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Shared Hope: Amid gloom, little reminders of life spring forth

Jane Jayroe Gamble [Photo provided]
Jane Jayroe Gamble [Photo provided]

When I grow up, I want to write like my teacher, Carolyn Wall.

She has made me a better writer, and often I enlist her help in editing pieces I write for this column and other works. She is on the prayer team for my "Esther Women" group, and I can think of no person I would rather have bringing my concerns before God.

Carolyn is the author of The New York Times-acclaimed novels "Sweeping Up Glass" and "Playing With Matches." Novels "The Coffin Maker" and "The Pride of Lions" are available on Kindle.

I invited Carolyn to write about what she’s experiencing these days as we dig out of winter. She writes:

"High in our mulberry tree, a downy woodpecker is ordering up a delightfully insectious dinner and hammering out messages to his friends and relatives that spring is nearly here. Forget the Punxsatawney groundhog; it’s now a woodpecker. He travels up and down the trunk of my tree without ever turning around, like a thoughtless driver caught on a one-way street.

"After a year of COVID isolation — and months of storms that brought long electrical outages, frozen water pipes and cars abandoned on icy streets — I will have to take his word for it. Life is difficult. My heart has plummeted, and I’ve lived in this state for some time.

"I hear tiny green things calling my name. My response is snarky. I lift my chin, turn my head and try to ignore. This miserable season has wounded my feelings. Nevertheless, in my winter-dead garden, my eyes are drawn to spikey new shoots. Iris stems poke up through the Earth, watered by January. The long slender leaves of these plants are called flags and the flowers, when they unfold, will be royal purple and cream. Yet here am I, sucking my thumb like a petulant child. And that’s OK.

"Times have been hard. In 2019, the country shut down on my birthday in March and, speaking for a lot of folks, not much has changed. We’ve cried. Many lost family, health-care workers are exhausted. Months of self-quarantining have caused banging of heels and a global gnashing of teeth.

"It’s OK to pat our own backs, crooning, 'There, there, child. All will be well.' But I was so busy feeling sorry for myself, I almost missed the late-winter memos — life-saving signs. In the midst of winter, the cardinals arrived. No, not Vatican guys on a Greyhound bus, the feathered kind that don't mind winter. Their brilliance and bravery, against a field of snow, help us tread water. And they lead the bird pack. Sure enough, one week after 12 degrees below zero, the mercury in Oklahoma City reads 66 degrees!

"The striped woodpecker is settling happily in. And here comes another! This spring’s competition in the mulberry will be fierce. Soon, morning after morning, I’ll drink coffee on the swing and witness the peonies making a blushing debut. Purple phlox will come later and stay till November. Roses will spray their pheromones.

"I will be shocked to find that I survived, arms and legs intact, two hands, two feet, a nose that is still in the middle of my face. And wonder of wonders — after seasons of wobbling with worry and fear, my brain still works. Heaven helping me, I’ll remember to say thank you. Lest I forget, I’ve tacked thank you signs over my computer, my bed and bathroom mirror.

"Restrictions are still upon us — the pandemic has not passed. Though I’ve had my vaccinations, I’ll wear a mask for you. To keep you safe, I’ll stand at a distance, and fiercely soap-and-water my hands. And I’ll pass along hope — for warmer days, minutes and hours of breathing outdoor air. The longing to shove your hands in the dirt, energy to pluck dandelions, take long walks, throw a Frisbee for the dog.

"Starting this minute, I salute striped woodpeckers and wind-waving flags. Perfect grand marshals for the Spring Parade."

"See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them. Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise from the ends of the Earth." — Isaiah 42:9-10