To the New Year
W. S. Merwin

With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning

so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible

[From Present Company, Copper Canyon Press, 2005. Copyright © 2005]

The last stanza of Merwin’s poem offers such a potent image to carry into the new year– ”hopes [….] untouched and still possible”. Leaving behind a year in which so many precious hopes were sullied beyond recognition or simply obliterated beneath the weight of disturbing new realities, it is so important to renew our commitment to birthing new, untouched hopes and to nurture them to maturity.

In his speech addressing the Democratic National Convention in 2004, President Barack Obama said: “In the end, that’s what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope? [… ] I’m not talking about blind optimism here — the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don’t talk about it, or the health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it. No, I’m talking about something more substantial. It’s the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; […]the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too. Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope!”

Twelve years later we are called upon to exercise that very same audacity, to generate hope and, from a foundation of hope, to address the many challenges awaiting us in 2018 and beyond.

Reb Elias