So much has changed…

Mixed-media collage – 11 x 14 on canvas paper

I love it when I open my laptop on a Monday morning and discover somewhere between getting ready for a dinner party and my early morning scribblings, my keyboard shows remnants of last nights culinary endeavours.

In this case, a couple of drops of herb-infused olive oil and a basil leaf from the Phyllo Tomato pie I made as a first course lay in a solidified puddle at the edge of my mouse pad.

I keep my laptop on the counter when I’m cooking. Long ago, with the advent of online recipes, I mostly stopped using hardcopy. I still love to browse through a lusciously designed cookbook full of artfully lit photographs and mouth-watering recipes. But online is so much more convenient.

I do think though that I may want to keep my laptop a little further away from the action. Though their four-legged brethren might enjoy a basil leaf soaked in garlic, rosemary and thyme-infused olive oil, I don’t think it’s good for mouse-pad’s digestive track.

****

Covid has changed so much.

B.C. (before covid), holding a dinner party was an almost every-weekend event in our home. We both love to entertain and I love to set a beautiful table.

With Covid’s arrival it’s become a much rare and momentous occasion, along with a lot of deliberations about the pros and cons and who’s.

After C.C.’s bout in hospital, a slow recovery and the fact connection is good for his soul, as well as health, we decided to hold a small gathering with two other special couples.

While the enjoyment of setting the table, planning the menu and cooking the meal remains the same, we no longer view a potential guest list through the lens of how many couples should we invite? 4? 6? And we don’t deliberate as much about ‘will this be a good mix of people?’. Now, our deliberations focus on other considerations like, “How big is their bubble?” “Are they vaccinated?”

Even the menu takes Covid into consideration. Shared plates have gone the way of a virus-free world and I’ve had to increase my supply of appetizer plates, small forks and knives (not all that big a hardship. I LUV pretty dishes!) so that everyone gets their own fork and cutting knife for the charcuterie.

Even the welcoming at the door has changed. When guests arrive they most still come baring a bottle of wine or a gift for the house. They also step through the door with the declaration, “We took the test! Negative!”

And hugs? Even with a negative test I’m hesitant.

Perhaps that is the greatest change of all… the constant, worry-riddled inner mind chatter of… “Is it safe?”

And yes, we could forgo all form of entertaining, but somehow, that feels like Covid has won.

Life comes with risks. It’s all in how we measure both the risk and our tolerance along with our need for social connection.

And being with good friends. Laughing and telling stories on one another, sharing a meal around a candlelit table — ah yes. These are the happenings that make life so rich and memories so deep.

We were six for dinner last night. Old friends. Family.

We laughed and giggled. We teased one another as only those who share long histories together do. Some of the stories told were probably repeats from dinner’s past.

And it didn’t matter.

We were gathered around a table savouring the connections we crave so much.

Take that you miserable virus! You may have forced us to change a lot of things in our lives, but the one thing you will never change is the joy we feel when we are all connected.

Namaste.

_____________________

About the artwork

I also spent time in the studio this weekend working on another piece for my #SheDaresBoldly series.

Waaaay too much fun!

And the quote…. may we all never compromise our truth!

Enough with the excuses

Over at Beaumont’s blog I’m in the dawghouse — apparently, posting his blog in the afternoon on Sunday doesn’t cut it…

Beaumont: Louise. My fans are waiting.

Me: I’ve been busy.

Beau: You’ve been up since forever and you still haven’t gotten to my blogpost.

Me: I told you. I’ve been busy.

Beau: Enough with the excuses. I’m looking for results. And I’m not seeing any.

Me: Well… I worked for three hours this morning on a submission for a writing competition I’m entering. I took you to the park. I went for groceries. That’s a lot of results.

Beau: Not when the only result that counts is posting my blog.

Me: There’s more to life than your blog Beau.

Beau: Not on Sundays.

