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  • Equinox of Hope: Making Art for Ukraine & Beyond

    20.03.2022 • Category: Creative Writing, Reflections

    daffodils in evening light

    The Spring Equinox—one of only two moments in the year when the hours of daylight and darkness are exactly equal (equi-nox)—is a poignant symbol for these times. This moment is a tipping point in the natural world, as the days lengthen and we move towards the summer. Could it be a tipping point in our moral universe, too? And if so, in what direction?

    Like many others around the world, over the past few months and years I have felt helpless as images of violence and war and knowledge of ever-increasing injustice and horror fill my consciousness. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is just the latest in what feels like an ever-growing cloud of darkness comprised of abuses of power of every description.

    What can we do in the face of evil? What can we do when it feels like the darkness is overwhelming the light? How do we keep hope alive?

    It seems to me that keeping hope alive is the most essential work of our times; hope is the galvanising force that gives us the energy and motivation to work for a better world. Without hope, we become overwhelmed and sink into passivity. Nothing I do will make any difference, we tell ourselves. What’s the point of even trying?

    Hope, on the other hand, empowers us to tend to our own circle of influence, no matter how small; love our friends, family, and neighbours to the best of our ability, open our homes to strangers, vote in a way that aligns with our conscience and values, use our voices to protest against injustice and speak up for the downtrodden, donate money to people caring for the vulnerable, offer up our time and resources ourselves when we identify a need we can meet in our vicinity.

    So, how do we kindle that hope in the first place, and keep the flame alive to give us the energy and vision necessary to carry out the hard work of bringing about positive change?

    When I interviewed veteran peace activist Satish Kumar a few months ago he shared these wise words: “I always say to our activists… act not out of anger, act not out of anxiety, act not out of fear, but act out of love.” I think the key to staying grounded in hope is to connect with the love we feel at the root of our pain, to allow that love to motivate us and show us what’s possible. We have to look towards the light and be able to imagine a better world, believe in a better world in order to seek it.

    Finding hope in the darkness

    I’m in a writing group with my mother and a small group of friends, and we’ve been meeting online most Friday evenings since Spring 2021, a weekly ritual that has kept me going through some tough times; there’s something incredibly healing about carving out a regular space in your life for creativity. Over the past year the consequences of a sudden and tragic family loss have often nudged me close to despair. There have been times when I haven’t been able to see how anything could change for the better. Creativity—specifically writing poetry—has keep me moving forwards, step by step, even when I couldn’t see what was ahead on the path and it felt like walking through a thick fog.

    Last week, my mother suggested that we write poems expressing our solidarity for the people of Ukraine, around the theme of the equinox and hope. She had heard an interview with a Ukrainian mother on Woman’s Hour, who described the effect of the war on her six-year old son. She said that after the practical needs of refugees are met, therapy will also be vital to address the trauma they are experiencing. Hearing the comment prompted my mother to think about the power of collective empathy; if only we could join hands across the world to show our love and solidarity, not just to Ukrainians, but to everyone who has been affected by war, violence, climate change, and natural disasters.

    equinox of hope quilt

    Three of us ended up writing acrostic poems based on the phrase “equinox of hope”, which I’ve shared, below. My mother’s cousin, very talented with a needle and thread, started making the beautiful quilted Ukrainian flag pictured above, embroidered with a sunflower and its seeds: fifteen petals and fifteen seeds to symbolise the thirty years of Ukrainian independence, and the phrase “equinox of hope” stitched in rope that represents the lifeline that we long to throw each other when we see a fellow human suffering.

    Through the act of making, we’ve rekindled our own sense of hope and agency, and now we’d like to invite you to join us over the next few days and weeks in creating poems and images to send out the powerful message around the world: that we believe light can and must overcome the darkness. Share your images and words with us on Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #equinoxofhope (#равноденствиенадежды in Russian, and #рівноденнянадії in Ukrainian).

    We hope our messages will reach across the world, forming an online patchwork quilt of words and images that prove the tenacity and compassion of the human spirit, giving voice to those who are being oppressed and hope to those who feel close to despair. From the Russian people risking imprisonment and worse for protesting a war that the whole world stands against, or the refugees being discriminated against for the colour of their skin, to those newly made homeless by war and those whose homes were destroyed years ago and are still waiting for a resolution to injustice—we want to tell you that we see your pain, and we want to build a better world.

    Focusing on hope isn’t about turning a blind eye to suffering and evil, but precisely the opposite: we want to acknowledge that these atrocities are happening, while maintaining the belief that light can overcome the dark. Only when we can believe in a better future, only when we have hope and a vision for how things should—and could—be, can we actually work to make that vision a reality.

    The most recent place reported to have been bombed in the Ukraine is an arts centre. Art is not a luxury but the expression of the human spirit. We want to create a flash mob of art that floods our online spaces with love and solidarity, a testament to the empathy we feel for vulnerable people everywhere from Ukraine and from many different backgrounds, cultures, and belief systems; it’s our hope that our virtual “equinox of hope” patchwork quilt will help people around the world stand united in our common humanity and our belief in the dignity of each and every human life.

    Almost eight years ago my friends and family helped me to spark another type of online “flash mob” of love and support for my father in his last few weeks of life. That experience taught me that people long for connection, and that we all need a way to express our solidarity when hope feels frail. I hope that we can do the same for people around the world now.

    If you, like us, long for a way to turn your grief and empathy into something tangible, and if you’d find using your creativity to make something beautiful and raise your hand for the light in these dark days, we’d love for you to help us make this equinox an extended equinox of hope. If you like to write poetry, you can write something in the acrostic form like we’ve done, or even something smaller like a haiku centring on the image of the equinox of hope. And if you’d like to share an image, create whatever you feel inspired to create (this could be a photograph of spring flowers emerging in your part of the world, something stitched, painted, baked, or collaged—anything you like!) and share a photo of it if you’d like me to add it to our virtual “patchwork quilt” of solidarity. Just tag me @sophiecaldecott on Instagram or Twitter, use the hashtag #equinoxofhope, and I’ll come back to update this blog post and share what you’ve made.

    Equinox of Hope: Three Poems

    Equal parts light and dark

    Questions buried, seeds germinating

    Under shell-scarred landscapes

    In the humus of suffering,

    Night devouring day,

    Only to yield it back again:

    X a kiss placed on a cold, smooth brow.

    Only love can overcome this

    Fear that empties the breath.

    Heavy sarin-clouds reveal

    Ordinary evil, the banality of

    Power crushing lives, blindly:

    Even so, a gestating mandorla may open.

     Léonie Caldecott


    everything that was an answer has become a

    question through


    injustice and violence

    no such thing as other people’s babies

    or other countries’ suffering or other lives’

    x-tinction—who could

    oppose a small child’s wish

    for bad men to become good—

    how it

    opens a chasm in all of us where there ought to be

    peace and an

    end to all war

    —Laura Theis


    Every new image of violence prompts the

    question: can we imagine a world

    under the spell of love? “Violence is

    inherent in leaders who practice power-over

    not power-with

    or power-to”—

    x marks the spot where hope is buried.

    Our nightly prayers are for the war-weary,

    for those hiding in dark places.

    Helpless, we watch as lives are torn apart,

    opening our hearts to your

    pain, weaving words across the miles,

    expressing our stubborn hope for humanity.

    —Sophie Caldecott

    Note: Italics denote a quote from Brené Brown.

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    Equinox of Hope: Making Art for Ukraine & Beyond