Hope swoops into our lives—a random, fluttering presence we grab when our heavy hearts need a back-up plan. Hope tilts the navy sky and pierces dark corners with jagged spikes of radiance; it frees imaginations, builds footbridges, and boosts our bruised and broken spirits with a gentle quiver of its powerful wings.
Life’s political cacophony might pummel us into a fitful trance, but hope’s quiet birdsong awakens our deep desire to do good, to do right, to do anything at all to chase away wickedness.
The Women’s March on Washington took that quiet birdsong—an effortless melody that too many of us took for granted—and arranged it for four million voices, giving us a bold, bashing, international choral performance that inspired not only hope, but action.
On Inauguration Day Melania Trump, channeling Jackie Kennedy and The Hunger Games, wore pale blue, double-faced cashmere Ralph Lauren. Kellyanne Conway, channeling Pennsatucky and Winnie the Pooh, wore Gucci. Both women sported stiletto heels. Ivanka de la Trump wore Oscar de la Renta. Hillary Clinton wore a gleaming white pantsuit and an air of dignified resignation that she might have borrowed from my closet, or yours.
The peaceful protesters the next day—women who regularly climb small mountains and outrun wolves—wore double-faced fleece from Target or Timberland. They wore warm socks and heavy Keen hiking boots or thick-soled sport shoes. They came equipped to brave the cold, march a mile or two, and kick some butt if they had to. They brought their daughters and their mothers. They wore pink pussy hats and they grabbed back.
They are my heroes.
Note to the bullies: Never, ever piss off a woman with high moral standards, a set of knitting needles, and sensible shoes. You’ll get a gazillion misshapen hats, a serious movement to protect our fundamental rights, and four million protesters. You’ll get an overdue call for change and it will sound like nothing you’ve heard before.
We shout, we sing, we march. Four million of our sisters (and brothers) protesting. Think of that.
We crave hope like we crave sunlight or fresh air or clean water (all of which are at risk). To keep on keepin’ on we need to keep our dreams alive. So we tighten our laces and put one boot in front of another in the long, muddy march through a political catastrophe. Bullies line our path—pop-up purveyors of racist rhetoric, hell bent on tossing stink-bombs at anyone who doesn’t fit neatly into an American, white, heterosexual, Christian, male order.
America first, indeed. How about humanity first? How about decency first? Love first? Hope first? These work for me.
The marchers have given me hope that we are witnessing not the beginning of a new, evil world-order, but the end of an era of bare-assed hatred. We need to steel ourselves, though; bullies—especially when bloated by arrogance—never surrender without a fight. Remember junior high school? It’s like that, but with nuclear codes.
A few facts (not the alternative kind): We outnumber the bullies. We are smarter, more patient, more diplomatic. We carry hope in our clear plastic travel pouches instead of fear. The bullies’ dissonant shrieks might temporarily drown out the intricate and subtle symphony of human potential, but to me their cries sound more like the last raspy gasps of bigotry. The bullies are not going down without struggle. But they are going down, down, all the way down. They are, after all, bottom feeders.
We have wings.
Congressman John Lewis, who often speaks about the necessity of making “good trouble,” said: “It is my hope that people today will see that, in another time, in another period, when we saw the need for people to speak up, to organize, to mobilize, and to do something about injustice, we came together.”
So we march. Peaceful protest braids grace with determination and returns dignity and hope to all of us.
Hope’s presence, when it lands like a sparrow in our outstretched palms or on our pink-capped heads, might feel feather-light and fickle, but—think of this—a sparrow’s miniscule heart beats 460 times a minute. Fragile. Fleeting. Strong. Strong enough to get us through this storm if we rise together, speak up, shout out, and keep marching. Sneakers and boots on the ground. Step lively, ladies and gentlemen.
We stand shoulder-to-shoulder, arms to the sky, signs aloft. We sing and bang on drums. We are a loud-mouthed and luminescent beacon of humanity—a landing strip for hope’s flight of fancy.
Hope—never invisible and never mute—grows wings in improbable places. We may be stuck on the ground, but, thanks to hope, we arc toward the light and open our minds to necessary change.
Feathers, like whispered poetry or beautiful music, can drift from even the murkiest clouds.
This version of “Feathers” is dedicated to the memory of my dear aunt, Jean Curtis Ewing, who died on January 27th, 2017 at the age of ninety-four. She remained hopeful until the end. Purple was her favorite color, but her life looked a lot like a rainbow.
Small sections of “Feathers” first appeared in the book Hope is the Thing with Feathers: Portraits of Human Trafficking Survivors and Change-Makers, a project sponsored by STAND UP Against Human Trafficking Symposium held in The Hague on Octover 8-9, 2016 (My-Linh Kunst, Photographer; Mary Adams, Project Director). The message of hope continues to serve us well.
The Faces of Hope Portrait Gallery:
Robin Meloy Goldsby is a Steinway Artist. She is the author of Piano Girl; Waltz of the Asparagus People: The Further Adventures of Piano Girl; and Rhythm: A Novel.