The Art of Hoping

Nearly three hundred years ago, a young French nobleman by the name of Luc de Clapiers, Marquis de Vauvenargues was encouraged by his friend Voltaire to publish an assortment of essays and other writings, appended to which was a collection aphorisms called Reflections and Maxims (1746).

Among these sayings was one I stumbled across the other day:

La patience est l’art d’espérer.

This short phrase translates, very simply, as “Patience is the art of hoping”.

Finding this shiny little gem of a sentence was helpful to me, particularly as I am currently working on two long term projects: building a house and writing a novel. Both of these ventures require abundant quantities of patience, not least because La Niña has been persistently wreaking havoc with the weather and head colds have been stubbornly interfering with my children’s health and school attendance.

For much of my life, patience has been a virtue that has often eluded me. I have written before about being stalked by the Grey Cat of Restlessness, which I freely admit is much easier to live with than Churchill’s Black Dog, but which also presents challenges of its own — especially when longer tasks are involved.

It’s not that I’m not prepared to do the work or put in the hard yards. Watching our new home slowly emerging beneath the scaffolding is exciting, and writing makes my soul sing even on the dreariest day.

But, like Inigo Montoya, I hate waiting.

I think that is why I appreciate de Clapier’s aphorism (number 251 of 700, no less) putting such a positive spin on patience. By highlighting the role of hope in being patient, it becomes far more aspirational rather than temporal.

I like hope!

As Emily Dickinson said: Hope is the thing with feathers. It allows us to take flight.

I like steadfastness, too. It allows us to persist.

In fact, I’m a fan of a whole raft of great qualities that can help you when things — especially creative endeavours like building houses and writing novels — feel like they’re taking forever.

Because even when things feel interminable, it is worth remembering that life is short, and ageing is a privilege.

Just ask Luc de Clapiers, Marquis de Vauvenargues, who died at the tender age of 31 the year after he published his collection of essays and other writings. Because he did it…he finished the book, and published it, even if he did so anonymously and he didn’t become famous for it until a century after his death.

The art of hoping allows us to persist, even when our patience cups feel depleted, or leaky, or empty.

Maybe especially then.

Because we never, ever know what is just around corner.

The most absurd and reckless aspirations have sometimes been the cause of remarkable success.

Luc de Clapiers, Marquis de Vauvenargues

Mind yourselves,

BJx

Isolated Delights

Hello from the inside…

Like many of you all around this wonderful world, I’m stuck at home riding out this awful COVID-19 pandemic. One would think it was an entirely delightful thing for an introvert like me to be stuck in the house, and that I would be completely au fait with such arrangements given I happily work from home three days a week.  When my usual routine has been combined with (or has, more accurately, collided with) home schooling, however, I am finding that I am yearning for time ALONE rather than time AT HOME.

Even so, there are still moments of delight in these self-isolated times, little gems that have kept me going as my dear children have driven me slowly but surely around the twist.  It’s true that we’ve had a lot of laughs, including when Marvel Girl decided to christen me “Catnip Everdeen” when I volunteered to run the grocery shop gauntlet and our list included cat food and litter. I also had a life-changing moment of glory when I managed to find not one, but two display books to keep the kids’ many home school materials separated and corralled.

Looking back, there have been several things that I have found truly delightful in the past couple of weeks, and I share them in the hope that you find some in your own self-isolated exile.

Our Tibouchina Tree

TibouchinaIn the corner of our back yard stands a Tibouchina tree. Most of the year it is an ordinary, stock standard tree — you know: green leaves, brown trunk, sometimes bits fall off it, other times there are birds in it. But every year in February and March, the Tibouchina tree transforms itself into something truly resplendent, crowned with beautiful purple flowers. Every year it brings a smile to my face — and this year, believe me, it felt extra special.

Paper Towels

tibou 2I never thought I would live in an era when hoarding groceries became a Thing. The silver lining to this unexpected (and more than likely unethical) behaviour, however, is that when I found a four pack of paper towel on the supermarket shelf while doing my aforementioned Catnip Everdeen impression, I felt like I had won Olympic Gold.

I might have even sent my mother a picture of it…

Passionfruit

Tibou 4Yep, you read that right. Passionfruit. On another of my early morning Catnip Everdeen runs (and believe me, I do them far less frequently than this post is seeming to indicate), I found a whole pile of passionfruit: large, plump and — most importantly — heavy.

I bought six.

Three of us have eaten one so far.

We are all in agreement — passionfruit this good is an unmitigated tropical delight.

