Joy Does Not Sleep

Joy does not sleep while you muddle through your days. It dances always in the hope that you will awaken to its light.

The inspiration for this page came from a comment a lovely soulful woman, a fellow artist, made about one of my pieces and how it opened a door to healing and connection and joy.

On this day of the second year since my mother’s passing, I am reminded of how a friend described her feelings when in her 50’s both her parents passed away — “Since ‘becoming orphaned’ as she put it, I am all alone”. I wanted to create something that took away the sting of that idea of ‘being orphaned’ and connected me to the joy that is always dancing within and all around me.

In a comment yesterday, MSJaDeli of TaoTalk, shared a story from the Zhuang Zi. “Someone dies and an old man in his tent starts banging on his tin plate in grief. This is the wise man who is supposed to be above it all. The banging begins to bother others who go to check on him. They ask the old man, hey aren’t you the wise man, how much longer are you going to bang on that pan. The old man says I feel it as long as I need to feel it and when I don’t feel it anymore I’ll stop banging on the pan.”

I am known amongst some of my friends as a really good pot-banger. (The ‘good’ is my word, btw. Not necessarily theirs.) On backcountry ski trips, I was inevitably the first one up. As the first one up I would restoke the fire in the hut and put on coffee as well as start breakfast. As these were backcountry huts there was no electricity or running water. My least favourite task was going out to haul in water so… if the big water container was empty, to ensure there was coffee, I had to wake someone up — which meant I’d walk around singing at the top of my lungs, banging on a pot with a big metal spoon — I didn’t say it was a good practice. Just that I was good at it! 🙂 I know. Not my finest moment. Though we inevitably would get off to a nice early start because of my ‘joyful’ pot banging.

MSJ’s sharing of that story reminded me of those days and how much joy I felt being with good friends, far from the maddening crowds, surrounded by soaring peaks and still mountain air and sprawling valleys leading up to wide open slopes of untouched powder.

Glorious!

I am so blessed.

I bang on my keyboard letting words spill out, letting my emotions flow wild and gloriously free. I bang with my paintbrushes, hauling paint pots onto my worktable, tossing colour and texture onto the canvas with joyful abandon, transporting myself far from the maddening crowds into the sacred fields of creative expression.

I dance with the muse and joy lifts me up reminding me always — I am never alone. I am always connected to the divine essence of life in all its sprawling beauty unfurling.

In my studio, I know with great certainty, I am connected to the all that makes this life so beautifully exquisite and precious.

Namaste

Life is Messy. So is Grief.

I was the final note in the quartet of children that made up the siblings in our family. Growing up, I often felt like the cymbals. Clashing and clanging at odd moments while everyone else knew their part off by heart, chiming in appropriately, hitting their notes, playing in harmony.

Today, only my sisters and I remain of the original band. My daughters and two nieces now carry the tune. While the notes between the sister-pairs are strong, the notes between the cousins are far apart and barely audible. Since my brother and sister-in-law’s tragic deaths over twenty years ago, my nieces have had little contact with any of us. The drama and turmoil of those days leading up to and following their parents’ deaths were incomprehensible for an 18 and 19-year-old. As my brother and mother had an argument shortly before the events unfolded, and my mother was inconsolable in her grief, they chose to distance themselves from all of us. The distance was never closed.

Losing her son was a heavy loss for my mother. Losing her connection with her first-born granddaughters was a loss that weighed heavily on her heart for the rest of her life.

Yesterday, to find balance and calm in a day that while significant in terms of the calendar, was still just another day, I headed into my studio to create.

I have always believed it is the gift of Love that brings us into this world and love that carries us out. All we can leave behind is that which carries us in, through and out of life – Love.

We, the ones left behind on this earthly plane have a choice, to pick up the remains of pain and turmoil or follow the path of love.

I am grateful for my practice of art journaling. For its grace and reflective space and healing arts. It holds me steady on the path of love.

In this page, the six roses represent our original family — My mother, father, brother, two sisters and me.

The five birds flying together represent my sisters and me and my two daughters. The two little birds just coming out of the rose on the left are my two grandchildren.

In the middle, flying separately in a misty sky, are my nieces and grand-nephew. The flowers at the bottom represent La Grande Famille growing wild and free and loving all around the world.

