I think it’s time we were starting out—we’ve got a long way to go.
Today I am hunkering down, staying home from work because my voice is gone and it hurts to swallow. I haven’t had to speak to anyone other than the dogs and I find it suits my mood. My fondest wish is to curl up under the blankets with a bowl of warm pudding and a big book.
Since the election results last week I have been equal parts anxious and scared; living in a state of disbelief and denial. But there wasn’t anytime for sorrowful sitting. Last Thursday I packed my bags, plastered a smile on my face and made the hour long drive to my children’s literature conference. This year’s theme, chosen over a year ago, was timely and prescient. We spent the weekend talking about Passages of Hope. We discussed hope from every angle imaginable. Hope as an anchor, a plough, a boat. Hope as a thing with wings. We looked at the antithesis—despair—and its purpose as well. As in all things, you can’t have one without the other. And investigating an opposite can provide a more complete picture. Exploring all sides of an entity means getting deep down in the murky mess of mystery. Though I wouldn’t recommend staying there too long.
It was a gift to have the time to discern and discover new insights about one particular construct. How often do we spend time in an inclusive community analyzing a topic? I listened to Chris Raschka, Steve Sheinkin, MT Anderson, Rebecca Stead, Ashley Bryan, Susan Cooper and Kwame Alexander recite poetry and read from speeches designed to make us feel and ponder. They tried to heal us with their words. These authors got up to the podium armed with only their thoughts and a piece of paper. They bared their souls and showed us their raw emotion. They raised their voices and our spirits. It was powerful and uplifting. Restorative in ways I didn’t know I needed.
At the same time, it was also exhausting. Figuring out where to put all these new thoughts and feelings, and how to put them into practice, requires time and energy. And it’s not just us we’re concerned about, the whole conference is designed to give us space to think about the importance of children’s literature and that intended audience. That’s where I get overwhelmed, as if I’ve put my foot down and accidentally stepped into a sea of quicksand which is threatening to swallow me whole. Given all that we know, it seems pretty clear that there will be groups targeted and threatened under this new administration. When I think that there are children spending their days and nights afraid of losing what they hold dear—I am done in. The refrain keeps circling round my brain like the last bit of water in the tub: What can I do? What can I do? What can I do?
I decided, as I always do in times of crisis, to make a list~
I believe in the power of:
an outstretched hand
asking “Are you okay?”
small acts of mercy
unlimited cups of tea
These past few days I heard Emily Dickinson’s poem recited several times and each one felt like an offering. Hope is indeed a thing with feathers. It has the power to compel us forward. It is the dying ember we keep hidden behind cupped hands. It can ignite change and also comfort us when sleep is elusive. Without it, life is bleak and meaningless.
These are crazy, unpredictable times we are living in. I know I can’t stay in my bed everyday, though that does sound appealing. Each morning I need to wake up and deal with the day’s events. I need to go to work, decide what I believe in and how to react to what I see happening. I need to be a good role model and provide a safe space for the kids at my Library. I need to offer a variety of book recommendations that offer solace or spark a revolution. I need to smile. I need to be kind. I can’t hide from the world; but rather: put on my running shoes, grab the baton and dash towards it.
Onward, with baby steps.