He sure hopes you come and read the rest (CLICK HERE) — he’s got a real sweet little love note for all his fans! 🙂

The Age of Unreason

It is called The Wolf Moon. The first full moon of January.

I almost missed it.

Not the moon, but my favourite ‘under the light of the full moon’ thing to do – stand amongst the trees, throw back my head, lift up my chin towards the sky and howl.

Wrapped up in thoughts of my beloved’s slow (to me) recovery from pneumonia that landed him in hospital for the first 10 days of the year, my daughter, son-in-love, and grandchildren’s bout with Covid and a project deadline looming at work, thoughts of howling were far from my mind on Tuesday morning.

And then, as Beaumont the Sheepadoodle and I walked in the woods along the river in the icy-cold, frost-riddled morning of the day after the Wolf Moon rising, I saw it. There it hung, high above, a giant punched-out pale orb of eery white and beige and creamy light yellow in the pale blue sky.

Oblivious to its presence above, Beau sniffed and snuffled his way through snow-laden deadfall and dry winter grasses, following the scent of some unseen forest creature.

I stood in the early morning light, closed my eyes and breathed in the magic of it all.

The moon watched. I breathed.

Howl, a voice within whispered.

Another voice parried back, “Don’t be ridiculous.”

“No, seriously. Howl!”

“No way. People will think I’m weird.”

“Louise, there’s no one here. The park is empty. Howl.”

I really wanted to. Howl that is. But that self-conscious, I don’t want o stand out or make a fool of myself can be a strong advocate for taking the road most travelled sometimes. Especially it seems if the road less travelled includes howling at the moon. “You’re beyond the age of howling,” it hissed. “Beyond the age of reason for that matter!”

I wanted to shout back, “That’s because I’ve entered the age of unreason!”

I remain silent. What if someone hears me?

I walked a bit further. The moon followed me.

The cacophony of voices arguing the pros and cons of howling were becoming more than just an irritant. They were a clamouring, writhing claimant of my morning zen in the woods walk.

What would a woman in the age of unreason do? The voice of spirit asked.

I smiled. I stopped walking, glanced up at the moon, took a deep breath, closed my eyes and let out a tiny, wee, quiet howl.

I opened my eyes, the world looked the same. Beau was still sniffling and snuffling in the woods. The trees were still standing in silent witness, birds sung in the trees, the river flowed on and the moon hung still in the pale blue sky above.

And the park was still empty of other humans.

I took another breath. Deeper this time. Fuller.

I leaned my head back, stretched out my neck, jutted out my chin, opened my mouth and howled.

Aywhooooooo! Aywhooooo! Awhyoooooooooooooo!

And then I laughed.

Deep, loud, belly shaking laughs.

I did it again.

Aywhooooooo! Aywhooooo! Awhyoooooooooooooo!

I looked around. Beaumont, raised his head from sniffing a particularly fascinating piece of deadfall, cocked it sideways, looked at me for a moment, lowered it again and went back to his investigations.

And the trees kept standing, the river flowed on, the birds sang and the moon gazed down from above.

And I laughed again, threw my arms out wide and began to dance in the icy-cold, frost-riddled morning of the day after the Wolf Moon rising,

Because deep within me, I want to live the truth of my affirmation to live bravely. Dare Boldly. And howling and dancing beneath a Wolf Moon on a crisp winter morning is exactly what a woman in the Age of Unreason does.

___________________

And then…. just as I sign off on this post, a song begins to play in the background. Normally, my morning writing music is without lyrics. For some, unknown, magical reason, one song with words has slipped into my playlist just as I’m about to press publish on this post.

How divine!

This post is also in response to Eugi at Eugi’s Causerie where the prompt this week is “Affirmations”.

Do go visit – there’s lots of good reading theree and who knows… you might be inspired to respond too with your written gems!

All That Remains…

Yesterday on FB, a friend shared a poem I wrote at the end of 2020.