No matter if we spend time together or how far apart our stories, we are always connected through this circle of love that is our family.

As I finished the page, the words came to me, “In the garden of your life let love grow wild and free.”

_______________________

I also created another page yesterday (I use another journal alongside me as I paint to wipe off excess paints).

As I wiped off paint and held myself lovingly within the harmony and the discordant notes of family, I knew this page was about not fitting into a box, but living in the messy of life. Something that spoke to all my emotions on this day.

I wasn’t sure what I was feeling/expressing until I finished and then sat down to write in my journal what creating this page brought up for me. And that’s when I understood…

Grief is Messy…

Grief Is Messy
 by Louise Gallagher
  
 Grief is messy.
 It follows no well-known path
 travelling to the beat
 of its own drum
 and pushing through boundaries
 you desperately put in place
 to keep its presence at bay.
  
 Grief is stealthy
 It dresses up in familiar clothing
 masquerading as your best friend
 while its steals your identity
 encroaching on the spaces
 of your heart
 you want desperately to avoid
 visiting.
  
 There is no taming grief.
 There is only its heavy cloak
 of companionship
 wearing you down
 until one day
 you find yourself arriving at that place
 where moments spent wrapped
 in grief’s company
 die away
 as softly as the sweet melody
 of the voice
 of the one who is gone
 fades into memory. 

It Has Been A Year

I sit at my desk, a candle burning, furnace humming, Beau sleeping on the chaise beside me.

Outside, the sky is slowly lightening as dawn gently pushes night away towards the west.

On this morning, a year ago, we were sitting vigil with my mother. We knew the end was near. We just didn’t know, today would be the day she took her last breath as her spirit released her body and she crossed over to that place where she believed completely that my father, brother, her parents and all her siblings who had gone before her were waiting, with open arms, to greet her.

We knew the moment was coming. We just didn’t know the time.

And then, we did.

10:35 am. Tuesday, February 25, 2020.

It has been a year today. A year of sadness. Sorrow. Grief. Joy. Laughter. Growth. Healing.

It has taught me many things. One of them being about the power of my mother’s prayers. The power of prayer isn’t in the one to whom we pray. It is in the one who prays.

Faith is like that. It isn’t about the one or ones or things or ‘its’ we believe in, or the doctrines of religion or church we follow and adhere to. It is in our ability to let go of questioning ‘the why’ or believing our ‘why’ is the way for others and breathing into what brings us peace, solace, comfort.

Prayer is a personal act of faith that reminds us to care about those for whom we pray.

My mother always knew that. It wasn’t that her faith got in the way of our relationship. It was that our ways were different and my questions, confusion, angst built a wall between our differences neither of us knew who to cross. The only way my mother knew how to take down that wall was through prayer.

She was wise that way. When she did not know what to do, she prayed.

Today is the one-year mark of our mother’s/grandmother’s passing. My sisters and daughters and I will gather later today on Zoom to mark the day, her life and this circle of love she created through her every breath.

Namaste.

__________________________

I wrote this poem a year ago today as I sat in the quiet stillness of the morning just before my mother’s last breath.

Walking In Prayer

I found a wounded bird yesterday.

A girlfriend and I had met for a walk. I’d started at the off-leash so Beaumont wouldn’t feel too constrained walking for an hour on-leash. We headed east, along the path that winds its way along the river, my friend and I chatting and catching up. Beaumont walking beside us (between tugs on the leash). We walked about forty-five minutes in one direction before turning around to walk back to our starting point.

It was then that we spied the bird. Its tiny red and black feathered body lying in the middle of the sidewalk. Shivering. Barely breathing. Almost still.

We couldn’t leave her so I used one of Beau’s bags to gently pick her up and cradle her in my hands. I could feel her tiny heart beating fast. She was alive.

So we kept walking back to our cars in the hope that she was simply stunned by an encounter with another bird or perhaps a car.

As we walked, I kept breathing on her while my girlfriend held Beau’s leash.

As we walked, I whispered words of encouragement and hope over her tiny, inert body.

I pray for you wings to fly free. I pray for you blue sky days. And whether you body recovers and you flutter your wings or take your last breath dreaming of flight, know that you are held in hands full of Love.

Step. Breathe warm air onto her body. Step. Breathe warm air onto her body.

A walking prayer.

