Category Archives: One Little Word


My One Little Word for this year is “reveal.” I chose it because I wanted to pay attention but in a different way than the words “notice” or “focus” or “attend;” I wanted to be open with an awareness that notices both the subtle and the outstanding, with reflection and integrity essential to my being.

Little did I know in January that by mid February I would be in a new job.  Maybe that is the power of holding a word alive.  Maybe it is the power of walking with all those words before this one: notice, delight, pilgrim, weave, mindful, rubato.

many blessings and OLW

What I love about all the trappings that go with my faith is the lens they provide to view the world and myself. Stories, traditions, sacraments, community – it all adds up to some pretty rich ways to push on the way I decide to be human in the world.

This is a really round-about way to share the “vision” board I’ve made to go with my One Little Word this year – rubato. (the temporary disregarding of strict tempo to allow an expressive quickening or slackening, usually without altering the overall pace.) Crazy word, I know! but it is the kind of word that lets me be creative in a million ways.

How I want to connect with this word is challenging to explain but mostly I feel it is a way to think about my humanness.  Rubato to me is about the tempo I decide to set each hour of my day, the tenor of my life in the presence I have in the lives of those around me – whether with sound or silence, and the emotional engagement I bring to life.

About the time I was playing around with visioning my word, I started to read the blessings in Jan L. Richardson’s newest book, Circle of Grace. I found one that made me think of my word so I decided to illustrate it with my photos.  I would never have been introduced to Ms. Richardson’s writings and art if it hadn’t been for my faith community.

I am thankful for that and here is my “phoetry” for this blessing I’m choosing to go with my OLW, rubato:


rubdrube rubf ruba

One Little Word

The year is coming to an end and it is time to think of a new “one little word” for 2016.  I love this process of reflecting on last year’s word and thinking about possibilities for next year.

writers ignite

Margie is a friend-who-is-a-writer I communicate with regularly.  Today she sent me a connection to her blog  referencing an email note we exchanged.   I chuckled because she had no idea I was about to blog about our support of each other as writers and reference the same email!

I don’t think I could attend to communicating in writing on a regular basis without the support of friends like Margie.  I have a nice list of people who check in with me, read my stuff, and encourage me to keep at it.  Their support is visible, audible and often tangible.  But there is much that is invisible and intangible and audible only in my head!

The email exchange I was going to reference today is part of a weekly check-in that Margie and I have.  She has arranged with me to email her a little note on Monday mornings as a way to say “hey, are you writing?”  The unsaid portion of that exchange is that I am thinking “hey, I care about you and your process.”  So I’ve got a reminder on my phone and tablet to check in with Margie on Mondays at 6 am  – although I have to admit I turn it off on holidays.  I have sent notes, scraps of poems, photos, drawings I’ve made.  It is a way I get my own juices going too.

Last week I sent her a poem I’d found on the website A Year of Being Here.  (I found this site when I was deciding on my One Little Word and wanted help jump-starting my way to being “mindful.”  I get a poem from them everyday and I just love it!)  I offer this connection to others who don’t have a Monday morning companion like I do.

The poem I enjoyed most this week is this one:

“Down on My Knees” by Ginger Andrews, from An Honest Answer (Story Line Press, 1999).

cleaning out my refrigerator
and thinking about writing a religious poem
that somehow combines feeling sorry for myself
with ordinary praise, when my nephew stumbles in for coffee
to wash down what looks like a hangover
and get rid of what he calls hot dog water breath.
I wasn’t going to bake the cake

now cooling on the counter, but I found a dozen eggs tipped
sideways in their carton behind a leftover Thanksgiving Jell-O dish.
There’s something therapeutic about baking a devil’s food cake,
whipping up that buttercream frosting,
knowing your sisters will drop by and say Lord yes
they’d love just a little piece.

Everybody suffers, wants to run away,
is broke after Christmas, stayed up too late
to make it to church Sunday morning. Everybody should

drink coffee with their nephews,
eat chocolate cake with their sisters, be thankful
and happy enough under a warm and unexpected January sun.

on your mark – get set – get writing!


OLW 2015

This will be my fifth year engaging in the “One Little Word” practice.  I find choosing a word to contemplate for the year works both as a lens to the outside world and to all the inner workings going on in my heart and mind through time.

