Thursday, 31 December 2015

Hope is the Thing With Feathers

I’m sitting in the family living room, a glass of prosecco by my side, laptop on my knees, and my dad muttering grumpily behind as he clatters around the kitchen. The fire is lit. The sofa is cosy. I’m tired, but in that satisfied ‘I’ve-filled-my-hours-to-their-absolute-best’ kind of way.

This morning I was standing at the top of a huge, blustery hill with views stretching thirty miles away beneath me: fields, valleys, green dips and curves, patches of rain. Intermittent flashes of sun between the grey, too. The second of three locations used for blog shoots, much of the day has been taken up in dashing between the car and the chilly outside world. Three spectacular sweeps of landscape. Three rounds of my fingers reaching freezing point. Three rounds of “well you didn’t bollocking say to stand there, did you?” (My dad and I swear as much as we collaborate when it comes to photos). Only one moment of climbing a slippery, muddy five-bar gate in 70s heeled go-go boots though – in pursuit of the pictures above.

Plenty of laughter and bickering all the way through, as well as the sheer elation of tumbling back into the warmth after we were done. A 31st of December full of mulled wine, muddied stilettos, raging winds, and a small herd of wild ponies trotting past us.

I feel contented right now, full with the riches of today. Lucky, too. Of course this is meant to be a time for taking stock of the last twelve months. As I wrote exactly a year ago, “It seems natural. A kind of drawing of breath, giving space to process what's been happening. We like to slice our experiences up into these increments, marking the passing of each year with simultaneous retrospection and promises to be better, do more, improve this, and cut back on that in the months ahead.”

Well, today I’ve been drawing breaths, but mainly through relishing what was around me. Relishing the absolute privilege of love, safety and the ability to be creative – to dress up in ridiculous clothes, hang out with my family, and call it a day well spent. That shouldn’t be a privilege. But at the moment, it feels like one.

Taking stock of a previous year is interesting, because two things clash. What do I process, personally, from 2015? And what do I process globally? With the former, I can readily acknowledge that this last year has been among the most intense of the last twenty: for better, and for worse. A year full of things I could hardly envisage on the cusp of last January. Marvelous new people (SO many of them) and unprecedented opportunity aplenty, with a good dose of golden memories on the side. Lots of not-so-great bits too. It’s important to acknowledge the light and the heavy. Both are equally valid. Both have threaded this merry-go-round of twelve months together.

With the latter though, I’m aware of how precarious things have been worldwide. They always have been precarious. Probably always will be, too. But both home and abroad, the measure of bad news has been relentlessly appalling. We all know it. We know that it feels overwhelming and frightening. All we can do is to respond on an individual level – do what we can, where we can. Individual actions are, we hope, cumulative. Added together, they expand and inflate.

‘Hope’, by the way, is a word I’ve thought about a lot recently. It’s a good word. A strong word. A settling word. A word at the heart of a beautiful project put together by my friend Flo Morrissey (I contributed a poem called ‘Starlings’, which you can hear here). I obviously have my personal hopes for 2016: a motley collection of aspirations, excitements, causes for celebration, and the odd dash of nervousness about all that I’m keen to work for and see happen. Things are on the horizon - the publication of my book, for one. The finishing of my degree, for another.

There are also lots of larger hopes extending outward; hopes where the control lies in the hands of others. For those we can only lobby, raise our voices, donate where possible (whether time or other resources), and refuse to sit back and be passive. ‘Hope’ is a proactive word. It requires doing. And it’s a word I’ll be raising several glasses to this New Year’s Eve.

The rain has been unremitting these last few weeks. Today we were lucky enough to catch several small windows of brightness - something that's sadly scant right now. Sending plenty of thoughts to those affected by the extensive flooding, especially in parts of the North of England and in Scotland. Totally devastating and, as George Monbiot pointed out, partly a result of years of short-sighted, government-directed land-management as well as the protection and drainage of wealthy landowners' upland grouse and game shooting playgrounds at the expense of the towns, villages and cities down stream... 

During this dash along a country lane, I chose the wonderfully impractical combination of a 60s handmade vintage dress (a Christmas present from my fabulous mum) and my very trusty, much battered and muddied vintage boots. The post's title is a line from an Emily Dickinson poem, which felt especially appropriate thematically - and rather timely too - as I read the gorgeous and moving 'Grief is the Thing with Feathers' by Max Porter, in a single sitting this morning. 


Closet Fashionista said...