She still wasn’t moving by the time we got back to our cars so I tucked her gently onto the front passenger seat, ensured the seat warmer was on and Beau and I drove home.

At home, C.C. found a box for her. I lay my electric heating pad in the bottom, covered it with a towel and carefully removed the plastic bag I’d carried her in while I placed her on the warm bed we’d made.

As she settled into the nest she opened her eyes and looked at me. She wasn’t shivering any more. She just wasn’t moving very much.

I waited awhile to see if her strength returned. She moved around a bit but never tried to spread her wings.

As I’ve done in the past when I’ve found wounded wildlife, I called the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conversation (AWIC) for guidance. They rescue injured and orphaned wildlife throughout the province and provide professional care to support the rehabilitation and release of all rescued wildlife. During the day, they have volunteers who will come and pick up the animals, but, if there are no volunteers available, they have a network of vets in the city where you can take the animal for care until AIWC can pick it up in the morning.

Always, whenever I’ve called AWIC, the volunteer at the end of the line has been kind, helpful, caring.

Always, the experience has reminded me of the importance of taking care of one another.

Birdsong, watching the songbirds hop about in the bushes and trees in our backyard, spying them sitting on branches as I walk, always brings me joy. It’s as if the birds know we humans need their song and presence to lift our spirits.

We need to take care of the birds.

We found a wounded bird yesterday. I carried her in my hands and breathed warm air onto her almost weightless body,

She reminded me of how easy it is to take care of one another. How sharing a smile, a kind word, a gentle gesture eases the burden for those who have fallen along life’s paths.

I do not know if that bird will fly again or if she will gain her angel’s wings. I do know the songs she sang, the joy she brought into this world is a gift of nature that matters to our world.

Whether she takes to the skies again or gains her angel wings, I am grateful for our time together. She reminded me of the need to always walk gentle of heart, connected to nature.

Learning to live in harmony with nature is critical to the survival of our species. Living in harmony begins with taking care of one another.

We found a wounded bird yesterday. Her song was silent. Her wings still.

In our brief time together she reminded me of the need to care for one another. She reminded me that there is power in prayer.

And in that encounter, I am reminded of the constancy of my mother’s prayers. Tomorrow marks one year since my mother took her last breath. As I sit in the silence of the morning, as I walk in the woods, along the river, on busy city streets, I hear her whispered incantations showering me with care. They rustle in my heart like a sweet, gentle birdsong filling the air with Love.

What if play is important?

I played yesterday.

After my Monday zoom call with the artist with whom I am working on a collaboration, I felt uplifted, excited, energized. I decided it was time to play.

After finishing my piece for this week’s collaboration, I decided to set aside some time to play.

And I laugh. Part of the wonder of play is its spontaneity, and there I was, planning my play.

And then I laugh some more. How adult of me. Judging my play right from the get go.

The inspiration ‘to play’ came from a post on Orly Avineri‘s Instagram feed. Orly is an intuitive artist whose work inspires me to let go and be present. On her birthday last week, Orly wrote, “When we were preschoolers we would go outside and build things from found materials, and when inside, we’d scribble and doodle on walls or any piece of paper laying around.”

And she continued on to list things we did or didn’t do ‘on purpose’ or with an intention or reason or need to be heard or seen, free or discovered.

We just did what called to our heart.

It was her finale to her post that resonated most deeply, “…what happened to us along the way? How did we accumulate so many intentions, questions, explanations, reasons, and purposes to do what we intrinsically know how to do so well?

No wonder all of us freeze, perpetually. No wonder we, as adults, are always in “seek” mode, never fully satisfied.”

Ahhh…. and my soul expanded. Seek mode.

Always seeking. Doing. Becoming.

Always looking for an answer, a reason, a purpose, a sign.

Always searching for satisfaction, fulfillment, destination, destiny. A new ‘me’, new way, new idea, new beginning.

Always seeking.

What if living isn’t in seeking the answer to the question “Who am I?”

What if it’s in the living ‘the what’ of who we are with all our heart on fire with the energy of Love driving us into the arms of the deep passion within to express our sacred human nature in living colour? What if play is all we need to set our soul dancing to the music our whole body, every cell, every pulse of blood, every beat of our heart, movement of our hands and feet rejoices in?

What if play is the gateway to experiencing all of life?

