The Choice.

The Choice — mixed media page — Learning to Fly art journal

Yesterday, I took a risk.

I’m glad I did.

The affirmation, confirmation and support I received filled my heart with gratitude and joy. I felt alive.

Which got me wondering… Do I take enough risks?

Oh, not the jump out of an airplane or ski down virgin terrain on a steep backcountry mountain kind of risk but the emotional, spiritual, deeply personal risk of vulnerability.

Sadly, I think the answer may be… not often enough.

Which is why I write here.

To teach myself to live life wide open. My heart unlocked. My psyche unsheathed. My entire being unarmoured-up.

To stretch my vulnerability muscles, to expand my willingness to be real, authentic, known. To increase my capacity to live outside my comfort zone – I must choose vulnerability.

‘Cause in many instances, that’s what living ‘sheltered’ behind our protective walls and habitual nature of hiding our ‘true nature’ is – A fear response to dangers unknown about which we are constantly negative fortune-telling in order to protect ourselves from hurts we experienced in the past and fear will happen again.

It is such a convoluted story we tell ourselves about what could happen. And because we don’t want it to happen, we tell ourselves we have to armour-up when in reality, disposing of our armour and allowing ourselves to be wholly present and vulnerable is what keeps us safe.

I remember when, after being released from a relationship that was killing me, I received a call one morning telling me that the man who wanted me gone had escaped from jail. “We don’t know where he is,” the detective told me on the phone, “but we figure he’s probably going to try to find you.”

In one instant all my hard won peace of mind evaporated and I was catapulted into a raging storm of fear engulfing every cell of my being. I remember taking Ellie, my Golden Retriever who had gone through much of that journey with me and been my ballast and comfort for so much of it, for a walk in the forest where we had walked every day since his arrest.

Suddenly, every rustle of leaf, every crack of twig, every shadow was ‘him’ waiting to leap out of the bushes and drag me back into the past.

I remember standing amidst the towering pines and crying, trying to force myself to keep walking further along the path. I couldn’t do it. I turned and ran back to my apartment, slamming the door shut and lying on my bed sobbing.

And then… it struck me.

He had absolutely no idea where I was and had no way of finding out. We had had zero contact since his arrest months before.

While he was a danger, he was not a real and present danger. It was my thoughts playing havoc with reality.

I had a choice. Live behind locked doors or go out into the sunshine. I unlocked the door and Ellie and I went for our walk.

Sure, there were niggles of fear wafting around me but I chose to risk facing them rather than armour-up against them.

It has been a constant learning in my life. To un-armour myself when my mind is screaming at me to raise the drawbridge, man the ramparts and take cover.

And the only way I know to do that is to face what I fear and risk — being vulnerable, real, authentic — and… to love myself, all of me, warts and wisdom, darkness and light, beauty and the beast.

And so… I write it out.

What about you? Are you willing to take a risk today?

What if… It ain’t happening ‘to’ you but FOR you?

Nature is full of natural balance that it shares freely. To find your balance, spend time in nature.” Learning to Fly art journal spread. Mixed media on scrap paper

“Find value in all things.”

In this case, the opportunity (and challenge) was to use the page I tore out of my art journal the day before, (because I didn’t like it) in a way that brought beauty and meaning to a new spread in a way that pleased me.

Along with moving me beyond the ‘3C’s’ of negativity, it’s a self-imposed, ‘reuse, recycle, reduce’ way of art-making.

Like the boxes and drawers and bins in my studio filled with scraps of paper and ephemera – As a mixed media artist everything has possibility. From the junk mail flyer to a receipt to the strip torn off a page of newsprint I’ve painted to the frayed ribbon wrapped around a bottle of Balsamic Vinegar I got as a gift from friends – there is creative potential in it all.

Like us. From the frayed and tattered dreams we carry tucked away in a deep corner of our hearts to the wounds and scars we cover up with layers of smiles and idle chatter or misdirected anger, to the wonder and awe that seeps out through our tears in the most unpredictable and untimely moments – there is creative potential for new life in it all.

What will you do with the forgotten pieces? The hidden gems of your soul?

Yesterday, as I walked with Beaumont through the woods and sat on a rock at the river’s edge and watched the sun fairies dance on the water and the rocks shimmer with the light caressing them where they lay on the river’s bed, I thought about my ‘mistake’ from the day before. “What do you have to teach me?” I asked the sky and the air, the trees and the river flowing steadily past.

