One Little Word: Root

Year In Review: Root Review

"Happiness is a vine that takes root and grows within the heart, never outside it."
                ---Kahlil Gibran


When I chose ROOT as my word for 2021, I had a feeling it might be the just-right word for me this year. After the upheaval of 2020, I needed a word that would give me some stability. With everything coming off the rails all around me, I wanted to feel secure and tethered. I just needed something to feel . . . solid again. 

As the year comes to a close, I know that ROOT was absolutely the word I needed.


Lessons learned:

  • It's a good idea to dig around a little now and then . . . to take a good look at your roots so you can see how things are going down deep. Knowing the condition of your roots - and especially knowing what makes up those roots in the first place - will help you take care of your whole "plant;" your whole SELF.
  • Sometimes, when you plant yourself deep in the dirt and let things root . . . you get an entirely different bloom than you expected. Stay open to discovery.
  • Figuring out what holds you back frees you to move forward. But doing that (and I did a lot of that this year) means digging deep and getting your hands dirty.
  • A strong and well-developed root system assures that you can withstand the rains and thunderstorms of life -- the unexpected, the surprises, the things that completely throw us out of whack. Strong roots help us manage the good, the bad, and the ugly of life.


  • When the "weather" of life is providing just enough of what you need, it's easy to take things for granted. That you'll always have enough "water," for example. That your "roots" will remain comfortable, happy, and well-nourished. That you can just . . . cruise along, happy as a clam, without providing any "water maintenance." But, as we know, "weather" - real and metaphoric - can change quickly. And we don't aways notice that we need some extra "watering" until we start feeling dry . . . and a little desperate, usually wondering what is wrong with us. So we need to pay attention to what's happening in our "gardens." To watch for signs of "dryness" in our own soil. To figure out when our roots need some watering. (So we don't wither and dry up.)


Some projects I worked on during my ROOT year:

  • I dabbled in a root-inspired (sort-of) "art journal." It was a place for me to create collages, collect quotes and poems, and gather my "learnings" all year long. It was nothing fancy or elaborate, but turned out to be a meaningful way for me to connect with my word all year long.
  • I took on a family photo organizing and scanning project that, well. Took a bad turn. Which (as so often happens with those "bad turns") ended up defeating me. BUT . . . I'm "transplanting" that project into next year with renewed vigor - and a better plan.
  • I did an Ancestry DNA test with some fun results.
  • I developed my own recipe for "personal compost" (to nourish my roots on a regular basis) and I created a "root cellar" to preserve the things I've learned and discovered this year for future reference.
  • I started writing my "personal manifesto" (or "this I believe" statement if the word "manifesto" makes you conjure the Unabomber). While I had hoped to have it finished by the end of the year, I don't. But I've begun. (It's . . . ahem . . . taken root, you could say.)


Although I feel complete with my word for 2021, I know it will continue to hover in my mind. I'm sure I'll come back for more "ROOTwork" in the future (which I take as a sign of a good word; you're never really "finished" with the good ones!). Most importantly, the work I've done this year has strengthened me at my roots, and makes me feel ready to forge ahead with . . . whatever comes next.


(And that quote there on the cover of my root journal? There's a clue in there . . . about what my word for 2022 might be about.)


How about you? If you chose a word in 2021, how did it work out for you? And what lessons did you learn?

And . . . if you're thinking about a word for next year (maybe even for the first time), check out this interview series that Carolyn did about choosing a word. Or check out Ali Edwards' One Little Word program. Ali has been running this program for a very long time now, and has some great information about choosing a word and getting started thinking about it. The program itself includes monthly "thinking" and creative prompts and provides a very nice structure if that's your thing. (I sign up every year. I enjoy Ali's inspiration although I don't do (m)any of the creative prompts.) Something to consider, though, if you're interested in a deeper relationship with your word.




ROOT: Symbolically Speaking

Often, the word I choose to live with for the year shows up . . .  as a symbol. Actually, all of my words do that, at least a little bit.  It's just that some words in some years suggest a symbol more than others. With some words it just seems more . . . pronounced.  