Yep, it has been quite a year. A scary one for the wold, but for me personally it was pretty awesome! There were of course some down moments but much more happiness this year than the past. I'm not sure what I' hoping for in the year ahead, but hopefully I figure it out soon, haha
I love the bright blue of that dress, so pretty!

Porcelina said...

Happy New Year, I hope 2016 continue to be a creative one x

Lola Byatt said...

Happy New Year Rosalind! I've really enjoyed reading your blog post and in fact just as we were coming up to the new year, I couldn't help but think of your post from last year on new years and how much it resonated with me. it is very easy to feel hopeless at times like these which is why i am very happy that you put particular emphasis on the word hope as it ignites something within me and it's always good to remember. I am not sure if I am being silly but your poem starlings, is it a video? I think the link is being redirected elsewhere, not sure if I missed something x

olivia grace said...

I couldn't have worded this better if I tried (especially your beautiful) paragraph on hope. This year has been a roller coaster, and I'm so proud of everything you've achieved over the past months, and know the next twelve will be just as, if not more, exciting. Here's to more girl dates in Oxford, London and the celebration of your brilliant book xxx

Insomnia said...

You know how much I love your texts, so I am going to skip writing how awesome this one is (and it really is) and simply wish you a happy and successful New year instead!

Insomnia ///

Alyssa G said...

Love that dress!! Happy 2016!
xx Alyssa

Willow said...

Sounds like your holidays were gorgeous, and I'm so glad to hear it!That's an excellent dress. It's what's currently my favourite shade of blue and such a great shape - very interesting, too, as I first read this post on my phone and in the tiny images it looked like it was made of crushed deep blue velvet, due to the pattern.

I'm inspired by what you said. For too long I've been overly comfortable with the idea that "I'm a good person, I'm nice to people, etc." and not remembering to donate or do volunteer work, and I think I really want to focus on that this year. I love the title of your post, my mum used to recite that poem all the time when I was little, it was lovely to be reminded of it. Happy New Year! XX

Monic dzej said...

Beautiful look ^.^


It surely sounds like 2016 will be full of ventures and great things in store for you to complete. I can just imagine you and your father's banter during photo taking. Happy New Year! x

The Foolish Aesthete said...

I love this Dickinson poem! And you and your father managed a beautiful shoot between snippets of sunshine.

I marvel at the gifts of poets -- equally able to lift, as Dickinson does, on the wings of words, and to spear, as Brodsky does, with pointed nouns.

How exciting to be finishing your degree! It's cliché but time does fly. And to be publishing your book, too! Please let us know the details on ordering it. (I just ordered Izzy's first poetry collection as well. So thrilled for you both.)

I've been extremely busy on (really rewarding) projects. And it's been a year rich with experiences and the inspiration of many people I've worked with in ballet, art, and literature here in Washington, DC. But I am so happy to finally have had some time over this holiday to read your blog posts!

-- Jenny xx

Ivana Split said...

Hope is a good word indeed...and a day spend with loved ones is the most precious of all days.

That dress is so unique...and it fits you perfectly. Stunning images ( I imagine some swearing behind them now but the intimate and innocent kind).

I wish you all the best in 2016!!!

Izzy DM said...

Hope is a settling word.

I love that.

Good luck to you in the year ahead! It's going to be a very exciting one for you; I can't wait to read about all these momentous changes and life events. When do you finish your degree? Or I'll put those questions in my email to you tonight or tomorrow or...very, very, very soon! (My husband's gone to teach at Notre Dame for eight days, and I'm alone with two children in diapers. Good lord, humans go poo a lot. All single mothers deserve HUGE medals and cash awards. And massages. And champagne. Okay, this is turning into a vintage, rambling Izzy comment, but speaking of champagne, I can't believe you already know what Prosecco is. I never heard of it or had any of it until one night, six years ago, when my husband pulled a bottle of it out of a little wine fridge. It was our first date, and he was trying to impress me. He poured me a glass, and I absolutely HOUSED it. It was so delicious. SO delicious. I'd never tasted anything like it. He turned around to put the bottle down and turned back. It was gone. Great first impression I made there :).)

Anyway, off to hear the thing you wrote. I bought Flo's CD on your rec more or less by the way. It's incredible. I love the whole album. I can't believe she's your age either. Trying to think who she reminds me of, but my brain is starting to fall asleep. Will have to think on it. Herself and someone else, too, which is how talent works, I think.

Happy New Year-- again, but it seems appropriate to say given the post!

P.S. I love that you and your dad bicker while taking pictures. I'll share that anecdote with my equally-beleaguered husband :).

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