Last year my word was “weave” and yet it seemed all I did was unravel.  That’s okay; sometimes it is the anti-word at work just as much as the chosen one.  I learned a lot about myself. But come the end of November I was ready to stop the disintegration and figure out a way to pull myself back together. I couldn’t even write my own words in the notebook I kept all year – I just kept throwing other people’s poetry, art and photographs into the sleeves.

I was eager to move on to a word choice for this year but it has been difficult.  Another writer’s description of the activity as akin to picking out a new purse – checking for zippers, inside pockets, snaps, straps and heft – feels like what I’ve been doing. My ears have been picking through words for over a month, consulting the dictionary, thesaurus, quotations, inspirational phrases, —- ad nauseam.

There are so many things I want to pay attention to but I need a word that describes more than just being responsive.   I want my consciousness to be deeper because of attending.


This is the first year I’ve chosen a word with such a short definition: attentive, aware, conscious.

My OLW for 2015 is “mindful.”  Not “mindfulness” – and I can’t really explain why – yet – (surely at the end of the year I’ll be able to tell you why.)

Right now, what I can say is: mindful for me means thinking and caring deeply and trying to be really aware.  I want to nurture my vulnerability as well; it is not the cautious kind of mindful I want for myself.

The little strings across my heart are vibrating to this poem by Derek Walcott these days:

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine.  Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you all your life,
whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.


the blueberry, the bee and me

IMG_7367I know it only makes sense to me
but this is what I see:
a blueberry, a woman and a bee.
The berry is whole, perfect, singularly unique, a gift of nature;
the woman looks the way I want to feel, calm and happy in her world;
the bee has work she knows how to do and is good and busy at it
and it is work that matters.

I know it only makes sense to me
but this is what I weave:
a blueberry, a woman and a bee.
I’m trying to be whole and happy,
being and doing what matters.

IMG_7372 IMG_7373 IMG_7374

phase or phenomenon

How does the choosing of a single word move from phase to phenomenon?

I have been in conversation, listening to or reading about, the words friends are considering or have chosen to be their One Little Word.   Whether or not this is a tradition for you, consider the challenge of this practice and contemplate how it could be significant for those who do it.

I love words – exploring their etymology, definitions, use in colloquial and literary forms. When I heard of One Little Word in 2011, the  concept of taking “ownership” of a word for a year seemed like an armchair adventure.  What I hadn’t counted on was that one word would have me engaging with the world more attentively than I had before.

Moving into my second year with a new word, I realized quickly I wasn’t putting one word down and picking up another; both words became a part of my life. This practice was not a phase, it was becoming a phenomenon.

The revelations shared by friends are just as phenomenal.  For some the word is like a sonar they send out pinging in the depths of their days, trying to figure out what is out there.  For others, it is like a personal coming home parade with signs on every corner, ribbons on every tree, a confirmation of who they are or have become.  Some of my friends use the word like a prayer or mantra to remind them to stay on a chosen course.

Now in my fourth year, for me each word is like a private Hubble telescope in my backyard. What I see tells me plenty about myself, my world, and helps me think more clearly about the future.

And here is a note from a teacher involving her students in an OLW project, how cool!

celebrating one little word

I’ve been wrapping up my 2013 One Little Word year with “pilgrim,” (which was a great word, by the way,) and gearing up for my 2014 OLW.  I knew I needed a word that would inspire my art and poetry and yet wind its way into my life as well. So I’ve chosen the word “weave” for next year.

I love the process of reading the definition and synonyms, and finding quotations.  A Chinese proverb I found brings me joy:
“Don’t stand by the water and long for fish; go home and weave a net.”
Another quotation that I can’t find the author of is this:
“Some people weave burlap into the fabric of our lives, and some weave gold thread.  Both contribute to make the whole picture beautiful and unique.”

Here are my first two story pictures for this word:
photo weave 2

Navigating Landscapes

This past week has probably been one of the most challenging in my life.  My 23 year old niece died of a very stray bullet flying from a half mile away (high powered rifle, what were they thinking!), I had some parent classes to teach at school, an interview for a much coveted position and a reflection to give at church.  The one thing I couldn’t let slide off my plate was the interview – and while I had a really tough time focusing myself (and did fail the interview) the other obligations helped me maintain some sense of sanity and energy for life.

