Finding Everyday Inspiration: Hope Is a Duck

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Part of WordPress’s writing course Finding Everyday Inspiration.

Today’s inspiration is a one-word prompt, which I honestly find highly uninspiring. The words offered couldn’t have been cheesier: hope, love and world peace. Kidding. It’s in fact: hope, regret, home, choice, secret, abundance. How I regret my choice of signing up for this nonsense, now I’m sitting at home, nourishing a secret hope that I shall create something sensible out of the nonsense, and being depressed in abundance. Well, that would be it. Kidding. I’ll write about hope.

everydayinspiration3
I wish I was a duck on Alexandra Pond

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul…
—Emily Dickinson

I’ve always appreciated Dickinson’s metaphor in this poem, but I never quite got it. It’s not that it troubles me—poetry isn’t necessarily to be “got”. But Hope is the thing with feathers, what? Such as a down coat? (Because you put on a coat in hope you won’t freeze to death?) Or a duck? (Because you eat a Peking duck and hope it’s still socially acceptable not to be a vegan?)

In the mental ward, we (We the Patients) would comfort one another with Let’s hope it gets better. It wasn’t very comforting and it never got better. (No wonder, when hope is a duck.) Hope is an optimistic faith in the future. It does me little good, yet I’m convinced that optimism is the privilege of the young and naive, and that experience shows otherwise. Here’s a story to that effect, whose source I’ve tragically forgotten, but it was absolutely a Scottish writer. It’s Scots who do the ultimate bleak humour.

It’s a short story illustrating the growing up of a boy on the incident when the father hoists the kid on the mantelpiece and encourages him to jump into his arms. Guess what happens? Yep, the father deliberately steps aside, the kid faceplants and is taught a lesson: Trust nae cunt. (Aside one, the quote is accurate, I have a memory for them; aside two, it occurred to me to search for the quote and, alas, it’s a story by Janice Galloway from the 1991 collection Blood.)

Should there be more literary evidence needed that Joy is joyless, love is loveless and everything is just as bad as you’d always suspected (this is another half-remembered paraphrase from a not-remembered Scottish source), I provide a quote from the best-loved book of the Scottish (obviously) genius, Alasdair Gray, and his Lanark.

I wish I was a duck on Alexandra Pond. I could swim, and fly, and walk, and have three wives, and everything I wanted. But I’m a man. I have a mind, and three library tickets, and everything I want is impossible.

That makes it official. Hope is a duck.

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23 comments on “Finding Everyday Inspiration: Hope Is a Duck”

  1. Hope can be what you want it to be..why not a duck…for me hope is lots of things, that tomorrow I can still compose a half decent sentence, that someone might read my words and be moved by them, either to laughter or tears, that the people I love and love me continue to do so.

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    1. Thank you for your comment that puts thing into perspective! Sure, hope is different for different people. When I was writing this post, hope was a duck for me for some reasons, and today it would be something else entirely.

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  2. Hi Mara. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen your stuff. Loved your nihilistic position on hope. I also enjoyed some humorous moments while reading…”everything I want is impossible.” My attitude is that I combine hope with daydreaming and it makes it more fun, even if it doesn’t come true. But what if it did…that is hope with intention. If you don’t think it, it won’t happen. Keep the sails of hope fluttering! Ha ha! ❤

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    1. Hello, Olga, so great to see you again! This post of mine turned out a bit depressing, so I’m really glad you managed to find some funny things about it. I’d prefer to amuse people rather than depress them! I sure hope for some things too, but I’d never admit it 😉 I will keep the wings or sails of hope fluttering only in secret!

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  3. The prompt may be banal but your post is inspiring indeed. Anyone who brings together a quotation from a Scots short story that uses a taboo word to refer to ‘everyone’ and Emily Dickinson’s “Hope is the thing with feathers” in the same breath of a blog post earns my undying admiration. Concluding with the quotation from Lanark is just the icing on the cake. This is the best post I have read in years. Congratulations, Mara. You are a true artist.

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    1. Aw, thank you so, so much for your kind comment! I’m the kind of literary connoisseur who likes classics as much as iconoclastic contemporary writing – it didn’t even occur me that mixing Dickinson and Scottish working-class fiction is probably a strange idea 😀

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      1. We share a liking for that strange kind of combination. If you have time, check out my ‘translation’ of Catullus Poem 64 –a poem twenty-five years in the making–that I posted in a series of installments last month.

        This Finding Everyday Inspiration series of prompts seems to have dried up. I didn’t get today’s. I will post something anyway based on your post about the woods, which, as always, I enjoyed reading. I was much more inspired by the prompts when you were ‘in charge’ and everything was much better organized.

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        1. Oh, a shame you didn’t receive your prompt! If you care, I can forward the email to you, if you give me your mail address. It’s not an ideal challenge, this one, but it’s better than nothing!

          Your Catullus revision is clearly a work of love…

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          1. Many thanks, Mara. I have just posted responses to all three of them in one go, all very different. Odd that such banal prompts have inspired both of us to such a renewed splurge of creativity.

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          2. You’re welcome! And yes, isn’t it funny how a trivial challenge makes one suddenly feel inspired! That was why I subscribed to it, and it’s working fine so far. Let me know if you have any more troubles with getting the challenge emails.

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