G’day, my name’s Rob Douglas and my wife, Robyn, and I live in Maida Vale on Whadjuk Nyoongar country. We gain great satisfaction from our garden, and when we’re not tending it, we just enjoy the many birds that make their home there, as well as Sunflower, a quenda who pops in to visit us on a daily basis. As a mission minister with the Uniting Church in WA I love helping congregations to discover what God is doing in their neighbourhood and joining Him in what He’s doing. I’ve been around a while (interpretation: I’m an old dude) so I love being able to provide supervision to ministers, chaplains and leaders in various spheres and to offer some of the richness of my own experience in supporting the next generation of leaders.
I gain enormous satisfaction from sitting in the garden watching the birds. I have tried to film them, an exercise that requires a high degree of patience. I can set up the camera to focus on a particular part of a bush where they have been playing, and in the meantime, they have moved to another bush and seem to say to me, here’s a great shot for you, Rob.
In 1861, Emily Dickinson referred to hope as “the thing with feathers”. She described it as perching in the soul and singing the tune without words, “And never stops – at all.” I suspect we often feel that this thing with feathers flits everywhere except where we want it to be, but then we look, and it is still there, though perhaps not where we expect it to be.
As a supervisor, I love helping people to discover hope. Of course, it requires patience, but that thing with feathers brushes past us sometimes, and as we get a glimpse of those coloured feathers, we are inclined to wait to see them again. Then sometimes, we have the pleasure of feeling it perching on our soul.
My favourite 20th-century poet, Leonard Cohen, describes hope in another way. “There’s a crack in everything – that’s how the light gets in.” So hope is not just something that we squeeze out of brokenness as if it were the last option, but in many instances, that crack can be the means that allows the light to shine through in a way that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.
Hope is the light that shines through our brokenness, grief and hurt and pierces the darkness at the most unexpected times and in the most unusual places. We can’t grab that light and put it in our pocket to use later, but its brightness causes us to blink and realise we can move towards it with purpose. Hope is the thing with feathers that flits from one branch to another and lightly lands on our soul. We long to reach out and grab it, but it flits to another branch, and while it seems to be beyond our reach, we know it’s still there.
At The Anchorage, I’m delighted to be part of a community of practice that is not just here to do therapy but to partner with people in that search for hope—sometimes exploring the cracks to discover how the light gets in and to begin taking steps towards that light. Sometimes noticing the flash of feathers and rejoicing in their beauty as they hide among the leaves. Sometimes feeling the soft touch as the thing with feathers perches in the soul and sings the tune without words.