“We must risk delight . . . We must have the stubbornness
to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world.”
- Jack Gilbert, from Refusing Heaven -
My mother Elinor Davis Erni passed away September 3rd, seven years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. Only days before she died, my sister described our mother in these poignant words —"She remains fragile, tenacious and courageous.”
Alzheimer’s is a wicked disease. My mother faded over these past years from a funny, smart, beautiful woman whose outlook was invariably sunny, to a soul whose body and mind had abandoned her, bit by excruciating bi...
Over twenty years ago I went on a modern-day vision quest with a Mayan shaman in the middle of Mexico. We would start each day with her writing down the personal stories and facts of my life as we sat outside a small café sipping coffee and eating huevos rancheros.
I remember each recounting of an event or experience made me feel like a caterpillar, ever-so slowly climbing an immense hill, then tumbling down the other side, only to sense in my squirmy self yet another seemingly insurmountable uphill slope, the long tumble . . .
Four months have passed since I’ve written a blog. I found myself having nothing to write, as I took the March blog’s quote to heart and let the river of life carry me, trusting that my bones would be held and that I would indeed float.
I can’t say the last four months were easy. The turbulence was strong, and from what I’ve heard from friends and can sense in the air and in others’ eyes, I don’t imagine it’s been so calm for many of you either.
Since last month's blog we've traveled a big circle from Colorado to Arizona to California and back again, heading for the southern deserts to escape cold weather and meet up with friends. Soaking up the warmth for a few days, two days of big rain and the sight of the Tucson valley ringed by snow-topped mountains surprised our heat-seeking bodies. With the return of the sun the deserts erupted into brilliant spring blooms cascading down hillsides and blanketing valley floors....
Last week I attended a program called 500 Years of Haiku at Upaya Zen Center. Natalie Goldberg and Clark Strand were teaching, two important mentors in my writing life through their respective books, Writing Down the Bones and Seeds From a Birch Tree. I was craving quiet and inspiration. New to group meditation, I was surprised by the silence of seventy people within one room, the way it opened up a river of quiet that I gladly let sweep me down its soft current. There was bowing on entering and leaving the zendo, also before sitting dow...
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance…"
that ordinary everyday life is, in truth, extraordinary.”
- from The Book of Calm -
I came across Pat Schneider’s poem The Patience of Ordinary Things the other day and it moved me to tears and appreciation for the last six months—days and weeks of immersion into an unscheduled, come-what-may experience full of the extraordinary ordinary, and the time to reflect on the specific beauty of every day.
I share her poem with you here as my end-of-year blessing, with gratitude for your continued readership, and wishes for a bright New Year.
“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs.
When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.”
- Ansel Adams -
Six months ago, I found myself driving a Ford truck with a camper trailer named Imagine2 hitched to the back. It was the beginning of an intentional adventure-sabbatical dreamed up by my husband and myself, a journey we named On the Road to Calm.
After thousands of miles, beauty beyond belief, melt-downs also beyond belief, and friendships rekindled, I've come to a rest stop—the clarity that I've been irrevocably changed by these months on the road.
“It is a serious thing just to be alive on this fresh morning in this broken world.”
- Mary Oliver -
Sadness has been the air I’ve been breathing this last week. My step-mother-in-law’s sudden passing, a friend’s sudden heart attack with a long recovery, the incomprehensible killings of the eleven elderly members of The Tree of Life Synagogue.
When the weight of loss and grief, both personal and universal, becomes so heavy as to fog my vision and perspective, I turn to poetry, to nature, to quiet—in search of a moment that echoes Mary Oliver’s plea to wake up to the contradictory nature of living now in our fractured wo...
When my friend Cinda handed me this shell, she said, "This is a reminder for you to stay open to possibilities."
How had she known I needed to hear those words?
Now the shell is fastened to the tiny kitchen counter in our camper. It holds small items that need a place before we head out the next morning—a ring or watch, loose coins, a scribbled address for a new outing.
It also holds Cinda's blessing—that daily, no matter what, possibility surrounds us as we step out into the world—that this adventure is more a journey of faith and trust than anything else.