ON the Road to Calm

July 22, 2020

"Out of a great need we are all holding hands and climbing. 

Not loving is letting go. Listen.

The terrain around here is far too dangerous for that."

- Hafiz -

July has been a study in paradox, once again full of the immense practice of embracing life’s incongruities and opposites. Truths that turn into fiction and fictions that turn into truth. The onslaught of emotion and information that shifts and turns, sabotages and surprises us each and every day. It is dangerous out there. It is also safe, when we connect with our eyes, our words, our laughter, our discernment and humanity. 

This practice has shown itself in three...

June 29, 2020

“the more I wear this story 

of myself, the more 

it grows thin, ravels, 

a sweater filled with holes—

I fall through them.”

- Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer –

For John O. and Rosemerry

It’s oddly reliable how inspiration comes my way—poems, quotes, memories, and friends appear and nudge some part of me awake. Reading Rosemerry’s words I was struck by how they described the momentum of my life right now. 

I’ve been falling through the holes as we pack up to leave for the summer, a leaving shadowed by the smoke from the Bighorn Fire seen out our front door, still burning after twenty-three days, the pandemic shape-shiftin...

June 1, 2020

". . . trust depth and darkness, 

then flower."

- Bonnie Thurston -

Darkness, anger, and deep, huge sorrow are swirling alongside incomprehensible deaths and violence. As a writer and a human being, I am at a loss for words despite feeling pulled to speak. 

Yet I found words to share today, written four years ago in The Book of Calm, when whole paragraphs flowed out to honor  "una herida del alma" — a wound of the soul, what we feel below numbness and anger and disbelief.

 "Sorrow lives here with its silences and wails, the excruciating suddenness or slowness of someone or something disappearing, and it...

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 tell 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 ar...

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...

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". . . as necessary for

today as breath . . ."

The Gift of In-the-Moment Connections

July 22, 2020

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NANCY G. SHAPIRO

FINDING CALM IN THE MIDST OF CHANGE