Choosing my Word for the Year using Desert Wisdom Cards — Part I

Desert Wisdom Cards Set III

Desert Wisdom Cards © 2014 Bo Mackison

Every year for the last six years i have chosen a word for the coming year – a word to guide me, inspire me, encourage me.

In choosing a word for the coming year, I first looked up my words I’ve chosen the last six years – Show Up, Balance, Possibilities, Weaving, Soul-centered, and Wisdom. Some of those words played more significant roles than others, especially the words WEAVING from 2012 and WISDOM from this year, but I always place each year’s word in a prominent place on my desk.

To pick a word for 2015, I pulled three of my Desert Wisdom Cards to help guide me. The cards pulled at random were:


Visibility – A Desert Wisdom Card © 2014 Bo Mackison


  • This is a word I have struggled with much of my life. I see that I used a similar word, SHOW UP, in 2009. I have made progress in this area – from doing art to claiming my role as artist, from creating art in the privacy of my studio to doing nationally juried art fairs and festivals, from making personal books to creating a series of Desert Wisdom Cards, and offering three different sets for sale while also creating and giving workshops based on them.
  • None of this was done without struggle, and there were times when I hunkered down and didn’t show my face for weeks (or even months) at a time. But I have made discernible progress in the process of becoming more VISIBLE, in SHOWING UP.
  • Since it is still something I do with difficulty and much encouraging self talk, it is well worth considering that my word for the coming year would advance my goal of being VISIBLE.



Clarity – A Desert Wisdom Card © 2014 Bo Mackison


  • Lucid, clear in thought, focused. Only in extra-ordinary moments do I capture the clarity I seek – the flow of my creative vision, the words coming together to state my full intentions, the awareness of my place in a tiny part of my world.
  • I tend to wander, find my bearings by examining lots of alternatives, so zeroing in on one clear goal has always been a challenge, improbable and infrequent.
  • Yet, I wish for clarity in vision and I can create small practices towards that goal.



Delight – A Desert Wisdom Card © 2014 Bo Mackison


  • Of all the cards in the Desert Wisdom Card Set, DELIGHT is one of two cards that make me cringe when I pull it as my card for the day. (The other card that throws me is BEAUTY!)
  • Given that response, a response which I choose to notice, how might I infuse the coming year with more instances that provoke/encourage DELIGHT?
  • DELIGHT is a spontaneous feeling. When I look at the past year, I experienced DELIGHT, especially when stunned by stark natural beauty or  greatly amused by the antics of my one year old granddaughter or my best dog, Gracie.
  • Hard to plan for DELIGHT, but easily noticed when it bubbles to the surface. Perhaps I need to hold the intention, then, to be more aware of DELIGHT in my daily life.

Taking all of this into consideration, my practices for 2015 will include furthering my personal work of showing up and being visible, adding small steps to gain clarity and focus, and paying attention to that which provokes delight in my life.

In Part II, I’ll examine choosing my word of the year in terms of physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and trans-personal aspects.

And I’ll choose my word for the year.

Do you choose a word for the year? Share your process and/or your word in the comments, if so inspired.




A Wildness in the Garden


A Wildness in the Garden © 2014 Bo Mackison

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe. ~ John Muir

The Essence of Desert

Yucca in Bloom

Yucca in Bloom ©2013 Bo Mackison

“I seek out places where it can happen more readily, such as deserts or mountains or solitary areas, or by myself with a seashell, and while I’m there get into states of mind where I’m more open than usual. I’m waiting, I’m listening. I go to those places and get myself ready through meditation. Through being quiet and willing to wait, I can begin to see the inner man and the essence of the subject in front of me… Watching the way the current moves a blade of grass – sometimes I’ve seen that happen and it has just turned me inside out.”
~ Minor White

There is a transformation that takes place when I sit in a place of solitude and wait.

In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps did construction projects in the Sonoran Desert. They built several picnic areas in the Tucson Mountains, tables of concrete and stone, each in a private space, each table protected from the heat of mid-day sun by an overhead ramada. One of these picnic sites, tucked far from the road, has become my perfect office space. I gather the requisites necessary for spending a day writing and taking photographs in the desert – camera, a few reference books, my old notebooks, but also water, protein snacks, a wide-brimmed hat, sunscreen, my hiking stick.

I bring my writing office to the desert. I choose not to bring my computer or other devices that might tempt me with an immediate, continuous connection to the rest of the world. I choose  solitude instead. I write by hand, pen to paper, scribbling, crossing out, adding words, sensing the connection between brain and hand. I compile notes from a dozen notebooks, unravel bits of my life from words written during the past decade. I pull inspiration from these worn pages and curate them into the skeletal beginnings of my Desert Wisdom Cards.

I take frequent breaks to hike – a favorite trail begins fifty paces from my table and winds through saguaro-studded desert, in and out of several washes, then half-way up the side of Brown Mountain. There I stop and memorize the desert scene, burn its landscape into my mind – again. In a few weeks I will be in a far away state, and my heart will linger here in this lush desert stretching beyond the beyond.

Minor White’s quote struck a deep chord in me. I do connect with the world beyond my sight, I feel the essence of place seep into my cells. Sometimes I feel as if this sacred desert space turns me inside out, and exposes my innermost being to the desert in exchange for bits of desert wisdom.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.  She is beginning a time of transition, and finding strength and inspiration in the desert. Her office, at least for a few more weeks, is in the Sonoran Desert.

Beginnings – A Desert Wisdom Card

Beginnings - Desert Wisdom Cards

Cactus Bud Opening © 2013 Bo Mackison

“A new beginning! We must learn to live each day, each hour, yes, each minute as a new beginning, as a unique opportunity to make everything new. Imagine that we could live each moment as a moment pregnant with new life. Imagine that we could live each day as a day full of promises. Imagine that we could walk through the new year always listening to a voice saying to us: “I have a gift for you and can’t wait for you to see it! Imagine!”
~ Henri Nouwen

Beginnings surround us.

