Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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Beauty is the difference nature makes

Today was to have been a guest post but… because I was away on holidays, I didn’t organize it! So… not guest post and just a really short post from me — mostly because it is our last morning here. The trees are ablaze, there is no mist on the lake and Ula and I are off to take in a few more exhibits on the Madawaska Valley Studio Tour before C.C. and I pack up the car and head to the airport at 1pm.

We spent the day yesterday driving through the countryside visiting artist studios. Tucked in the folds of valleys ripened with fall leaves, nestled in clearings in the woods, the artist studios we visited were oasis of creativity blossoming in the valley. It’s clear the Group of Seven have influenced artists throughout the valley. As has Robert Bateman who used to paint in the are. But perhaps the most spectacular and influential visit was with Horst Maria Guilhauman. The setting of his studio is like a postcard from a Monet masterpiece. Gently sloping hillside filled with autumn flowers in bloom leading to the waters of a dark surfaced pond reflecting the golds and reds of maples and dark green of the firs standing sentinel on the far side. A duck drifting along the pond’s surface. Clouds scuttling by overhead, their reflection the only movement on the water’s surface. Birdsong. A crow cawing. A two-storey wooden house with giant windows looking out to the verdant scene beyond.

We enter and Horst greets us, his German accent still detectable after 40+ years in Canada. He is wiry. Energetic. Intense. At 77 his energy is contagious. His enthusiasm for his art, philosophy, life inspiring.

He gives us commentary on the paintings (mostly prints and giclees) on the lower level of his gallery before leading us up to the second floor. “Watch your head”, he calls out as we climb the circular metal stairs leading upwards. And when we arrive in his ‘aerie’ we are greeted by giant paintings of incredible tones and colours and hues. This is where his ‘real’ art is on show, he says. This is where he shines.

And wow! What a show. The upper level is awash in light and colour. Thre three rooms leading back to his studio are a masterpiece in and of themself. Stunning.

Horsts ability to capture realism is unbelievable. And his ability to translate thought, philosophy, idea into substance on the canvas is incredible. Do visit his website. While seeing his paintings on the screen is good — in life they are absolutely incredible.

As we were leaving, Ula, who is also an artist asked him about creating fog on her canvas. “You can only use oils’ he tells her. And then goes into an indepth lesson in how to create he effect she seeks.

Gracious. Convivial. Welcoming.

We spent an hour with Horst Maria Guilhauman and I wanted to race home, haul out my paints and get busy. I may just do that next week!

Blessings to all. We fly out this evening and tomorrow, I’ll post photos from the week. I shall miss my sojourn in the forest by the lake, but shall carry the memories in my heart – and beauty never grows old. It is always inspiring my spirit to take flight and soar!

And that is what made the difference here – to be surrounded by nature’s beauty, soaking up the essence of the forest and lakes, the sky above. Immersing myself in wonder everyday. Beauty never grows old when nature is at play with all my senses.


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Heroes in our midst

The woods are silent this morning. Still. A gentle fog has rolled in from the lake, shrouding the world in misty silence. It is beautiful. Serene. Mystical.

And in their mysterious sheath, heroes walk. Heroes of everyday makings. Heroes who serve and help and smile as they go about doing their everyday business with extraordinary style.

Yes, it is Saturday. Time to celebrate heroes in our midst.

Ula, one of our hosts here at Barry’s Bay is a hero. Yesterday, we went off to discover leaves falling and reflections on the water in Algonquin Park. C.C. and I rented a Mustang convertible for our journey. Electric blue it’s sleek and powerful and on a day like yesterday, a real attention getter. Especially if the roof is down and your passenger is wearing a knitted hat that resembles a dog’s face complete with grey furry ears that flap in the wind!  (I’d post the photo but can’t from this computer — later!)  We had a blast and Ula made it even more fun with her outrageous get-up and welcoming smile where ever we went.

Ula is a hero.

