Wednesday, May 22, 2024


One November, Veronica and I were driving from Regina to Saskatoon, perhaps for what was once our annual trip to do Christmas shopping.  We had stopped at Chamberlain, where I heard an exchange between a clerk and one of the locals, who said "The days are getting shorter and shorter, and I'm solar powered."  I completely got that and loved her way of expressing a psychological fact of winter this far north.  

But it's spring, not winter.  The season highlights the fact that I'm also powered by hope.  Is it an addiction, something I can't live without in spite of the fact that there is very little in our collective human life right now that seems hopeful--from wildfire season to Gaza?  An addiction, then, that damages my ability to live realistically? So many things recently--everything from world events to the cancer diagnosis of a friend to a novel I've recently read--suggest that my predilection for hope represents an addled world view.

Yet while I was talking this over with my sympathetic cat, Lyra--something I often do because animals embody different perspectives--his very being in my household told me my hope wasn't misplaced.  Seven years ago, he and his four-week-old litter-mates were found, motherless, under some stairs in Rollo SK.  We will never know what happened to mother.  But someone knew of Regina Cat Rescue, which in turn had a volunteer who could coax still nursing kittens to suckle from a syringe, and who had time to spare. Being held like a babe in arms to eat led him to think that human beings naturally loved him.  He still likes being held that way, if he doesn't simply sit with one paw on my scapula, one on my throat, and look in my eyes animal to animal. Anyway, I adopted him and his brother into a household that could not be more loving, where they thrived. He makes the world a better place--because he returns me to the serenity and cheerfulness that make me kinder, and being kind is the only way I can change the world. This could have turned out quite badly if the kittens hadn't been spotted:  meals for coyotes or hawks.  But it took a whole sequence of things going right to land him here.  

I've written recently that 

Something about this universe
reveres the beauty
of galaxies and goldfinches
and admires the destruction
of black holes consuming stars,
of time eating itself.

This is another way--more poetic and more philosophical, I hope--of saying something I often intone.  "The glass is about Half."  But it's spring now, and hope looks a little different.

I've found this spring hard, though none of the reasons I give for that experience completely explain how hard it was.  In March and April, I had a period when I felt constantly vulnerable and incompetent.  I was falling on the ice.  I couldn't complete the online forms for my Permanent Resident Card.  My writing was stuck and I was convinced, in any case, that what I wrote about didn't matter a whit to the social or literary world around me.  In an age of rampant consumerism, who wanted to read about the ethics and the aesthetics of minimalism?  In an age when literature is leaning into tragedy, violence, and victims, who wanted to read about a younger generation who greeted their personal tragedies with a determination to be resilient?  In the age of youth, who wanted to understand their mortality?  And then, I think the weather was awful.  I can't explain why windy days trouble me so, but they make me feel that the centre cannot hold, that things are just going to give up and fly off every which way. On windy days, I feel on the edge of chaos. We'd get one nice day and then three cold grey windy ones.  Maybe this is just spring on the prairies.  Maybe this is just spring on the prairies during a climate crisis.  Maybe seasons are simply more unsettled. Whine, whine, whine.

And then we had those wonderful days of rain a couple of weeks ago and things just decided to grow.  In the rain, you could actually see grass turn green during the day.  Then the trees decided to bud and leaf out. I've watched the shift with avid, attentive delight, noting how the trees changed daily, how yesterday the elms on Fifteenth Avenue were tentatively green one day and then turned to tender green clouds on the next.  I've watched my lemony lace elderberry unfold a little more each day.  I spent last Saturday among my ferns, cleaning out some of the leaves I rake over them each year, admiring the mathematics of their emerging fiddleheads.  The five ferns I bought for the bird garden, where I have my bird feeders among plants who will more or less make the seed pods part of their soil, are now twelve.  I've checked on the very old crab apple tree in my yard--it was old when I bought the house 34 years ago--to watch the tiny pink beads clustering at the ends of branches become blooms. Even the rose that was exposed to the cold without its winter coat of snow has put out shoots, albeit right at soil level.  There's a lot of winter kill to trim away, but that little shoot is the promise of yellow roses.  Over the last couple of weeks, it's as if a heavy weight has been lifted from my chest and from my soul. 

I'm not the only one with hope and optimism on the brain.  On Saturday, May 18, Robert Muggah and Misha Glenny wrote in The Globe and Mail about how our "age of  polycrisis" has us doomscrolling, consuming negative news.  Part of that is caused by algorithms meant to be addictive and part by the fact that "the world is objectively more volatile today than any time since the Second World War....By one estimate, there were as many as 183 regional, national, and local conflicts in 2023, the highest number in more than 30 years." Yet they also point out that "Recent studies confirm that overexposure to social media short-circuits the brain's natural self-defences, leaving us disoriented and depressed.  It turns out that optimism is good for us.  People fortified by an optimist mindset are less prone to conspiracy theories and are generally happier, healthier and live longer."  The body of their article explores the myriad challenges we face with a new world order that includes China, anti-democratic populism, and misinformation.  Yet they conclude that "one way we can navigate to a more rational and manageable future is by doing less doomscrolling, and instead shaping a more positive, optimistic future."

I'm feeling rebellious, so I'm going to write some blog posts about hope as a way of trying to revive my blogging while indulging my penchant for hope. I'm not just predisposed to hope; in fact, I can't live without it.  There's no point getting up in the morning.  Let me just end here with an intuition I hope I can make clearer by the time I'm done.  Hope isn't about the future--or it's not just about the future.  It's about how we feel right now.  Hope has to be blooming in this moment in order for us to feel as if we have the energy to cast it forward into the future.  (There's probably a paragraph or two about spoon theory coming your way.)  I can't act in a way that's hopeful and make the changes to my life and practice to create a more hopeful future unless I feel hope right now. The hopeless March and April taught me two things.  Don't beat yourself up if you can't find the spoons to be hopeful, but try to keep doing hopeful things as best you can, like being kind.  But at the same time, we might just learn that armed with hope right now we have more impact on the future than we think.  


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  2. I'll be looking forward to more frequent blog entries in the near future, Kathleen; to the glimpses into your life, your nature, and your thoughts about them. -Kate (p.s. comment deleted first time bc of misspelling)

  3. I like this post, too, Kathleen! Ken