I am always grateful when people share my words. I feel a big burst of joy and gratitude erupt within me. It fills my writer’s heart.

I am also glad when the sharing reminds me of what’s most important, of what matters, and what is possible.

The poem she shared was written in one of Ali Grimshaw’s writing circles, a space I regularly and gratefully share with five other women.

I am sharing it again today because while at the time, I hoped Covid would be gone last year, it still lingers. Over the past few days my eldest daughter, her husband and my grandchildren all came down with it. Several friends have succumbed to its thrall as has one of my husband’s business partners.

We continue to hold our circle tight. Limiting contact. Limiting exposure.

And still, the sun shines. The birds sing. The riveer flows, albeit through a narrow channel surrounded by ice. The trees stand sentinel, naked branches spread out as if reaching to touch the sky.

And life continues to flow full of adventures and opportunities, possibilities and new imaginings.

And through it all, this nasty little virus continues to cause illness and death, sorrow and grief.

And through it all, life continues to flow, full of births and deaths, offerings and takings, beginnings and endings.

And through it all, Love continues to call us home to where we belong.

to read the original post from December 31, 2020, click HERE.

Thank you Shannon for the reminder and the gift of your sharing.

Dare To Be a Vessel of Love

She Dares to be a vessel of Love. Always.

It’s not the choosing to be a vessel of Love that’s hard. It’s the ‘always’.

We’re human. And that makes us unpredictable, at times undependable and suspect to cloudy thinking and poor decision-making.

Like, when someone cuts you off or doesn’t allow you to merge, or worse yet, takes their own sweet time merging when you’re behind them and want to get going… Thoughts of being a vessel of love, of moving with grace through every moment, can evaporate in direct opposite proportion to the offending party’s speed, or lack thereof.

In fact, I’m often surprised how quickly I can fall into criticizing, complaining and condemning other drivers!

Or people who don’t clean up after their dog.

Or people who wear their masks below their nose.

Or people who stand too close in line.

Or…

You get the picture…

Perhaps if I lived in a cave, cut-off from all human contact… But I don’t. Which means, being a vessel of love has to include forgiving myself. A lot.

To balance the scales, in that forgiveness I must also remember to forgive the other, bless them. And me.

It goes like this…

Someone doesn’t let me merge, my mind immediately jumps to… “What a jerk!” (or worse).

My heart kicks into high gear and whispers gently and lovingly… “Bless them. Forgive me. Forgive them. Bless me.”

And I move on.

The speed at which this internal dialogue goes on is always dependent upon how balanced, centred and embodied in the present moment I am.

Sometimes, there’s a lag between my stinkin’ thinkin’ and the awareness that I’m not being a vessel of love.

Sometimes, my heart needs to prod my head a little to wake me up to my off-kilter presence.

As in, “Now that’s an interesting response to an irritant but not a criminal offense Louise. Something on your mind? Are you dancing with anger right now? Will this attitude get you more or less of what you want?”

Fact is, when I am moving through the world casting criticism, complaints and condemnation about like confetti, I am being my own worst problem and an irritant in the world.

Which is why forgiveness is so important. It awakens me to grace by moving me gently through the portal of acceptance into gratitude.

And, while I don’t often say, “Thank you for this reminder to wake up and be present”, the fact is, every time I act out, is an opportunity to come home to my heart in gratitude and Love.

The good thing is, each time I act out and forgive and bless myself and others, the distance between my acting out and staying true to myself gets shorter, And, with each time I act out and forgive and bless, I am strengthening my heart muscles and deepening my capacity to be a vessel of Love. Always.

Namaste

Give ’em Back! (A poem for my daughters)

My daughters and me, circa 1992

When I became a mother I worried that I would pass on ‘the worst’ of me to my daughters. I wanted to come into motherhood clean. A fresh slate. New born like them.

But life and children and pretty well everything, doesn’t work that way. The new is built on what was learned from the old. Some good. Some not so good. Some not even wanted, though it seems to come into the new anyway.