With journey . . . it was maps.
With balance . . . it was seesaws.
With flow . . . it was a river.

And with root . . . it's been all about trees.

IMG_7050 2

I mean, that's pretty on the nose . . . trees . . .  so not really surprising. But it works. It's easy, too, because I can just look out my windows and see them there, day in and day out. Standing tall. Swaying in the wind. Getting leaves. Losing leaves. Putting on a show with spring blossoms and fall color. Hosting birds. Providing shade. Tree stuff.

All while imagining. . . their extensive root systems underground.

I can't see it. 
(But I know it's there.)

Holding everything up.

So . . . trees . . . are a perfect reminder for me of all the things I've learned and considered and thought about this year. (It's so nice when it works out that way.)


The trees know
That you can be
Still and grow
            --- Chris McGeown


How about you? If you chose a word for the year, does it show up as a symbol for you?

And . . . it's time to start thinking about new words for a new year! Carolyn has started a thoughtful conversation with a number of word-choosing veterans (including moi) over on her blog. If you want some inspiration when it comes to choosing your word, check it out!


ROOT: Gathering In the Harvest


"What we plant in the soil of contemplation, we shall reap in the harvest of action."
                    --- Mesiter Eckhart


My one-little-word thoughts have been taking me in a . . . harvest-y kind of direction this past month. I've learned many things over the past 10 months, playing around with the word root. Now that we're nearing the end of the year, I'm thinking about how I might gather up the thoughts, inspiration, and "learnings" I've experienced. 

Hmmm. . .
How to store and preserve what I've gleaned?
I'm thinking I need a . . . 


(Get it? A ROOT cellar.)
(I crack myself up sometimes.)

After all, a root cellar is just a cool and dry storage location for all that you've grown and gathered, helping you maintain a level of freshness and accessibility for your harvest through the cold and dark months ahead.

So . . . I'm creating a metaphorical root cellar for myself . . . to store away all of the things I want to preserve and remember in the future. Things I want to keep close at hand - safe and dry and cool - and ready to use whenever I feel the need.

What's going in my root cellar?

  • Root Vegetables . . . those lessons grown deep underground that I've harvested over the past year, providing me with sustenance for the days ahead.
  • Jars of Preserves . . . the bounty of past "learnings," preserved and ready to carry me forward to enjoy in future days.
  • Dried Herbs . . . ideas from the past year that can continue seasoning the new "dishes" I plan to try in the days ahead.
  • Flower Seeds and Bulbs . . .  inspiration that I can plant and grow to encourage colorful new blooms in my garden next season.
  • Bottles of Wine and Home Brew . . . to celebrate the harvest and a successful season, of course!

I've got some work to do!


If you've had a word in your life this year, how do you plan to "preserve" your experience?


ROOT: What's Left?


"I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart. I am. I am. I am."
              --- Sylvia Plath


At this point in the year, I start looking back to the beginning . . . to make sure I'm on track to do what I set out to do with my year (or to let things just go, because things change y'know?). It's always interesting to review my personal goals and intentions to see how . . . on track I was back in January.

This month, I focused on the beginnings of the "journey" with my word for the year . . . root.

When I chose this word back in January, I was feeling battered . . . after going with the flow of 2020. (Flow was my previous word.) I was feeling the need to dig down into my own roots -- to take a look at what grounds me, and to build myself (back) up for whatever might come . . . next.  I had some ideas about things I might explore as the year unfolded (little activities and "exercises" I wanted to try), and I planned to follow along with Ali Edwards' One Little Word prompts when they inspired me (because they don't always).

Overall, I've been very much on track with my "root plans" for the year, and I've enjoyed some of the unexpected side roads I've explored as well. But there are still two questions that keep popping up in my journal:

  • What grounds me?
  • I am rooted in . . . 