Formula 1: Drive to Survive

Tibou 3It’s no secret Australians are completely, perhaps catastrophically sports mad, and the fact that Coronavirus made its unwelcome appearance in our country just as winter sports seasons were kicking off could be described as…unfortunate? No, let’s be honest, here: it’s been devastating — particularly for Miss Malaprop, who worked super hard to make the A Grade team in our local netball competition, only to have the season scrapped before it started.  At least I was able to tell her all the professional sportspeople have been affected, too. The Sydney Swifts won’t be playing either. The Olympics have been postponed. The Melbourne Grand Prix was cancelled…

And that’s when I remembered seeing something about car racing popping up in my Netflix home screen — Formula 1: Drive to Survive. Needless to say, in the absence of any other televised sport, I am devouring it. The ups and downs of Formula 1 racing are so far removed from my daily grind the show is providing me with much needed mental relief. I get so caught up in watching it I don’t think about anything else — and that, at the moment, constitutes pure delight.

Ten Thousand Views

Tibou 5Another moment of delight also came via screen this week…by the very screen I’m watching these words appear on as I type. This, my little blog, the patch of cyberspace I escape to every now and then to make sense of this crazy old world, ticked over 10,000 views — and this Daydream Believer was delighted.

I honestly never expected for anyone to really read this — but apparently more than 7,000 of you out there decided to prove me wrong, and some of them obviously came back for more. It’s times like these I feel most grateful for the opportunity to write, and they take me back to a post I wrote some years ago called The Wellspring, which is as close as I have ever come to writing a manifesto describing what this blog is about. It also reminded me of how I have often used this space to try to make sense of things that confront me (like restlessness), or confound me (like the treatment of refugees), and comfort me (like reading cookbooks, of all things).

I also want to say thank you for being one of those ten thousand views…whoever, wherever you are.

I hope these words, in turn, bring you delight.

BJx

 

 

Head Full of Elsewhere…

RB1

Oh, that Grey Cat…if I actually had a cat like this one, I would have to call it Cillian (for obvious reasons).

Restlessness.

The untamable bane of my existence.

I’m not talking about physical restlessness.

Generally speaking, I’m not the fidgety, twitchy, can’t-sit-still type — unless I’m having a Squirrel Week, of course, and then I’m virtually incapable of staying put for two seconds together.

No, my Restlessness (and it definitely has a capital letter) is the mental kind.

For as long as I can remember, I have been a day dreamer and a night thinker…a girl with a head full of Elsewhere.

It’s not that my life is boring, or incomplete, or something from which I am constantly seeking to escape.  And I am not always away with the pixies.

But it does creep in, my Restlessness, like a sleek grey cat prowling after its prey, sharp-clawed and stealthy, yet as insubstantial as smoke. And try as I might to capture this evasive creature, or to pinpoint the source from which it springs, it forever eludes me: just as I reach out to snatch its silken ruff it will suddenly vanish —  leaving me, at best, with a wisp of a glimpse of its silvery tailtip disappearing from the corner of my eye.

RB3

The Grey Cat appears when you least expect it, on paws as silent as smoke.

In the past I fought that Grey Cat, seeking to stem the restlessness by studying (literature, history, remedial massage, law — anything), because I was not comfortable with how unsettled it made me feel. But I found that filling my head with knowledge does not take away the all-pervading sense of Elsewhere, when its steps with soft paws into your mind — nor does it diminish its allure.

So I travelled, following in the footsteps of my veritable gypsy of a grandmother whose wanderings criss-crossed the globe as she flitted from this country to that continent, living one endless summer after another. But I discovered that I was as easy with that lifestyle as she was, as happy a traveller, as content with my own company, and as ready to roll with the rhythms of life on the road. Elsewhere, it seemed, was still Elsewhere.

And I also found that no matter where I went, the Grey Cat came too.

Ah, Restlessness.

How I wrestled with it, struggled to make sense of it. I tried to tame it by writing it out, knowing and longing for the clarity of thought I possessed when it wasn’t taunting me:

My mind is unfettered, my thoughts unchained,
springing fully formed from my head
like Pallas Athena,
soaring skyward into the boundless blue,
blessed and bountiful,
arrows searing, sure and true.

 

But the Grey Cat — like many things made of shadows — is a wild creature, and it won’t be tamed by words or wishes.

RB2

It’s all a matter of perspective, really…

So I learned to live with my Restlessness. And, over time, I made peace with that mysterious Grey Cat and all its slippery ways.

I learned that having a head full of Elsewhere is a valuable thing when you need to consider something from a wide variety of perspectives.

I learned that all that day dreaming and night thinking can be a veritable gift when it inspires you to create an entire fictional world, fill it with characters, and bring them to life on the page.

And the Grey Cat?

Yes, it still stalks me, and pounces when I least expect it. But lately I have found that when it does, that elusive creature sometimes let me sit with it, in silvery silence, and allows me to meet its luminous, blue-eyed gaze.