Thursday, January 24, 2013

From ashes

We're in a cold snap, which mainly means I fight Elizabeth about keeping a hat on, I find my fingers getting numb as she fights me about getting buckled in her car seat, I keep the fire roaring at home, and, sometimes, the pipes freeze.

Right now the fire isn't roaring because I'm letting the furnace do the work of heating our old house, since that's the best way to get the warmth to the far flung and poorly insulated kitchen, pantry and bathroom. I'd love to have the stove cranking out heat that would warm me in a cozier way than the furnace can do, but the timing isn't bad in that we needed to empty out some ash anyway.

I haven't put wood on since this morning. The flames and all chunks of wood disappeared in early afternoon. After I got the kids to bed, I opened the stove and was surprised how warm it was. I raked over the gray dead ash and was met with warm orange glow of still live coals. A bit of tinder, a puff of air and—poof—we'd have flame.

Hope is like that. Beaten down, trampled, extinguished again and again until you are certain you can hope no more. And then a word, a thought, a possibility and the glow begins. When Henry was in the hospital I was amazed by how tenacious hope really was. My own hope burnt down to ash many times, until I was afraid to hope again, until I wasn't sure I could hope again, and then the fever broke, he moved one notch closer to coming off the ventilator, doctors began murmuring about going home . . . And then he died. Could anything quench a fire more thoroughly? I remember not wanting to hope when I was pregnant with Kathleen, but being unable to stop.

My hope burns fairly steadily these days, but I remember when it was reduced to ash. And I remember how amazing it was to see it spring to life again. To warmth and hope.


  1. This is beautiful and SO true. I wear a necklace that I got during my pregnancy with Harlow. I needed something against my skin to remind me of that hope. Because hope is precarious and easily dashed and we are so vulnerable when our child dies. My necklace has a partial quote from an Emily dickenson poem. It says: Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul.
    The rest of that poem is lovely too but I needed something to physically hold on to. I wear it all the time because I still need hope... Hope that my heart will grow instead of turn black and shrivel, that my children will thrive, that I can forgive, hope that things will not always be such a struggle emotionally or physically for that matter. Hope that I can regain some of all that I have lost since I can not regain Camille. I think you are right. Hope is tenacious. I think of people who endured concentration camps and how they had to cling to some firm of hope. My goodness how much suffering there is and how important hope is!

  2. I love this post. Beautiful and true.