(A chance run-in with Natalie Goldberg!)
Paris. Hemingway called it a moveable feast. “If you were fortunate enough to have been a young writer living in Paris during the 1920’s, you would carry Paris with you wherever you go, for Paris is a moveable feast.”
What brings me to Paris to stand nose-to-nose with Vincent Van Gogh at the Muśee d’Orsay on a late September day in 2014, my 50th year? A chance run-in with Natalie Goldberg following my first retreat with her, The Way of All Things in Santa Fe, New Mexico; 2012.
Natalie gives a writing prompt following sitting meditation to begin our three days of Zen and writing, “How I got here,’ she says, “10 minutes – Go.”
I got here by wandering the isles of Prairie Sky Books on Westminster Avenue on a cold blustery Winnipeg winter day. The sandalwood not only floods my nostrils walking into the store but saturates the pages of Writing Down the Bones…
“Someday’, the whisper came, ‘you will take pen in hand and sit in a room and write with Natalie Goldberg.”
The final night of that 2012 Upaya retreat I pull my roommates close. “I have a secret.,’ I tell them. We huddle closer. “I really wanted Natalie Goldberg to fall in love with me.”
“Oh Anneli,” my roommate coos, “I think we all wanted Natalie to fall in love with us.”
The following evening, I am perched at a counter seat of the Rooftop restaurant overlooking downtown Santa Fe when Natalie Goldberg walks in. She and her companion take a seat. When the sun has set, I take my last sip of Shiraz, pay my bill, and stop to say hello on my way out.
Natalie shares her favorite writing spots. “Buy a hot chocolate and they’ll let you sit and write all afternoon. And drop in to Ernesto Mayan Gallery. That’s where I sell my paintings.”
The following afternoon I’m sitting across from Ernesto Mayan. “I wasn’t planning on buying a painting today,” I’m telling Ernesto on the sundrenched patio behind the gallery. We are seated strategically. I have a clear eye view of the painting Blueberry Pie that moments earlier I stood in front of admiring when I heard, “Yohoo..Hello?”
Suddenly there was Natalie Goldberg standing in front of me in her shades, painting in either hand. She stops abruptly. She removes her sunglasses.
“I never come in here,” she says to me. She turns to Ernesto, “Tell her. I never come in here.” She turns back to me, “I just stopped by to drop these paintings off before I leave for my France retreat tomorrow. Ernesto this is a student of mine, give her a discount if she wants to buy a painting.” And with that she disappears as quickly as she entered.
“Sometimes we don’t find art, art finds us,” grins Ernesto.
“She teaches in France?’ As I step out onto Canyon Road, Ernesto calls out to me, “Anneli, Blueberry Pie is going to change your life. It will bring you back to Santa Fe.”
Not only did Blueberry Pie return me to Santa Fe many times since, it led me to France for The True Secret of Writing, a 2-week silent retreat with Natalie Goldberg. The retreat changed the way I live my life.
I came back from France with a sense of non-striving, with the understanding that our one job is to open the channel and take action on the things our inner being calls us to do (and often our action is becoming aware of our thoughts.)
For one week set yourself reminders to focus your attention several times a day for just a few moments (use your alarm on your phone ~ find a pleasant sound like a chime or bells to remind you to take a couple deep breaths and just bring several moments of attention to your body and breath)
An Affirmation to help: Today I act on the small intuitive moments of clarity and inspiration. I am aware of synchronicity.
I’d love to hear about your experience with this exercise, post in the comments below. Know someone who would enjoy this story and exercise? Please share!