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February is rock-hard and relentless in Michigan. Pipes freeze and broadleaf evergreens cringe. Bare branches shiver above a creeping low angle of light suggesting the possibility of spring. Rabbit tracks punctuate the snow, exposing the marauder’s path: from arborvitae to lavender to savory, and then back to nibble the roses. Yes, the roses.

The scavenger’s actions make me happy. Any sign of life in the winter wasteland lights a candle of hope. It’s not just gardeners who feel strangled by winter’s icy grip. Normal mall-bound humans bemoan the early sunsets and freezing rain. The most normal of all people wantonly string up sparkly things in the living room and on the front of the house. It’s a parade of bad taste, but I admit my delight in the neighbors’ efforts. I gave in to the lure of shiny things this solstice, but my tree shorted out a week before the holiday. At least I had the foresight to take some pictures.

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Hope is an illness of sorts, a failure of logic. There really is no reason to keep trying when every signal says STOP.

I have absolutely no religious faith, unless you count my belief in the Lovecraftian reality where cats fight epic battles to preserve peace in our waking world. If you’ve watched a cat sleep, you can’t deny that Lovecraft told the truth about cats.

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Seasons teach us the only permanent law is change, but the ice and snow and darkness feel unending by this time of the year. The cold lurches in through every crevice of an old house. Summer is a fantasy, an idiot’s dream. We huddle, blanket upon blanket. We wear hats indoors.

Hope is a form of madness. Who looks into the darkness and says, “Let there be light?”

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Every one of us, that’s who. Every day we look into an impossible world and live. Each day we look into darkness and delude ourselves into seeing light. Once I met a client who believed she had cancer and many other illnesses. After reviewing records, a doctor explained to me her records indicated she had gone through extensive testing, and all her results were negative. Despite her repeated complaints and complete conviction of her illness, her tests concluded she was spectacularly healthy. I decided that day if I were to suffer from a delusional disorder, I’d choose to have the false belief that I was lovely, talented, and unbearably charming. If you’re going to have a delusion, why not make it a good one?

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So in the face of winter and in the face of rejection, I dream of spring and I send stories to publishers. Hope is a choice. Confidence is a choice. Happiness is a choice. The world does not give you what you ask for, because the world spins about on its own axis of light and dark and you are merely a virus contaminating its surface. But you, little microbe, little bug: you can make your own dream lucid in the tiny space of your mind. You can make your hope as hard as ice.

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