For the last five years, I’ve had a word to guide me. I didn’t consciously start collecting words, it just seemed to happen. Part of my long habit of yearly reflection, I’d be writing in my journal about the past year, events and emotions as well as hopes and visions for the future in the New Year to come. But what really got it fired up and melted into a more concrete form was my friend, Patrick’s yearly burning ritual. For the past five years, Michael and I have happily shared in a wonderful ceremony that embodies creativity, art, heart and soul. You can read more about the burnings here and here.
Patrick Gracewood sculpts and creates all year round, but in the days after Christmas and before the New Year, he has made a sculpture that somehow embodies not only his own year, but magically reflects the years of others, too. On New Year’s Eve, all are invited to gather, share food and quiet conversation. As we sit and savor, we share Patrick’s sculpture constructed of wood and found objects that bring together the bits and pieces of his life. As time gets closer to midnight, the sound of conversation gives way to writing. Each person is encouraged to write their goodbyes to the old year and hellos to the new on small pieces of colored paper. Then each paper is placed in, on or around the sculpture before it’s rolled outside and burned. As the flames catch the sculpture, there is silence broken only by the pops and crackles of the art turning into ash.
I didn’t have a copy of all the words I wrote onto each year’s paper, so when I got home, all I could remember was one word. And that word became my anthem or banner or inspiration for the year. Here’s a list of the words.
What’s so amazing about this process is how it really reflects not only my needs for that year, but progress I made in my life. In 2010, I needed freedom from fear, sadness, situations that were holding me back, people making unreasonable demands and open space, time and spirit to move forward in my art. In 2011, I needed to trust that the changes and learning were leading me to the right place in my life, art and relationships. In 2012, I needed strength to move ahead in my art and find new opportunities. In 2013, I needed to let myself enjoy the progress I’d made in my personal and professional life. These words were not just marching orders for my mind, they became inspirations for my soul.
This year, sadly, Patrick did not do a sculpture and there was no burning party to celebrate and consecrate the New Year. But I have come to love the gathering and ceremony as well as honor the strength and wisdom that comes from it. With that in mind, Michael and I held our own small one. Using Flying Wish Papers, we each wrote things we needed to let go of from 2013 and words for 2014. We burned the 2013 papers at 11:45 pm and the words for 2014 at 12:01.
My word for this year: FLOW.
I’m not sure how this will manifest in my life this year. But I do trust this is a word I need in my life this year. That's going with the...FLOW.