Now that my niece’s memorial is over and I can some how find a routine again, I want to respond to the request to re-share the reflection I gave at church so here it is – I read the essay part and my friend read the poems written by Jan L. Richardson:

June 23, 2013

Reflection – Navigating One’s Inner Landscape
Amelia Bacon

My theme for reflection today – Navigating One’s Inner Landscape – was inspired by my work with two sources: prompts and poetry compiled by Jan L. Richardson, an ordained United Methodist Minister and artist-in-resident in Florida, and a process I was introduced to three years ago called “one little word.”  I’ll begin by describing my one little word work.

This was a suggestion shared with me by a fellow blog writer: instead of choosing a New Year’s Resolution, the idea is to choose one little word.  This word could describe an action, way of thinking or being, or just a posture I want to live into in the coming year.  Three years ago I chose the word Notice.  I had begun to really explore photography more and was writing poetry regularly and thought it would be a great word to tag my year with.  One of the ways I used the one little word project was to create a monthly reflection including poetry and photos of how that word worked in my life.

It was such a rewarding experience that I was eager to choose a word for 2012 and resolutely decided on the word Delight.  In this case, I was choosing a word describing something I wanted more of.  My husband had lost his job, aspects of my own job were becoming increasingly frustrating and I just wanted to pay attention to something positive.

But as 2012 was coming to an end, I was struggling to name a new word for myself.  It might seem silly to be in such a dilemma but this experience had proven to be provocative enough spiritually and creatively that I really wanted to figure out a way to move forward with it.

And now the intersection with Jan Richardson’s work.  Cindy Bauleke was the first person to introduce me to Jan’s work and since then I’ve used her books for book studies with women and have found my own art and writing to have been profoundly influenced by this exposure.  Last Advent season, Sharry shared a web link to a collection of writing, prompts and prayers Jan compiled as a way to take a personal retreat.  Tara used some of it at a Wednesday worship and my One Little Word for 2013 jumped out at me.  The word is Pilgrim – listen for it in Jan’s poem,  “For Those Who Have Far to Travel.”

If you could see
the journey whole
you might never
undertake it;
might never dare
the first step
that propels you
from the place
you have known
toward the place
you know not.

Call it
one of the mercies
of the road;
that we see it
only by stages
as it opens
before us,
as it comes into
our keeping
step by
single step.

There is nothing
for it
but to go
and by our going
take the vows
the pilgrim takes:

to be faithful to
the next step;
to relay on more
than the map;
to heed the signposts
of intuition and dream;
to follow the star
that only you
will recognize;

to keep an open eye
for the wonders that
attend the path;
to press on
beyond distractions
beyond fatigue
beyond what would
tempt you
from the way.

These are vows
that only you
will know;
the secret promises
for your particular path
and the new ones
you will need to make
when the road
is revealed
by turns
you could not
have foreseen.

Keep them, break them,
make them again:
each promise becomes
part of the path;

each choice creates
the road
that will take you
to the place
where at last
you will kneel
to offer the gift
most needed –
the gift that only you
can give –
before turning to go
home by
another way.

Jan’s theme for her retreat was “The Map You Make Yourself” and for me that is the essence of being a pilgrim – paying attention to more than just the journey.  We speak of journeying all the time in this church but I haven’t spent much time visualizing or writing about my mapmaking on this journey.

I love maps; the side pockets of my car are stuffed with them despite the ease of Google Maps on my phone.  I love the big picture, wide lens, aerial nature of maps.  They tell me what is beyond my horizon.  But often what becomes essential on a journey isn’t on the map.

As I was preparing this reflection, I recalled the trips our family took up and down the east coast.  My dad always tried to travel as close to the water as possible.  He cherished the views of water and watercraft and we’d often stop at little beaches, stunning overlooks or little quays along the way.  My mom seemed to have an inner app for every yearn store along the way.  Usually we’d end up picnicking next to the car while she trolled bins of wool and fiber.  Often the side trips became the real content of our trips together rather than the original “points of interest” we had set out to get to by night fall.  This way of mapping our camping trips may seem an odd detour to reference but they were core to who my parents were and are and helped me learn what they value and how they make decisions.  My parents made it clear it was important to pay as much attention to sights along the way as to the main events in life.  This became part of my personal core and lore.