So… I decided to try it out. Play.

I painted both sides of a long piece of paper I cut from the roll I use to cover my worktable. There was no ‘rhyme nor reason’ to the colours I used. The design. The placement of the paint on the Gellipad I used to monoprint the paper. There was just the desire to feel my way through to the joy that comes with being immersed in creativity, dancing with the muse, releasing my thinking mind to my body’s ‘knowing’.

And then, I folded the paper in half lengthwise, and then into a booklet with 8 folds. I drew a doll shape onto the front, cut it out and la voilá. I had a paper doll chain.

Full disclosure, earlier I had told my art-partner in our zoom call that my next project was to create a 3 part workshop on paper dolls. There is a purpose, process and practice to the workshop. I even know what category it will fit in on my blog, “The Seeker’s Journey”.

Yeah — I know. So much irony there.

But, (and yes, there’s also a ‘but’ butting in) my desire to create the workshop is to awaken the creative child within, the one who knows how to play without intention, be present without purpose and be without becoming. So… the purpose is important, she says, laughing at herself ’cause again… yup. So much irony.

And there’s also truth. While I was painting and folding and drawing and cutting I wasn’t thinking about the workshop I wanted to create. There was no room for thinking while I was immersed in creating. There was simply the joy of being present within my inner child’s joy of being free to play, just for the fun of it.

It isn’t always easy. This playing. This staying in the moment, being present to everything in and all around us. Sometimes, we need visual and physical aids to unharness our thinking minds and release ourselves to the deep inner knowing of our bodies.

I’m not done. I have an intention (of course I do) of painting the dolls. I might even make dresses for them as I loved to do as a child.

Because here’s the thing I noticed as I played. I felt the air around me touching my skin. I heard the silence between the notes of each song playing in the background. And I heard the laughter of the child within as she delighted in the joy of playing with me in the field of creativity flowing all around.

I’m not done yet. But then, it’s never about getting done or the destination. It’s always about the journey.

Namaste

_________________

And I am working on a 3 part online course on Playing with The Child Within. Stay tuned…. It promises to be a lot of fun! I’d love to hear what you think… Ok. Feel. Sense. Intuit. Yeah… what your child knows.

________________

PPS – I was also inspired by a beautiful thank you card I received from a lovely woman, fellow artist, Mitzi B. It’s a stunning piece of work and forms the backdrop in the photo.

Every morning I walk the same path.

Every morning I walk the same path from our home, to the river, to the park and back.

Every morning, I turn left at the end of our driveway, take the next three quick rights and then follow the path as it curves down to the left passing under the bridge to meander along the river’s edge to the park.

Every morning I walk the same path. Every morning is never the same.

Some mornings, the remains of an overnight snow cover the path.

Other mornings, yesterday’s melt has frozen overnight. I must watch out for icy patches as I walk.

Sometimes, the difference is in the sky. Some mornings, it is clear blue or dotted with a few fluffy white tendrils of vapour. Other mornings sheets of grey cover its expanse.

Some mornings, a squirrel will cross my path and Beaumont the Sheepadoodle will tug at the leash, eager to play chase.

Other mornings, a jogger will run past. And then another. One will nod their head and throw out a cheerful “Good morning” as they jog past.  Another will keep running by, eyes lowered or focused on some distant spot straight ahead.

Some mornings, like this morning, the Angel in a Canary Yellow Coat and I will cross paths. She will always greet me with some fact, like this morning’s where she told me she walks up and down the hill 15 times every morning. “It’s my 15,600 steps a day,” she said. “It’s what you have to do once you pass 65. 15,600 steps. You’ll see.” I do not tell her I am familiar with passing 65. Nor that the number is 10,000. I do not want to disrupt her stride.

Same path. Always different.

Unless I walk it with all my senses, all my body closed-off to the beauty and wonder all around me. On those mornings, the path is dull, my journey a monotony of numbered steps passing through my head as Beaumont tugs at the leash hurrying me along.

On those mornings, I miss the beauty of the trees standing in silent communion with the sky. I miss the geese floating on the river. The waves constantly coercing the ice that clings tightly to the shoreline to come flow with it, home, to the distant sea. The sunlight dancing on the water reminding me of the stories of the Fairy Dancers I used to make up for my daughters when they were young.