“You will never know until you look beyond ‘the mistake’ to see its infinite possibilities,” whispered the wind and the trees, the sky and the air and the river.

When I got home, I stepped into my studio, picked up ‘my mistake’ and let its possibilities become my guide.

I stepped away from expectation and my querulous asking of, “Why did I mess it up?” to shift into that place where instead of thinking, “Why did this happen to me?” I stayed open to the possibility it was happening for me.

That’s when wonderment and awe seeped onto the page.

It was a great lesson for life. Step away from keeping myself mired in the victim’s place of thinking ‘bad stuff’ happens ‘to’ me to sink deeply into wonderment of its true value by asking myself, ‘What does this happening have to teach me? What gem will it hold that will enrich my way of being present in my life?”

I hope you try it. The next time something happens that feels heavy and ‘wrong’ or you feel you’ve made a mistake… I hope you try stepping away from the ‘why is this happening ‘to’ me’ to “What does this happening have ‘for’ me?”

I hope when you do that doors of possibility fly open and you are flooded with the delightful awareness that you are not a victim of circumstances. You are an instrument of life full of limitless possibilities!

And when stuck. Go spend time in nature. Nature always offers up a myriad of opportunities to see beyond ‘the yuck’ into the value of all things. Including your pain and woes, trials and sorrow, missteps and mistakes.

And in that space, miracles abound, magic expands and the unfathomable mysteries of your life unfold in wonder and awe.

.

Where The Wild Things Grow

When I was a little girl I loved to create. Anything and everything.

Stories. Paper dolls. Houses for all my paper dolls. Clothes for my dolls. I loved, Paint by numbers. Drawing. Painting. Card tricks. Building things. Exploring things. Creating things.

I was creative by nature.

Up until my teens, I loved to draw. Faces mostly. I created my own magazines. Books. Plays.

And then. The 3 C’s hit.

Comparison. Criticism. Confusion.

I was not as good as… the really talented kids in school who everyone said would grow up to be artists. I never showed anyone my work so no one knew I loved to paint and draw. I was pretty sure my family would make fun of me anyway, so I quit painting and drawing.

I couldn’t sing like the one’s who played guitar in the band I belonged to. My brother made sure I knew I wasn’t very good. So I quit the band.

I didn’t get the lead in a school play (I did get a major role but it didn’t matter. I was pretty sure my family wouldn’t come to see me anyway, and if they did, they’d make fun of me). I quit auditioning.

Don’t get me wrong. There were creative things I did my mother and father found acceptable. I was the best gift wrapper in the house and would spend hours wrapping all the Christmas gifts. I did make all the posters for my eldest sister’s run for School Queen (or whatever it was she was running for) complete with pithy quotes – Beatniks were a big thing back then and I remember painting a picture of a Beatnik on poster board with some ‘clever’ saying like, “Get with the beat! Vote_______!”

But the list of things I told myself I couldn’t do as well as… (fill in the blanks ____________) went on and on.

I didn’t sew as well as my eldest sister. I didn’t write poetry as poetically as my middle sister. And I couldn’t be a boy like my brother, which was pretty well all believed my parents wanted me to be.

My inner critic, who constantly compared me to the feats and abilities of others, confused me. I didn’t dare tell people the things I loved to do. I was so scared they’d find my efforts wanting, less than, not as good as… someone else’s.

In my twenties, I secretly took up writing poetry again. I painted, but never told anyone. I started a novel and kept it to myself.

In my thirties, amidst my friends, I was known as the one who cooked and created, who skied fast and ran faster. I had a cooking show on TV. Nothing big. Just a 10 minute segment of an ‘about town’ show, but I loved it. I catered parties for friends. A girlfriend and I started a cooking school. My dinners for backcountry hiking and ski trips were legendary.

At 35, I published my first feature length story in a Sunday magazine. I wrote a novel and sent it out. Once. And then I let it sit and gather dust.

In my 40s I wrote a screen play that was optioned. A novel I never sent out and was published many more times in magazines and radio. And still, the 3C’s slithered through my psyche telling me to stop.

And then, at 45, I picked up a paintbrush and fell in love with painting.

