poles
They can always fly away from this rain and this cold
You can hear them singing out their telegraph code
All the way down the telegraph road