We were too late for lunch at Killarney Lodge but the gatekeeper didn’t hold it against us. While ‘outsider’ guests are not generally welcome outside of meal times, he let us on the property so we could wander the trails and take pictures of the flowers and trees. “I like your car… and hat,” he added with a welcoming smile.

The gatekeeper and everyone who keeps the area so beautiful and serene, are heroes.

On our way back from gawking at the leaves yesterday we stopped for a late lunch at the Mad Musher Restaurant in Madawaska. At the table beside us a young couple shared a meal and oohed and aahhed over their young 8 week old son, Ryder. Watching that couple, chatting with them, witnessing their love and excitement over their child, I felt wrapped in a world of possibility. I remembered those days of new born awe. Such beauty. Joy and trepidation all wrapped up in one. And always, the knowing that what you are embarking on is of great importance to the world. Shepherading in a new birth, a new life to this world of wonder is a significant and courageous task.

New parents everywhere are heroes.

And…. how can I not give a shout-out to Nature? Her magnificence. Her beauty. Her stunning display of colour, texture, tone, depth. Yesterday, surrounded by leaves turning, by blue sky soaring into infinity, by water stretching from tree lined shore to tree lined shore where birds flew high and squirrels and chipmunks chittered in the trees and deep in the forests unseen beasts roamed, I breathed deeply of nature’s bounty and was grateful. Deep within the rapture of the moment, I felt nature wrap her arms around me as I fell into awe with the wonder and majesty of the world all around.

Nature is a hero and those who safeguard her forests and lakes are heroes too.

And… to set the mood for celebrating heroes and nature all around, below is a video of David Arkenstone’s Magic Forest.

David Arkenstone and all those who create music and art to celebrate nature all around us are heroes.


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Aim for the stars and make a difference.

The world is misty grey this morning. There is no surface to the lake, no definition between the water and sky. One world melts into another erasing the far shore, erasing all definition of matter on earth. Only the trees stand out in stark contrast. Red. Green. Orange. Yellow. Grey on grey trunks standing tall in the forest all around.

Our hosts held a dinner party last night. Thirteen people gathered around a table laden with food and wine. Laughter. Story. Sharing. The conversation ranged far and wide. Most of the guests have retired here. Most had spent parts of their childhood in the area only to return to the call of the lakes and rivers and forests as they moved from worker bee to retirement mode.

From police officers to Information Technology managers to corporate executive the table was crowded with lives lived being productive, adding value to economies, societies, families, humanity.

I listened and watched and participated in the discussion and felt the tug of memory pulling me into its thrall.

All through my growing up years, my parents loved to entertain. They loved to gather people from all walks of life, from every economic scale and sit them at their table and ply them with amazing food, wine and conversation. They loved the act of creating connections. Of introducing this woman to that person who might help her achieve a goal. Or that man to that person who might help him fulfill a dream.

My parents were masters at the art of setting a table and filling it with laughter, light and love.

Sitting at the table last night, the candles glowing softly, voices laughing and chatting and cutlery clinking, glasses raised in toasts to ‘the chef’, absent friends, each other, life, I was reminded of those dinner parties long ago. Of those times that connect me to the past and to family. Of those times that embedded in me the desire, need, to gather people together and share.

After dinner we passed a small stone around the table and as each person spoke they shared something about their day they loved. It was inspiring to listen to the simple gratitudes each person expressed. To sit immersed in the joy each person shared about their life that day and every day.

One of the things I shared was meeting a fear this morning and moving through it.

I have never shot a pistol. Guns terrify me actually. But one of the guests skeet shoots with our host once a week. He arrived in the morning and they set up targets and invited me to have a go.

I decided to do it.

In the end, I discovered it wasn’t that scary and it wasn’t about shooting. It was about trying something that scared me. About challenging myself to set my sights on a target and aiming for it. Again and again.

I missed the target, every time. But with practice I’m sure I could be better at actually hitting the cardboard and not the tree behind it. (Sorry tree) Even the chipmunk knew he was safe. He sat to the left of the target and never budged while I shot the pistol. Cheeky devil! But he was right. There was no hope of my hitting him, even by accident. I was way off target!

