ON the Road to Calm

December 17, 2017

"The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why."

- Mark Twain

During the week of Thanksgiving, words were set aside in order to reconnect to my artist self. I spent sixteen hours in a Photoshop workshop called "Bird Woman" learning techniques to collage photographs, and transformed my human self into an Eagle Woman. It was both a creative stretching and a spiritual quest toward becoming larger than my habitual thoughts—to visually empower myself in ways I'd ignored or didn't know existed until a book insisted on being written, and an eagle's face beckoned....

July 31, 2017

“Oh you need to say yes a lot!” ­

– Naomi Shihab Nye. 

An idea can take hold of our lives and not let go, even if we have no clue how to manifest it, even if it seems to disappear for long chunks of time, or an old belief nags us with its whispered No. In the midst of finally listening to the idea and doing something about it, extreme emotions and physical aches can become the norm, and contrary to logic, this idea becomes the very inspiration that gets us up in the morning (often in la madrugada—the dark before the dawn).

Or at least that is what has happened to me over the last year, as old memories and stories jo...

December 2, 2016

Here it is, the first day of the last month of 2016. November disappeared while I finished the first draft of my book while attempting to navigate the sea changes happening in the world.

After five months, the manuscript is with the editor. My body is refusing to sit longer than ten minutes in a chair. I am taking a month off from social media and writing, and enjoying the connections with family and friends and the beauty around me. This blog is a November/December letter dedicated to calling in our wiser and larger selves even, and especially, in the midst of seeming chaos. 

In the spirit of Pema Chodron’s a...

December 10, 2013

“You have to weave the good things you want into your life” is the motto of weavers Viridiana and her husband Jesús, passed down by Viridiana’s ninety-year old great-grandmother who also wove rugs and clothing just as they do today. They live with their extended family in Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca, in a sprawling wood and adobe house.

 

Set into a hillside with views of the mountains across a wide green valley, their home and place of work embodies great-grandma’s wisdom. Bags of raw wool lean against the walls. Bunches of dried plants wait to be ground in a stone mortar and pestle called a molcajete. Elegantly simple...

October 31, 2013

“…the way this bird swoops from an alcove out into the light, the way no one notices but a small child who stops and points—it all reminds me of the day we met. Something flew out of you and I was stunned that something in me flew out to meet it…” -Mark Nepo

 

These days I am falling in love over and over again by taking dance lessons with my husband. This has required that I allow him to be the ‘leader’ no matter what (!), that I wear high-heeled shoes when flip-flops and flat soles are my norm, and most of all, this constant letting go of a fearful “not knowing” as I’m led around the dance floor—oftentimes backwards a...

September 8, 2013

I have spent many days stringing and unstringing my instrument while the song I came to sing goes unsung.”- Rabindranath Tagore

 

When I first read Tagore’s poignant statement, I cringed. It described my sometimes procrastinating, sometimes stuck, sometimes productive approach to writing. I had a book in me, wanting to be written and shared. I made some good choices, like hiring a writing coach, learning from proposal writing and the struggle to integrate an authentic description of the book. Somewhere eight rejection letters sit in a file. And from that beginning, my stop/start/stop rhythm has indeed brought me here to...

February 22, 2013

I don’t know what to say after a week of being struck speechless by the words of Luis Urrea, Cheryl Strayed, Samantha Dunn, and others at the San Miguel Writer’s Conference. I don’t know what to say after being shaken to the core by the sudden death of our friend Eli on Saturday. I only know that this poem by Lisel Mueller, shared last night in the midst of Eli’s family and friends, expresses what I’m feeling, this splitting wide open to the preciousness of life.

 

Monet Refuses the Operation

 

Doctor, you say there are no haloes / around the streetlights in Paris / and what I see is an aberration / caused by old age, an...

October 19, 2012

 

At some point a few days ago my thoughts turned negative, judgmental, and deafening in my head. The word hate became the verb of choice. I hated the bright blue sky and the heat. I hated all my clothes. I was bored, and hated the boredom. All the while a taunting voice whispered a well-worn list of my inadequacies. I wanted gray skies and cold rain, along with new shoes and distraction. Thankfully the noise was limited to my surroundings and environment, not toward the dear ones around me.

 

Following the thread of unrest to its source led only to the tiniest awareness. Fact #1: My thoughts were stuck on negative. Fact...

September 22, 2012

Sometimes all it takes is…one beautiful wrist movement synchronized with the head and heart…
– Helen Frankenthaler

 

Helen Frankenthaler was an influential abstract expressionist painter (1928-2011). She created breath-taking work for over sixty years. When I read her words above (next to one of her paintings at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art), I gasped. Yes! For sometimes indeed all it takes is that one singular moment—combined with the head and heart—to create something breath-taking, or to experience an insight or epiphany that opens the proverbial door so the next step toward that waiting creation becomes kno...

July 10, 2012

Five weeks after arriving back home from a month in Spain and France, I am finally giving in to false starts and indecision concerning what to share in this blog, and relying instead on others’ words to explain what I have been experiencing.

I’d expected all sorts of creative juice and energy to well forth after the ‘Spacious in Spain’ women’s retreat, a week of beach sun and Galician rain in Spain, and a sumptuous week enjoying Paris. What has happened instead is a slow and steady trickle of sustaining memory that cannot be explained any better than in the words below, and so I won’t even try. In the midst of your o...

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NANCY G. SHAPIRO

FINDING CALM IN THE MIDST OF CHANGE