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After I blogged Amanda Gorman’s poem The Hill We Climb, it would not leave me alone. Leit-motifs from Twelve-Step spirituality kept surfacing: In both, the imperative to change is cast in the first person plural. Survival depends upon this.

Like the Old Testament prophet Jonah, the belly of the beast sickens us. This image speaks to Step One’s admission of our powerlessness and the unmanageability of our lives. There has to be another way; never-ending shade no longer works.

Step Two’s Power greater than ourselves sets the stage for essential change. Beneath our country’s messes that we created, the dawn is ours before we knew it: an image of the Divine hidden in our depths. The challenge is to believe this, afresh, and to allow it into consciousness where real living occurs. Step Three speaks to surrendering our lives and wills to this Power, not for a union that is perfect…but union with purpose. Such constitutes thriving in our humanness within Higher Power’s will.

In Step Five the poet honestly admits our ills (Step Four) and stokes our willingness to approach The Hill We Climb: difficult, but not, hazardous. We now have help.

The poem continues. This is the era of redemption, the turning point, encapsulated in Steps Six and Seven: our being totally ready to let go of our sinfulness and humbly welcoming Higher Power’s psychic cleansing: no more wars, intrigues, heinousness of any kind. Instead, we have found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.

Steps Eight and Nine prepare for forgiveness and offer it to those harmed. The poet continues, It’s the past we step into and how we repair it…We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover: An ongoing process also found in Step Ten.

Step Twelve speaks of the joy of living—We step out of the shade of flame and unafraid. And Step Eleven’s practice of prayer and conscious contact with Higher Power helps to inspire even deeper psychic change.

I have the sense that Higher Power showed up at the Inaugural, smiling upon us. This is working out. The new dawn balloons…with our light.

Behind the loud speaker the yellow splash of her tailored wool coat set off the drab attire of the audience gathered for the inauguration of President Joseph R. Biden. Her caramel-smooth skin, her braids wound atop her head, her gold dangling earrings—all enhanced the cheer of the practiced cadences of the poem composed for this occasion, The Hill We Climb. Such was Amanda Gorman, the first Youth-appointed Poet Laureate of America. So young, yet so attuned to our country’s wounds, she began her recitation with this challenge:

When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find the light in this never-ending shade?

Responses layer the rest of the poem, beginning with acknowledging our grief shared as a populace, not just as individuals. Despite collective harms done, some egregiously so, …we weathered a nation that isn’t broken, just unfinished. Such suffering offers incentives for change as divisiveness corrodes spirit and negates willingness.

Hope for our country’s future deepens with succeeding parts of her vision: to build bridges of understanding, to work together for our nation’s democracy, to respect others as they …sit under their own fig and vine tree, and to remember that … history has its eyes on us.

Then, Gorman postulates … the era of the just redemption… the empowerment… to … author a new chapter, …to rebuild, reconcile, and recover, …battered and beautiful, as we are. Rather than answer the challenge at the beginning of the poem, Gorman concludes with …there will always be light…if we’re brave enough to be it.

The audience’s spirited response to The Hill We Climb attests to the hidden Presence of our God and with us as our newly formed government begins to function. I hope others remember the vision of this poem, that it just not becomes a blip of yellow in front of the shady Capitol.

January’s sting smarts my rounded cheeks as I walk: with each step, my lungs heave, my eyes blink in the sun’s brilliance, all the while focused upon my sandal’s next step on the sidewalk. My helper supports my left elbow, and my right hand taps the road with my cane when needed for balance. A lemon drop moistens my mouth.

I feel shrink-wrapped in my polyester car coat that absorbs the afternoon sun and toasts my sweatered-body. The ground is still squishy following recent rain and snow showers and breathes its willingness to foster growing things. Only with periodic stops do I look around and catch my bearings:

Two male cardinals perch on a feeder in a neighbor’s side yard; six-inch patches of daffodil blades pierce the moist earth in a garden; a golden retriever, with a bandanna tied around his neck, barks behind a link fence, his tail wagging; ghost-like Missouri honeysuckle vines squiggle along the sides of the asphalt path; a squirrel cross-hatches the trunk of an old oak and disappears; a solitary black cat with white markings on its throat and paws yawns in the sun and saunters by like a socialite followed by her admirers.

Halfway home, we pause. I lean against a chipped painted guardrail near the service path and again catch my breath. The show continues. Two blue birds flit among low-lying branches of the viburnum shrub, then dart out of sight. Nearby, two robust teens, their braided hair covered with earmuffs, laugh and jog, smart phones in their gloved hands. 

Sunday’s color and quiet renew me. I give thanks …

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