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...

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...

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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". . . 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