I have been [pick one: ruminating about, exploring, skirting-around-the-edges-of] these questions all year. But I think that, for the remainder of the year, I want to be more intentional about addressing them. I've long wanted to compose my own "personal manifesto." In fact, that's been a goal I've ignored - and let go of - for years now. But I think . . . it's time. It seems like a perfect culminating activity for my root year.

[Let's have a little sidebar conversation about manifestos here for a second. Because what IS a "manifesto" exactly? Well. . . according to our friends at Merriam-Webster, a manifesto is "a written statement that describes the policies, goals, and opinions of a person or group." That's sounds a little . . . bigger . . . than what I want to do, which is more a setting down in writing of my personal intentions, motives, and views. Basically, I want to create a statement for myself that expresses what grounds me, what I am rooted in -- more a "This I Believe" kind of thing.]

So, anyway. I feel ready to finally tackle this. I think I'm finally . . . rooted enough. . .  to give it a try.
Or, at least, to give it a go.

And that's where I am with my word for the year, here at the end of September.
How about you? If you chose a word this year, where are you headed with it . . . in this last quarter of 2021?


If you're interested in learning more about personal manifestos, begin here with the Holstee Manifesto. I've wanted to create one for myself since first reading it, back in 2011.


And - just for fun - here are a few recent pages from my root journal.





UP-rooted: A One Little Word Update



This has been a very one-little-word-ish month for me. Not only was Ali Edwards' August prompt (about the stories we tell ourselves) inspirational and challenging to play with, but my own little health-crisis turned me rather upside-down besides.

I was . . . UP-rooted, you might say.

I'm actually still sifting through the fallout of a very thoughtful month. (You can bet there will be more later.) For now, I'll share a glimpse of my Root journal. And share the poem that's been a companion for me all month long.


The Fourth Sign of the Zodiac (Part 3)
Mary Oliver

I know, you never intended to be in this world.
But you're in it all the same.

So why not get started immediately.

I mean, belonging to it.
There is so much to admire, to weep over.

And to write music or poems about.

Bless the feet that take you to and fro.
Bless the eyes and the listening ears.
Bless the tongue, the marvel of taste.
Bless touching.

You could live a hundred years, it's happened.
Or not.
I am speaking from the fortunate platform 
of many years,
none of which, I think, I ever wasted.
Do you need a prod?
Do you need a little darkness to get you going?
Let me be as urgent as a knife, then,
and remind you of Keats,
so single of purpose and thinking, for a while,
he had a lifetime.


Mary Oliver, “The Fourth Sign of the Zodiac” from Blue Horses (Penguin Press, 2014). Copyright © 2014 by Mary Oliver.

They've Got My Number

I'm always amazed when I scroll through my Instagram feed . . . and  see so many ads perfectly targeted to me. (So. Many.)

I'm frequently tempted to peek.
And sometimes I do.
And sometimes I even order.


Like, for instance, this great new shirt -- perfect for yoga or working out or just plain old wearing.

Those Instagrams?


They've really got my number!

Lessons From the Garden. Again.

Yep. Once again, gardening brings meaning to my One Little Word . . . 


In the spring and early summer, we were in a drought situation here in my corner of the world. It didn't snow much last winter. It didn't rain much in the spring. Everything was very, very dry. And our entire sprinkler system was messed up. I was constantly dragging hoses and watering my containers. (I even ordered/installed that plant dildo system to give my containers a fighting chance.)

And then . . . 

  • It started to rain. (A lot.)
  • Sprinkler system repairs (finally) happened.
  • The plant dildos worked.

I didn't need to water anything anywhere.

I got complacent. 
Maybe even a little lazy.
But everything was fine. Great, in fact.

Until it wasn't.
Because the weather changed again. The rain stopped. It got hot.

At first, the plants were all fine. The roots were still soaking up all the spare water in the soil, and those plant dildos were providing plenty of moisure deep down in my containers, at the roots where they really needed it. But . . . it didn't take long before the leaves let me know that it was time for more attention! I needed to turn the sprinkler system back on. I needed to check my containers every day. I needed to re-fill those wine bottles in my plants.