Like life. We set our sights on a target. We aim for where we want to go and then we keep moving forward. Keep trying. Keep aligning our sights to reflect our direction.

I aimed a pistol at a target and missed yesterday. By a mile.

In life, the goal is to keep aiming. Keep aligning. Keep re-directing my attention to where I want to go, what I want to do, what I want to achieve. And no matter what, to not be distracted by squirrels chattering in my head, or trees blocking the light.

And to keep doing it. Keep going in the direction of my dreams.

I may never pick up a pistol again — in fact I probably won’t. It’s not that I’m afraid of it. It’s just I don’t want to shoot anything — including the branches off trees!

But, I will never quit aiming at my goals. Never quit shooting for the stars to achieve my dreams. As the saying goes, shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll still end up amongst the stars.

It was a day of aiming for the stars yesterday. A day of reflecting in the light of the beauty of the world all around and knowing, to make a difference in the world, I must never let go of my dreams. Never let go of aiming for the stars to.

It’s a big world out there. The universe is calling. Gotta go.

Namaste.

 


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Immersed in beauty makes a difference

I am laughing at my impatience this morning. Laughing in frustration that is. Twenty minutes to finally be able to load my blog and the page to enter a new post seems excessive. But then, if I hadn’t pushed buttons while I waited, perhaps it might have been a bit faster.

The internet connection here is on a ‘stick’, or is that ‘schtick’, ’cause it sure feels like a comedy of errors trying to get anything to load.

And I laugh again as the childhood adage my father used to quote pops into my mind — “Patience is a virtue. And you have none.”

I do so, I used to quip back vehemently stamping my right foot to strengthen my position. I do so!

Not!

Really.

I mean, I can be patient. With people. Dogs. Cats. Fish even.

But technology? Not quite so patient and forgiving. Seriously. It is here to serve, not hinder, my morning routine.

And the morning began so well.

The sky which yesterday was covered by rolling grey clouds is clear and blue today. The sun shines lighting up the leaves that are turning ever more quickly with each passing day. Brilliant reds and auburn, rusts and golds spread out along the hillsides, tiny patches becoming great swathes of autumn’s glory.

I walked down to the water’s edge this morning, my iPhone at the ready. I forgot my camera in Calgary – yes, seriously, I forgot my camera — and must use my phone to snap and capture the world around me.

And I laugh again. Thank goodness for technology! Photos from my iPhone are usually what I share here!  Except… of course… the internet connection is so slow, I can’t load photos. 🙂

But, I’m off to town later. Our hosts have organized a dinner party for us. They’ve invited several neighbours over to meet and greet. Over food and wine and laughter and good conversation we’ll spend an evening communing.We’ve invited a guest too. Ever gracious, our hosts suggested we include my new friend Brenda Missen in the evening. What a blessing. What a gift. New friends and old. Mixing together. Making connections. Sharing. Creating ripples of joy and friendship.

And now, I’m off to help my hostess prepare for the evening’s festivities. My snit with the internet over, I am once again filled with the joy of being present in this world of beauty. Outside the window, sun filters through the trees, splashing green and yellow and red leaves with light. Patches of sun dapple the road leading up the hill away from the cottage, speckles of light inviting me to explore, take note, be present in the day.

Technology’s okay, as long as it doesn’t affect my mood, my state of being, my presence of mind. Technology is simply that — a man made tool designed to facilitate being present and connected in this 21st century. it does not rule me.

So there!

Not patient? ha!  Fooled it. I am so patient. I just don’t have time to sit around waiting for technology to catch up with me!

See you later. I do have to connect into a worksite later to take care of a few business aspects of my world. I’m going to post some photos — taken with my iPhone.

And, I’ll comment on comments others have made in previous blogs as well — another issue with a slow connection is getting into my Comments page. Mostly, it won’t load and trying to comment individually really does tax my patience!

