Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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Christmas at The Madison Benefit Concert – today!

It’s here!

It’s today!

yeah!

and yes, while I know it is Grey Cup Sunday in Canada, it is also the Christmas at The Madison Benefit Concert. The concert is to support formerly homeless veterans living at The Madison, a 16 unit apartment building owned by The Calgary Homeless Foundation and operated by Calgary Alpha House Society. Alpha House provides housing and supports to 15 formerly homeless veterans as part of Calgary’s Plan to End Homelessness.

If you’re in Calgary and area, it would be lovely to see you there.

 

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The Girl with the Heart of Gold (Part 5: conclusion)

When we left off in Part 4 of The Girl with the Heart of Gold Carrena had asked the king, “Does fear get you more of what you want in your life or less?”

And the king could not answer. He could only stand in front of her and stare with wide open eyes as the sun slipped away from the turret windows and eased beneath the far distant horizon.

And memory invaded his mind and one, tiny, precious tear escaped an eyelid.

************

Part 5.

“It’s you,” the king whispered, staring at Carrena. Another tear eased up over his eyelid and slid down his cheek. and then another and another and another until his eyes shimmered and his face was washed in tears. “Tereza. It’s you.”

Surprised at his words, Carrena took her hands off the soldiers arms and stepped towards the king. There was a gasp from the everyone around her. No one took a step toward the king without permission. No one. At least no one who had ever lived to tell the tale.

But the king didn’t notice. He just kept repeating, “It’s you. It’s you.”

“How do you know my mother’s name?” Carrena asked. “Did you know her?”

The king blinked. “Your mother? Tereza was your mother?” The king could feel a strange sensation inside the walls of his chest. A loud humming sound filled his mind and he felt like his body was tingling all over. He couldn’t remember ever feeling it, even before… No. He would not, could not go there. He looked at Carrena again and demanded, “Was Tereza your mother?”

“Yes, but she died when I was a little girl.” Carrena added as she reached beneath her blouse to pull out a golden locket that hung on a delicate chain around her neck. “Do you want to see her picture?” she asked the king. “She was very beautiful.”

The king took a step back. “No. No. I can’t,” he whispered.

He closed his eyes but the tears kept flowing. The pounding in his body was growing stronger. The humming in his head louder and louder and the tingling in his limbs sharper.

Around him, his minions didn’t know what to do. They feared he would collapse but they dare not touch him. and then it happened. The king began to crumble to the ground.

No one moved, except Carrena. She raced to the king’s side and caught him as he fell.

“Come quickly,” she called to the knight. “Help me ease him to the ground.”

The knight broke through the phalanx of soldiers who stood waiting to imprison him and rushed to aid Carrena.

Gently, he helped her lower the king to the ground.

The king was unconscious to the activity around him. Huge, gasping sobs wracked his body. Tears poured out of his eyes and every part of his being shook.

Carrena knelt beside him where he lay on the ground. She placed one hand on his back and began to rub it. “It’s okay to feel sad,” she whispered to the king. “Tears are the words the heart cannot speak.”

And then she began to sing. “I walk in beauty now. Beauty lies before me. Beauty lies above me, behind and below me.”

The king stopped weeping and gasped, “That song. She used to sing it!” And he began to weep even louder. “Why did she leave me?”

“Who?” Carrena asked. “My mother?”

“Yes!” wailed the king. “They came and stole her from me and I searched and searched and could not find her. And they took my daughter with her. She was just an infant. A tiny, precious baby. And they took her!”

All the staff and minions and soldiers and knights stood in silence around them. They had heard of this story before. But never had the king spoken of it. And none of them had been in the castle at the time. The king had killed everyone whom he blamed for the loss of his wife and child. No one had survived.

“She used to sing that song,” the king whispered as he gulped for air between his tears. And then he stopped talking, sat up and look at Carrena intently, his eyes boring into hers. “What is your name?”

“Carrena,” she told him as she unhooked the locket chain from her neck and opened the locket to show the photo within to the king. “She was my mother.”

The king looked at the photo in the locket and gasped. “No. No. It cannot be.”

Carrena stared at the king where he sat on the floor. He didn’t look that scary or fierce. He just looked very, very scared and sad.

