: Rhythm / Devotion of Leo :
: Rhythm / Devotion : is a series of interviews intended to illuminate the connection to ritual & rhythm in our daily lives. This series explores the intimacy of routine, the magic of the ordinary, & how these small acts of devotion set the stage for larger workings in the world ~
What is your name & where are you in the world?
My name is Leonora, but I usually go by Leo (pronounced Layo). I live on the unceded territory of the Kumeyaay Nation in San Diego, CA, and after more than a decade here, I am finally learning to love this land and to embrace it.
How do you define yourself & your work?
I am poet, an educator, a mother, an animal lover, an equinox child, a water child, a being who is more comfortable in the places between, the cracks, the fissures where there’s always something happening, yet unnoticed.
Will you walk us through what a day in your life looks like? Begin with how you greet the morning & guide us until you close off the day in the eve ~
These unique times we’re living in have made the parts of me that needed tending more visible. I’m learning what it means to just be in the thick of the present, which is not easy when you have a busy life.
I start my day with quiet and nourishing rituals. Every morning, our dogs wake up before dawn, and after taking care of them I grab my journal and a candle, make myself a cup of hot water (with lemon when possible) to stimulate digestion, and write for 10-15 minutes (lately I’ve been doing a gratitude and intention setting practice). Sometimes I pull out a card from any of the decks I have or open a book of poetry in a random page and use the poem as a divination tool. Then I meditate and take a walk with the dogs. Sometimes, if my body calls for it, I do a short yoga practice.
Once I get back home my partner and I get breakfast ready, make sure our youngest has what he needs for online schooling, and the day begins in full mode. While the kids are in school, I write, read, or revise poems, do some research, study. Sometimes I connect with one of my poet friends and we chat for a while. One of my friends and I have been “writing together” twice a week by reporting to each other what we’re doing and sometimes sharing our work for feedback. I love writing in community and talking about the writing process with others. It fuels me and gives meaning to what I do and believe in–the fact that nothing happens in isolation, everything is connected.
The rest of the day I answer emails, plan classes, or grade students’ work on non-teaching days. On teaching days, I spend all afternoon in class, so by the time dinner comes around I’m ready for bed. After dinner, we all watch some TV together as a family or just hang out and chat, and then it’s time to rest.
You are a poet, writer, & a professor ~ how do you prepare yourself &/or your space to enter into this practice?
Since I started working from home, I created a corner in my bedroom with a desk that also has a little altar and some beloved books, pencils, pens, journals, so that whatever I will need to write or teach is available at all times. I like to keep a cork board on the wall, which I sometimes use as a vision board, and others as a place holder for favorite poems, quotes, intentions, or pictures. I maintain everything in that corner clean and organized because it’s a way to also let the space breathe and expand, letting the energies that are created there circulate and be released as needed.
What do you do/not do if you are feeling stuck around your work?
I’ve learned the hard way to not force or push beyond what I am able to do in a given moment. Every day is so different, and my level of energy varies depending on what I have going on. My three main things are: 1) Be patient and trust in the process; 2) Let go of any expectations about what should happen of how the class/the poem/the event should be; and 3) Be curious, ask questions, explore. I was raised in a very strict environment and finally, after years of healing work and reflection, I am learning to play and to not feel like I’m doing it–whatever the “it” is– wrong.” In a way, my life has been a process of unlearning so many things and editing or revising, taking out and adding what serves each moment of it.
Do you have a movement practice?
I’ve had a home yoga practice for several years and it has become more consistent during the pandemic. I don’t subscribe to a particular school of yoga, but rather have been focusing on the exploration of sensation in the body and what it means to “be” in a pose for me–meaning the pose doesn’t have to look a certain way. This is also a practice of slowing down and learning to have fun in spite of the challenges, of finding joy in discovery. Recently, I started swimming –I used to swim competitively in college and always go back– once a week. I missed being in the water. Rather than “working out,” I just focus on moving through/with/in water for however long I’m there.
What does structure mean to you, or what is your philosophy around ritual/routine?
I see most things I do on a regular basis as rituals, especially during the mornings and evenings. But even starting my classes by greeting students in a certain way, asking how they feel, taking a breath before we start, doing some free writing, is also ritualistic. My Pisces rising wants to flow and rebel against any type of structure, but my Virgo sun craves it, so I’m always balancing those 2 elements and energies and sometimes it’s all about wading in the muck. In writing, I’ve found that having structured time to write, read, revise, or research keeps me focused and happy. I don’t necessarily write everyday, but I do other things that are related to it. Writing is always on my mind.
What are you listening to, reading, or watching these days?
I’ve read Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights twice in the last few weeks and highly recommend it. It brought much needed joy in these difficult and uncertain times. Also, Cassandra Lopez’s poetry collection Brother Bullet is heartbreakingly beautiful. I read with my children, and right now, my youngest and I are reading The Red Pyramid, by Rick Riordan. As a family, we watched My Octopus Teacher on Netflix (if you watch, have some tissue close by). Poetry Unbound, The Slowdown, and The Poetry Salon podcasts have been wonderful anchors and inspiration as well.
Any last words of wisdom?
Lately, I’ve been thinking about Bruce Lee’s phrase “Be water” and what that may mean in a time like this. I used to practice martial arts and I admire his work and philosophy of life. Water is such a powerful element, strong and even destructive, but there’s also a softness to it, it relaxes us and it’s a source of life. So, when things get difficult and we begin to lose hope, can we find comfort and strength in our own softness, our vulnerability as humans? Can we be/become water-like?
How can we find your work?
My website is www.leonorasimonovis.com
and my Instagram is @leosimonovis.
Thank you so much, Leo, for your beautiful work in this world & for sharing your rhythm devotion with us ~
I connect the shell essence of Abalone as a beautiful companion to Leonora Simonovis & her work in the world.
I made my Abalone essence in Savannah, GA at the stroke of midnight on 13.March, 2016 until the sun came up in the morning. It was made with a small bit of Abalone shell that I found along the shores of Big Sur on the California coast some years before.
Abalone is both protective & softening all at once. It is an essence that honors our unique forms of sentience & sensitivity. Abalone connects us to & brings us into conversation with the mother tongue: the primordial place we all come from, that place that is pre-thought, pre-language, & timeless. Abalone connects us to a place of deep understanding of all that is & then helps us to form expression around this.
Abalone helps us to deeply listen, like putting a shell up to your ear to hear the ocean inside, reminding us that we are connected to the vast rhythms of the world, the deep waters of the seas, & the pearls of wisdom held within each of us. It is an essence at nourishes our inner worlds. our subconscious, our imaginations, & the collective unconscious. This essence has an affinity for the soft spots in us: tissue, smooth muscles, the inner child... Abalone protects the dreamer within us & brings us into presence with the quiet, yet vibrant spaces within. Thus it makes a wonderful remedy for meditation as well as for the poet, musician, artist, psychic, any of the clairs, or the pensive spirit.
Abalone helps us to find stillness within the ebb, flow, & break of the waves. It brings to mind the words of Lao Tzu, "To a mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders". Especially nice for empathetic & sensitive people, this essence helps us to protect the soft, vulnerable places held within—to shield them, building a beautiful & opalescent layer to cover our internal landscapes & to give voice to the ancient, primordial, universal wisdom we each contain within.
Find a bottle of Abalone essence for yourself or a loved one here ~