The year of “enlighten” and “wood”

Over the past month or so I’ve watched several people go through the intriguing process of choosing a “word of the year.”  This is a new concept for me.  New Year’s resolutions?  Certainly.  But a word of the year?  One word to encapsulate what the coming year holds for you… One word to convey all of your aspirations for those 12 months ahead…  They chose words like:






I wanted to find mine.  But how?  How to narrow everything into one word?  The repeated advice was not to think about it too deeply, that the word would just come to you. So I waited.  And waited.  And suddenly, while working from the library one snowy afternoon, it did.  My word of 2013?


Of course I have a wordy explanation for choosing this one word!

When I finished my undergraduate degree in 1999 I always imagined I’d end up back in school someday.  At that time I didn’t know what I would go back to study, what to narrow in on.  And then I had children and was suddenly enrolled in a different kind of learning altogether…  But as I was mulling over this “word of the year” idea, it occurred to me that something has shifted.  I no longer have any desire to go back to college, but 2013 seems to be the year that focused learning will be a focus again through the eclectic jumble of “coursework” I’m enrolled in.  A year of enlightenment, if all goes as planned and hoped!


Intuitive Lens with Thea Coughlin


I am currently taking a photography course called Intuitive Lens with Thea Coughlin.  I bought my Nikon D40 when Caden was 10 months old, almost 6 years ago.  I’ve never taken it out of automatic mode…  I was daunted by all of the buttons and mysterious words like “aperture.”  But I’ve always wanted to know how to take pictures in a way that really captures the essence, that moment.  For me, this only happened by snapping hundreds of pictures and occasionally getting a winner.  Thea Coughlin teaches this course exactly how I need to learn it, and in a way and pace such that I can tuck the work in around the rest of life.  Camera enlightenment. I’m only a week in and might need years to fully internalize all that she is teaching, but I’m glad to finally be on the path to learning it.  Not to mention that it is great to walk around our land for my assignments and capture perspectives of this changing landscape that I might not have before.

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2013 Maine Permaculture Design Certification Course


After the Intuitive Lens course is well over, I’ll be headed into a permaculture design course at the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association’s Common Ground Education Center, one weekend a month, April through September.  This “permaculture” field has also always been a bit mysterious and daunting to me, but utterly fascinating.  This concept of having plants, trees, earth, water all in harmonious and natural patterns that work to the best benefit of all.  This kind of coursework seems all the more timely and important at this point where we have a truly bare slate of a clearing in which to start our future growing…

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Last year I spoke with local permaculture designers about how we might be able to work with them to create some kind of overarching plan for our land.  But it never felt right and as is the case when hiring anyone, we weren’t sure how much it would end up being our vision versus their vision.  I am so excited to try to take this learning on and be that designer for our spot.  The listed expected outcomes for the course are:

  • Gain a thorough understanding of permaculture origins, ethics, principles and design methodologies.
  • Enhance your ability to build soil, capture water, reduce energy consumption, generate energy, grow and store food, read the landscape and create edible perennial ecosystems.
  • Become a resource for your family and neighborhood, building resilience at the personal, household, enterprise and community levels.
  • Be able to approach any property and apply a permaculture design methodology and set of applied techniques to achieve increased resilience and true sustainability.
  • Learn how to start transforming even challenging properties into healthy, high-yielding systems of abundance that require little to no fossil fuels.

And, well, that couldn’t be much more on the mark for what we need at this property right now!  Especially as we enter a waiting phase once the wood is milled – waiting for it to dry before we focus in on the home building piece.



The last piece of my self-created 2013 coursework is to continue the learning and enlightenment with the powerful group of women that is SouLodge.  It is my sanctuary, my connection to earth medicine, ritual, self-understanding, herbalism, spirituality, intuition, details in the natural world, and so much more.  It has already enlightened many aspects of this journey and I am certain it will do so throughout the coming year.


I can’t help but also give a nod to the “lighten” within this chosen word, especially as the first time I went to type it I slipped onto capslock and was faced with “enLIGHTEN.”  All of this coursework would not be possible if we were not headed into a “lighten” time in our family.  I was recently wearing a sleeping Aria in the Ergo while we were out running errands and a woman remarked how wonderful it is when they’re so little and cuddled in sleeping like that.  I immediately thought how rare these moments are now, carrying my almost-three-year-old in the pack like this, sleeping, and commented how that stage passes so quickly and I just want to hold onto this time.  Another woman looked at me with these wise old crone eyes and said:

Don’t try to hold onto it.  Each stage will be wonderful in it’s own way and truly embrace them all for what they bring.

It startled me, this moment of revelation in the grocery store!  But it is true.  This year they will be 3 and 7.  They are beyond those initial years of intense momma neediness and often deeply involved in their own imaginative learning.  Not that my job is done, ha!  Far from it.  But we’ve reached this point where  I feel it is important for them to see me continuing to learn and grow, and I purposely chose ways to do so that have the least impact on the flow of their lives.  And where they can do some of the learning and experiencing right along with me as we go on picture-taking walks, camp overnight together at the permaculture course, work the garden and land designs into reality, discuss animal totems…  This lightening as we come out of the baby years making space for this year of “enlighten”…hopefully!  I’m thankful that all of these courses come with vast amounts of take home references and resources to work through in your own time, just in case 2013 starts to seem more like the year of “overload” if all of this doesn’t fit together as nicely as intended.  Here’s hoping!


In discussing this “word of the year” idea with Josh, true to form, he took all of 2 seconds to come up with his own word for 2013 with no wordy explanation needed:


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6 thoughts on “The year of “enlighten” and “wood”

  1. I love your words!

    My husband and I did a word of the year for the first time last year (“simplify” for him and “wonder” for me). It worked so much better for us than the resolution thing ever did! In previous years, we’d have a resolution and give it up a few weeks later. With the word of the year, we just kept coming back to it.

    Love your blog! We’re thinking about moving into a yurt in the next year and your stories are incredibly inspirational.

    • Thank you! I think “simplify” might have been my unknown word of 2012 given all that we had to purge in our downsizing. 🙂 And I love the idea of a year of “wonder”! The word version does seem to have so much more clarity to it than resolutions ever did.

      Good luck on your own yurt adventure! It was hard to find resources when we were considering moving into one, so please do feel free to ask anything I’m not answering on here.

  2. Hey Melanie and Josh!
    LOVE reading about your adventures up north. amazing! Keep on keeping on and thanks for sharing–very inspiring to see people following their dreams!
    Jennifer (from the Tidewater days!)
    mama to Asher, Phoebe and Eleanor

    • Hello Jennifer! I was just picturing Asher’s big beautiful eyes the other day, telling someone about when we sat in on the class he was in the year before Caden started Beach Pea… My does that seem so long ago! Thank you for the kind words, and do let us know if you venture up this way.

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