May your day be filled with wonder and delight. May you be immersed in the beauty all around. It really does make a difference – to be immersed in beauty.


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It is time to let peace make a difference

Morning steps quietly through the night, lifting the veil of darkness to reveal her cerulean glory. What a difference a night makes. Yesterday, she was sunny and blue. This morning, she is sad. Grey. Cloudy.

Perhaps, I wonder, she didn’t sleep soundly. Perhaps, unlike me, she was restless beneath night’s blanket.

I slept soundly. The quiet here. the fresh air. The whisper of the leaves upon the trees. The far off call of a loon lure me into slumber. Lull me into ease.

We went for a boat ride yesterday. Four of us climbed into a fibreglass craft, our host manned the helm and we took off across the placid waters of the lake. The wind whipped against my cheeks, pushed the tears out of my eyes. I lifted my face up to the sun and let it dry my tears as I laughed in exhilaration! Alive in the moment I let my body sink into the joy of simply being on the water.

Earlier that morning I had leaped into the water and was one with it — for just a few moments. Did I mention how cold the water is?  It’s cold. Snug in a craft that carried me along its surface, I felt the separation. And that’s okay. I love being on or in the water but I must admit — wrapped in warm clothing, a blanket tucked around my bare feet, on it is warmer than in it at this time of year!

We hugged the shoreline, sped across wide open water, drifted quietly down a river into the next lake over, darted under a bridge where I ducked my head, just in case.

It was an exhilarating hour of exploration. Of watching the world whip by as we sped along the water’s surface leaving only our wake in our passing.

The lake is quiet at this time of year. Labour day weekend has come and passed. Cottagers have begun the process of settling their homes for winter’s inevitable onslaught. Doors and windows are boarded up. Boats are out of the water. Docks extracted and pulled ashore.

It is part of the seasonal passings of lake country. The setting in for winter’s storms and the ice that will cover the waters in months to come.

This town of 3,000 swells in summer’s heat. The shores of the lakes and rivers are lined with homes. Boaters, swimmers, skiers play in and around the water’s edge all through the summer months. And then, autumn colours begin to turn and the cottage-goers retreat to city houses, hunkering down for the cold, dark nights of winter.

And yet, dotted amongst the summer homes preparing for winter are those who live year-round at the water’s edge. it’s easy to tell who they are. Boats still bob at their docks, smoke drifts silently from their chimneys sending up signals to the seasons to warn them that they will not retreat, they will not pack up and scurry away. “This is my home,” they seem to say to winter’s breath curling up at the edges of the water. “I am not afraid of you.”

When I went into town yesterday to use an internet connection at the cafe, I chatted with the woman who runs the tiny bistro/candy store that also serves up the world-wide-web. (The connection at the house is abysmally slow and I can’t load photos from here.)

She’s lived here 15 years. Came east from the coast, she told me on a trip further west. But she met a man and stayed and cannot live. “My life is here,” she said. She’s never made it further west than Toronto. And she’s content.

I stopped at the cemetery too. No one spoke to me there. 🙂  But the sign at the edge of the graveyard was fascinating. It read, “Unsafe conditions may exist in cemetery.”

Unsafe for whom I wondered?

Visiting with our friends who are of Polish heritage, I believed this entire area was only settled by the Kashubian. The cemetery tells a different tale. Murray’s. O’Flynn’s. Connors. The headstones are a story of Irish settlements in the area. When I question our hosts about the Irish presence in the area they tell me of vicious rivalries turned deadly. Of altercations escalating from ethnic hatred to pickaxes and shovels being used as weapons of mass destruction.

“There were years of ethnic intolerance,” they said.

The cemetery was quiet when I stood upon its unsafe grounds and listened to the birdsong in the trees. I read the names and epitaphs and thought of men who fought in the name of their forefathers only to die in the struggle to hold their heritage intact on a piece of ground.

And I thought of war today. Of guns and bombs that hurl through the night. Silent, deadly often unseen killers of mass destruction. Is there any difference?

