Every year around Winter Solstice, I remind myself of the word I've chosen for the year, consider what it meant and how it was expressed in the way I lived my days, and then ask myself what next year's word will be. Sometimes I hear the answer right away; other times it takes a while.
For 2016, my word was abundance. Not in the sense of an abundance of stuff or money, or any other material thing: abundance in the sense of plenty, as I wrote in my blog post when the word came to me just after Winter Solstice in 2015:
Abundance as in "plenty": plenty of joy, plenty of time, plenty of ideas and words and readers, plenty of money, plenty of fruitful opportunities, plenty of energy and vigor, plenty of love...
Turns out abundance was a good word for my personal year, if not for the horrors of national and international events. 2016 was a year that brought all sorts of gifts, including a lot of love from family and friends.
Family love: Molly Cabe and me in February; with my brother, Bill Tweit, last month when he and my sister-in-law, Lucy Winter, and my youngest niece, Alice Tweit visited for the holidays.
So as the days grew shorter and Winter Soltice came and went last month, I listened for my word for 2017. And listened, and listened. Because I didn't like the word I heard first: gratitude.
After that painful election season? With the hatred and divisive politics that have overtaking my small town, the shootings in this country, the violence around the world, the refugees dying as they flee wars in the Mideast and ethnic cleansing in Africa, Burma and other places around the globe, the extinctions of other species?
What, I thought, is there to be grateful for in these scary and turbulent times?
Still, each time I listened, the word I heard was gratitude.
I looked up the definition: "the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness."
The last part of the definition stuck with me though: to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
I think the world needs a whole lot more appreciation, and many tons of "returning kindness." So I adopted gratitude as my word for 2017, and in particular that latter meaning.
Which, come to think of it, I do every morning (show appreciation) in my yoga and prayer routine. As I complete my asanas, I bow to the four directions, along with earth and sky, in gratitude for this place, and the living community that animates this planet, humans and the myriad of other species with whom our lives are intertwined.
And then I speak aloud a prayer to the spirit of life, asking that I be able to live my day in love and balance, that I treat others with compassion and kindness, that I am strong but not rigid, that I walk in balance, beauty, and yes, gratitude for this existence.
As in the view of Venus near the new moon last night...
Gratitude, I realized, the showing of appreciation and returning kindness, is not a Pollyanna sort of attitude. It doesn't preclude being engaged in the world, witnessing and working to alleviate fear, injustice, hunger, poverty of all sorts, or hatred.
It means recognizing the good, small or large, staying open and receptive to that "ocean of Light" that will overcome the ocean of fear and darkness. It means remembering to value what is positive, taking time to respect and acknowledge the blessings each day brings.
And there are blessings, even when our days are full of pain and sorrow and anger and grief. The sun still rises and sets, snowflakes are still crystalline and beautiful, the ocean still laps or pounds the shore, this planet is still bursting with an abundance of life as dazzling as the stars in the dark night sky.
We still have friends and family and community; we have work and art and song and dance; we have food and housing and clothes. We are alive, a gift I have learned is very precious indeed.
So yes, gratitude is my word for this new year.
I am grateful for all of you; I am grateful for the home I am leaving, my sweet little complex here in Salida (photo at the top of the post), and the home I am moving to in Wyoming (photo below). I am very grateful for life, both the capital 'L' kind and my quotidian existence.
May 2017 bring each of us much to appreciate, and may it reward our kindness abundantly. Blessings!