ON the Road to Calm

April 27, 2020

“Very little grows on jagged rock. Be ground. Be crumbled, so wildflowers will come up where you are.

You’ve been stony for too many years. Try something different. Surrender.”

- Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks -

 

   

After my sister and her husband separated, she began collecting heart-shaped stones on her daily, indispensable walks. There was no plan and very little communication between the two of them. As the pile of stones grew next to the front door they had shared for many years, they both entered an individual time of darkness and introspection. Their stony stories began to crumble. They sought out co...

March 23, 2020

". . .There are times we lose hope.
Times when our eyes tells us
we’re fools to believe beyond
what we see here now. . . ."

- Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, from "This Desperate Week the Orchid Reminds Me" -

In the last few days of these unprecedented times, three doorways opened for me: I read Rosemary's poem about orchids; I remembered the chapter on courage in my book; and several friends sent messages about the seemingly non-action of stopping and hunkering down—in the new lingo of COVID-19, to shelter in place even as huge waves of the unknown wash over us. The unknown, in its countless guises, has always lurked around...

January 26, 2020

“Photography is the art of observation.

It has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” 

- Elliott Erwitt -

Driving down the twisting road on Mt. Lemmon, we stopped at an overlook. The huge mountain-ringed valley where Tucson nestles was in full spring bloom, a chartreuse yellow blanket flowing over the washes, hills, and flatlands.

I pointed to the northeastern-most corner of the valley and declared, “That is where I want to live.” Barry looked at me. “Really?”

The next day I drove around by myself, writing down street names. I wrote our realtor and gave her the boundaries...

December 27, 2019

"The winds of grace are always blowing, but it is you who must raise your sails."

- Rabindranath Tagore - 

I feel the turbulence and confusion out in the world, and have been feeling an underlying exhaustion from the end-of-year hectic pace. Yet I am also feeling strangely exhilarated in these last days of 2019. Curiosity gets me moving—a curiosity that wants to experience the undefinable power Tagore and so many others identify as Grace. Grace is thankfully much larger than my imagination, and its undeniable presence reminds me to nurture any clarity (however tiny), accept the tired feelings, take small steps...

November 24, 2019

“Who we are in the present includes who we were in the past.”

- Fred Rogers, a.k.a. Mr. Rogers -

I have heard from several friends this month about how the sharing of old stories can lessen their weight upon our bodies and psyches, and with awareness and staying close to all the feelings that arise, be transformed into a deep and powerful compassion for others and for ourselves. 

Maybe it was because I watched the new movie “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” last night . . . for whatever reason, I woke up in the hour just before dawn, the time of day called la madraguda in the Spanish language, knowing that the poem I...

September 21, 2019

“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...

August 29, 2019

“Who knows as we go 

which way the path will lead...”

- Sarah Jean Webb -

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 . . . 

Climb. Tumble. Climb...

March 25, 2019

let go of your hold

to your former selves

allow the river to carry you

this new trust

is the undercurrent

holding up your bones

float

- AKU_MATU* -

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....

February 19, 2019

on morning walk wind 

nips at ears, whispering of 

snow, a broken branch -

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...

January 25, 2019

“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…" 

- William Hutchinson Murray (1913-1996), 

from his book The Scottish Himalayan Expedition.

A friend wrote a...

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NANCY G. SHAPIRO

FINDING CALM IN THE MIDST OF CHANGE