Where once men looked men in the eye before they killed them in the name of the past. Today, death comes more stealthily. It is carried in on unmanned drones and missiles. And still it comes.

And no matter how it arrives, war always kills the spirit of our humanity. No matter what piece of ground you stand upon killing one another does not make peace.

And I am reminded. It is time to let peace guide us away from war to safer ground upon which to connect with one another.


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Letting go of fear makes a difference

I have brought my big city fear to the lakeshore.

The thought drifts through my mind as I sit on the dock, the moon a semi-orb of golden light above me, one half dark, one half light. Clouds scuttle in front of it, drifting effortlessly across the night sky as silently as the thoughts drifting through my mind.

I have brought my big city fear to the lakeshore.

I sit in the dark and feel the silence. I hear the water lapping against the wooden rungs of the dock. I hear the autumn breeze whispering through the trees.

I let fear drift away like a leaf undulating on the water’s surface, bobbing along in the water’s pull, moving further out of sight.

Fear is like that. It visits in moments of quiet. In the dark. It lives buried somewhere within me, waiting to rise up and disturb my peace of mind.

I visited with Brenda Missen yesterday. She’s the writer I mentioned meeting Friday night. I read her book over the weekend. Tell Anna I’m Safe is a ‘can’t put it down’ kind of read. A thriller but more than that, a deep psychic journey into the fears, and promises, that live at the heart of our being human.

We talked about fear yesterday. About living in the wilderness, alone, along a lake. Brenda feared bears and then, she took herself into the woods. Alone. With just her canoe and dog. She made friends with her fear. Bears are now her companions on the trail. Silent, mostly unseen sentinels along her journey.

Brenda doesn’t lock her doors. She doesn’t fear.

I admire her. Not fearing. I admire her willingness to simply explore. Her inner being. The world deep within her. To not fear the journey. To simply be open to discovery.

Sitting on the dock, alone, late at night, a few pinpricks of light far along the shore, far in the distance from other cottages where the occupants still rest by the lakeshore, I realize…I know too much fear. I want to let it go.

What is this fear I feel, I ask myself? Where does it arise from?

I come back to the house. Climb up through the dark woods without the aid of my flashlight. My eyes have adjusted to the dark. I am comfortable finding my way without the aid of artificial light. I let my senses guide me.

Your fear is man-made. It is of your history, the ever present voice within me whispers. Let it go.

The others have gone to bed. The house is quiet. I close the door behind me. I choose to not lock it.

C.C. is sleeping when I crawl beneath the covers. I close my eyes. My mind imagines the unlocked door. It is hammering at my senses. The door is unlocked.

I beathe.

Yes it is.

People don’t lock doors here. Far off the beaten path. Tucked within the forest. At the water’s edge. People don’t lock their doors.

And in the city, it is important to lock the door. It is a statement of not letting fear enter. Of stating unequivocally, my home is my sanctuary. Fear from out there has no place to enter.

Here. Where the wind whispers through the trees. Where forest meets lake and stars shimmer in the night sky and clouds fly by unimpeded, there is no separation of out there and in here. There is only nature. Our nature. Your nature. One world. One planet. One people. One nature.

I breathe into the quiet of the night. C.C. sleeps on. I close my eyes. I close my thoughts to fear and welcome in the night.

I let it go. I let my senses guide me to that place within where fear slips out beneath the unlocked door. Out into the night.

There is nothing to fear but fear itself, said Winston Churchill in the darkest nights of World War 2.

There is nothing to fear but my thinking, I remind myself in the night and let thoughts of my fear drift away.

I slept soundly.

Letting go of fear makes a difference.


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Jumping in makes a difference

I jumped into the lake yesterday. It was cold. Freezing actually.

Fall has wrapped its colourful arms around the lake, streaking the trees with golds and reds and auburn leaves not yet ready to fall. Every morning the colours appear a little more intense, a little more vibrant as the cool autumn nights remind the trees of their seasonal habit of embracing the world in brilliant hues.

