NANCY G. SHAPIRO

FINDING CALM IN THE MIDST OF CHANGE

ON the Road to Calm

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...

September 30, 2018

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.

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May 30, 2018

When asked to speak about something of which he was certain, Albert Einstein replied,

“Something is moving.”

We're on the road somewhere, at the beginning of a months-long sabbatical, and I'm pondering how fast things change, how everything has been moving and transforming as the last of our bags were packed, the last errands done, neat lists became unreadable, and we've zigzagged in and out of six time zones in the last five days. As I went through the last folders on my desk, Einstein's quote and Anna Akhmatova's poem I Will Not Die an Unlived Life fell into my hands, perfect reflections of w...

October 19, 2017

“Ambiguous losses are a particular type of loss that lack definition and lack closure . . .

hope lingers on, and it’s really hard to live in hope that is not met . . .

Humans don’t do uncertainty well.”

– Kelly Maxwell Haer, PhD.*

Similar to this moment in history, I grew up during the unsettled fifties, sixties and early seventies during years of nuclear threat, self-interested political leadership, ongoing war, social unrest, and the early years of environmental warnings. Within my own family, the silent unraveling of my parents’ marriage in my teen years, and my father’s sudden suicide when I was nineteen left me with...

September 19, 2017

After a substantial expenditure of energy—during times of crisis, a creative push, a pivotal choice needing to be made, a day gone suddenly topsy-turvy or just too busy, or the draining constancy of “things out of our control”—it’s easy to fall into any number of physical, mental, emotional, and/or spiritual states of depletion. Just as easily we can exhaust ourselves further by thinking this ‘feeling depleted’ is somehow wrong.

Which is what I’ve been doing to myself since The Book of Calm went to the printers almost two weeks ago. My concentration has gone subterranean, and inspiration is a barely glimpsed ghost of i...

June 24, 2017

“When aims differ, trails do too.

These overlapping and crisscrossing trails,

created by countless living beings

pursuing their own ends,

form the planet’s warp and woof.” 

—Robert Moor, On Trails.

As my husband and I readied for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Europe, we were urged more than once to get lost. Along with our long-time friends and traveling companions, we did just that, though not intentionally at first. The urge to follow Google Maps’ directions was strong, and it did come in handy when heading for an airport or driving in Italy (utterly useless though in the hedgerow-edged lanes of Devon). Yet during our d...

August 29, 2016

Flowers as they are / in the lotus pond: / My offering to the spirits. - Basho Matsuo.

I write, learn, and hopefully grow wiser from what I call "open doorways"—experiences, words, images, or dreams that show up in daily life and give me a glimpse of something that makes me re-imagine or remember what is important. One such doorway appeared two weeks ago when I left on a trip to visit family and friends. 

"The roar of the lotus." This is the phrase I suddenly saw in my mind's eye years ago in a meditation. The phrase has come to me often and without warning through the years, and always it sings of a place whe...

August 27, 2015

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A friend wrote a few weeks ago saying she couldn't sense any equilibrium coming her way. I wrote back that maybe right now life felt more like dancing the flamenco on the deck of a ship in a storm. She agreed wholeheartedly.

 

As I glimpse news stories, overhear snatches of conversation, and reel about in my everyday existence, there appears to be a more intense than usual pairing of contradictions going on — Trump and Sanders vying for the presidential nomination of their respective parties, several months of heavy rains and then weeks of devastating heat, a friend or family member suddenly ill as another fri...

November 10, 2014

I call them mom-isms, my mother’s newly found perspectives that speak of Buddhist equanimity with a dash of slapstick humor. She offered up her latest this morning: “If something is bothering me, I look out the window at the mountains and just picture the worry floating away over the mountains like a feather…I don’t want to be one of those grumpy old women.”

 

She has Alzheimer’s now. She has been a Presbyterian, Catholic and Southern Baptist at different times in her life, and humor doesn’t figure highly in my own memories of her, so these bits of wisdom are a precious gift. In her very decline, we are both emerging an...

December 10, 2013

 

It’s that “into the cave” time of year. I’m wearing sweaters and scarves, the mesquite leaves are turning silver, the holidays are here and another birthday is coming up. I wrote the following poem three years ago, and took a month off from blogs and social media, to re-emerge in January. I’m doing the same this year. Until then, wishing everyone a wondrous Winter Solstice and 2014!

 

Note to Self in Winter

 

To become bear-like / in these winter months / to slow down to a soft snore / to lumber willingly / into my cave / to embrace rest and darkness / so I may rejuvenate and emerge / ravenous / to begin again. -ngs

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