Saturday, September 18, 2021

Hope is the Thing With Feathers (and Glitter)

When you know someone really well or for a long time, sometimes your communication starts looking a bit like a secret code. Inside jokes, shared memories and references, concocted signals, and old secrets weave their way in. My husband and I have our secret codes. I have secret codes with my family and my best friends. God and I have secret codes, too. 

God knows if I want him to make something abundantly obvious (because I'm a dummy and I don't pick up on his hints very well), I'll ask him to "hit me with a 2x4." Obviously that's not literal. 

We also understand that when I see a dragonfly, I know he's with me and taking care of me.

My husband and I have had our share of struggles over the past months, adjusting to marriage, figuring out finances and whatnot... finally it felt like things were getting a bit better over the past month or so. Until the past two weeks, culminating in a really, really bad day on Thursday. 

Not like, "I overslept, stubbed my toe, the milk was spoiled, and my favorite team lost" kind of rough time. Well, my favorite team did lose... but I'm talking tragic car wrecks, lost jobs, terrible illnesses, and several deaths among my family and friends. A really, really rough, emotional time. 

However, God arranged for me to be off work Thursday, thanks to a randomly-scheduled doctor appointment, so I could spend the day with my husband. And God sent a couple dragonflies my way, flitting around my car as I parked outside our home after a late lunch out.

Now it's Saturday, and I was just sitting on the balcony with a cup of coffee, talking with God about everything that's been going on. I asked him for a more tangible sign of hope because I feel like hope keeps slipping through my fingers, or flitting away on the breeze. 

God immediately pointed out that I am an artist. I can make that tangible reminder. He's given me all the materials I need! As I was praying and writing in my journal, I even saw these feathers on the balcony floor, perfect for little dragonfly wings. 

Emily Dickinson, a favorite poet of mine, wrote the famous poem beginning "Hope is the thing with feathers." Her metaphor was a little songbird... obviously dragonflies don't typically have feathers! Their wings are more like sparkly tissue paper or something. 

But if you're talking with God, asking for hope, and you two have a secret code involving dragonflies, and he points out two feathers on the ground and quotes Emily Dickinson to you, the whole birds vs dragonflies thing becomes unimportant. You don't question it. You just pick up the feathers and wash them and get on with things. 

Like ok God, I get it, you're right. Enough with the 2x4, geez, don't give me a concussion!

I always have random, unplanned works-in-progress waiting around for a real purpose; paint slathered on canvas in a fit of restless emotion. 

One of these random canvases is a little 8x10 piece I'd begun on a restless evening back in April, something randomly collaged together with scraps of paper, colored thread, and little sun decals, with no plan or purpose in mind. It would be the perfect background for a funky little dragonfly!

I rummaged about in my collage materials for dragonfly parts, finally landing on a bit of crocheted ribbon, an amber button and a little wooden bead, some translucent vellum paper, the feathers I'd just found, and... glitter. 

I know... I know. Glitter. Yikes. What is glitter, known as the herpes of the craft world, doing in my art studio? 

I don't know. I never bought it, so someone must have given it to me. I haven't worked with glitter since I was a kid! But dragonfly wings are sparkly, and God told me I had all the materials, so somehow I had glitter. God works in mysterious, sometimes glittery, ways.

Check out this bad boy and his funny, glittery wings!
The finished piece came together like magic, no hesitation or waffling or getting stuck. Not even a glitter mess. And it is exactly the tangible thing I needed. Light, color, seeming serendipity, all coming together in a tangled-up, perfectly imperfect, unplanned image of hope. 

God often works in seeming serendipities, the things we couldn't have planned if we tried. Like this collage that I started months ago with no plan. 

Is everything from the past couple weeks magically fixed? No. Everything is just as rough and emotional and difficult as ever. Thursday still happened. I'm still crying at the drop of a hat. But God reminded me that hope doesn't have to dissolve or flit away. 

Hope can be tangible, because God made me an artist and artists can capture all those things that flit and dissolve and slip through the cracks. 

"Hope is the thing with feathers," and hope can be a thing with feathers and glitter, glued on a canvas covered in string.

Hope is the thing with Feathers and Glitter, September 2021. Paper, feathers, string, a button, a
bead, and glitter on canvas, 8"x10". Sorry about the bits of white glue. I tried to wait for it dry
clear but I was too impatient... 


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