“When I was a little girl my mother told me stories of you,” she told the king. “Lots of them. She told me you were the kindest, most loving man in the world. She told me your heart was so big all the world felt safe in it.” She gestured to the king’s staff standing straight and tall, their eyes not looking at the king but staring straight ahead. “I have wanted my whole life to meet my father with the loving heart and instead I find a man whom everyone fears. Does this make you happy?”

The king shook his head from side to side. “They broke my heart. They broke my heart,” he repeated.

Carrena reached forward and touched the king’s hands where they rested in his lap. “My mother always told me that a broken heart is an open heart and an open heart is a loving heart. What they did was wrong, but you have chosen to keep your heart broken in pieces. Is that what you want?”

“No!” cried the king. “I want Tereza back!”

“So do I,” whispered Carrena gently. “But she cannot come back. She is gone but the love she felt and knew and shared so freely is always here. She taught me that. For years we lived locked inside a castle turret,” and Carrena stopped and motioned at their surroundings. “Much like this one and always, my mother told me that no matter what was happening in the world around us, Love was always the answer. I was only five when she passed away and I still remember her telling me that if there was one thing my father would have wanted it would be that I never give up on Love. Have you given up on love?” she asked the king.

“She is truly gone?” the king asked.

Carrena looked into his eyes. “Yes. But she is here,” and she reached forward and touched the place on his chest where his heart pounded. “She is always in our hearts.”

Quiet, gentle tears flowed down the king’s cheeks. “You look just like her,” he told Carrena. “You have here beautiful blue eyes and sweet, gentle voice.”

“And she always told me I have your heart of gold.”

And the king sighed and the people awoke and from that day forward, the lands began to flourish, the cattle began to give birth and the crops to ripen. Streams began to flow clear and flowers began to bloom in riotous colour all around the kingdom. Carrena married the knight and the laughter of children rang throughout the castle as the sun continued to shine and the moon to rise.

And for eons to come, the story was told of the girl with the heart of gold who melted the king’s stone cold heart. Even a heart of stone can be warmed in loving hands, the people would say. And so it was. Always and forever.

The End.

The Whole story.

Part 1:  The Girl with the Heart of Gold

Part 2: The Girl with the Heart of Gold

Part 3: The Girl with the Heart of gold

Part 4: the Girl with the Heart of Gold


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The Girl with the Heart of Gold (part 4)

At the end of Part 3 of The Girl with the Heart of Gold, the king entered the chambers where the knight was trying to convince Carrena to run away and save herself….

The knight was frightened. But then, living in the kingdom, he was always frightened. The king was unpredictable, a taskmaster and a tyrant. The knight always feared for his life, but this time, his fear was different, it was for another. He feared for Carrena’s life and he didn’t know what to do.

As the king entered the chamber, huffing and puffing from the long climb up the turret stairs, the knight stepped in front of Carrena to block her from the King’s view. He bowed his head and knelt down on one knee. It was the way the king insisted on being honoured when he walked into a room.

Behind him, he could feel Carrena standing tall. He reached back one hand and tugged on the soft cotton of her skirt, trying desperately to get her to kneel.

People had been beheaded for not kneeling in front of the king. He wouldn’t let that happen to Carrena.

But Carrena kept standing. And as sunlight streamed in through the turret windows, she stepped around the knights bowed body to stand beside him. She placed one hand on the knight’s shoulder as a beam of sunlight shone through the window slits in the turret walls. It cast a golden glow around Carrena’s body.

Blinded by the light, the king shifted his eyes to look around the chamber. He gasped when he saw its soft drapes and boughs of flowers and the sleeping mat with the blanket of moss. It was unlike any room in his castle. Fear rose up as memory of another place, another time stirred in his mind, fluttering as gently as butterfly wings.

“Why have you prepared the room for her like this?” the king demanded of the kneeling knight, completely ignoring the young maiden standing in the light beside him. “You have wasted my precious resources on a peasant.” And he turned to his minions crowded in the doorway and ordered them to remove the fittings to the room. “This room is grander than my own chambers. That cannot be so!” and the king turned back to the knight and ordered him to stand.

