Reflections-like a bird on flight

 | February 20,2012 10:36 am IST

'Hope' is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stopsat all

And sweetestin the Galeis heard
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm

I've heard it in the chillest land
And on the strangest Sea
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumbof Me (Hope-Emily Dickinson)

One of my favourite poems by Emily Dickinson, speaks in such lyrical sweet brevity, about the eternal human hope.
And it takes me on a personal journey about those who gave up too soon and those who kept on singing with the bird

So there are different varieties of Hop(p)ers:

Harpies- Dr.Clarissa Estes calls them the Hope Killers, who literally through their words, deeds and actions poop on your dreams. They are the evil birds which came picking on the food of the Greek hero Phineus. Every time his food (nourishment) is laid out, they would come to steal it, scatter it and defecate on it, leaving the man ravenous. In real life Dr Estes says, whenever you have an idea and you say, ' Well, I thought I would do this and this', the Harpy says, 'That's a stupid idea. No one cares about that. Its ridiculously simplistic. Well, mark my words, your ideas are all dumb, people will laugh, you really have nothing to say.'

Now, I have had a LOT of experience with Harpies-from childhood till today. They come in all guises, sizes and shapes. They came in the form of teachers who were sarcastic when faced with questions laced with nothing but genuine curiosity, they came in the form of so called 'friends' who always laughed at dreams ('Don't be overconfident about yourself '), they came in the form of relatives who thought certificates were 'pieces of paper' worth nothing. They came at every step, with their Harpy Talk, with doctorate degrees in humiliation and degradation, experts in destroying fragile egos and tentative dreams.

The way to handle Harpies are many.
You many ignore them. Like serpents they always come sliding back.
You may beat them back. If hurt on their heads, like serpents they will still slither back, dangerously mad.
The most effective way, I have seen, is to simply doggedly do your job, of following your dream. Take more energy from their nay-sayings. Convert their sayings into that determination which will make you write one more page of that dream book, one more lap of that killing race, one more chapter for that dream competitive exam. And nothing flummoxes them as much as your success.You have moved beyond their evil harping.

So we counter the Harpy-Birds of prey with Dickinson's Bird of Hope.

2. Hope-Sustainers: These are soul mates, soul-friends, who understand instinctively and relate without difficulty to your aspirations. They are the friends of the Bird.

Dr. Estes says, 'Friends who love you and have warmth for your creative light are the very best suns in the world. If you have a plant that is sick because you keep it in a dark closet, and you say soothing words to it, it is comfort. If you take it out of the closet, and put it in the sun and give it something to drink, it is nurture.


Hope-sustainers are friends who nurture and not merely comfort. They are the ones who stand by and cheer as you do lap after lap of that dreaded dream run.
'Come-on, you can do it. Keep it up,. Here, take this drink...go onnnnn..'

I have been blessed in my life with lots of Hope-Sustainers. They lift the spirit out of the morass of loneliness and depression where the Harpies have driven it to.
When you are successful, I want this and this', they tease, lighting up hopes and fantasies of the dream-come-true. They create word pictures in your heart. They come in the form of a warm hug, a warmer phone call, a pat in the back, sometimes just an understanding cup of tea on your desk. Even a bottle of Vicks Vaporub:)

We tend to downplay Hope-sustainers. We make the mistake of not valuing them properly. We resist those who offer us soul-nourishment because we feel 'we are not worth it.'
Lesson is, keep up with the Hope-sustainers. Drink and eat more with these species. They are birds of myriad colours, who sing songs like you do. Or even better. They are listener birds of your dreams.

3. The Inspiratrice-
'When seeking guidance, do not ever listen to the tiny-hearted. Be kind to them heap them with blessing, cajole them, but do not follow their advice.'(Women who run with Wolves, pg196)

They epitomize what we dream. The actor who excels , the writer who wins prizes, the topper of examinations, the teacher who laughs, the doctor who heals, the batsman who gets his century....the never ending list of those who inspire. The ones whose photographs adorn our wardrobes, our walls, our desk tops. The ones who show it is all possible.

Now that we are grown up, there is all the more need to have inspiratrices. To be inspiratrices to others by role modeling.

'Where does she live? She lives in the green poking through snow, she lives in the rustling stalks of dying autumn corn, she lives where the dead come to be kissed and the living send their prayers. She lives in the place where language is made. She lives on poetry and percussion and singing. She lives on quarter notes and grace notes, and in a cantata, in a sestina and in the blues. She is the moment before inspiration bursts upon us. She lives in a faraway place that breaks through to our world.' (WWRWW: pg.12)


I bow before Dr.Clarissa Estes, Emily Dickinson and their master pieces on recovering the hope within the human heart.