Recently, I read a woman’s account of her creative journey through life and decided it was a great opportunity to get clear on my own.

See, when I write it out chronologically, what really becomes clear is the fact that ‘being a creative’ is part of my DNA. Ultimately, it isn’t about the things I’ve done or created or what others thought of what I did or created. Just as it was never about my talent.

It was always about my lack of belief in myself, my voice, my message.

Yesterday, as I created another page in my “Learning to Fly” art journal, I did something I’ve never done before. I ripped out a page.

The ripped out page — the gift is, I can still create with it by collaging it into another page and letting its wildness speak out!

Now, my excuse is, I’d been working on the opposite page for several hours. It was a total experiment. layer upon layers of gel medium and alcohol inks and markers and acrylic paint and more gel medium and inks and markers and paint. By the time I sat back and said, “This pleases me,” I was tired and not really listening to my heart.

Which means, I wasn’t present. Not being present meant I was susceptible to heeding the critics whining insistence I get the facing page done and over with. When it got to the stage of “UGH!” I totally forgot I get to that stage in pretty well everything I paint. So when the 3C’s invaded and the critter hissed, “Tear it out!” I did.

And that’s the moral of this story. Being present is a constant breathing into and with your entire being. It’s about sinking deep into your creative essence and connecting to your heart, the wild places within you and the world all around you so that the wild things can grow and flourish and flow.

Yesterday, I was reminded how easy it is to forget to breathe into the wild places and set them free. To cherish and nurture my creative expression and to not judge it, or myself, wanting.

I am grateful. It was a wild and fierce awakening. A powerful reminder to let the wild things grow, especially my dreams.

Namaste

Art Journal Entry, August 26, 2014

In a burst of exuberance, the wind swept down from the mountains 
whispering stories of faraway places.

“Runaway with me and I will show you the world!” the wind called out.

And Coyote laughed. “Here is where I run free,” he told the wind.

And the wind blew on and Coyote ran free.

https://dareboldly.com/2014/08/27/a-gift-from-the-quiet-hours-before-the-dawn

There was a time when she believed if she could just be somewhere else other than where she was, everything would be okay.

There was a time when she wished for nothing more than to be someone else other than who she was.

What she couldn’t see in looking for another way of being is that no matter what she wished for, she could never be anyone else other than who she was.

What she couldn’t see was that the parts of her that didn’t fit her well in this place, would not fit her any better in another.

Fearful that she would never find her way, she attempted to jettison her past, extricate herself from being herself to become someone she thought others wanted her to be. “Perhaps if you change directions, or even just your clothes, you’ll find yourself another way,” her nimble mind whispered like the wind blowing down from the mountains, calling her to run away.

And she ran, and ran and still she found herself where ever she was at, trying to run away from the one she could never leave behind, herself.

“Perhaps if you simply stand true to who you are, stay present to what is here in this moment, you’ll find yourself right where you’re at,” her loving heart whispered into the howling of the wind.

Frightened by her heart’s calling and tired of constantly running away, she fell to the ground and rested right where she was at. And in her sleep, her heart beat strong, and her mind grew restful as the truth of who she is set her free to run wild like the wind through her dreams.

“There is nothing to fear in being you,” her heart whispered. “Who you are is who you’ve always been. Perfectly human in all your human imperfections. Beauty and the beast. Loving and loved. A child of the universe, seeking her way into the light of her own brilliance shining brightly on the path of her creation.”

Like coyote and the wind, there is always a calling to venture into another space, some distant place where what is here will not be there. It isn’t until we quit searching for somewhere else to be that we discover, everything we need to be free is here right now, because, no matter where we go, we are where ever we go.

__________________________

This piece originally appeared on my blog August 27, 2014. There is more to it if you want to read the rest — CLICK HERE

My original plan was not to write about body image this morning. But, a facetime call with my eldest daughter this morning where I shared part of a conversation I had yesterday with a beautiful friend who dropped to pick something up redirected my thinking.

My friend and I were talking about body image (why do I feel compelled to ensure you know we did it ‘safely’?) I was telling my friend how I had found some photos of me with my eldest daughter when she was born and I mentioned how I was surprised to see I wasn’t ‘fat’!