Which is really what gardening is all about: Paying attention to the plants and the conditions they live in . . . and providing the necessary "maintenance" to keep everything humming along and looking good. 

IMG_5191 2

And all of this . . . got me thinking about my own "roots" . . . those metaphoric roots deep in my soul.

When the "weather" of life is providing just enough of what you need, it's easy to take things for granted. That you'll always have enough "water," for example. That your "roots" will remain comfortable, happy, and well-nourished. That you can just . . . cruise along, happy as a clam, without providing any "water maintenance."

But, as we know, "weather" (real and metaphoric) can change quickly. And we don't always notice that we need some extra "watering" until we start feeling dry . . . and a little desperate, usually wondering just WHAT IS WRONG with us. So - just like in a real garden - we need to pay attention. To watch for signs of "dryness" in our own soil. To figure out just what our roots might need. Y'know . . . so we don't wither and dry up.

This month, I've been trying harder to keep my eyes on the weather -- both in my garden and in my soul.
I'm asking myself . . . 

It's important to keep those roots - both my plants' AND mine - happy and healthy.


How about you? What have you learned from your word this month?


Summer of Ease

Coming into this summer season, I really didn't know what to expect. 

Would the pandemic feel "over?" Would we be able to get out and about in more "normal," summer-y ways? Would we be able to gather with . . . people?

And . . . how would that all feel, exactly?


And then, well. Everything just kind of happened at once! All of a sudden, there are places to go. People to see. Things to do.

Life has . . . opened up . . . again.
(Don't get me wrong. You still won't find me in crowds or at a concert or anywhere there are likely to be people of questionable vaccination status, but it all does feel bigger and more wide open again, y'know?)

Right away, early in the summer, I started feeling a bit . . . itchy and sort of stressed out. I had established a routine for myself - a way to get through my days - during the pandemic. And I actually liked it; I was used to it. But, suddenly, that routine was being . . . oh, not really interrupted (although kinda). Just . . . nudged . . . in ways that didn't always feel good. I found I was clutching tighter to my established routine . . . even though I was also adding more people and unexpected - although welcome - events and options into my life. And it was creating a bit of a jumble for me. 

Clearly, I needed a shift in my approach.
And my attitude.

I needed to let things go . . . and be more spontaneous.
I needed to . . . go with the (new) flow.

It's not always easy to let things go -- especially when it's mostly (maybe even entirely) self-driven expectations and artbitrary rules. But it's so awesome when it happens. When you let your fingers stop clutching at the dock, for example, and you let go . . . and just bob along with the current.

This summer, I'm practicing spontaneity. Letting myself off the hook more than I usually do. Relaxing into this "new" reality.

I'll tell you . . . Life is easier this way.
Summer is easier.

Let go.
Find ease.
(Who knew?)


"Everything I've ever let go of has claw marks on it."
        --- David Foster Wallace

Strong Roots


Last night, we had a thunderstorm. Big thunder. Impressively loud. (JoJo cowering under the bed loud.) As I laid there in bed, listening to the rain and the thunder, I was thinking about my garden . . .

We've had a lot of rain these past few days. Like . .  a LOT of rain. Making-up-for-lost-time rain. Buckets. Of. Water. 

And yet . . . my plants stand tall.

IMG_4805 3

Even delicate plants on very long stems, like my drumstick allium (above) defy gravity and heavy rains to stand tall in my border.

How do they do that?
Well . . . ROOTS, of course!

My plants have put down strong roots deep in the ground, firmly connecting them to the earth and providing the nutrients they need to withstand whatever happens above the ground. Weather. Dogs. Sprinkler system repairs. Nature's disruptions.*

I know my own roots are like that, too.
Firmly connecting me to the earth.
Providing the nutrients I need.
Helping me withstand whatever is going on . . . above ground.


