The other night, we sat around the dinner table, which we had cleared of cups and dishes but still had crumbs and smears of gravy, and lit the first advent candle. Hope. The first week of advent we are meant to hold and expect hope.
I don’t feel very hopeful about the state of our world. Our president suppresses the media like the scary fascists I learned about in 10th grade World History, there were more dead pine trees than alive when I drove into the mountains to go skiing last weekend, and I stepped over a sleeping body when I got off my bus today to go to work. I think hope might be a thing that rich people teach their kids while on vacation in Turks and Caicos, like believing in Santa Claus or that things happen for a reason.
But then I feel my heart soften towards someone I wasn’t expecting to forgive, and there’s an unexpected peacefulness in my heart that makes the world feel a little quieter. Or I scroll through my instagram feed and see that one of my preacher friends has crossed into Mexico in order to perform marriages, so that couples have a higher chance of staying together once they begin procedures with ICE. This morning, my bus driver waited for nearly ten minutes for a woman to peel off her gloves, one finger at a time, and, trembling, place her quarters into the meter. The whole bus was still, and the snow outside fell slowly, in clumps, and I watched the woman’s mouth move in a deliberate conversation with the bus driver, whose eyes looked back onto the rest of his passengers, silently asking our permission to continue to offer the dignity of independence to our newest fellow passenger. And we consented.
Wendell Berry writes, “Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias. / Say that your main crop is the forest / that you did not plant, / that you will not live to harvest. / Say that the leaves are harvested / when they have rotted into the mold.” Yesterday, I went on a snowy hike near Mt Evans, and stood on top of a lake that was silent, deep, and stagnant, frozen with the stubbornness of cold –frozen, that is, except for the two feet at the very bottom, where fish and bacteria and the loch ness monster huddle, still, waiting for spring. There, they will cling to half-life, sharing bubbles of oxygen and fin slapping each other awake when one starts to lose sight of the inevitable arrival of warmth and hope. They don’t despair at the sun’s lack of strength, too weak to cut through the ice. The fish just press into the gift of the earth, warming the bottom foot of their lake home from the depths of its core. It’s the rotting mold that warms them, the gift of gifts that aren’t wrapped with bows.
May the gift of earthy hope be abundant this advent season.