And being a mother definitely doesn’t come with a rule book from our mothers and their mothers before them. It doesn’t come with a money-back guarantee that says, ‘Do these 10 things and you’ll never worry or fear or cry for your children. And if it doesn’t work in 25 years, here’s our moneyback guarantee. You can give your children back and we’ll give you back your tearless days and fearless nights and worry-free hopes and dreams…”

Nope, it definitely doesn’t work that way. Being a mother (a parent for that matter- but I’m a mother so use what fits best for me) is about worry and fear and tears. Oh sure, there’s the joy and the love and the sense of wonder at these miraculous beings who fill the world with such light, and promise. But there’s all the rest too.

Because, there’s always the worry and the fear. The tears. Oh yes. The tears. They fall like a rain in autumn. Full of questions… Will it or won’t it freeze? Will it or won’t it turn to snow? And full of premonitions and worries of winter yet to come. Will my child be safe crossing the street? Will they remember the love I feel for them after I lose my temper? Will they know they are miracles when I keep shutting off the light?

Being a mother means knowing the things about me I never wanted anyone else to see, or have, or know, could become part of these miraculous beings whom we love with every fibre of our beings and who are at risk of taking on these things we never intended or wanted for them to be share in.

Sometimes, I don’t even see what in me has become something in them I never wanted them to know or have or be until it’s too late. Until they say or do something and I wonder, where did they get that? Even when I know, they got it from me. And while I smile when I see them carrying what I think to be the best of me, I have had to learn to love the not so best in me through their eyes for to love them fully, I must love all of me, and all of my mother and all of my mother’s mothers before me.

Because being a mother is not a cake-walk, but it has been for me the greatest gift I’ve ever received. In becoming a mother, I have had to see what is not my best and learn to love myself as I am so that I can love my daughters in all their beauty, complexity, tears and fears, joys and failures, and let them go in Love to be their own true selves.

_______________________________

Perhaps it is that my youngest daughter is about to turn 33 or my grandson 4, or that I received a beautiful message from a stranger, a woman who is about to have her first child and who, after reading many of my posts, wrote to voice some of her fears for her unborn child… whatever the source of these thoughts, this poem is what appeared:

A Poem For My Daughters
by Louise Gallagher

I want them back
those things I gave
that I never meant to give you

They weren't meant for you
and never really worked for me
to begin with

I wanted more
for you

I wanted only
the best
without all the messy pieces.

I wanted only beauty
truth, love, happiness
not those things you took
that I didn't mean to give
that keep holding you
back
from being you

They were me
those messy pieces
I had to work through
to get to be me 
and though some of them
still are
me
they were never meant for you

Please give them back
and I promise you something
I can't actually promise
but really want to,
if you give them back
you'll be free
to be
you 
without the bits of me
that don't fit well
for either of us.

Not Yet Spring.

In the snow below our upper deck, animal prints trail through the no longer pristine blanket covering the earth. Signs of this January melt that arrived on a gust of wind sweeping down from the Rockies, lie scattered across mother earth.

Once snow-laden branches stretch out bar arms entwining one another in a silent dance of hope. Has winter gone?  Is it time to get our juices flowing in anticipation of lengthening days beneath a welcoming sun? Is it time for spring?

Not yet cry out the geese, the ones who did not fly south and sit huddled up on icy banks along the river, squawking and honking in the morning light. Not yet.

Winter is not yet done.

This interlude of almost spring will not last.

Be patient.

And I spy my winter boots laying in the corner of the closet, my big puffy down-filled parka hanging above.

I want to leave them there. To let the sit forlorn and forgotten. To hide them away like Christmas cookies stored in tight containers in the freezer to keep me from indulging in what I do not need.

I want to indulge in these warmer days. To walk outside unencumbered by bulky clothing whose only purpose is to protect me from frostbite and cold toes and fingers.

I want to run free.

