High Hopes

Back in the middle of the previous century, Frank Sinatra had a hit called “High Hopes.” The lyrics start with an ant trying to move a rubber tree plant – among other impossible feats of determination.

Just what makes that little old ant
Think he’ll move that rubber tree plant
Anyone knows an ant, can’t
Move a rubber tree plant

But he’s got high hopes
He’s got high hopes
He’s got high apple pie
In the sky hopes

On family road trips in the Chevy Falcon (bench seats, no seat belts that I can remember) we loved when that song came on the radio, especially the choruses, because the last line repeats three times and it was fun to sing along:

So any time your gettin’ low
‘Stead of lettin’ go
Just remember that ant
Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant
Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant!
Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant!

When the first lockdown in my state began, we talked about “flattening the curve.” For the most part, we achieved it. But people took liberties when things loosened up a bit, and then all the bickering and denials and maskholes appeared, and then things got exponentially worse through the summer on every front, and now we’re all exhausted right when we need to really toughen up and gut this damn thing out. Health care workers are cracking, and in some areas, the health care system is on the brink of collapse.

When I saw photos and video of yet another unmasked superspreader event in D.C. yesterday, it was all I could do not to scream “why don’t you go back to your double-wide and fry something!” If I had been there as a counter-protester, and succumbed to temptation, I’m sure I would have gotten the same treatment Candace Bergen did after she yelled that line in Sweet Home Alabama – Reese Witherspoon decked her.

This perpetually combative state of fury and frustration has taken its toll, and threatens to destroy the last shred of civility I could muster.

I won’t give up. I want to find something to hang on to, some way to keep going, some example of courage or determination or resilience or kindness, that health care and other essential workers display daily.

That fox up there in the image? One day I was astonished to see him leap to the top of that wood fence, and trot confidently along the top of it, toward my neighbor’s front yard.

Another day, he came sniffing around the chicken coop (I said “sorry dude, they’re long gone”). I roared and “made myself big,” putting my hands up and stomping on the deck. I was concerned about Angelic Daughter, who likes to sit out on the deck (when it was warm enough just a few weeks ago) and enjoy the back yard. The foxes around here have been unnervingly bold lately.

I kept yelling at the fox.

Then he did this:

That is not something I thought foxes could do.

He seemed to decide the tree wasn’t his best exit route, and jumped down, running toward the chicken coop again. I yelled at him again, and he ran straight for that chain link fence.

And jumped over it.

He’s big for a fox, but I didn’t think a jump to three times as high as he was long was possible. That’s determination.

I hope when this damn pandemic is over, I can jump the fences between me and people who disagree with me. My high hopes, inspired by that high jumping fox, are that I’ll be able to treat people I disagree with civilly, even when it’s impossible to “respect” their point of view.

Back when I worked an advocate for intellectual freedom, I would frequently get yelled at on the phone by people who thought the organization I worked for was trying to corrupt young minds by making books they disagreed with available. (Callers were people who believed that books like The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, by famed Christian thinker C.S. Lewis, was un-Christian, because it depicted magic).

I’d let them yell it out (sometimes holding the phone at arm’s length), and then I’d say, “I may not be able to make you happy, but I can give you some information that might help you understand our position.” Then I’d explain that their freedom to read about and express their beliefs was only protected if the same freedom extended to those on the opposite side.

Sometimes, it worked.

Maybe it still could.

Hopeful, I remain,

Your not-a-Pollyanna-but-determined-to-get-through-to-better-days,


P.S. – I’ve updated my 27 Things page with a new listicle. Hope you get a kick out of it.

7 thoughts on “High Hopes

  1. That fox!!! (Great picture, and inspiring words.) I too have a lot of fences to jump when this is over, but in the mean time….”Maskholes!”… I’d never heard that before, but now I’m going to use that term. Not to their faces, of course. Probably. Maybe. (shrug).


  2. I had “High Hopes” on a 45 when I was growing up. It was one of the few records that I had, but I think it helped me have a positive attitude no matter what came my way. Thanks for the reminder. I had totally forgotten about it!


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