Be the Light

I’ve said it before, more than once, I confess. But I feel compelled to say it again, so that I might feel part of the conversation/action that is called change. We are always changing and evolving and sometimes the change is so small that it can go undetected, and a sense of hopelessness can creep in, the destination so far off that we can’t ever imagine getting to it. Change and creativity are closely linked, and that’s where hope comes in. Creativity feeds our souls and helps us find solutions. As Amanda Gorman says, “Poetry and language are at the heartbeat of movements for change.” In case you have been away, Amanda read her poetry at the inauguration of Joe Biden. Amanda has a vision of the world that few have, certainly few visionaries of her age.

I have added her name to my list of examples, of those who represent what matters to me in the world. I hesitate to call them heroes, because that puts quite a burden on them, as if they must begin and end every day in perfection. None of us are capable of such. The list isn’t too long. I’m careful in my selections. Of course, Annie is on my list for her love and Mr. Quesnel for his kindness and Garnet Angeconeb for his commitment to truth and reconciliation. Today, I am penning in the name of Amanda Gorman and the reasons are abundant and obvious. At age twenty-three she has a certainty of purpose that inspires me and lifts me up. Her poetry has power, is laden with wisdom and understanding of the human condition and our struggle to find our way to a better version of ourselves. On days when the sky feels heavy, when my steps are sluggish, when my breath is choppy, I turn to Amanda’s recitation of The Hill We Climb she gave on January 20, 2021. I would be hard pressed to give an accurate number of the times I have listened to her speak her powerful poem, but I would have used up all my fingers and toes to have kept track. And almost every single time, along with feeling lifted and restored, I weep.

Above my desk on a very large bulletin board, I have pictures and notes to remind me to not become complacent, not to let my aches and pains crush my desire to be useful. I have letters from people I have never met and letters from friends I haven’t seen for too many years, photos of my girls and of my horse, a painting an elderly neighbour did for me, and several other treasures. I start every sit at my desk by surveying my bulletin board, looking for inspiration, for calm and for memories.

It is much too easy these days to lose hope. The “news” is no longer news but rather the telling of events in the bleakest voice possible. The media shouts and threatens and frightens, conspiracy so much easier to believe in than common sense. I used to be an optimist, a bit of a Pollyanna and though at times that put me in harm’s way, I far preferred that philosophy over the contrary. I read a transcript of an Amanda Gorman interview where she was asked about her choice of being an optimist. She heartily accepted the moniker, but with a caveat of sorts, that optimism isn’t in opposition to pessimism, but “in conversation with it”. She went on to say that “optimism will never be as powerful as it is in that exact moment when you want to give it up.” My optimism is battered and bruised, gasping for breath at times.

I have now added the last line of Amanda’s poem to my bulletin board – For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.” So, if you’ll excuse me, I must find my armour, the one that gives me the courage I need to be the light.

wendistewart@live.ca

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