Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.
These are some of my favorite lines from Emily Dickinson, and when I ran into them this morning when I was reading the reflection in Martha Whitmore Hickman's Healing after Loss, it triggered a cascade of memories like linked windows suddenly opening one above the other from ground level to the sky.
I chose Emily Dickinson for my "Junior Poet" at the University, but since I had been a Spanish major my junior year, I had to do the Junior Poet work my senior year, along with my senior thesis. Although my first choice was Gerard Manley Hopkins, I finally decided he was too difficult, when I was in New York City most of the year and couldn't just drop in on the professors for advice. Dickinson turned out to be a good choice in conjunction with my thesis topic, the Puritans in literature, since much of her writing wrestled with them on their New England turf.
The window that opened closest to the clear but pale blue sky as I reflected on these words was the burgeoning hope that often springs up unexpectedly when I have started early in the morning and the day rolls out with promise before me. The Gospel reading for today is one of my favorites: Jesus has just fed the crowds with miraculously multiplied bread and fish, he sends the disciples off in their boat, dismisses the crowd, and goes up the mountain to pray.
Later, he will walk on water and calm the storm. But I have often been caught up in the time he went up the mountain and imagined I was a child leaving the crowd and following him. What would it have been like to be there in the shadows with Jesus in communion with his Father? Did he speak or was the silence around him pregnant with the mystery of the Persons of the Trinity? When I feel flattened in my prayer life, as if I were a one dimensional being, perhaps I need to ponder the immensity of that communication beyond dimension and time and space, that reaches out to include me with all my limits and give me a glimpse of prayer caught up into eternity.