In such strange times as these, we all need a little hope. As that hope slowly comes within reach once more, we were reminded of the early weeks of the pandemic and a story we shared from longstanding friend of the Broadcast, Dougal Paterson. It was called, The Hope Tree.
Planted as a reminder that good times will always come again, we often wondered what happened to that little Frangipani tree. Now, nearly a year on, Dougal is back to fill us in - and it's not quite the tale you'd expect...
"Seize the day. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may" read the teenager.
Mr Keating’s class is standing in front of the school trophy cabinet. Keating has just asked one of them to read aloud from a poetry book. Inside the cabinet are old photographs. As the boy finishes, Keating says, “step forward and peruse some of the faces from the past.” His students shuffle closer to the glass cabinet.
“You see gentlemen,” says their teacher, “these boys are all now fertilising daffodils. But if you listen closely you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on lean in, listen.” His class presses up against the glass case. “You hear it?” asks their teacher. Keating then whispers, “Carpe diem” in a hoarse whisper that is meant to sound as if it’s coming from the grave. “Seize the day boys... make your lives extraordinary.”
The scene I’ve described comes from the film, “Dead Poets Society”. 11 months ago I enacted my own version of this scene. We planted a little Frangipani tree in our garden. It was at the beginning of the pandemic and planting the tree was a symbolic act. We called it “The Hope Tree.” It was a cutting from a larger tree that we planted during another time of uncertainty. I saw it as an analogy. I wanted my girls to understand that there was still so much in our future to be hopeful for. I didn’t know how we were going to do it, but I was determined that we were going to come out of the pandemic as better people than we went into it...
The Hope Tree was crushed a few weeks later.
One of my daughters had dragged a bean bag onto the roof of our house to watch the sunset. During her decent she carelessly dropped the heavy bag on top of the little Frangipani tree, effectively crushing it. She wept bitterly when she realised what she had done. I held her willowy frame in the circle of my arms as she sobbed in shame. I told her, “don’t worry my love, I’m not angry with you. We’ll plant two Hope Trees in its place.”
Our desire as parents is to raise daughters who sow seeds of hope in peoples hearts wherever they go.
I felt like Mr Keating that day as I asked my daughter to lean into the glass trophy case that was her future. I wanted her to understand that sometimes it’s ok for hope to die. Sometimes we place our hope in the wrong things or we have unrealistic expectations of our abilities or sometimes things are just broken beyond repair. Hoping in the wrong things, is called false hope. False hope has to die before we can hope in something that is going to grow and bare good fruit. I wanted her to understand that death and dying are normal.
I wanted her to understand that when one hope tree dies, then you should plant two more in its place.