Even when the world stops, life goes on. Not fear, not death—not even a pandemic full of death—can keep hope from poking through, new buds on the tired branch, new shoots in the soil.
We know this.
So why does it surprise us?
Maybe because that’s what keeps us alive. Not just the hope: the surprise. Our ability to believe, time and time again, that all is done, that the shadows will grow with no light to check them. Our capacity to lose heart. If we were perpetually hopeful, we would lose that jolt of reawakening.
This thing, this year we’ve lived, has crushed so much. So many small, fine dreams. It made so many people look up from the row they’re tilling, a tiny patch of land perhaps, a place, a cause—and wonder, was I wrong? Should I have been doing something different all along, bigger, more resilient? Do I still believe in all these small, fine things, these little battles that now seem to have been for naught?
What does it all mean if everything I built can turn to nothing, in a heartbeat?
And then, from nothing, a heartbeat. Something new; someone, to be exact. Someone tiny. Someone unmistakeable, unignorable, someone who grabs us by the now-proverbial lapels of the dress shirts people used to wear, saying: I am small. Believe in me.
So forceful that we wonder for a moment if our sadness conjured her up. If maybe disheartenment makes hope, like a vortex that pulls something new into being. A new baby, say. A tiny bijagüeña. A jolt to reawaken us. The surprise that restarts us.
Even when the world stops, hope arrives. Is born. Astounds, arrests, checks our despair. Who can afford despair before a face like hers?
Text by Katherine Stanley Obando, inspired by the arrival of Julia Victoria Varela Kelly on May 10, 2021. She is the daughter of El Colectivo 506 co-founder Pippa Kelly, and of Donald Varela. Her older sisters are the extraordinary Kira and Ellie.