“Why did I always think I was fat?” I asked my friend. Now let me caveat that statement — I am not fond of that word ‘fat’. It is not a loving way to describe or to view myself but, honesty and speaking truth is vital to change. I can’t think of a time in my life when I didn’t think I was fat.

Now, I should also mention that much of my life I always thought of myself as very fit — which I was — but it didn’t matter how much I ran or swam or skied or climbed or worked out — I always thought I was fat!

My social and psychological conditioning as well as media representations of ‘beauty’ have instilled some really dysfunctional ideas around body image that I continue to work on unravelling — it is a huge challenge. These ideas and attitudes are deeply embedded in my psyche.

My friend replied that she too shares the same issues. She is a good 8 inches taller than me and has always been beautiful in my eyes. In her own, not so much.

It is said that “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.

When we look in the mirror, we are beholding ourselves.

How beautiful do you see yourself?

Do you see your natural beauty or do you compare yourself to some media instilled measurement of beauty and find yourself less than, other than, an artificial construct of beauty?

Twiggy was the standard-bearer of my age, I told my daughter this morning. She defined beauty when I was in my teens.

Kate Moss was mine, she replied.

We are both under 5’3″ tall. Supermodel status was never in our genes. Yet, through the power of media and peer pressure and social conditioning, (and air-brushing) we, like millions of our peers, wanted desperately to emulate a way of ‘looking’ that was/is unachievable.

And there’s the catch. ‘Looking’ like someone else’s definition of beauty is not sustainable nor loving.

Being who I am, being myself as I am and loving myself from the inside out without judging how I ‘look’ and finding myself wanting – that’s the measurement of success and beauty I want to live by.

What about you?

Who/what defines beauty for you?

Do you love yourself completely, just the way you are?

It’s a tall order. To love yourself completely, just the way you are. I’m still working on it.

Namaste

Goose in a Flower Pot

I am sitting at my desk writing when I hear a loud thud. Startled I look up and discover two Canada Geese have landed on our deck railing and are climbing into one of the flower pots.

Are they thinking of using one of them as a nest, I wonder? I use them for herbs during the summer and while I had cleared them out last fall, there are lots of fallen leaves and debris still in the dirt.

Earlier, when I’d stepped outside with Beaumont the Sheepadoodle the view was limited. Misty air encompassed the world around me, rising off the river like a ghost slipping through the hallway of a haunted house leaving ethereal wisps of memory of its life gone by in its passing.

Beaumont the Sheepadoodle, oblivious to the mystical nature of the morning, padded along the grass looking for just the right spot to make his presence known.

I stood in awe.

I love foggy mornings.

Especially when they include two Canada Geese landing on our upper deck railing and taking up temporary (I think) residence. At this point, as I type, they have been standing and sitting and navigating the limited space of the pots for about an hour and a half. Which means, it has taken me that long to write this post as I have been intermittently typing and watching and taking photos and waiting and hoping to catch them lifting off.

At one point, I opened the deck door to try to get a better photo. One of them hissed at me so I quickly retreated.

Geese, I have concluded, are masters of mindfulness. They can sit and stand in stillness for long periods of time. They out-wait me.

I’m good with that. Add them to the robins who are busily building multiple nests in the beams above our lower deck and I feel surrounded by an aviary of wild things.

Mystical, magical nature unfolding its wings.

And through it all, Beau ignores the geese and instead, lays at my feet looking out the window directly towards the river. He is keeping watch over the the bird feeder along our back fence. To no avail. The squirrel has once again completed a successful raid of its seed.

The chickadees hop on the ground pecking at the droppings.

The fog has lifted.

The day has begun.

And the geese still out-wait me.

Until finally….. I wake C.C. up to come and help me get the goose to fly away — He took the string of bells hanging from the front doorknob and started ringing them. The goose was undeterred until C.C. stepped out onto the deck…

Fact is, while I think it’s lovely they came to visit, we would like to use our deck this spring and summer. Plus… I really do want to plant my herbs! I know… it’s all about me. 🙂

Update…. The goose came back… I think she likes it here!

David Kanigan! This one’s for you! To read a beautiful, poignant story about a goose and its eggs, visit – Walking. It Ain’t Disney on the Sabbath.

Bring on the Fireworks. An SWB post

Beaumont: So…. are we finally back to regular programming, Louise?

