My Word of the Year: Essential

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Photo: Laura P. Salas

First off, congratulations to ALL the creators and publishers of the books honored by ALA yesterday! I sat at my laptop, listening and cheering along with the crowd there, and it was just as exciting as usual. Extra congratulations to Matt de la Pena for Last Stop on Market Street, which won the Newbery–a picture book! What thrilling news! I shared a poetryaction and bookalike for this book last year, and it’s funny, because a post I wrote about hard topics, which will appear soon, mentions it as well. It’s a lovely, important book about what’s essential in life and what’s not.

You know, I think my word of the year for 2016  needs to be essential. (How’s that for a segue?)

  • As we move into a smaller place (fingers crossed!), we are paring physical belongings down to the essentials. I can’t tell you how many bags full of old writing/research I have shredded or recycled. 
  • I want to learn more about poems and picture books this year, to deepen my craft. And those forms are definitely all about essentials, about stripping away everything that’s not crucial.
  • I want to focus on the important things—the people I love, the world I love, the activities I most enjoy doing. Life is short, and I don’t want to waste my time on stuff I don’t like. Except for the essential stuff I don’t like, like paying bills, which has to be done. Otherwise, I want to fill my time with the important and meaningful things. The essential things.

A couple of days after I chose my word for this year (you can see my previous words of the year here, by the way), I listened to an On Being podcast episode with folksinger Carrie Newcomer, whom I’d never heard of. One of the songs she sang during the podcast was “Bare to the Bone.” These lines spoke to me:

Walking wide eyed through this world
Is the only way I’ve known
Wrapped in hope and good intentions
Bare to the bone

You can read the transcript with the lyrics included here (and you can listen to the podcast–which I recommend, watch videos of just the songs, etc., from the On Being site, too).

So, that’s my real goal for this year: to be wrapped in hope and good intentions, and be bare to the bone.

6 Responses

  1. I love the thought of both your word and goal of the year. I am full of good intentions but lacking in “round tuits.” As for essentials — please keep sharing. We have been trying to downsize for a year in order to move to a smaller, less upkeep, dwelling. It seems that instead of ridding ourselves of “stuff,” it just multiplies. My books and sentimental journeys are my downfall.

    1. Thanks, Martha. Yeah, it’s tough. We basically decided to move (yay!) and are letting the deadline of when we told the realtor we’d be ready to list force us into paring down. I am excited at the prospect. But overwhelmed at the work. Keep at it!

  2. Laura, I hope your essential living is enjoyable. And picture books are so much fun. I am so glad to hear Matt de la Pena won this year. I had no idea I could listen in on the affair and hope to do so next year. Thanks for the tip.

    1. Thanks, Sue–me, too! Yes, they started live-streaming the announcements a few years ago. Mine kept buffering and I had to restart once, etc. But it mostly goes pretty smoothly, and it’s great fun to hear the audience’s reactions!

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