This morning , I walked to work early, so the frost – our second day of it – was on the ground still. I was reminded of a day 37 years ago at just this time of year when I lived in the Willamette Valley.
That morning was, in fact, the first day of November 1976. I noted this fact to myself before I headed across our rural road with my brother to wait for the bus to take us to the high school. It had been an awful year so far – for my brother and me, and for my parents especially. (My sisters seemed to fare this year a little better, though they should correct me if I’m wrong.) The sky was gun-metal gray and low. But something in the quality of the cold reminded me of New England, where we’d lived until recently, and I was uplifted.
(Actually, it’s the me sitting here writing this – as opposed to the me back then – who believes the association with New England is perhaps what lightened my mood that day. I’d lived in that region almost all of the previous nine years and been mostly happy there. Autumn days on the cusp of winter had been my favorite.)
On school mornings, my brother and I waited beside our mailbox, and on this morning, strung between the mailbox and its post, a spider had made a web. It was encrusted with frost.
It’s November 1, I thought. And now here is this jewel-like creation at my bus stop. Everything is going to be okay.
I often got through the difficult times of my adolescence and young adulthood finding “signs” that it was okay to hope; that if things were hard now, things would get better soon. I knew this because a heron flew by, or because I smelled wild grapes after a rainfall, or because of a spiderweb that put me in mind of the miniature flocked evergreen tree in our Christmas decorations.
Now, I don’t have such an easy relationship with hope. I don’t mean to imply that I am hopeless. But I know that the presence of natural beauty is simply that; it promises nothing other than itself. Things in life will be as they will be whether a heron flies by or not.
Yet, beauty promising “nothing other than itself” is actually promising a lot. I like to think that part of me was simply appreciating the image before me and recognizing what a privilege it was to be able to look upon beauty and to know it when I saw it. It wasn’t hope that got me through, but rather it was beauty that carried me.