Me: Yes Beau.

Beau: Good. So can we please get rid of the ‘artsy’ photo too?

Me: What do you mean? I like it!

Beau: But it doesn’t really do me justice now does it?

Me: I think it does.

Beau: Well… we all know where your taste lives don’t we.

Me: Dare I say it… On my tongue?

Beau: There you go being all obtuse again.

Me: And there you go being difficult. Again.

To read the rest (his birthday is Tuesday and he has something to say about that!) please join Beau on his blog — Sundays with Beaumont — he loves to see you!

Slobbers and licks…

Beau.

I Am Not Broken

The painting I’ve used to illustrate this poem is from my She Persisted Series. When I wrote this poem yesterday, I considered going into the studio and creating a painting to go with the words (but after six hours of cleaning the garage, I was too tired! – Not sure why I thought it would only take a couple of hours but hey! I’m always the optimist.). I still may do that but this painting, which is No. 37 in the series, felt ‘right’.

I AM NOT BROKEN
by Louise Gallagher

I am not broken
though I do have cracks

I am not cracked
though I do have wounds

I am not wounded
though I do have scars

I am not scarred
though I do have cuts

I am not
My breaks
Or cracks
Or wounds
Or scars
I am not my cuts.

I am beautiful.
Whole.
Full 
of incomparable
broken places 
revealing
cracks 
healing
wounds 
bursting 
into wisdom 
scars strengthening
cuts that cut deep
to forge 
beauty from
the ashes
of the places
that have shaped 
me.

I am not broken.
I am.
Beautiful.
Brave.
Bold.

I am woman.
I am me. 

I hadn’t intended to write two poems yesterday morning but… having spent much of my life learning to heed the muse’s urgings, I could not ignore her call to write this one out.

And so… I did.

Brave Beauty

Brave Beauty

Late spring snow
melts
velvet purple petals
preen
eager green grasses
shoot
out of winter moist soil

And the seasons turn
and the sun shines
warm
and Mother Nature
dances
as my heart
expands
to embrace
brave beauty
budding
up
out of the ground.

As I sit at my desk this morning I watch two robins chase each other through the trees. An opportunistic squirrel, taking advantage of what I assume to be their amorous intentions, raids the birdfeeder while chickadees hop along the fence, tweeting and twittering. I think they’re telling the squirrel to get lost.

A man in an inflatable raft drifts into view on the river. He drifts with the current, a fishing line trailing behind him as he uses one oar to gently guide him along. He passes in front of my window, under the bridge and out of sight. I imagine him full of hope.

And the trees stand still. Yesterday’s breezes gone. Buds are appearing along their branches, tiny shoots of hope leafing out in possibility.

High above, the blue sky is dotted with islands of fluffy white clouds that lay seemingly motionless, like a warm woolly blanket covering the earth below.

And I awaken.

There is much to be done today. I am in spring cleaning mode.

The deck. The storage area in the back of our basement. Both done.

Today, after my prerequisite morning walk with Beaumont the Sheepadoodle, I tackle the granddaddy of all cleaning chores. The garage. There are closets and cupboards that also need my ministrations but they can wait for a rainy day. The weather folk have promised a warm, almost hot for this time of year in this northern clime, day. It’s a good day to clean the garage.

Later, after I’ve soaked off the dust and grime from the garage in a leisurely bath, I shall venture into my studio and keep working on pieces for an art show I’m in this June.

I have a lot to do. My body of ‘saleable’ work not yet big enough.

I used to joke that you could always tell when I was writing. My toilet was sparkling!

It was my avoidance tactic.

And I wonder…

Is cleaning out the garage (or scrubbing the toilet for that matter) avoidance or preparation?

I’m choosing to reframe it as ‘brave preparation’.

Creative expression requires presence.

Presence requires full embodiment in the moment.

Embodiment calls for ridding my thinking mind of clutter.

So… I clean and clear and declutter.

It is a brave thing to do.

To create I must dare to release myself from thinking mind directives and allow myself to flow, unguided, along the river of creativity that courses through my veins and the air around me. I must allow myself to be carried on the current, like the fisherman in his raft. Trolling for nothing but a little nibble of an idea to seed itself in the fertile soils of my imagination.

I am cleaning out the garage this morning.