And isn’t that the way of real life?  We have guide books presented to us early on with designated destination points but it is the mapping along the way that is the real essence of life and journey taking.  With my children and majority of nieces and nephew between the ages of 21 and 31, I am acutely aware of such designated destination points being named by them: graduations, jobs, apartments, marriages, grad school, babies.  We fall into this trap of thinking the mapmaking is about getting from point A to point B, and categorizing the route with statements such as “fork in the road,” “serendipitous event,” “derailment,” but we don’t explore more deeply the internal mapmaking taking place.  (reading By Another Way, Jan Richardson)

You have looked
at so many doors
with longing,
wondering if your life
lay on the other side.

For today,
choose the door
that opens
to the inside.

Travel the most ancient way
of all:
the path that leads you
to the center of your life.

No map
but the one
you make yourself.

No provision
but what you already carry
and the grace that comes
to those who walk
the pilgrim’s way.

Speak this blessing
as you set out
and watch how
your rhythm slows,
the cadence of the road
drawing you into the pace
that is your own.

Eat when hungry.
Rest when tired.
Listen to your dreaming.
Welcome detours
as doors deeper in.

Pray for protection.
Ask for the guidance you need.


Offer gladness
for the gifts that come
and then
let them go.

Do not expect
to return
by the same road.
Home is always
by another way
and you will know it
not by the light
that waits for you

but by the star
that blazes inside you
telling you
where you are
is holy
and you are welcome

Again, I come back to the work of a pilgrim describe in this way by Mark Nepo:  “To journey without being changed is to be a nomad.   To change without journeying is to be a chameleon.  To journey and be transformed by the journey is to be a pilgrim.” But how do I pay attention to the transformation?

My parents taught me early on that in order to really get something out of an experience,  I would have to put more of myself into it.  I couldn’t just access the fun stuff in Girl Scouts like the crafts and campouts, I had to pick up litter on the high way, gather food for the food bank, sell cookies and visit nursing homes.  When I returned to this church after college because of a desire to reconnect with my community, I knew I was going to have to jump in with both feet.  I volunteered with the youth group, I became a board member as well as the fun stuff like book studies, faith formation experiences and getting a little break from my children during worship. (sorry kids) And then I was called to do something harder – something transformational.  I became one of the first Stephen Ministers.

Yes it was difficult.  My husband worked shift work so I had to find childcare.  But my children will tell you this is part of their core and lore – my participation showed them my inner mapmaking and in turn influenced their inner mapmaking.

I think navigating one’s inner landscape is about identifying more than my life’s points of interest or points of significance.  I believe it’s about understanding how and why I put the tripod down and look through the scope to record where I have been and where I am going.  For me a core piece of understanding how to even set up my tripod and use the scope comes from my spiritual work done in this community. Beside noting the high peaks, low valleys, rough terrain and smooth, my relationship with God has helped when I’ve come to the edge of my known world – where roiling sea serpents frolic and storms rage.  What are some of the map edges I’ve come to:  having a child born with a disability, having my husband lose his job, having my niece die of gunshot wound, all edges of the world I was prepared for with my current guide book.  Every time I’ve come to those edges of my map, I’ve had help figuring out how to set up my tripod, look out and in, and navigate forward.  (Walking Blessing)

 I pray….

That each step
may be shedding.
That you will let yourself
become lost.
That when it looks
like you’re going backwards,
you may be making progress.
That progress is not the goal anyway,
but presence
to the feel of the path on your skin,
to the way it reshapes you
in each place it makes contact,
to the way you cannot see it
until the moment you have stepped out.

All of what has come before and what will come to be is a part of my personal journey – a transformational journey of being a pilgrim – in little community circles, and big community circles.  This is not a pilgrimage – I am not on a journey born of religious devotion – I am on a journey as a pilgrim “embarking on a quest for something conceived as sacred.”  What could be more sacred than mapping one’s relationship with God?  My desire for everyone I love – my family, my friends, my community – is that we learn the best ways to help each other when we come to the edges of our known worlds.

There will be inner and outer mapping happening over the coming year.  Listen again to Isaiah: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Thank you all and may I extend this modified blessing: (Jan Richardson)

“God beyond borders, may we wander with wanting enough to unlearn our paths, with wonder enough to receive the secrets of each place, with wisdom enough to allow them to whisper us home a different way.”

One Pilgrim’s Process – March SOL #21


OLW 2013 Pilgrim


post with arrows pointing
east west north south
names of places to be found
distant far maybe near
you won’t know til you arrive