And I've got a lot going on this summer. It's all good and I'm happy about all of it. (Except tripping over Jenny this morning and doing a hard face plant into the wall. That was not so good. . . ) I'm reminded of one of my favorite quotes . . . 

"I am rooted, but I flow."
        --- Virginia Woolfe

I can withstand the rain and the thunderstorms of life - the unexpected, the surprises, the things that completely throw off my schedule and force me to move in a different direction - the good, the bad, and the ugly of life - BECAUSE I have a strong and well-developed root system.

That's me!


* Drought is another thing entirely. A topic for another day. . . 


June is also the "traditional" time to reflect and review how things are going so far with our words (in Ali Edwards' One Little Word Land). I always enjoy and appreciate a good "check-in." I'll say that, overall, ROOT has been an excellent word choice for me this year, and it's been an especially perfect word as I make my way through the COVID landscape. One of the most interesting?, weird?, surprising? things about my little "look back" . . . has been my list of intentions and goals for the year. Let's just say . . . they need a mid-year overhaul! Because it's very clear that I was in a completely different place back in January. (It made me realize how much has changed since I originally put together my list of things I wanted to do.

Working on that, too.


How about you? If you chose a word for the year, how are things going for you?

Developing a Recipe

Thinking about . . . 


Mostly, we live our lives on the surface. Above the ground. That's where we see the world, interact with the world . . . and where the world sees us! 

That's not the whole story.

There's a whole lot more going on . . . under the surface. Under ground. At the root of us.


Our roots might be invisible, deep underground as they are, but they're vital to our ability to function, to thrive, to bloom in the world. We get our energy from our roots. They feed us, nourish us, help us stand tall. A healthy root system . . . is important for keeping us strong and resilient above ground. So it's really important that we pay close attention to our roots. We need to dig down and check them out from time to time (and not just when we notice signs of distress above the ground). 

Lately, I've been thinking about what I need to do . . . to help keep my roots healthy and happy.


In my garden - both indoors and out - I feed my plants with fertilizer now and again. And outdoors, in my garden, I spread compost to feed the roots and encourage strong growth. The plants? They love it! They respond with healthy growth and beautiful blooms.

I decided that my own roots - the roots of me - would probably enjoy a dose of fertilizer now and again, too. So I set out to create a Recipe for Personal Compost.

But what would be in it? What should my ingredients be???

Back in 2017, when my one-little-word was Balance, I came up with a short list of 5 "elements" that I need in my life every single day to keep myself feeling balanced and whole. The 5 things are: meditation, movement, reflection, creative expression, and time outside, and I have been on a mission to include them in my days, every day, since then. In fact, I track them each week in my planner.


When I start to feel out of balance, I can usually see it reflected in my little tracker. If just one thing doesn't get checked off for a day or two, I can really feel it. Then, I know just what to do to pull myself back into balance. 

I decided that my 5 balance elements could be the basis for my Recipe for Personal Compost. But I wanted to come up with a more complex mixture than just my "daily requirements." I wanted to include more long-lasting ingredients - things I need to have in my life often, but not necessarily every day. After all, you don't need to apply compost daily. You just need to apply it on a regular basis, often enough to keep the nutrients flowing to the roots in a steady stream. I needed to add ingredients to my recipe . . .  that would build up over time, with results that would last between compost applications.

I haven't perfected my Recipe for Personal Compost quite yet, but I'm having a great time working on it! Here are some additional ingredients I'm adding to the mix . . . things I don't need every day, but that I do need on the regular to keep my roots healthy and strong (which helps me stand tall and resilient, with vigorous growth and beautiful blooms): 

Time with my family and friends
Frequent naps
Good books
New recipes
Problems to solve
Meaningful activities I enjoy
Continual learning
Novel challenges
Travel and adventure
Time in my garden


While not quite finished, I'm well on the way to coming up with my Recipe for Personal Compost. I'm getting close!


It's a fun thing to think about. C'mon along! What do YOUR roots need . . . to be healthy and strong? What ingredients would you mix in to your own Recipe for Personal Compost?