I am stepping into the beauty of brave creativity.

What The Moon Did.

When I am talking with my 10-month old granddaughter I like to pretend her baby-talk is really a conversation we’re having about… well… who knows what? Neither of us really do, but I love to pretend that she is telling me some outlandish, totally engaging story and will answer with nursery rhymes. As in, “What? You saw the cow jump over the moon? Oh my goodness. What did the moon do?” And when she replies with some indecipherable sounds, I respond. “Oh. Really? And then you heard the little dog laugh? Oh my. What did his dish do?”

As I worked on my ‘moonstruck’ spread in my Learning to Fly art journal yesterday, memories of my recent two weeks with my grandchildren kept floating through my body. My mind savoured each morsel, my hands remembered the touch of their skin, my olfactory nerves their sweet just-out-of-the-bath smell. My fingers traced the line of their chin and felt their tiny hands touching mine while my eyes savoured the memory of their beautiful faces smiling at me.

And I painted and splashed paint and drew stars and a moon as the magic and mystery of memory envelopped me.

it was one of those sublimely calming and delightful afternoons where news of still rising case counts and possible harsher restrictions faded away beneath the sounds of Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” and one of my new favourites which continually urges me stand up and dance around my studio, Sam Ryder’s “Tiny Riot“.

If butterflies can use their wings to turn the wind to hurricanes 
You and I can break the chains, it takes a day to 

Start a tiny riot
Stop being so goddamn quiet 
Got a spark in your heart so strike it 
Crush your way up here 
Turn the pouring rain to a tidal wave

And here’s the serendipity and pure magic of it all. This morning, I checked out Eugi’s Causerie to see what this week’s prompt was and was a little disappointed I’d already shared my art journal page with all the butterflies fluttering.

“Oh well,” I told myself. “If it’s meant to be it’s meant to be.”

And then I began writing my blog not thinking about butterflies but rather, thinking about the magic of my afternoon in the studio and the wonder and awe of time spent savouring memories of time with my two grandchildren.

When I wrote about the music I was listening to, I included “Tiny Riot” as one of the songs I was listening to because… well… I probably listened and danced to it 3 or 4 times while I painted yesterday.

But here’s the thing. I’d never focused on the lyrics before and thought it might be fun to include a few lines here. And that’s when the magical became mystical and wonder and awe enveloped me. Because, when I looked up the lyrics, butterflies ‘fluttered’ their way onto the page.

Isn’t life just the most magical, mystical, magnificent journey?

I hope your day is full of magic and mystery, wonder and awe and that serendipity catches you in the most unexpected moments of joy!

Namaste

_________________________

While I started this post not intending to have it be in response to Eugi’s prompt “FLUTTER” — it is!

It’s fun to play with a prompt – and easy to do too!

Just click on over to Eugi’s Causerie to either read what others have created or contribute your own! I do hope you do. There’s lots of wonder and awe fluttering around the many beautiful responses!

_________________

Oh. And in case you feel like dancing…

What’s in it for you to play small?

A friend and I were talking about what it means to be vain. how as children of the 50’s/60’s there was this belief that to talk about yourself in a positive way was somehow wrong.

Phrases like “don’t toot your own horn” and “don’t grandstand” proliferated the emotional landscape casting a shadow on one’s ability to shine. To grow in confidence and strength and determination to use your talents to the best of your ability and the betterment of the world around you.

“What’s in it for you to keep playing small?” I asked my friend when she mentioned how she still struggles to believe in herself. After a childhood full of admonitions to hide her light, she wants to let it all out, but fear keeps getting in her way.

She laughed and said, “Lots of aches and pains.”

And that’s the thing, the person we hurt most when we hide our light and shelter ourselves from shining bright and fierce is ourselves.

We are born to shine.

We are born to play big. To step outside our comfort zones and grab center stage of our own lives.

We must if we are to create better.

Because, when we shine bright, we light up the world around us so others can see their way through the dark. The more of us shining bright and fierce, the greater the light in the world and the greater the possibility of real and meaningful change in how we move through the darkness.

So… ask yourself today, “Who benefits most when I stop playing small and shine my light as bright as can be?”

I hope your answer is bright enough for all the world to see there’s nothing to fear in lighting up the darkness and a world of better to be gained!

Namaste