Be patient, honk the geese.

Winter will swoop in again. It is too soon for spring.

And so, I leave my parka hanging in plain view, my giant clunky fleece-lined boots lined up beneath them as if waiting for me to step into them again and take them for a walk in frosty temps and frigid air.

I leave my basket of heavy mittens and hats and scarves by the door, along with Beaumont the Sheepadoodles booties which he detests but is forced to wear when the temperature drops to Arctic zones.

I leave it all handy because like the geese who webbed feet paddle furiously beneath the rushing waters of the one thread of river that remains unfrozen, spring has not yet sprung. It is too soon.

But oh how I wish it had.

Oh how I wish I did not have to be patient.

But all my wishing and hoping will not change the course of the seasons here at the windward base of the Rockies.

All my dreaming of spring will not force winter to disappear like a distant memory grown too cold too remember.

All I can do is savour this interlude of spring-like weather and bathe in the gratitude that comes with knowing with every day that passes, winter’s return will not be as long now that its stay has been broken.

A NOTE ABOUT THIS POST

So…. I wrote my post in Word first this morning — it was a morning pages kind of exercise for free-fall writing. The purpose is to write without focusing on ‘the purpose’ but rather just the process of trusting in the process of letting whatever is seeking to appear, ‘fall out’.

I copied it and then got distracted and forgot to paste it in here before copying something else.

Oh no! I had forgotten to save it in Word and thought it was lost.

I have used a computer for decades – Word in particular. And in all that time, I was never sure how to find my ‘Clipboard’ other than the last saved item.

This morning, I learned something new!

wish I’d known it in December when I realized I’d inadvertently not saved the minutes for a board meeting for which I act as Secretary. (Until next week that is when I new secretary takes over and I step into the role of Vice-Chair – I’m pretty sure they’ll be happy to have me relinquish the role! 🙂 )

In the meantime, I am grateful to have discovered how to find my clipboard and retrieve things I copied after all this time! What a treat!

You don’t know until you do.

He’s Home!

I am always amazed at how easy it is to not see the impact of ‘the stress’ I’m carrying on my body until after I’ve turned a corner and found a new perspective. From the luxury of looking back, I can see how much all that I was carrying, unbeknownst to myself, was weighing me down and clouding my vision!

It’s how I feel today.

C.C. came home from hospital yesterday and suddenly, I felt lighter, freer, more optimistic and…. less stressed.

I’m pretty sure if I’d taken a before and after photo of myself, my face would have told the whole story.

I look back on these past two years under Covid’s thrall and wonder how long will it take the world to let go of the fear and uncertainty of these times.

And do we actually know how challenging these times are on psyches?

For example, this week I made the difficult decision to postpone the art journalling workshops I was to have taught at Kensington Art Supplies this month and next. My beloved’s health, Omicron and the stress I was feeling just thinking about walking amidst a group of strangers for 3 hours not fully confident every one of them was ‘Covid-free’ was almost debilitating.

When I sent off my email to the store to say I had to postpone, I felt an immediate sense of relief. When I got an email back that was full of compassion and understanding, I felt even more relief.

I dislike feeling like I’m letting people down or that I’m not following through on my commitments. Yet, my mental health and my beloved’s health are my priority. I know it was the right decision — it doesn’t mean it was an easy one to make.

And maybe that’s the thing. No matter how much I know it’s the right thing, I don’t know how it will impact others — and that’s what I was worrying about.

And so, I smile, raise my arms and throw my arms up in the air and exclaim, “How fascinating!”

I was worried about what others would think.

An old habit.

One I didn’t know was still hanging around, messing with my peace of mind until I came face to face with my own hubris!

We don’t know, until we do.

And sometimes, we discover what we don’t know is actually what we’ve known all along. We are so very human and so very fascinating in all our human conditions.

Old habits die hard. Sometimes, they don’t actually die, they just go underground waiting until an opportune moment to test the foundational strength of our commitment to being true to ourselves.