On those mornings, I cannot hear the quiet steady beating of my heart. The silken touch of the air caressing my cheeks. The way my body feels light and lithe as I walk.

Every morning I walk the same path.

Always, I have a choice in how I travel this path.

With mind and body closed off to the sights and sounds of morning awakening beneath Nature’s tender touch. Or, heart and body awakened to the beauty of the day, the rising of the sun, the caress of the wind, the breath of nature unfolding in the world around me connecting me within all of nature.

Every morning I walk the same path. Every morning is never the same.

____________________________

Yesterday, David Kanigan at Live & Learn shared a post and a poem that moved me. Earlier, when I’d been walking along the river, I’d been thinking of how I always take the same path and still it’s always different.

And then I read David’s post about walking the same route every morning and taking photographs for the past 291 days. His photos are beautiful. His words exquisite and the whisper of my path, my walk kept rippling out.

Thanks David for the inspiration to keep exploring the idea that the path is always the same but what I experience is always an invitation to step into the wonder and beauty and find my way home to my heart.

The Zen Master and The Dawg (an SWB story)

Beau with his face stuck in mine while I am lying on my yoga mat

Beaumont: Louise! Louise!…. you dead?

Me: No Beau. I’m in Savasana pose.

Beau: You look it.

Me: What’s that supposed to mean?

Beau: It ain’t called ‘the corpse pose’ for nothing Louise

Me: Oh wow. You know that?

Beau: You know Yoga was invented by dogs. Right?

To find out how join Beau on his blog today! He’s a real master at telling the story… his way! You know what to do… just click HERE…

Do The Hard. You’re Worth It.

Well, that was fascinating!

There I was feeling frustrated and somewhat miffed, blaming the ‘Techie Witch’ for whisking away all my hard-fought-for edits only to discover… they weren’t missing!

It was user error. When I’d opened the file in my video editing software, I hadn’t condensed the video line enough to see all the components in one view.

Duh.

All I could do was throw my hands up into the air above my head and exclaim as Benjamin Zanders suggests in his wonderful TedTalk, The Transformative Power of Classical Music, “Aren’t I fascinating!”

And get back to editing.

Which is what I did.

Can I take a moment here to pat myself on the back? My friend Jane always tells me I need to acknowledge my accomplishments and not try to pass credit off to others. So… okay. Here I go… I did it and I’m really proud of myself.

I created a 17 minute video of creating one of the paintings for my #ShePersisted Series while filming myself in the act of creating.

I was scared.

I mean, it’s not like I start the process with a clear idea of where I’m going, what the end result will look like.

In fact, I purposefully don’t start that way as I prefer the whole creative process to be more organic, intuitive. An intimate dance with the muse where neither of us leads nor follows. We just flow in and out and all around and up and down ideas pouring out, paint spilling, mistakes becoming integral parts of the whole – where ever the process may lead us.

I do so love that space with the muse. It feels sacred. Honest. Real.

Though I was smiling in my final check-through of the video. I mention at least three times throughout the video how I find it hard to paint faces. And I do. The contours. Shadows. Nuances of painting a face are challenging — but it doesn’t mean I won’t do it.

In fact, just like creating this video was a challenge, painting faces is a challenge I continue to dive into so that I can expand my artistry and confidence.

There are many things in life we think of as ‘hard to do’. Hard to do is not an invitation to not do something. It’s an invitation to dive deeper into ‘the hard’ and find your rhythm, your stride, allowing your courage to open you up to new dimensions you never imagined.

I’m really proud of myself for creating this video. It was hard work. It was fun. It was rewarding.

And it expanded my video-creating abilities as well as my proficiency and confidence with the software and the medium. Big win/wins everywhere in all of that!

And here’s the other thing, last night when I finished, I asked C.C. if he’d watch it. He said yes, even after I told him it was 17 minutes long.

What was interesting was, inside me was this little voice hissing, “Don’t make him sit and watch it Louise. He’ll be so bored…”

I kept watching his face throughout his viewing and he never looked bored – though I did keep having to quiet the ‘don’t make him watch it’ voice.

And I wonder, where else in my life do I diminish my creations by underplaying how important it is to me that I share it with those who are important to me? Where else do I want to play small?

