Hope on a balcony

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I am moved by many things. Sunrise over mountains. A hummingbird in the woods. My children’s belly laughs.

But nothing moves me quite as much as hope.

In today’s cynical world, to hope is to be mocked on some fronts. Or to be disdained, dismissed as less sophisticated than your jaded peers. When I tear up at weddings, I see the looks on the faces of those who take things at surface value. They’re wondering when the champagne will be served as I marvel at the audacious promise being made despite the odds.

Hope is not in vogue.

And yet, I see an army of individuals out there hoping—those radicals.

I do so love those radicals.

I’m not even talking about hoping for the biggies here—world peace, the eradication of hunger, saving endangered species.

I’m talking about geraniums on the balcony.FeaturePics-Venetian-Balcony-151642-2824218

Have you ever looked out a train window and seen a less-than-beautiful building in a less-than-savory area? Most of the apartment balconies look bare and blighted, somewhat like the neighborhood.

And then, one lone balcony comes into view. Your eye is drawn to it because of the pop of red color in terra cotta pots. The somewhat worn, but cheerful looking, chair near those pots. And you can just picture the inhabitant of that apartment creating a haven in the middle of the sea of blah. A haven to sip a cup of tea, read a good book, chat with a friend.

Rather than accepting circumstances and being drawn down to their level, this Picasso has redefined circumstances and raised the bar. And you have to wonder, even as you smile at the charming audacity, what prompted this person to make the effort. The alternative is surely easier, if less attractive.

It’s hope.

Hope that the beauty spreads, that it makes a Sunday afternoon more hospitable, that it leaves a stranger passing by on the train inexplicably smiling.

Hope is on my mind because, as a family, we planted a tree this past weekend. We’d lost a stately old ash tree to the emerald ash borer and our backyard was bare. I decided we’d replace it with a sugar maple, looking forward to the gorgeous gold and orange fall foliage. But, when I had arborists quote me a price for a good-sized tree, I felt the pain. Easily into the four figures to purchase a large tree and have it planted.

Then it hit me that planting a tree is something my boys have never done. And something every child should do. To plant a small tree and watch it grow flies in the face of the instant gratification our children have come to expect. And I love anything that combats that attitude of entitlement.

So, I ordered a “small” tree from a nursery in Tennessee and we waited. I somehow expected a sapling to arrive but what came instead I can only describe as—a stick. Yes, a stick.

Bare of leaves, with a diameter smaller than my pinky, but with roots still green and alive.

Despite our dog mistaking the tree for an actual stick and chewing off a few roots, we managed to dig a hole, prepare the soil and get this twig into the ground. It is supposed to grow to be about 60 feet tall. I cannot yet imagine that. Neither can my sons.

And that, friends, is where hope enters.

We see the bare backyard. We don’t accept the circumstances; we have a vision to better them. It will take time and vigilance as we see our “stick” through storms, rabbits and yes, even our lovely Bailey’s constant digging.

I am rooting for this twig. If only so my boys see their hope rewarded.

Yes, I’m a sucker for balcony geraniums, spindly twig trees and what is inside of the person who makes either happen.

My son used to have a classmate who was chastised often by her peers for ending up in the wrong classroom or class group. Usually, it was because she had entered the wrong line. When I gently directed her toward where she was supposed to be, she said: “Oh, Mrs. R, I can’t help it. I see a line of people and I just have to follow it.” That’s the mantra of a gifted girl who has a bit of absentminded professor in her. It’s also the mantra of someone who hopes, envisioning something wonderfully curious or exciting at the end of that line. Needless to say, I was always a sucker for little Callie also.

IMG_0743005It’s spring and that brings me hope. To celebrate the season, I’m currently participating in a grassroots effort of sorts to “clean up” my life and environment—spring cleaning in every sense of the word. Called the “Queen Sweep,” it’s run online by a very encouraging woman who is coaching a good number of us from all over the world on creating more beauty and less clutter in our lives.

I see so many examples of hope in this group, in small ways that add up to earth-shaking changes. Garages, kitchens, offices—and yes, even lowly nightstands are getting a facelift. See my before and after shots—I can’t tell you how much more peaceful it is to go to bed at night.

There’s a lot of hope in this group, not to mention a whirlwind of energy. But we’re keeping our actions small and real at the moment. Which is usually how true change happens, right?

Hope springs eternal? Yes. At least at my house it does.

I’m hoping you can say the same.