“In the winter I am writing about, there was much darkness. Darkness of nature, darkness of event, darkness of the spirit. The sprawling darkness of not knowing.
We speak of the light of reason. I would speak here of the darkness of the world, and the light of___. But I don’t know what to call it. Maybe hope. Maybe faith, but not a shaped faith—only, say, a gesture, or a continuum of gestures. But probably it is closer to hope, that is more active, and far messier than faith must be. Faith, as I imagine it, is tensile, and cool, and has no need of words. Hope, I know, is a fighter and a screamer.”
I re-read this passage in Mary Oliver’s book Winter Hours this afternoon, and it’s a good thing to read in winter, especially a winter that isn’t necessarily going the way you might want it to go. Maybe the weather’s not been ideal, or loved ones are struggling. Maybe losses keep piling up– you’ve just been laid off or someone close to you has died. Maybe you feel stuck in a job that you don’t like. Maybe you are in recovery or have just been diagnosed. Maybe you’re lost in that darkness of not knowing.
She describes faith as tensile and cool, so maybe we say Faith is capable of weathering tension and stress, the stoic presence that holds an unwavering strength in the simple act of being. Hope, faith’s cousin, is perhaps the one who keeps the fire going. Fighting and screaming can take a lot of different forms, but regardless the shape taken, Hope is a tenacity for life. An unwillingness to let the embers turn to ash.
There are sixteen pages of prose between this first paragraph about faith and hope and the last sentence. They are all worth reading, but I’ll just share the last sentence here today.
“Weary and sleepy, winter slowly polishes the moon through the long nights, then recedes to the north, its body thinning and melting, like a bundle of old riddles left, one more year, unanswered.”
That’s the thing about Faith and Hope, isn’t it? Getting to know them often leads to more questions than answers. But getting to know them also leads to being able to see the gleaming silver moon after a long winter of dark nights.