IU Research and Creative Activity magazine
Indiana University Research & Creative Activity

Democracy

Volume XXVIII Number 1
Fall 2005

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Editor's Notes

Four years ago, to celebrate a midlife birthday, I took a ride in a beautiful balloon. Starting before daybreak, my husband, the balloon’s pilot, and I laid out the balloon in a dew-drenched field, straightened its lines, and aimed the fans for inflating. Then we lifted off, into a state of grace.

A pale pink mist spread across the fields like frosting, candle-like trees poking through, their tips lit with early fall color. All around, there was horizon and dawn and silence, broken only by short blasts of fire from the heater to keep the balloon aloft.

We swooped low, waving to the pilot’s father rocking on his porch, then flew high again, spooking the livestock below with our precise balloon-shaped shadows. After landing with a few small bumps, the pilot offered the customary blessing of balloonists: “You have flown so high and so well that God has joined you in your laughter and set you gently back again into the loving arms of Mother Earth.”

Ten days later in that September, another morning’s peace was shattered by flying machines, the horizon obliterated by raging flames and pink mists of blood.

It quickly became cliché to say that September 11, 2001 changed our world forever. It did, of course. And it didn’t. For the privileged among us, where I count myself and my family, the changes to daily life were largely invisible. Though not small or insignificant, life’s alterations were routinely unnoticeable, nonetheless. Hope seemed plausible.

Lately, hope is hard. A neighbor leaves his family to spend two years in Iraq, bombs explode on a friend’s underground line in London. There are lies and torture and, every day, the bombs. The heavens hardly seem in a mood of laughter.

And yet, like balloon shadows silently slipping onto a field, hope comes.

In his book Hunting for Hope, Scott Russell Sanders, Distinguished Professor of English at IU Bloomington, names the powers that enable him to live in hope in a dangerous, randomly cruel world—wildness and nature, family, fidelity, knowledge and skill, simplicity, restraint, faith and a sense of the holy, memory. “Hope is like memory in its action,” Sanders writes, quoting a friend, “memory grips the past, and hope grips the future.”

We remember, and anticipate. I look back to a grace-filled dawn, and look forward in hope.