view-cathy-fullcathy-headshotBy Cathy Hird

December gets darker each day until the solstice. It gets colder and stormier beyond that. Still for me, this month is a time to ponder hope. What do we hope for? How do we move toward that vision? In the darkest and stormiest times, what helps us to hold on to hope?

The ancient wise man Isaiah in a dark time in Israel wrote of the mountain of the Lord as an image of hope. He described a hill where the wolf and lamb lie down together, where cow and bear feed side by side, where there is peace.

Mountains and hills like the escarpments that shelter our communities provide a broad perspective. High places show us a landscape that we cannot see from the middle of the trees and houses. Climbing a hill gives us perspective on the land we walk every day. When we are away from home, a hilltop shows us things we would not otherwise see.

Hiking to the top of a mountain in the Rockies or the Appalachians takes hard work. Sometimes it takes a long drive down a narrow rough road to arrive at a place where we can see for miles. Getting to the place where the whole landscape is laid out before us can be a challenge.

I invite you to think about a mountain you stood on, what the place felt like and what you saw. It might be a high place that you go to regularly or a hilltop you only visited once.

Remember what it took to get to that place, the twists and turns of the path or the road, how long it took to climb to the top. Were there moments on the road up that you got a hint of the view from the top? Was the way narrow and steep? What was on each side of the path?

Remember what it felt like at the top, the wind blowing your hair, your clothes. In your memory, look far, far away. What can you see on the distant horizon? Are there details of another hill or water or buildings? If it is fuzzy, what colour is it, and what do you think is there?

Look down at the middle distance, what catches your attention? Look for something beautiful, something you would like to touch.

Take a moment to trace the path from the thing you would like to touch back to the place you are standing. Does it feel like an impossibly long way, or almost within reach? If you were to walk from where you are to that place, would it be tortuous, almost impossible or a well-marked road?

From this place in the middle of the landscape, look back at the hilltop and remember your vision of the whole, the relationship between where you are and the rest of land. Remember the expanse you saw and the feeling of breadth, height and openness.

Seeing the landscape from a high place changes what we know about it. Hope is like that. Hope is the high place that lifts us above the murky challenges and the walls to see open places and the possibilities. It is the wind that refreshes and the clear light.

Sometimes it is hard to see with the eyes of hope. In dark days, our vision is clouded and blocked. In difficult times, an arduous climb is needed in order to find that open place where our vision is clear, and we can see a new path.

People of strong vision can share with us their mountaintop view. A co-worker who speaks with passionate perspective can lift us up to hope. We read the ringing words of Martin Luther King Jr. or Desmond Tutu and see the world from their position in it. We go back to words written long ago by a wise man and hear his vision of peace and a new day. And sometimes, when we take time to remember our own lives, we recall a mountain top moment, a time of vision and clarity, and hope returns.

In this hectic, stormy season, I invite you to take a moment to remember the mountain tops you have stood on, what you felt, and what you saw. Seek out those places that give you perspective, that show you the path that leads beyond the walls.

Cathy Hird is a farmer, minister and writer living near Walters Falls.



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