Hope is a thing with feathers, according to Emily Dickinson.
And Max Porter.
Hope floats, according to the film title.
Pope writes in his “An Essay on Man” that “Hope springs eternal.”
In Aeschylus’s play, Prometheus says he gave to humans the gift of blind hope.
Pink, in her new collaboration with Khalid “Hurts 2B Human,” sings that “hope flows away.”
And hope is the one thing, quite ambiguously, left in Pandora’s box of evils. Is hope also considered an evil? And, if so, should we be glad that it was held in the box? Or is hope a good thing, left behind in the box and now separated from evil?
Tom Birkin, the narrator of J.L. Carr’s novella A Month in the Country, spends the summer of 1920 in the small English town of Oxgodby when he is hired to restore a medieval mural in the town’s church. It is Tom’s hope that by spending a summer in this quiet town that the horrible memories and shell shock he suffered during World War I and the failed marriage with his wife Vinny will begin to fade away:
The marvelous thing was coming into this haven of calm water and, for a season, not having to worry my head with anything but uncovering their wall-painting for them. And, afterwards, perhaps I could make a new start, forget what the war and the rows with Vinny had done to me and begin where I’d left off. This is what I need, I thought—a new start and, afterwards, maybe I won’t be a casualty anymore.
Well, we live by hope.
It is the connections that Tom makes with the other people in Oxgodby during this idyllic summer that help him to lose his stammer and his facial twitches. The Ellerbeck family feeds him and welcomes them into their home; Charles Moon, who is also doing work for the church, is a fellow veteran who understands his wounds; and Alice Keach is the pastor’s wife with whom he spends many hours talking. The bucolic setting also goes a long way to healing Tom who came from the noise and bustle of London. Carr’s version of hope is the positive kind, the one that leads us to take action, like Birkin did, towards something new and joyful.
This was the perfect summer read for an afternoon sitting in my garden oasis with the birds singing in the trees, the frogs croaking in the pond and my neighbor’s horse neighing in the distance. Listening, contemplating, hoping…