Walk through any garden, along any sidewalk or road easement, and notice the many beginnings you see. This bright magenta cactus bud, still half closed and quite protected, will soon open fully, displaying its beauty, welcoming hummingbirds and bees to its nectar. They will collect pollen as they feed and then pollinate other flowers. New beginnings, life continues.

We constantly have opportunities for new BEGINNINGS.

We move through our days, experiencing life in new ways, again and again. When we lose our way or make mistakes, instead of punishing ourselves with shame, we can acknowledge our human ways with compassion, awareness, and gentleness. Then we begin again. We return again and again to the practice of living.

“Although no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.”
~ Carl Bard

BEGINNINGS offers questions/reflections for journal writing, art prompts, and calls to action:

  • Have you ever thought about “your perfect day”? What would that perfect day look like if you could erase all of the responsibilities and commitments for today only? Write about your perfect day. Add people and places, sensory details and activities, or inaction if that is your ideal. Review what you wrote. Could you add (or subtract) one or more of the items in your imagined perfect day to today? If not today, how might you transform your typical days into days that include some of your perfect day components?
  • An ending is a new beginning. Is there an activity or behavior in your life that no longer serves you? If you stopped this activity or behavior, could you use that time to begin or renew a life-affirming practice?
  • Make a point of getting up early enough to sit and watch the sunrise — from the hint of dawn until the sun is well above the horizon. Each sunrise brings with it a gift of a new day and new beginnings. I frequently watch the sun rise. Afterwards, I read a chapter in an inspirational book, cup of coffee in hand. Do you have an early morning ritual to begin your day? If not, what might you consider adding as a welcome-morning-activity?
  • I first saw delightful perforated permission slips in Living Out Loud, a creative activity book by Keri Smith. Making permission slips are now a popular activity for writers, artists, students — anyone who likes the idea of giving themselves permission to do something they might be hesitant to do. Write permission slips that start with the words “I have permission to BEGIN ______.  Make a dozen permission slips from small pieces of paper, paint chips, or index cards. Paint, collage, or decorate the backgrounds. Or leave them plain and focus on the words. Whenever you need a boost to start a new project, pull out a permission slip, fill in the blank and sign it. Then … ready, set, BEGIN!


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.  Bo is creating a deck of Desert Wisdom Cards for exploration and discovery, using photography, with a Sonoran Desert theme – its myths and stories, cultures and heritage, and the desert’s remarkable natural beauty and resources.

Letting Go – A Desert Wisdom Card

Letting Go - Desert Wisdom Card

Coral Aloe © 2013 Bo Mackison

Simply trust;
Do not the petals flutter down,
just like this?
~ Issa

The coral aloe is a common desert garden plant.

Its eye-catching blooms are striking in their bright orange radiance, with tips that glow iridescent blues, greens, and whites. But after the blossom is spent, the tubular flowers drop, often getting caught in the curvature of the succulent leaves.

In the letting go of petals, there is the promise of seeds and new life.

The letting go is necessary: the flowers are pollinated, they drop from the plant, the fruits grow, the seeds of the fruit are dispersed by animal, wind, or other means. New plants emerge from some of the seeds. The cycle of life continues.

We also face situations when “letting go” is a necessity.

We have no more control over situations which involve other people’s choices than flowers have control over their ability to continue clinging to the stem. But we do have control of our own choices to let go.

“The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation,
unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward.”
~ Steve Maraboli in Life, the Truth, and Being Free

This is not about letting go of dreams, goals, practices that serve you well, and are life affirming.

This is about the release of those things which are life-depleting. Letting go of the past, of emotions or beliefs which no longer serve a positive purpose, makes room for living in the present and anticipating the future.

LETTING GO offers questions/reflections for journaling, art prompts, and calls to action:

  • What are you ready to let go of that no longer serves you? What can be released to serve your higher purpose in life? Consider your daily living activities — your sleep or eating habits, too much clutter (material clutter or clutter on your to do list), choices of leisure time activities. If you choose to make a change, celebrate the change. View it from the strength of positive thinking, not from the victim-hood of habit or self put down.
  • Do you need to let go of excuses that cripple your intentions for change? Excuses steal your power. Taking responsibility for your day-to-day choices breaks the excuse machine. Write a dialogue between a habit that no longer serves you —  the size 8 dress hanging in the closet, the chocolate cake at the bakery department, a dysfunctional relationship — and your desires to let go. Write out all of your excuses and answer them with new resolve. Write a good-bye letter. Tear the letter in pieces and throw it away or burn it in a fireplace, letting the message drift far away.
  • Distraction can prove a helpful diversion. Get out of your head and into your body. Dance, sing, garden. Ride a bike or swim. Physical exertion demands your full attention and leaves little room for obsessive worry.
  • Create a mandala. Mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning circle or completion. Mandalas are all around us — in our cells, nature, the earth, the Universe. Carl Jung, the founder of psychoanalysis, said of mandalas, “In the products of the unconscious we discover mandala symbols …and whenever we wish to express wholeness, we employ just such figures.”
    • Create a mandala by tracing a circle and then use art media of your choice — colored pencils, pens, markers, paints — to fill in the space as you focus on “letting go.”  The colors, shapes and representations used in the mandala’s creation express emotions and feelings.
    • When the mandala is complete, journal any reactions you experienced during its creation or your reactions to the mandala’s colors, lines, and figures.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.  Bo is creating a deck of Desert Wisdom Cards for self-exploration and discovery, using her photography and the Sonoran Desert as a theme – its myths and stories, cultures and heritage, and the desert’s remarkable natural beauty and resources.