Great questions that make wonderful grist for the mill of deepening my knowing of what it means to live this one precious life with all the colours of the rainbow shimmering in the light of my presence.

And btw, when C.C. reached the end of the video he looked at me with eyes wide-open and said, “I am so proud of you. That is incredible.”

Insert happy heart dance. 🙂

Crash!

Background for No 72 #shepersisted series – acrylic inks, inks, acrylic paint, gesso

For the past two days, I have been working on the process video for No. 72 of my #shepersisted series.

One thing I’m careful to do is… save my work throughout the process.

One thing my computer didn’t actually do was… save all my work.

Not its fault actually… I discovered this after about 6 hours of work yesterday when it crashed and I discovered I’d lost the final hour of edits.

I couldn’t figure out why every clip I downloaded kept coming in garbled. The video file was getting too large for the limited memory available on my computer. Each download would take me about three tries to get it to import successfully. Include the fact that my phone automatically uploads long videos to the cloud to save space, requiring first the downloading of said video and then the editing because I filmed everything upside down (and no that was not intentional) and you can see why it was taking me so long to edit!

Anyway, the gift of ‘the crash’ is it gave me insight into the importance of emptying memory banks to clear up space for fresh ideas.

See, we humans like to hang onto things. A lot.

We harbour grudges. Disappointments. Regrets.

We roll past hurts over and over in our minds, picking off pieces and chewing on them with the verocity of a baby robin grabbing for a worm dangling out of its mother’s beak.

We act like emotional hoarders, stuffing feelings deep down into our psyches, layering more and more on top so that the ones below can’t get out.

Until… one day… we crash.

Oh, maybe it’s not cataclysmic. Maybe it doesn’t even make the Richter scale of emotional disturbance.

But for each of us, there is a breaking point.

I used to see it everyday when I worked in a homeless shelter. People entering with nothing except the emotional baggage they carried as if those angry, hurting thoughts and feelings could protect them from the painful past that led them to the shelter’s doors.

There was a man at the shelter once who was known for his anger. He was in some ways just one of many except I got to know him better than others because he used to come to the art project I’d started and jam with other musicians. When he was being ‘himself’ he was a loving, caring man. And then, a burst of anger would erupt up and out of his body and he turned into a whirling, crashing terror. A guy bent on self-destruction determined to take everything around him down too.

One day, faced with a possible jail term due to his latest outburst, he came into my office and cried, “Help! I don’t want to be an angry man.”

We got him enrolled in a program that helped him face his past and his demons. He took anger management. He learned to meditate. He worked, hard, on being ‘himself.’

When it came time to go to court to face the consequences of his past actions, he asked if I’d go with him. On the day of his appearance, I waited outside the doors while he stood in front of a judge. “I know I gotta face the consequences of my actions,” he said before going in. “But I sure hope the judge sees I’m a changed man.”

In his hands he held tightly to the certificates he’d received from the various courses he’d taken to create the change he wanted, knew he needed, to be the man he was beneath the anger and pain that hid his inner beauty.

When he came out of the courtroom, he was smiling. Almost dancing. His entire being infused with delight, relief, joy. He’d received a suspended sentence. Community service. No jail time.

I haven’t thought of that man in awhile. He moved on. Went back to the province he’d come from when he was running away from his past. Through the occasional email or phone call, I learned he’d reconnected with his kids. Had a good job. His own place. Was living life.

I like this person I’ve become, he told me in one of his calls.

He’d become a champion in his own life.

_______________________

The other day, Goff James shared a video and story on his blog of Ben E. King’s iconic hit, Stand by Me. In my comments, I shared the story of how musicians from the shelter where I used to work along with musicians from the community-at-large came together to create a recording of the song.

I hadn’t thought of that man in awhile. Until there he was, amidst all the other performers, sharing the music of his heart, creating change for all the world to know, when we stand together, anything is possible.

_______________________

This post is also part of Eugi’s Causerie – todays’ prompt is ‘Champion’

Your Weekly Prompt – Champion – February 18, 2021

balance in ventures 
breathes strength into champions 
heroes of today


Haiku written by Eugi

Go where the prompt leads you and publish a post on your own blog that responds to the prompt. It can be any variation of the prompt and/or image. Please keep it family friendly. Prompts close 7 days from the close of my post.

Anyone can participate — go on… try it… it’s fun!