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A word for the year

January 30, 2017


The light. It’s something I forget every year, this annual new year gift: the pale, slanting sunlight which January brings as the days begin to lengthen. The new light washing through old windowpanes. Splotches of sun on the wall, the first of the year, making the children’s budgies trill and twitter with pleasure. Pearly morning mist on the frosty fields; long-drawn afternoon sunsets of golden haze.




Around the start of the year I noticed several people on social media choosing a ‘word for the year’. The idea came from the ever-inspiring Susannah Conway although, by the time I realised that, I had already found myself choosing a word. In fact I think the word chose me.

My word for the year is ‘light’.

Well, good for you, I hear you say, but what on earth does a ‘word for the year’ actually mean?

I’m not sure either. That’s the appeal of it. I’m not following Susannah’s work, but I felt instinctively that it would be an interesting and very possibly enlightening (pun intended)  exercise to focus on a word and to see what it suggested to me, where it led, and what unanticipated meanings might emerge in the course of the year. Already I see that choosing light (over darkness, by implication) means looking for the good rather than the gloom in people and situations, which is a helpful mental habit to learn: what I didn’t anticipate was that it might mean – has already meant –  speaking up, taking action in defence of what I believe to be good.

Another meaning of ‘light’ that has occurred to me to reflect upon is the Christian one, ‘Christ our Light’ as we acclaim at the Easter Vigil. It’s no bad thing to have a guiding light in this world. In the words of the gospel of St. John, ‘the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.‘ [John I.5] Comprehend as used here ,in the early seventeenth century language of the Authorised Version (the King James Bible) has the meaning not only of understanding, but also of surrounding, taking in, absorbing. The darkness cannot understand, and cannot overcome, the Light.




As I have been writing, the wreaths of mist across the fields have slowly lifted, revealing glimpses of the snowy hills beyond the woods. The budgerigars (the first of whom was 2015’s much-pleaded-for Christmas present to younger son) have been keeping me company: I moved their cage closer to me on the nearby windowsill so that they could enjoy the pale afternoon sun. Strange to see their tropical colours of turquoise and lime against the backdrop of frosted branches and cold white hillside. For a little while, though, before the long dusk makes it too chilly, they revel noisily in the unexpected novelty of sitting in sunshine.

What a gift it is, this clean new light of January, at a time of darkness both literal and metaphorical in the northern hemisphere. If you are wondering about that and other allusions, by the way, be assured that I’ve always made Dancing Beastie a politics-free zone, and I intend to continue that. For the moment, at least. We all need some places where we can step out of the fray to rest a while, to draw breath, and reflect that there is beauty in the world; that despite our fears and worries, there are so many things for which to be grateful.

Not least, the light.




You might enjoy a Frosty morning and Winter woods, or a corner of heaven.


24 Comments leave one →
  1. Caroline Waterlow permalink
    January 30, 2017 8:03 pm

    always lovely to read your posts, and enjoy your photographs. Thank you for your piece about light. My birthday has recently happened and all the good wishes recieved via social media and otherwise, helped to raise my spirits, give a boost of energy. So important to affirm, to send good wishes, to bring in the light, it can help to change things.
    Incidentally, my son and daughter in law have just moved to Scotland, and they sent me a photo of the view from their window, on this their first morning, waking to a glorious sunrise over Wigtown Bay. A good omen, and I am looking forward to more frequent visits to Scotland – especially as a grandchild is on the way…All best wishes

    • January 30, 2017 10:31 pm

      How lovely to hear your happy news! Thank you for sharing it. (I imagine the quality of light in Wigtown Bay must be very special.)
      I hope I’m not too late to wish you a very happy birthday, or at least, that your birthday may usher in a very happy year for you.

  2. Nancy Lemke permalink
    January 30, 2017 8:38 pm

    Thank you for the no politics zone. My soul needs it.

    • January 30, 2017 10:32 pm

      I think we are all needing a little time out at the moment. Bruising days. Peace to you.

  3. Jan Bulawan permalink
    January 30, 2017 9:07 pm

    Aloha from an island of warm light. A writing community I’m in, agrees that we are not so good at New Year resolutions, so, we pick a word for the year that embodies what the writer feels would be helpful to explore in their writing life, and to keep in mind as their word may apply to other areas in their life besides writing. Mine is imagination.


    • January 30, 2017 10:35 pm

      Hello to you, Jan, on your sunny island! How interesting that your community is also working with this idea. Your word is a very promising one – full of delicious possibilities…

  4. boyd hussey permalink
    January 30, 2017 10:34 pm

    light=wisdom, sophia. Alleluia

    • January 30, 2017 10:39 pm

      Another great connection. It reminds me that the motto of Oxford University is ‘Dominus illuminatio mea’: The Lord is my light.

  5. Erika W. permalink
    January 30, 2017 10:43 pm

    Really interesting and uplifting. I notice sunlight when the fall is truly here in Delaware and suddenly the sun achieves a beautiful softness.

    Otherwise it is moonlight that I find most bed is positioned facing an eastern window and by late night the moon shines through an old maple tree and I am always happy to wake up and look at it for a while.