And the water cools.

It’s about 16 degrees Celsius now. 61 Fahrenheit. And the air is no warmer.

But I had to jump in. It is a ‘commitment’ I made last year when we came — that every day, regardless of the weather, I would swim in the lake.

In my head it seems like a good idea. In actual fact, in the doing, I’m not so sure.

But a commitment is a commitment and so… I jumped in.

C.C. came down to the dock with me. He’d turned the steam room on so it would be hot when I got out, walked down the sloping trail through the trees to the water with me as I talked myself in and out of the water. 

“Do I really want to do this?” I asked him as I stood at the end of the dock, my towel robe still tightly wrapped around my body.

“I don’t know,” he said. “It’s your idea.”

I pondered. Felt the cool breeze against my cheeks. Dark clouds scuttled across the sky in the distance, edging their way closer to the sun.

“I’d better do it before the clouds block the sun,” I said.

“If you’re going to do it, do it soon. I’m getting cold,” he replied.

I pondered some more.

I’d had to buy a new bathing suit the day before. I’d forgotten mine at home. And, while this is a secluded bay, there are still houses scattered along the shore. I wasn’t sure I wanted to give them a display of me au naturel!

I stood and contemplated my commitment.

Seriously? I wanted to jump into the lake?

And then I thought about the exhilaration. The feeling of being totally, completely alive that first shocking dash of water ignited in my being. I thought about the laughter. The sputtering and gasping. The screams of exultation.

And I thought about how the day before I hadn’t jumped in, and how I felt disappointed. Saddened. Like I’d cheated myself of an experience I enjoy – no matter how much I mutter and murmur about it.

I like feeling totally, completely alive. And jumping into freezing water makes me feel totally, completely alive.

“I know it won’t kill me,” I said to C.C. “And when I get out, I know I’ll feel awesome.”

He laughed. “It’s up to you.”

I dropped my robe.

And leapt.

The water crashed into my body. My skin sang out from every pore it’s displeasure at this sudden immersion into cold.

I sank quickly to the bottom. Sputtering. Spurting, eyes wide-open, Ipushed off from the silky mud at the bottom of the lake. Pushed upwards.

My head broke the surface. I screamed in delight.

C.C. stood on the dock and laughed. “You gotta see your face!” he exclaimed.

I screamed back. “It’s cold!”

I flailed my arms about. Made a couple of half-hearted strokes as if to swim out into the bay.

It was cold.

Very cold.

I switched directions. Paddled desperately back towards the ladder at the end of the dock. Scrambled up the metal rungs.

C.C. stood waiting with a towel outstretched to envelop me.

It was good.

Very, very good.

Sometimes, the decision to jump isn’t about holding back, it’s all about letting go.  Like the words of a song I heard the other day on CBC by an Indie group named, “The Stars”. “Hold on when you get love. Let go when you give it.”

I had to let go of shore to get into the water.

I had to let go of disbelief to let love fill my heart.

Earlier that day I’d spoken to my eldest daughter about jumping in. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to,” she said. “Nobody’s telling you to jump.”

And that’s true. I don’t. And no one’s forcing me to leap.

And still, I wanted to. I wanted the feeling of letting go.

And so… I debated. I hemmed and hawed and then realized, it’s not about having to jump in. It is about wanting to. It’s about doing what brings me joy. What ignites my passion, my sense of aliveness. What gets my heart beats pumping wildly in the rapture of now.

Life’s like that. Sometimes, the biggest difference we can make is to simply jump into the flow. Leap from the shore and cast off our fears and trepidations. Let go our hesitations, our mind chatter, our doubts and simply jump.

I jumped into the river yesterday. It made a difference.

I’ll be jumping again today.

 

PS – this is a cellular internet access and very, very slow. Hence, why I’ve not posted any photos. I’m going to take my laptop into town later today to see if there’s a coffee shop with free wi-fi. I’ll keep you posted. 🙂