our little tree: tiny hopeful buds

by Christie Shumate McElwee

We have a two-year old tree in front of our house that isn’t doing well. While all the other trees on our block have leafed out, ours silently stands with just a few buds attempting to open. Every day I send energy to its roots, hoping it will feel the strength of my love. I acknowledge that all my tree hugging may not be able to save it, yet I pray to Mother Nature to summon her powers to revive this struggling plant.

Lately I have been pondering the difference between hope and optimism. Yes, these concepts are related, but they follow divergent paths. Both are guideposts to the future. Think in terms of their opposites. The opposite of optimism is pessimism, and the opposite of hope is despair or fear. Optimism relies on feeling good about the future, even denying that bad things can happen. Optimists expect things to turn out okay. Hope, on the other hand, relies on the effort to make life better, knowing hard times are ahead and barreling ahead in spite of them. Hopeful people continue on through the pain, fighting for justice and kindness and peace.

In Emily Dickinson’s poem “Hope is the thing with feathers”, she writes:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –

And sore must be the storm –

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –

And on the strangest Sea –

Yet – never – in Extremity,

It asked a crumb – of me.

The little bird clings to the branch while the storm swells, and continues to sing its song. Hope gives us warmth, yet doesn’t ask anything of us. We know things are rough. We see the darkness. We feel the pain…yet hope is still there, singing its tune.

Where do I see hope? It is in people trying their best to protect others. It is in our beautiful faces, even when covered by masks. Hope is in the reaching out, the praying, the grace we give one another. Hope sustains us.

And what about our little tree? Will my hope save it? I check it every day for new buds, and embrace its trunk, hoping it will feel my spirit. Will it survive? I don’t really know the answer, but I continue to hope, and that hope gives me strength to face what is ahead. I will live under hope’s roof.

“The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.” 

Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams

At first glance, our little tree looks dead.
But step closer, you can see tiny, hopeful buds.

2 thoughts on “our little tree: tiny hopeful buds

  1. This sent me on a search about the difference between hope and optimism. Lots of articles, but I liked this excerpt best, which is pretty much what you said:

    Rabbi Jonathan Sacks teaches, “Optimism and hope are not the same. Optimism is the belief that the world is changing for the better; hope is the belief that, together, we can *make* the world better” (From *To Heal a Fractured World: The Ethics of Responsibility * ).

    Hope requires far more courage than optimism. Since it is an active virtue rather than a passive one…..

    I get concerned about our little tree every year. It’s always the last on the street to get leaves and the first to drop them. This year, sure enough, much later than all its neighbors, these tiny dead looking brown leaf things sprouted from the buds. I told Lou, they just sprouted and they look like leaves from late fall. They sprouted just to drop! Dead! But……now our little tree looks beautiful! Green and leafy! Better than it’s been the last couple years. The leaves are even variegated which we haven’t seen happen since we planted it 4 years ago. Hope springs eternal! I call our tree Courageous.

    On Fri, May 8, 2020, 12:10 PM live. love. breathe. wrote:

    > live love breathe posted: ” by Christie Shumate McElwee We have a two-year > old tree in front of our house that isn’t doing well. While all the other > trees on our block have leafed out, ours silently stands with just a few > buds attempting to open. Every day I send energy to its r” > Respond to this post by replying above this line > New post on *live. love. breathe.* > our little tree: > tiny hopeful buds > by > live love breathe > > by Christie Shumate McElwee > > We have a two-year old tree in front of our house that isn’t doing well. > While all the other trees on our block have leafed out, ours silently > stands with just a few buds attempting to open. Every day I send energy to > its roots, hoping it will feel the strength of my love. I acknowledge that > all my tree hugging may not be able to save it, yet I pray to Mother Nature > to summon her powers to revive this struggling plant. > > Lately I have been pondering the difference between hope and optimism. > Yes, these concepts are related, but they follow divergent paths. Both are > guideposts to the future. Think in terms of their opposites. The opposite > of optimism is pessimism, and the opposite of hope is despair or fear. > Optimism relies on feeling good about the future, even denying that bad > things can happen. Optimists expect things to turn out okay. Hope, on the > other hand, relies on the *effort* to make life better, knowing hard > times are ahead and barreling ahead in spite of them. Hopeful people > continue on through the pain, fighting for justice and kindness and peace. > >

    Like

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