Sometimes I’m drawn to a guiding word for the year. Last year I wasn’t, and instead of pushing against that, I just let it be. In retrospect I’m not surprised I couldn’t pin anything down. I knew I would miss Rhode Island’s nature when we moved, but I didn’t anticipate how much losing a strong sense of place would affect me. I knew where I was in Rhode Island, always, and I don’t just mean that I could find my way around in a car. When I stood on the beach–any beach–with my kids, I knew what lay over the horizon in all directions. I knew my place on the map. We lived 15 minutes from where I went to college, and I spent much of my time as a wildlife biology student taking trips all around the area to learn the flora and fauna. I knew which birds visited our yard and when, where the snakes and salamanders liked to hide, and when to look out for wild turkey families. I knew where to look for the moon in each phase, and that it flooded my bedroom with light every time it was full. My cycle was in sync with the moon and I was in sync with the land around me. I was grounded.
Then I moved here and couldn’t find a thing. Six months later I was still unsure which direction to drive in to get where I wanted to go. (In my defense, there are rivers and bridges in all directions.) We’re in a neighborhood. I miss nature. I miss the ocean. Streetlights and house lights outshine the moon. No offense against mockingbirds but I’m tired of hearing them and only them. I couldn’t place myself on the map at all and it turns out I’m a person who needs that sense of place.
Now we’ve bought a home, and I’m looking forward to settling in to my patch of ground. Just like in Rhode Island, our yard abuts open space, but unlike there, this open space has trails. I can head out my front door and walk in the woods. I feel such peace there. I will get to know this land, its rhythms, the plants and animals that live there. I will feel that connection again.
Grounded has another meaning for me as well. When PTSD symptoms flare, when I feel anxiety spiking, one strategy is grounding exercises that my RI therapist taught me. The goal is to get back into your body and into your current surroundings. I think, as we head into the 45th President’s term, it will be important to remain grounded and aware–not just to deal with anxiety but also in the sense of being realistic and clear-eyed about what’s going on. Head-in-the-sand is attractive, but ultimately dangerous.
So, for many reasons and with multiple meanings, my 2017 word is grounded.