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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

Averyt: Heartspun Hope

Even though the diminishing light of November and early December often drag me into the doldrums, the holiday season usually seems to arrive just in time. In late November, we stop to express thankfulness, celebrating abundance and family. Then comes the segue to December when red-suited Santas ring bells on the corner and cards and hearts share the hope of peace and goodwill toward men.

But this year, the turmoil brought on by the November election seemed to add to the darkness of my days and tip my mood toward despair – until I came across a poem by Carl Sandburg.

Somehow when long-winded exposition fails, poems in their brevity speak volumes, telling us what our heart knows if only we listen. At least, that’s how I felt when I stumbled upon Sandburg's poem, Hope is a Tattered Flag.

The poem, part of Sandburg's epic collection, We the People, Yes, was written in 1936 to rally the country mired deep in the Great Depression. The 300-page work was a tribute to the resilience of the American spirit and the enduring power of hope. Hope, which Sandburg called "a tattered flag and a dream of time."

In the poem, Sandburg reminds us that in war as well as in peace, "birds go on singing to their mates." That no matter how deep our despair, spring grass "shows itself where least expected" and even in a "changeable sky" there is still a "rolling fluff of white clouds."

Now, he says, is the Christmas season with “children singing chorals... Bach being broadcast from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania ... And the hands of strong men groping for handholds..."

I think that's what Sandburg meant when he wrote that hope is a "heartspun word." And it’s those values of the heart that I most cherish, that I will continue to believe in and to speak up for. Hope is both a personal healer and a powerful motivator. It’s the light that breaks through my gloom and illumines my way.

Carl Sandburg wrote, hope is "the kiss, the comforting laugh and (the) resolve—"

So this holiday season, I'll share anew the wonder of children dreaming of sugar plum fairies, the merriment of dancing reindeer and the mystery of a sleigh riding through the night sky.

I’ll reclaim my hope and my belief in the strength of goodness, the power of kindness. I'll rededicate myself to striving for a better world, during the holidays and beyond.

Free lance writer, Anne Averyt, lives in South Burlington, with her cat Sam and as many flowers as possible.
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