Recently, a bulldozer showed up outside our house at seven a.m. and began backing up onto the vacant lot next door. I was trying to read. The noise was hard to tune out, especially when the bulldozer got to work and the whole house started to shake. I looked outside. Clouds of dust were rolling through the neighborhood. When one of the construction guys knocked on the door and asked if he could borrow our hose to keep the dust down until the water truck arrived, I was only too happy to say yes.

And, believe it or not, I am thrilled this is all happening. This next-door project was one of those recession-reminder blank spots, another project that ground to a halt and left a gaping, weedy wound on our block; an everyday reminder that the economy remained in critical condition. The owners—who also built our townhome, right before they temporarily ran out of cash—finally sold the lot to another builder with a great reputation, and she (yes, she!) is breaking ground. Four more homes in south Seattle are on their way.

And now the September job numbers are in: 114 thousand new jobs last month, the 24th consecutive month we added to, rather than subtracted from, the total number of people working. The unemployment rate is now below eight percent for the first time since President Obama was elected.

Noise next door equals jobs equals hope. I know there are going to be times when the hammering gets maddening. But I’m going to try to remember: noise equals hope.

And I’ll remember what it was like four years ago, when candidate Obama made hope his word, our word, at a time when most of us were consumed by fear. Remember what that felt like? I sure do. Our clients stopped calling. Our savings and home equity were amputated overnight. Friends lost jobs. Other friends lost their entire nest eggs, just as they thought they were nearing retirement. Younger friends couldn’t find work at all.  Nonprofit organizations lost donors and foundation grants, even as record numbers of people knocked on their doors for help.

For many, if not most, Americans, life is still a lot harder than it was before the recession. But there are noisy glimmers of hope. Bulldozers. Jobs.

In this election year, we are faced not with the economic terror of four years ago but with fragile signs of economic recovery, tiny seedlings that are going to need a lot of nurturing. And as we contemplate who we would like to have leading us through this careful, cautiously hopeful time, we have two very different choices. We have a president on whose watch we have gone from losing 600 thousand jobs in January 2009 to 24 straight months of growth. And we have a candidate who thinks it makes more sense to shrink the safety net—at a time when so many are still so vulnerable—than it does to ask the top one percent to kick in one more dime.

The house is shaking right now. The bulldozer next door is rumbling away. I’m remembering four years ago, when the silence on construction sites all over America was deafening. I’m OK with the noisy sound of hope.

Have you met the Restless Critic? Be warned: he could change your movie viewing habits forever. I know: I speak from 25 years (as of Wed, Oct 10, 2012) of experience! 

Radio lovers: you can hear the Restless Nest commentaries every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., Thursdays at 4:54 p.m. and Fridays at 4:55 p.m. on KBCS, streaming online at and on the air at 91.3 in the Seattle area.  Podcasts available.

Here’s nest artist Kim Groff-Harrington’s website.