on a wing

by Elizabeth de Barros

January 1 tethers us to its post, staking its claim as the symbol of yet another year come due.

2011— Do you spin around it tight or will you fly free?

Guess it depends on whether you see the New Year as just another consumer affair or gift meant to be slowly opened.

♦  ♦  ♦

Inspiration doesn’t come cheap. And it’s not as expendable as, say, a piece of sidewalk chalk or a beater car. Whatever is borne from inspiration carries lasting effects of great reward.

Whenever New Year’s rolls around, no matter how exhausted we are from all the energy spent in December, we’re prone to scrambling, whether it’s hopping back on the elliptical after months of neglect or straining ourselves in a mental sort of way. A search for new bootstraps, money, plane tickets, furniture, sincerity, resolve — whatever it is we think we need to get our souls out of hock — at least for a few days. We don’t mind kidding ourselves, we know we’re in good company with at least a million other folks. Even the pessimist sees a little more water in his glass early on. A powerful influence the calendar has on us.

But is it real?

I think so, but only to the extent that it dupes us. We’ve been sold on the hope of a fresh opportunity. Another chance. An entire industry rides on the nation’s back with the notion that change can happen and everyone gets to turn over a new leaf. But don’t believe the hype. The bait is fraudulent. Law is law no matter which way it’s sliced, and whatever rule you pledge to keep you are bound to break.

Hard news is only hard because it’s most true.

Rules scare me for the will-worship they require to keep them, so I’ve taken another approach.  I’m more interested in understanding inspiration — the “I can’t quite put my finger on it” piece of stimuli that helps me to move on, keep pushing forward. But to do this I must get still. Not through some ritualistic form of asceticism, just quiet enough to observe where the yield signs are, see far enough ahead to where the next bend in the road might appear. To be somewhat better prepared for handling the curves and hugging the corners when they come.

I want to be alert.

This much I know: Inspiration is not something to be grasped. Can’t pull it out of myself and throw it down on the table and divide into rationed parts, allocating where I think it should go as if I held title. It’s something to take in — like breath — because it is given. Not unlike the sighting of a rare bird perched on a sill, singing its praise before flitting off to points unknown.

Inspiration comes to me and lands, but it doesn’t stay. And with whatever measure of grace God grants, I stake my claim for eternity’s sake for as long as it bids. I’ve learned to trust the moment like there’s no tomorrow, because God is the Author at His own signing.

Inasmuch as I want 2011 to be a year full of inspiration, I have but only to remain poised.


“But ask the animals, and they will teach you,

or the birds of the air, and they will tell you;

or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,

or let the fish of the sea inform you.

Which of all these does not know

that the hand of the LORD has done this?

In his hand is the life of every creature

and the breath of all mankind.

—Job 12:7-10