“Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’intrate.”
Translation: Abandon all hope, you who enter.
So reads the inscription on the walls of the City of Dis in Dante’s Inferno. This quote has captivated me from the first time I heard it as a teenager but I could never say exactly why. It was something I needed to remember. There was a deeper meaning there for me, I just didn’t know it then. Seems like a less than cheerful thought after such a lovely Sunday doesn’t it? Perhaps there’s a better way for me to put it.
“Ho scoperto ogni speranza perché ho osato entrare.”
Translation: I discovered every hope, because I dared to enter.
So reads the cover of my journal. Enter what? I know a little of Hell – at least enough to understand that lost hope of which Dante speaks. I understand what it is to lose my way, face my own darkness and what it is to find my way back into the light. But it isn’t the hell of Dante’s depiction that I enter into so much these days as it is the mystery of my life and all its new challenges.
I never know from one day to the next how well I will feel. Will my hands hurt today? Will my feet hurt so much that my already pronounced limp will be even worse? Will I be able to open the bottle of apple juice for my younger son or will I need to ask his big brother to help? Will I be able to see the computer at work or will the shadows come creeping in yet again? So many bigger questions come on the heels of these. How long will I be able to work? Will my kids eventually end up taking care of me?
But then there is the biggest question – does it matter? Very simply, no. What matters is that I know that God has given me everything I’ve ever needed. I’ve never lacked for love, affection, friendship, support or guidance. I have found joy and hope in the most unexpected little things – the first crocuses of the season, a patch of grass reappearing as the snow melts and the wonder in my children’s eyes as they gaze up into the stars. I have found peace in simple things – the lap of the waves on the shore, the words of a poet, and the flight of a raptor.
What is it about the raptors that draws me in? The red-tailed hawk, the osprey, the wayward white-tailed kite – they are my brothers. Their power, strength, beauty and grace capture my soul. From the moment I see one of these fabulous birds, I have to stop to watch their flight. I am swept up and for just a moment, I can see what they see. I can see everything along my path and it’s a beautiful path ahead. And then I’m back on the ground, aching and tired again. But I’ve caught a glimpse of the lay of the land and this walled city that I’m in right now is just a passageway. There are a great many things that lay ahead. Some will be frightening. Some will be amazing. All come from God and therefore, all are good. Even as my eyes see shadows tonight, I see more clearly every day that when I ask for God’s help, I will not be left wanting.
And so from this place on my journey I offer you one final quote from my beloved Dante:
“Qui si convien lasciare ogne sospetto;
ogne viltà convien che qui sia morta.”
Here one must leave behind all hesitation;
here every cowardice must meet its death.