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After I wrote my post on Saturday (How can a caged bird sing?), I settled in to read for awhile. I’m reading a wonderful book by Australian author Amanda Curtin called Elemental. I was surprised to find a familiar quote in the book. Very familiar. In fact, I have it printed out on a piece of paper and, along with a green feather, stuck down into the frame of the Leuing cartoon I was posting about that day. I put it there to remind me never to lose hope. To state emphatically that no matter how long I’m stuck in my cage, I refuse to give up hope altogether. I can’t or I fear I will shrivel up and wither away. The quote is by Emily Dickinson.

Hope is the thing with feathers
that perches in the soul
and sings the tunes without the words
and never stops at all.

Bird of HopeHope. That is the song the caged bird sings and always will whether those hopes are ever realized or not. The key to the singing, and maybe even to the cage itself, I reckon, is to learn to roll with the punches. To not sit passively by, but to learn from the happenings in my life.

Change is everywhere. People change, things change, time changes, and on and on it goes. Everything that IS changes. And not just OUTSIDE of me but INSIDE of me (and others), too. Really, change is about the only constant in my life sometimes. I can tell you with all sincerity, I HATE CHANGE. But I’m learning that I always have a choice as to how I deal with it. It’s a hard, hard lesson and I suck at it. I have to force myself to remember that an ending always also signals a beginning. T.S. Eliot said:

What we call the beginning is often an ending.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.

Change is a double-edged sword. On one side I have to come to terms with the idea that something I once had has changed. And no matter how small or great the loss, how fleeting or lasting, my emotions come and go quickly — or I may just shut down. But what I’m finding as I’m dealing with the “change artifacts” I dig up during my spelunking is that I can’t do an end run around change. I may think I can, but eventually it’s bound to catch up with me and I will STILL have to grieve that loss.

No, the best way to deal with change, I’m learning, is to plow right through the middle of it. That’s how I find my new beginning. And that middle can be a scary, empty space. It feels pretty lonely. But that’s where I have to go to learn to let go of the way things were so I can grab hold of the way things can be, which is the other edge of the sword. Sometimes that happens quickly, sometimes it takes years — like dealing with the grief of my mom’s passing (Forgive me. I did not see it. I have failed you all.). No two of my journeys have ever been the same.

The important thing for me to remember is that the in between place can be a fertile time, too. I’ve found I daresn’t hurry the change. It’s best to just be myself, to learn to live in that emptiness and accept that what was is past. And I think I’m discovering that it’s ok to feel lost. That’s where I seem to be finding the voice to my true self, my soul. And that is where I hold on to the faith that God will send someone alongside me to hold the torch high as I pass through those dark, lonely places. People like my friends Kim and Plato. Henry David Thoreau once said:

Not until we are lost
do we begin to understand ourselves.

So if I’m lucky, while I’m in that in between place in my cave, I may find another piece of myself. And that’s the best place to start a new beginning, for that’s when I can begin to search for the lessons I couldn’t see in the middle. Truthfully, sometimes that in between space can feel like a desert not a cage. And when that happens, there’s an old Chinese proverb I keep stuck in my back pocket to read in those times I lose hope of things ever feeling right again.

tree with birdKeep a green tree
in your heart
perhaps a singing
bird will come.


And the song it will sing will be one of hope…