Hope is the Thing with Feathers, My Friend


“Hope is the Thing with Feathers” 6×6, oil on gessoboard, $75 [button link=”http://www.dailypaintworks.com/fineart/denise-hopkins/hope-is-the-thing-with-feathers/234412″ type=”big”] Buy Now[/button] SOLD

Everything I read about marketing says its a good idea to ask questions on facebook.  People respond to questions.  I had yet to do it until yesterday because it seemed silly.  I’m awkward when it comes to social media.  Reserved.  Unsure of my voice when it isn’t accompanied by actual facial expressions (emoticons just don’t seem to capture the nuances of my different eyebrow raises) or actual tone.

The idea of asking a question just to ask it (which of course isn’t exactly what the marketing experts were saying) seemed ridiculous.  So when I actually had a genuine question I wanted to ask yesterday, I was overjoyed:  What is your favorite bird? That was a question I could ask not to “market” which still seems a dirty word, but to actually get answers from a variety of people in the most time efficient way.  

I got several responses, one of which inspired today’s painting, a bluebird.  I read up on them a little.  They have their fare share of animal kingdom virtues and vices.  For one, they are great for your garden, skillfully and almost magically keeping harmful insects at bay.  And their vices?  Well, the males identify a good nesting spot, attract the female, then leave her to build the nest (alone) and raise the children.  I’m not even going to go there.  Well, maybe I will.  I hate it when humans act like animals.

I’ve read before that art and language (is it not an art also?) are among the defining characteristics of being human.  I’d like to add kindness to the list.

I don’t always tell people what I write in my paintings, but in this one, if you look closely, and if you are a handwriting expert and can decipher the sloppy cursive I call words, you’ll see Emily Dickinson’s poem “Hope is the Thing with Feathers”.

I remembered it as I was painting today.  Remembered that when my separation and eventual divorce first began, my friend wrote me in a text, “Hope is the thing with feathers, my friend.”  I have a master’s in English and love poetry but in that chaotic moment of my life, I thought she was just being wise and poetic, not quoting Dickinson.  It wasn’t until today that I realized she was quoting a beloved poet. I reread the poem today.  Put it in my painting.  Thought about the rest of that conversation, one I still go back and read because it seemed so profound to me at the time that I copied it from my text messages and pasted it into a document I could pull up whenever I wanted.

She wrote:

“But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about suffering it’s that the foundation of a woman’s strength is her ability to be a warrior in the face of suffering– of agony.  Men can never understand that.  They aren’t built for it, and our ability to do it terrifies them.”

I don’t know if any men or any former creative writing students read this blog, but for the later, I apologize in advance for breaking my own rule:  no disclaimers.  And for the former, a disclaimer.  Both my friend and I have known many brave and generous men.  I don’t believe women to be superior, nor do I believe our role in life to be that of the meek sufferer.  But I do believe in the strength she speaks of, the kind I’ve witnessed in the lives of my aunts, grandmother, mother. The strength I see in the image of the Holy Mother.

So this bluebird?  Just another little symbol of hope, an acknowledgement of chaos.


Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul,

And sings the tune without the words,

And never stops at all,


And sweetest in the gale is heard;

And sore must be the storm

That could abash the little bird

That kept so many warm.


I’ve heard it in the chillest land

And on the strangest sea;

Yet, never, in extremity,

It asked a crumb of me.
— Emily Dickinson

Picture of Denise Hopkins

Denise Hopkins

May 29, 2014

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