On the day of writing this article I woke to see a hard frost in the garden. The ground was crisp and white, the sky bright blue. Although it was very cold, it was actually a pleasure to go outside, to breathe the air and have a look around.
In various corners of my garden, even though everything seems so hard and frozen, there are signs of life. There are green shoots pushing out of the ground and I know for certain that in a very few weeks there will be aconites and snowdrops in flower and in the days that follow, daffodils will appear.
I have had nothing to do with any of this. The new life coming, the growth and blossoming that will signal spring, are entirely beyond my control. This is both very good and very comforting.
The changing of the seasons and the lengthening of days that we are beginning to notice speak of processes beyond ourselves, a turning of the Earth that has nothing at all to do with us. We can neither speed it up nor slow it down, spring will happen when it happens.
For me both a tiny thing like a snowdrop, or the bigger event of the turning towards spring, give me hope. They are signs to me that I am part of something bigger than myself, something that I can trust when other things in our common life might seem so concerning. They encourage me to look ahead, to anticipate better times just around the corner.
Some people are naturally hopeful and maybe I am one of them. For me the glass is always half full, rather than half empty and I live with the expectation that although life has ups and downs, generally we are moving in the right direction.
Where others see gloom and the portents of endless troubles, I see possibilities and a chance of something better than we can imagine right now.
If ever there was a time when hope is needed, surely it is now. For those of us for whom belief and spirituality are important, then our hopes are rooted in the saying of our prayers and believing in a higher power who loves us.
For others it might mean looking on the bright side, seeing the best in any situation, being especially thankful for the words and actions of others which build harmony and peace.
Hope is a precious thing, not something that we can grasp with our hands, but something more ephemeral. It has to be protected and nurtured.
And how terrible it is when one person, through words or actions for example, robs another person of their hopes.
How dreadful to suggest to another that the best of life is behind them, there is nothing good to look forward to. This way lies sadness and despair.
In these winter days, in this Covid time, the encouraging and nurturing of hope is essential.
It is something we can do for ourselves, but even more importantly, something we can do for others.
We can do this through our speech, for example speaking about what we will do when the pandemic lifts and we are more free again. We can ask others what they are missing and so help them say what they are looking forward to.
Hope becomes more present when we start to make plans, however tentative. Planning suggests that we have not been defeated in the present, but that we are looking forward with anticipation.
So what is it you are hoping for? What plans are you starting to make for yourself? Are you able to look beyond the current Covid constraints and imagine the shoots of your life re-emerging post-lockdown?
And maybe more importantly, is there someone you could speak with today or tomorrow and encourage to look ahead.
Is there someone you know who feels overwhelmed and defeated today, that might be helped by making a plan for something lovely or encouraging in the days ahead, even if they might have to wait a little to see the plan become a reality?
The tiny green shoots in my garden tell me that hope starts small and grows. The blossoming of a garden suggests that lots of tiny hopes build together into a force that moves people forward towards a better future.
The occasional blue skies and sun on my face, even in Aberdeen in January, cause me to look up expectant of good days not too far ahead.
I can’t help it, I am hopeful.
The Rt Rev Anne Dyer is Episcopalian Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney and Scotland’s first female bishop