I didn’t know some of the stress I was carrying had more to do with other people’s opinions of me until I chose to do the right thing and discovered it was an old acquaintance causing me my distress.

In that knowing, I am once again free to travel lightly and joyfully on this road of life.

I can also be confident that I will probably meet up with this acquaintance again (he has deep roots) and when I do, I will have another opportunity to grow through that encounter.

And truly, isn’t that the most fascinating thing ever?

Namaste.

And PS — having C.C. home lifts a whole boatload of stress off my shoulders! Who knew I could carry so much? 🙂

Avoidance Strengthens Fear

She dares to fight hatred with love. (collage on mixed media)

I don’t know if it was hearing from my beloved that he could possibly be home from hospital today but if not, for sure Tuesday, or, if it’s I finally decided to stop avoiding my studio and dive into creative presence, but this morning I awoke, mentally alert, my list of ‘To Do’s running through my mind and ‘the how’ of how I was going to get at ’em in full swing.

Either way, I feel like what I imagine a bear does after a long winter hibernation – awake and eager to get living again!

Like, the world is not weighing on my shoulders but moving with me, holding me tenderly in its flow, or as my friend John M. calls it, PLOW (Power. Harmony. Love. Order. Wisdom.).

The fact is, it took a lot of mind talk, or rather quieting of some disturbing mind-chatter to get me into my studio yesterday.

The “I’m too tired. What’s the point? I don’t feel like it. I think the muse went to Mexico and deserted me to this Arctic Vortex as penance for some unknown sins,” dialogue was getting tiring!

Finally yesterday, I remembered ‘avoidance strengthens fear’ and realized I was avoiding what I know calms me, centers me and brings me peace, not because it was the right thing to do but rather, because I was walking with that ole’ soundrel, FEAR and letting him hold court over my doing the things I know are good and healing for me.

Once I acknowledged that my fear had nothing to do with creating and everything to do with my husband’s being in hospital with pneumonia and me giving into a weird internalized message that ‘if he is suffering I should too’, which is some relic of a childhood Catholicism steeped in guilt or perhaps the media or maybe the fact I gave up sugar on December 26th and was not yet off its artificial high. Regardless of why I wasn’t spending time in my studio when my world felt so shaky and unsafe, the ‘not doing’ was unhealthy for me. And, as C.C. is coming home for sure by tomorrow, maybe even today, I definitely need to be my most healthy self!

So, I threw out my avoidance, which immediately weakened my fear and I began to create.

What a gift.

To simply be present with the muse (she didn’t really go to Mexico and desert me — though I’m sure if you’re in Mexico and open to her exhortations to create you’ll find her there too!).

In being present I felt the cobwebs of doubt and worry and the tendrils of my “What if” fears dissipate and fade as I threw colour and texture and shapes and forms onto the canvas and danced.

And I mean… danced.

Like really danced.

I spun and twirled and swayed and twisted and leaped and let the music guide my body as I gave up my resistance and fell, with joyful abandon, into the art of being alive.

Such a gift.

And today, C.C. might be home and if not, the Dr. has said for sure tomorrow!

Yup! Colour me excited! What a gift.

And P.S. — writing it all out over the past few days has helped keep me grounded, as have all your beautiful words of support and wisdom. And while intellectually I know I’m not alone, your presence helped my heart remember, I’m not.

I am so very grateful.

It Is What It Is – an SWB post

C.C. remains in hospital — we’re hoping he’s home today or tomorrow. His ward is on lockdown still due to Covid and Beau wishes I could throw the ball better.

Amazing how sometimes it just takes a dawg’s wisdom to put the world back in perspective.

He does hope you come and join him on his blog today for a bit of relief from this arctic weather (if like us it’s been sub-Arctic for days) or just for a light-hearted chat about life and what is. Just click HERE to hop on over to Sundays with Beaumont.