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Mack Williams: Hope equals life

“Hope springs eternal in the human breast,” which I’ve also seen proven in many other “families” ( biological and botanical, “Latin-surnamed” ones).

One could equally say “Hope springs eternal in the canine breast,” especially after seeing a You Tube video of a returning desert-deployed soldier being “mobbed,” not only by wife and kids, but family dog(s) as well. So far, I’ve yet to see a returning soldier be greeted by his cat with “jumping-up-and-down-tongue-hanging-out-of-mouth- feline glee”(in Germany, these hyphens would be removed and we would witness the birth of a new word).

The type of “hope” present in the reptilian heart is more of a cold-bloodied “stick-to-it-ness”(oops! hyphens again) standing them in great stead for millenia, even long after their more flamboyant “Hollywood” ancestors stepped off the red carpet never to return (except as birds).

Just as the cold (endothermic), slowly pumping red blood of the reptile can fuel a kind of hope, so can green blood (“chlorophyll”, not the blood of the totally-logical inhabitants of the planet Vulcan). Every farmer all the way back to the time our ancestors diversified from “hunting-gatherering” knows this.

Grass seeds find enough soil between laid bricks to form little rectangular “gardens.” This sort of “hope springing eternal” eventually gets trimmed by Public Works, but returns, sometimes even before Spring. Growth, so neat and orderly brings to mind mini versions of gardens at Mount Vernon and Monticello.

“Hope springs eternal in the human breast;” and also “Where there’s soil, there’s life!” I passed by a hill-sized pile of crushed brick the other day which once was textile mill. Due to the nature of weathering brick, “clay’s on the way,” but even half-palm sized chunks already seems to be nourishing something as substantial looking as shrubbery.

I sometimes pass a storm drain in a local park with “tree-lets” growing out of it. Those “trunk-lets” and “branch-lets” first reached up in darkness, eventually crossing a threshold into the light. Seeing them, I think of the Prisoner’s Chorus from Beethoven’s opera Fidelio, where prisoners emerge into the light and sing: “O welche Lust, in freier Luft”(O what joy, in the open air!)( thinking just now about Beethoven, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast, especially if the human ear is attuned to Beethoven!”

In trying to imagine the depths from which those sewer-spawned sprigs arose, I picture a crack in the concrete where decaying leaves and washed-in soil eventually provided a “fertile field” for seeds or acorns to take root.

Although much of their lives has been a struggle for light, if those trees had sprouted within the “park proper,” Public Works would have long ago mowed them down.

The following example of “plant power” takes us back to the beginning of today’s column.

For several years,on my way to work I have received a “wave,” not from a person, but a plant which took root in a place stranger than a storm drain; at least there the seeds grew “underground,” as is usually the case.

Instead of Brooklyn, this plant grew in the second floor of an abandoned building in Danville, Virginia. The windows there have been open for years, so my best guess is that the decomposing wooden floor inside provided the “soil” for a seed brought by bird, squirrel, or wind. So in summer, a “leafy” hand appeared to stretch from out of an open window,hailing me on my way to work; while in winter, twig-like digits more “skeletal” did the “waving.”

The tree was removed since the building is now being renovated and aligned once more with the “human hope” of its original purpose.

Plants look fine in a window, but windows are meant for human hope, sight, breath, and a place from which a human hand can wave.

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