A Brief Introduction

When by my solitary hearth I sit,
And hateful thoughts enwrap my soul in gloom;
When no fair dreams before my mind’s eye flit,
And the bare hearth of life presents no bloom;
Sweet Hope, ethereal balm upon me shed,
And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head.

Whene’er I wander, at the fall of night,
Where woven boughs shut out the moon’s bright ray,
Should sad Despondency my musings fright
And frown, to drive fair Cheerfulness away,
Peep with the moon-beams through the leafy roof,
And keep that fiend Despondence far aloof.

Should Disappointment, parent of Despair,
Strive for her son to seize my careless heart;
When, like a cloud, he sits upon the air,
Preparing on his spell-bound prey to dart:
Chase him away, sweet Hope, with visage bright,
And fright him as the morning frightens night!

Whene’er the fate of those I hold most dear
Tells to fearful breast a tale of sorrow,
O bright-eyed Hope, my morbid fancy cheer;
Let me awhile thy sweetest comforts borrow:
Thy heaven-born radiance around me shed,
And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head!

Should e’er unhappy love my bosom pain,
From cruel parents, or relentless fair;
O let me think it is not quite in vain
To sigh out sonnets to the midnight air!
Sweet Hope, ethereal balm upon me shed,
And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head!

In the long vista of the years to roll,
Let me not see our country’s honour fade:
O let me see our land retain her soul,
Her pride, her freedom; and not freedom’s shade.
From thy bright eyes unusual brightness shed—
Beneath thy pinions canopy my head!

Let me not see the patriot’s high bequest,
Great Liberty! how great in plain attire!
With the base purple of a court oppress’d,
Bowing her head, and ready to expire:
But let me see thee stoop from heaven on wings
That fill the skies with silver glitterings!

And as, in sparkling majesty, a star
Gilds the bright summit of some gloomy cloud;
Brightening the half veil’d face of heaven afar:
So, when dark thoughts my boding spirit shroud,
Sweet Hope, celestial influence round me shed,
Waving thy silver pinions o’er my head.*

I chose the opening line of an early Keats poem, “On Hope,” as the theme of this blog for many reasons but mostly because it’s hopeful. Hope has her detractors these days. Indeed, in facing a future in which there is precious little to hope for, it may seem wise to rely on some other motivation to persevere. But I have come to doubt this. The philosophy of muddling through each day without thought for the future is, I think, one that comes from a position of privilege, that is from lives that are not particularly muddle-some, that have most of their daily needs met. It is easy to disparage hope for a better future when your present is not unbearable. I do wonder how many of those who claim to have abandoned hope would be comfortable with that position if they lived in immiseration. It’s probably not a coincidence (as nothing is) that these hopeless, yet not despairing, folks are older (and largely wealthy) and probably not facing the same formidable future that young people will live to see.

I am writing for them, the young people — for my sons, for my nieces and nephews, for their children. They absolutely must have hope. This hope is placed not in progress, improvement, a brighter future. I’m not saying hope should be rosy and not clear-eyed. But our children need to know that there are good reasons to endure. They deserve to know that they will lead worthy lives. They deserve to believe that there will be love, joy and dignity interlaced with the challenges they face. This hope is in small things maybe, but it is hope and it is needful. And these small things are, even in this time of relative plenty, the true things of worth in a life.

So this is a blog of small things that engender hope, a reminder that what is of worth now will continue to be worthy and, of all things, will be least likely to fail in a failing world. The pride and pleasure in a job well done. The mysterious wonder of a seed. The comfort of a full belly and warm feet. The joy of gathering together. These are the things to hope for, the lights on the far horizon, the reasons to muddle through.

In these pages you will find recipes and tips, advice and encouragement, tools and guidance from one who has made mistakes and survived. Indeed, lived quite well, abundantly even. You will find gardens and bread, stars and birds, folklore and philosophy, rivers and stone. This whole exercise is a practicable prayer for the future. And as such there will also be poetry and story-telling. I believe metaphor is how we comprehend the unknown — and the future is unknown, by definition — so there is no hope without it. And this is a blog of hope.

When by my solitary hearth I sit

*”To Hope” by John Keats. This was written by a fresh-faced, nineteen-year-old Keats in February of 1815. Not one of his better works of poetry (or punctuation), but it is a good message. Hope is personified as a silvery guardian angel. And here — “O let me think it is not quite in vain to sigh out sonnets to the midnight air!” — he is asking this guardian for reassurance that poetry is a worthy pursuit. This is the prayer inscribed in every writer’s soul.

Eliza in marvelous hat

So who is this person behind the screen? Eliza Daley is a fiction. She is the part of me that is confident and wise, knowledgable and skilled. She is the voice that wants to be heard in this old woman who more often prefers her solitary and silent hearth. She has all my experience — as mother, musician, geologist and logician; book-seller, business-woman, and home-maker; baker, gardener, and chief bottle-washer; historian, anthropologist, philosopher, and over it all, writer. But she has not lived, is not encumbered with all the mess and emotion, and therefore she has a wonderfully fresh perspective on my life. I rather like knowing her. I do think you will as well.

And so who is this I behind Herself?

i am witch
i am wisdom
i am wild wonder
I answer to none
i tend to all
under my watch
     the world becomes worthy
the earth, healed
the home, whole
I am Witch
     and you do right to fear
My words
I am Crone
     and I will be silenced
never more

© Original materials on this website are copyright reserved to Elizabeth Anker. Please use the ideas with proper credit given.