a word for the year

painting info here

“Klostergang” (cloister walk) painting info here

Hello, Reader. If you’re just coming back from the holidays, me too. Today was the kids’ first day back, and I spent a delicious day at the library doing research for a poem on ants, then wrote a poem about nightshade. As a po-friend said: That sounds perfectly normal.

Long time readers may recall that each year I choose a word for the year. Or, the way it actually works is a word chooses me.

I learned this practice from poet, essayist, artist, and life coach Molly Fisk. If you want to learn more about it, she writes about it in this article (but swears those are not her feet).

I like this practice for several reasons. First, it’s much gentler than resolutions which always seem to tend toward the punitive. At least in my little world. Second, it has a focusing effect. The word, once it has chosen you, will come nipping at your heels, or encircling you from behind, or appearing gently before your eyes at various moments. It will remind you of itself and its wisdom for your life. Another thing I love is that all your past words kind of stay with you. A year ends, but it’s not like your word for that year then abandons you. My words for the last three years — persist, tend, NO — they are still my steadfast companions as the year turns again.

This year the word that chose me is cloister.

To quote the Beach Boys: Help me, Rhonda.

I’ve tried rejecting words in the past but it never works, so, dear cloister, I accept you.

cloister: n. 1. a covered and typically colonnaded passage round an open court in a convent, monastery, college, or cathedral; 2. a convent or monastery –> (the cloister) monastic life. v. 1. seclude or shut up in a convent or monastery.

Although it’s tempting, I’m not going to run off and seclude myself in a convent. I’m going to remember that this word is from Latin claustrum “place shut in; enclosure; bar, bolt, means of shutting in” — and make for myself the time and seclusion that writing requires.

I’m going to think about the phrase “often colonnaded” (colonnade: a row of evenly spaced columns) which speaks to me of intention and planfulness.

I’m going to let the fact that cloisters were built around a courtyard — open space, light, air, sky — remind me that even in seclusion there must be room to move, breathe, play, watch the clouds go by.

I will live with cloister, fail to live with it, try again, fail better, rinse and repeat. It will stay with me, but gently.

Happy New Year to you!


6 thoughts on “a word for the year

  1. “cloisters were built around a courtyard — open space, light, air, sky — remind me that even in seclusion there must be room to move, breathe, play, watch the clouds go by.”

    Molly, this is so good, so reassuring and right. Thank you.

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