Falling Through to Calm

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-shifting before our eyes. A hyper-awareness of my old story has me noticing the preponderance of a negative outlook—looking at the glass half empty, irritated with everything and everyone, feeling lethargic and procrastinating, or on a precarious auto-pilot, the word No at the tip of my tongue.

 

Viscerally sensitive, I can feel the last thread of a reactive behavior or old belief in my story begin to unravel even as I’m acting it out. It grows thinner. Impossibly thin. Then the whoosh of falling through into another way. Most importantly I don’t fall into another story; I land in a different perspective, with a new or newly remembered way of dealing with stress and the unknown—a knowing in my body-mind-soul, a ripening into being. And it happens when I’m going through the day-in-day-out experience of living.

 

In 2006, Barry and I were invited to teach photography and poetry to a group of business executives. The organizers emphasized that this trip was only for “intrepid travelers.” Bhutan is on the eastern edge of the Himalayas, a country of steep mountains and rushing rivers. As we traveled in two small buses on tiny curvy roads hanging over those aforesaid rushing rivers, John O., one of my students, tapped me on the shoulder and handed me a scrap of paper. He had written a haiku: 

 

black twisting ribbon

four-wheel machines meet their match

the cliff in my face 

 

These last six months I've come to know 'falling through' as an ongoing creative process; as my story disintegrates thread by thread, I might feel a bit wobbly, like a newborn colt. Other times (and I ask you to imagine this in your body) I feel like a passenger in a small Bhutanese bus on a tiny curvy road and another bus is heading directly toward us with no apparent room to pass. 

 

Give this new way of viewing things a few minutes or an hour. Give it a day or a week. A life story is embedded in our body, in our cells and bones and neural pathways. The wobble and high anxiety will pass, making room for calm to expand and settle in, quicker to show itself the next time perspective is needed.

 

For sixty-seven years much has been deleted from my story, and what's left is . . . me, expanded. I am supported and nurtured by the essential woven web that remains, grateful that another paragraph in my tale has departed. Rendered down and down and down into my intrepid self with each unraveling, I see/sense/intuit how much I’ve changed and how much I’m the same. Always journeying on the road to Calm.

 

 

* Photograph © Barry Shapiro. Monk and the Tiger’s Nest Monastery—Upper Paro Valley, Bhutan.

* Both poems in this blog were shared with permission of the authors.

 

 

 

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NANCY G. SHAPIRO

FINDING CALM IN THE MIDST OF CHANGE