One Little Word: Root

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. 

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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.

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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?



I Blame My Mom

(Not really.) (But kinda.)
(You'll see.)

Last month over in Ali Edwards' One Little Word workshop, the prompt was all about letting go . . . of something. Or multiple somethings. These are the kinds of prompts that I generally roll my eyes at a little bit. (Okay. Maybe it's really the craft part of the prompt that I'm rolling my eyes at. Hard to tell.) But . . . they're also the kind of prompts that get me thinking.

Letting go.
Such easy words to say or type. So hard to put in practice!

Over the last decade+ I've had a enough life-changes thrown my way (a cancer diagnosis, empty-nesting, Tom's work changes, my mom's death, my own "retirement," the pandemic) that I've had a lot of practice with  . . .  letting things go. In fact, I've successfully let go of many, many (many) things. Ideas. Notions. Habits. Activities. Commitments. Plans.

But. There is one thing (and it's a big thing, actually) that is still hanging on. And it is time for me to Let. It. Go.


What is that thing, you ask?

Why . . . It's Arbitrary Rules!

And what is an Arbitrary Rule, you ask?

Well. They are rules I made up for myself. Completely made up. No one made me adopt them. (Well. Maybe my mom.) There are no "stakes" involved for these rule. And yet, for whatever reason, my arbitrary rules are Strong and Powerful. I follow my arbitrary rules To. The. Letter. I stick to my rules, damnit! 

Can you give us an example, you ask?

Sure! Here's my favorite, all-time paralyzing arbitrary rule: "You can't have fun until your work is done." (Variations on this theme include "No dessert until you eat your vegetables" and "No TV until your homework is finished.")

And, yes. Those are totally things my mom said when I was a kid. I'm not saying she was wrong. There are times when you need to buckle down and get the hard stuff done before you do the fun stuff! And there are times when you can use the fun stuff as a reward for getting through the hard stuff. But . . . carrying that arbitrary rule forward and making it a lifestyle choice? Not so good.

I mean, my mom? She was trying to instill a strong work ethic in my growing heart and soul. She was helping me learn to set priorities, and make sure I became a responsible adult who would understand the importance of getting the unpleasant-but-necessary stuff of life . . . done. And it worked. I did become a responsible citizen of the world, able to meet deadlines and make unpleasant choices and take care of the urgent tasks of life.

But there is a way to take that rule . . . too far. To give it power it does not deserve. To turn a good rule-of-thumb-for-living into a hard-and-fast arbitrary rule. The issue? It's when you substitute the word "should" for the word "work."

Here's how that arbitrary rule plays out in my life all too often:  Let's say . . . I want to play around and paint in my sketchbook (fun stuff!). But I also should clean my bathrooms (work). According to my arbitrary rule, I can't play around with my sketchbook until I've cleaned my bathroom. But I really don't want to clean my bathroom, and there is no urgent need for me to clean my bathroom . . . but . . . arbitrary rule: I must do the work before I can do the fun stuff. So I pick up my phone and scroll through Instagram instead. I don't clean my bathroom. But I also don't pick up my sketchbook.

Is this stupid-thinking?
Oh, YES.

Do I know it?

But my all-powerful arbitrary rule tells me . . . I can't do the "fun stuff" until I do the "work." Even when the work is really just a should. (This rule bites me in the butt so often I can't even believe it.)

And that's not the only arbitrary rule I have. There are so many others:
Make sure you know what you're doing before you begin.
Don't start a project if you won't be able to finish it.
Don't make a mess on the dining room table.
Always finish what you start.
Clear your plate.
Don't bite off more than you can chew.

Sure. These rules make sense in some contexts. And I know my mom didn't mean any harm in knocking them into my head. (Trust me. She lived with plenty of her own arbitrary rules  . . . ) But there you go! Deep-seated, completely arbitrary rules that have the power to paralyze me. And it's time for them to go!

In the spirit of Ali Edwards' One Little Word prompt, I'm working on letting go of my arbitrary rules.

Step one . . .  is naming them and figuring out what they are (which was much harder than you might think).

Step two . . .  is giving myself permission to ban them from my life! (I started by making visible reminder cards I can stick on my bulletin boards.)

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I'll keep you posted! But early signs are good. Figuring out what holds you back is a powerful force. (How do you think I got those overalls stitched up? I definitely had to "eat dessert first" on more than one occasion.) (And that felt great!)


How about you? Got any arbitrary rules you'd like to get rid of???



Just Under the Surface

There are big things happening in my garden right now.


Some of it is on the surface . . . where we can see it. Like these poor, nearly-laying-on-the-ground tulips in the midst of my grape hyacinths. (The result of last week's freezes.) But at this point in the garden season, most of what's happening is still under the surface . . .  at the roots.

I feel like I'm very much like my garden right now. There's a lot going on - just under the surface - for me, too. My gardening these days . . . is really happening in parallel: both in my garden-garden AND in the inner-garden of my head!

  • I'm clearing out and cleaning up. Doing some weeding. Cutting back. Looking for new growth. What can I get rid of in my gardens?
  • I'm assessing the condition of the soil, the roots, the emerging growth. Should I add more compost here? A little fertilizer there? What do my gardens need most right now, to thrive and grow and bloom in the coming season?
  • I'm making plans and figuring out my timeline. Are there things I need to move or transplant? When? Are there new things I'd like to plant? What? Do I want to make big changes . . . or just let things go on as they are?

It's a busy time out in the garden.
And in my head, too!

"We are like blossoming trees;
holding on; letting go;
rising and falling
into our weathered souls."
    -- Angie Weland-Crosby



How are things going for you . . . with your word? And in your garden?


Cultivate the Root

"Cultivate the root; the leaves and branches will take care of themselves."
            --- Confucious

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I have a love-hate relationship with houseplants.
(Oh. No. That's far too strong.)

Let's begin again: I have an off-again/on-again relationship with houseplants.
(Much better.

There have been periods of time in my life . . . when I have tended a lush, indoor jungle. And there have been other (honestly longer) periods of time when my indoor gardens . . . hmmmm . . . shall we say fail to thrive

It seems to be challenging for me to to care for the plants both IN my house and OUTSIDE my house/IN my garden . . . at the same time. And those plants outside/in my garden tend to win out every time.

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But as I was thinking about my word - root - earlier this year, back when it was deep-winter and dark and I was not feeling very hope-full and being IN my garden seemed a very long time time away, I decided to build myself an indoor garden again. I decided to follow that advice from Confucious: I'd cultivate some roots, and let the leaves and branches take care of themselves.

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Back in January, I had two very old (but hanging in there!) Christmas cactus plants, a mini jade tree, and a few amaryllis bulbs (3 new; 3 dormant that I was hoping to coax back to life). If I was going to create a new indoor garden, I was going to have to do better than that! Luckily, my favorite nursery sells houseplants in the "off season." And I signed up for a Horti membership.

And I put down some inside roots.


I love the results!

And I'm committed to cultivating the roots IN my house even as the roots OUTSIDE my house call ever louder.
(Remind me of that should you notice neglect, won't you please?)


“Gardening is the greatest tonic and therapy a human being can have. Even if you have only a tiny piece of earth, you can create something beautiful, which we all have a great need for. If we begin by respecting plants, it’s inevitable we’ll respect people.”
     — Audrey Hepburn


How about you? Do you tend an indoor garden?