Hope on a balcony

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.

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18 Comments Add yours

  1. Gardening is an exercise in hope.
    Which – surprisingly often — is rewarded beyond our dreams.

  2. This is a wonderfully uplifting post Kay. I can imagine the joy of that tree years from now when it’s been nurtured as you live your lives.

  3. Michelle Charles says:

    Kristine, you mentioned entitlement, I just finished a wonderful book called “Cleaning House” by Kay Willis Wyma about a mom’s 12 month experiment to rid her home of youth entitlement basically her version of teaching her kids home economics. Needless to say we are making some small but permanent changes in our house! I highly recommend the read and I will be checking out “Queen Sweep” next.

    1. candidkay says:

      I will check out “Cleaning House”–thanks for the rec!

  4. Sue says:

    I spell hope Miguel, Talen and Neiyah. HOPE

    1. candidkay says:

      With a Nana like you, how could they not? 🙂

  5. Anne says:

    I hope the tree survives & they can view it when they are grown. Their Uncle Bob planted an acorn in his grandmother’s back yard & saw the huge oak when he was a grown man & often told me how he had planted that trree. Go little stick tree into a beautiful magnificent tree!

    1. candidkay says:

      I’m telling it the same thing:).

  6. Kami says:

    I’ve been leaning away from hope the past few days and this set me to standing upright again. Thank you for your wonderfully crafted words.

    1. candidkay says:

      At the risk of plying a hopelessly overused phrase, lean in:). Thanks for reading .

  7. Thanks for this uplifting post.

  8. When our children were very little and we lived in suburbs of Boston, we planted a tree for them. They were able to watch the tree, a red maple, from my in-laws, grow a little bit. When we moved to NY I wanted to take the tree with us but was discouraged since it was so young. I regret listening to that advice. When we sold our house it was written in the contract that the tree stayed in its place. The people we sold our house to, agreed and they were very nice and took great care of it. We used to visit the tree. Years later we went up again, and the tree was not there. There was another tree but it was not the same one and it was in a different spot. I was hoping my kids wouldn’t notice but of course they did. They took it better than I did, that’s for sure. My eyes are welling up just thinking about that tree, the tree we should have taken with us.

    1. candidkay says:

      That’s so sad. And yet, change really is the one constant. Now there’s your next blog post–The Tree We Should Have Taken With Us. I bet it would be beautiful.

      1. …and a real tear jerker ! Well, you and think alike and that’s a good thing. Regards, Laurie

  9. Jim Simon says:

    This is wonderful. Thank you so much.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you for stopping by and for the kind words.

  10. You would not have been born when the maple in our back yard was planted. I was 5. I still remember planting the tree with dad and looking at it and marveling every time I entered mom’s and dad’s back door. I drove by that tree last time I was home, still too early to bloom and once again marveled at it’s size and resilience. Planting a small tree and watching it grow will be great…I planted my small red maple last fall in my new yard – not sure how long I have to watch it grow, but in some ways it beats a large mature tree any day. It is slow to blossom this spring, I check it weekly, but I think it has survived the worst winter in years – a hopeful sign!

  11. markbialczak says:

    Yes, hope is life, and life is hope, Kay. This is a marvelously and rightfully hopeful post.

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