leaf and stalkI’m completely superstitious about words. Unscientifically, illogically superstitious. I’m not sure I can think of anything more powerful than a word. Especially a word unmoored from syntax, released from context…made free to float.

Both of these last two years, shortly after announcing my one word resolution, I have had that word working in my life. Some things about this I liked and some I didn’t. The best I can explain it is that I kept seeing my world through the lens of that word, and processing things through that filter…whether or not I even realized I was doing it.

That’s all you’re going to get for logic today. The rest I can’t explain. It’s just like one of those old Fourth of July smoke bombs. Once you drop it, you can’t control the smoke.

In the year of AWAKE (2013) I got overstimulated and exhausted and had a bear quite literally tapping at my glass door. I had months straight of what you might call low-level anxiety. But I also met a rhythm of dark and light and cold and warm that I had never really known before, not fully. And I saw snakes and bird’s eggs and I tasted six kind of berries and collected a fairy’s wand’s worth of starlight.

In the year of ambition (2014) I lost comforts of all kinds, at all levels, even as I had prophecy spoken over my life. I asked for the courage to speak my whole truth, and felt fire in my mouth. I drew fire in return and got stressed and self-obsessed and very lonely. I felt the beauty and pain of a soul uncurling, even if ever so slightly. My self-ness taking up just a bit more space, and the vanishing of things that have held me, with simultaneous feelings of freedom and loss.

If you were me, would you take on another word? Would you? Really?

It is a powerful thing, to become the woman on the mountain. (I warned you this would sound like superstition.) But I’ll stand by it. It is a powerful thing, to voluntarily step into stillness, silence, isolation. And even more powerful, then, to open my mouth as a channel to something I can not control. It is a kind of mystery, the willingness to step away from a thousand chattering things and become the woman on the mountain…the soul in the canyon.

Of course I haven’t really held this line, not for more than a month or so at a time. You could argue not even ten minutes at a time. I drift away (or run away!) and then I come back. But I do always come back. To tell the truth, I am quite terribly unqualified to do anything else.

If I stand on the mountain and call down a word, I will meet that word, and I will meet its shadow side as well. My word for 2015 is “beauty.”

It’s quite a common choice. Who doesn’t want a little more beauty in their life? But I didn’t choose it for that reason. For me the word “beauty” is more slippery than that, historically connected to cruel things and methods of control. I wrote a poem cycle several years ago — and I won’t share it here; this audience might find it a bit ahem off putting — but I will tell you it was based on this theme. “There is nothing quite so poetical as the death of a beautiful woman.”

I was, at that time, just in case you’re not getting the picture…pretty angry.

I have courted beauty, plenty. I have crafted beauty on the stage. I have tried to possess it, manipulate it, drink it, define it. I have made it the cornerstone of my writing in book form. But to receive beauty? To receive beauty undiluted? This is to be open to truth. It is no light or shallow commitment, but a willingness to fall in love with reality….a reality in which death is not a poem, and cruelty is not a video game.

I chose the word beauty because I knew I needed to. Because right now that’s where I need to live. That’s all I know.

Will I make it a whole year? I’m sure I won’t. I’m sure I’ll cut myself off and wander away and throw sap on the spark. Who knows? I may write about it once or twice, or I may write about it once a week. But as God is my witness, on this Epiphany Sunday, I have named this word. Beauty. I have invited it to work in my mind and in my life with a will outside of my own conscious mind.

May it be a container for a year’s unfurling.