    As the year passes I add sayings, proverbs and occasional poems to the back of each pocket diary. So far this year I have a short poem by the Nobel poet Tomas Transtromer with the line “The lake is a window into the earth”.

    • January 31, 2017 3:04 pm

      Thank you for sharing these quiet observations, which draw pictures in my mind’s eye. That softness of autumn light is probably my favourite time of year.

      I too collect sayings and poems. How nice to come across the beautiful words of a poet I don’t know: I will look him out!

  6. hmunro permalink
    January 30, 2017 11:36 pm

    Thank you for this beautiful post, DB. After spending the entire day immersed in politics (and the worry that accompanies such endeavors), reading your wise words and poring over your gorgeous images felt as delicious as basking in the warm spring sunlight. And light! What a wonderful word — especially in the Christian sense . I do truly wish you love and light and hope in the year ahead. xo

    • January 31, 2017 3:08 pm

      Ah, my friend, it’s so gratifying to hear that my words and images have done the job I hoped they would do. I know these are bruising times for you. Let’s encourage each other up with the knowledge that there are so many well-intentioned people in the world, working for the light. xx

      • hmunro permalink
        February 1, 2017 12:39 am

        You are such a beautiful and precious soul, you know that? I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate your words; you always know *just* what to say, somehow!

        And although these are indeed bruising times, they also have been a true reminder that I am surrounded by “light-workers.” Sometimes it’s just a glance as I catch someone’s eye — but in that instant I can see warmth and kindness and kinship.

        So light the match, and forward march! xx

  7. Erika W. permalink
    January 31, 2017 3:51 pm

    The line is from the poem “The Half-Finished Heaven” most of his poetry is about Sweden’s countryside and the changing seasons. I discovered hiim when this poem was read in an episode of “Wallender” on TV and I thought “Wait a minute–this must come from somewhere!”

    Is it a good thought that a rather woolly minded Republican editorial writer for the New York Times writes this morning that the U.S. Is now forming a third party? White Nationalists. As a Democrat voter I can only hope so.

    • February 1, 2017 4:34 pm

      Oh my goodness, I hadn’t heard about that story. We certainly live in ‘interesting times’.
      All the more need for reflective poetry, then: thank you for the information, Erika.

  8. February 1, 2017 9:24 am

    Beautiful and heartfelt post DB! I haven’t chosen a word but I like ‘light’. My son’s memory verse this month for Sunday school is from Psalm 119:105 “Your word is like a lamp that shows me the way. It is like a light that guides me.” May we truly be guided by the light. Wishing you all things beautiful for this year! xoxo

    • February 1, 2017 4:37 pm

      I love that verse so much that it’s going straight into my little book of quotations which I carry around with me. (See Erika, I really do do this!) The more I read them, the more I think that the Psalms have everything one needs to live by.

      Thank you for your lovely thoughts: I wish you and yours all the very best too. 🙂

      • February 2, 2017 7:41 pm

        Your comment just made my evening. 🙂 You’ve encouraged me to write my favourite verses in a little notebook and to carry it around. 🙂

  9. Denise Homer permalink
    February 2, 2017 4:36 am

    I don’t have a word yet but I’m rambling through Susannah Conways five days to finding your word. I’m on day two so if other readers are interested in this free guide it’s not too late. I also happen to be in her class on Blogging from the Heart so we shall see where that leads.

    I especially like the verse from John with it’s use of the word comprehended. I find that word so rich and full adding such depth. Thank you for that!

    A post or so back you wondered whether you ought to continue this blog as we head off into a dark and troubling time. I pondered that for sometime certain you should continue yet looking for a way to express that convincingly. I can be rather good at the ponder and less sometimes at actual communication. Consequently before I had a good reply you have found it for me. Just because the times look dark does not mean we should hide our light under a bushel to match the darkness but rather it is all the more important to let our light shine.

    Such a good word for the year! I look forward to your further comments on where it leads.

    • February 16, 2017 12:42 pm

      Thanks so much for these thoughtful and encouraging words, Denise. You communicate beautifully when you put your mind to it! 😉 I too am better at pondering than actual communication these days – hence my now scanty blog posts – so I know where you’re coming from, I think.

      Interesting that you are following Susannah Conway. Do please let me know if you find the blogging class helpful: I hope it will be.

      I really appreciate your taking the time to write. Your conviction that this blog is worth continuing does strengthen me to keep trying. Peace!

  10. February 16, 2017 10:03 am

    Sorry to be so late in discovering your lovely post. As usual your photos are beautiful and so expressive in themselves. I love your theme for the year. Most inspiring post. More please.

  11. christinelaennec permalink
    February 23, 2017 11:33 am

    A beautiful post, thank you. I have struggled to blog about family / garden / pets, etc. when there seem to be so many more serious things happening, and it feels strange not to acknowledge them. But I agree with you, we need spaces away from the barrage of information, and the emotional work to try to keep one’s balance in a quickly changing world. So – thank you for this! My word for 2017 is two words: Good Thoughts. A reference to Philippians 4:8: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things.” Some translations have “dwell on these things” which gives me permission to inhabit such thoughts more than fleetingly. Take care!

  12. boyd hussey permalink
    December 22, 2017 5:58 pm

    it has been so long without your thoughts. I hope you are well

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