Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott

I had a dream this morning that was so sad that paradoxically, when I awoke, it filled me with hope, hope that I wish I could bottle and share with you, as medicine, a hope that is still with me hours later.

Sharing hope, whenever we feel it in these dark and excruciating days, is what will save us.

In the dream, I was in a huge building, a Jewish Community Center, in a place that had just been through devastation, unnamed, but southern, like Mother Emmanuel, or Charlottesville, or Corpus Christie, but it was not any of those. It might have been our local JCC, which is twenty minutes away.

There was a church service in an auditorium that was about a third filled, with black and white and Hispanic people. People were listening, singing, crying, comforting one another, praying.

Mostly people, though, were in the swimming pools, which were all infinity pools, where there is no boundary between the water and the rest of the world, the cement and the drop off and the sky.

The people in the service were mostly listening, and singing. The people in the various pools were talking about the regular old human stuff we talk about, food, work, family, politics.

I was aware that the sky was bright blue, even though the service and the swimming pools were indoors. You know that I always say that if you want to get happy and get hopeful and break the trance of your toxic and obsessive thinking, step outside, and look up. This will remind you of infinity, eternity, beauty, awe, and how teeny tiny we are, like aphids—and God, is it great to have such funny, loving, loyal aphids beside us. Who seem to love us!

This makes up for a lot. In fact, it makes up for everything.

When my old best friend Pammy was dying, when we were thirty- seven, I asked my minister friend, Bill Rankin, if he thought our souls survived death, that being here on earth was, in other words, the most dead we were ever going to be; that God was going to catch her as she crossed over, that God would keep her baby daughter safe as she grew up, and that her daughter and I would see her again on the other side of eternity.

He listened deeply, the most amazing thing we offer each other, and then said, quietly, “I hope so.” Listening to the frightened and sad and lost, without certainty will save us, and them. Paul Tillich wrote that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty.

In the dream, I kept going to each pool, looking for my son and boyfriend and grandson, but I couldn’t find them.There were leaves at the bottom of pool, and the OCD part of me wanted to find a way to clean them up, but a huge old lady in the water, a grandma, said to leave them. They were so beautiful, like copper, coins, this carpet of leaves. Right after my beloved dog Sadie died, 15 years ago, I saw the Andy Goldsworthy documentary, Rivers and Tides, and wrote this: Goldsworthy outlines black holes in the ground with bright leaves, wreaths of red and yellow and green. Over time, green shoots grow out of the holes, when the leaves have blown away. I think of this scene whenever I confront loss, because I have to believe that green shoots will grow from even the deepest black hole, either in a wreath, so that we might see it better — in poems, or paintings — or in plainsong, like when our dog died.

The woman was in a bathing suit, no matter what she looked like to the young, beautiful people, because she knew that whenever there is warm water on this difficult side of eternity, you should get in it. Every part of you is beautiful, no matter what the world or your family or your mean eyes have told you.

Once during a children’s service at my church, St. Andrew Prez, my pastor had the four children close their eyes and be still and listen, as a way to God. After a while, she asked them to keep their eyes closed and to tell us what they heard. They shared that they heard a police siren, and birds, and the shuffling sounds of the grown ups. But this one boy, a four year old named Tom, said, solemnly, I hear the sound of water at the edge of all things.

I thought, Who is writing your stuff, kiddo? And, being a writer, Can I use that?

My pastor and I still talk about this moment, ten years later, shake our heads, and laugh. Laughter saves us. Laughter is the hot, sweet milky tea in the keg that the St. Bernard carries in the tiny keg on its collar.

What the children hear will save us. They accidentally blurt out the truth, the scariness and beauty of these times, the sirens and the birdsong, and that they need us to stay close by. Listen.

Frederick Buechner wrote, “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.” We’ll, I AM afraid. I’m scared to death some days. But not today, and I want to share that. I feel cuckoo with the Cocoa Puffs of hope. How can you be less afraid, just for today, or at least till right after lunch; how can you feel hope? By giving hope, To the poor, to scared children, even if that is horrible annoying you, or me, the people in worship, the people in the pools. Give someone hope, and then there will be hope in the world.