“You have offended me. You must die.”

The knight stood and bowed his head lower. “Yes my liege. At your command.” He had been the king’s right hand knight for three years, a record achievement in the king’s circle. No one before him had lasted that long without being killed for doing something to offend the king. He knew his fate had been determined the minute he tried to protect the girl.

Carrena gasped. Kill the knight? For what?

Just then, two sentries stepped forward to apprehend the knight. She could not stay silent. She stepped out from the ray of sunlight streaking in through the turret windows and stood in front of the knight. Gently, she put one hand on each of the sentries arms as they approached the knight. Like the knight, they too felt the unaccustomed warmth of her hands and were entranced. They stood still, soaking in the beautiful feelings of warmth and comfort that her touch evoked.

“Is this how you treat all people when they have done your bidding?” she asked, looking directly at the king. Her voice had the lilt of a morning bird’s song, its clear notes echoing throughout the chamber. “He came to my home and brought me here against my will, just as you ordered and now, you want to kill him? Does that make sense to you?”

The king, unaccustomed to being questioned by any of his staff, let along a peasant girl, began to huff and puff and sputter. His face grew red. His eyes bulged as he bellowed, “No one dares to question the king without paying the consequences.”  The king spluttered and frothed at the mouth. He closed his eyes tight as if wishing away an apparition. He balled up his hands into tight fists.

Carrena softened her voice even more. “I experience you as someone who has long forgotten what it means to feel loved,” she said.

“What? What?” the king shouted, once again opening his eyes wide. “Do not dare to speak to me about love! You don’t know anything!”

“I know that I am here at your command,” Carrena said. “I know that you seem angry and that you are behaving in ways that hurt your heart and everyone around you fears you. Is that what you want?”

“Yes!” yelled the king, puffing out his chest and pounding it fiercely with both fists. “Fear is my greatest weapon!”

Carrena smiled and in her smile the memory of something long ago stirred once again in the king’s mind. He could feel it, tugging at the back of his mind, pulling at him like a child tugging on his sleeve pleading for his attention. He wanted to swat the memory away. Shove it back into the pit of darkness where he had buried the past. But it would not rest in peace.

Around him, his staff stood in slack-jawed consternation. They had never before heard anyone talk to the king in such a soft and gentle way and they had never ever imagined the king would allow it.

“Does fear get you more of what you want in your life or less?” Carrena asked.

And the king could not answer. He could only stand in front of Carrena whom he could see for the first time with clear eyes as the sun slipped away from the turret windows and eased beneath the far distant horizon.

And memory invaded his mind and one, tiny, precious tear escaped an eyelid.

Conclusion tomorrow….

Part 1:  The Girl with the Heart of Gold

Part 2: The Girl with the Heart of Gold

Part 3: The Girl with the Heart of gold

 

 

 


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The girl with the heart of gold (part 3)

When we left off in Part 2 of The Girl with the Heart of Gold    

“But you brought me here to meet your king,” said Carrena. “I must meet him.”

“No! You do not understand. The king wants to steal your heart of gold because he believes it will give him wealth beyond his greatest imaginings. You must run away.”    

*******************************

Suddenly the air was filled with the pure, sweet clarity of church bells ringing on a crisp winter’s morning. The knight was entranced. What was that sound? He had never heard it before.

He looked at Carrena and realized the sound was coming from her. “What are you doing?” he asked. “What is that noise?”

“I’m laughing,” she said. “Have you never heard laughter before?”

“No,” he replied.

“You can laugh too. Try it,” she encouraged him.

“We don’t have time for laughing. You must run. Now. Before the king finds you.” And he started pushing her towards the door of the turret room.

“I will not run away,” she told him. “Though I did not want to come here, I am here now and I will not run away just because you’re afraid.”

Just then, the sound of the king’s trumpeter blared up the stairs to the turret room. The king was coming. There was no way out.

“You must hide,” said the knight to Carrena, glancing wildly around the room looking for a safe hiding place.

“I will not run away and I will not hide,” said Carrena. “I will meet your king.”

The knight started to cry. He had never cried before and other than just moments before when he had witnessed the king crying at the sweet sound of Carrena’s voice singing, he had never seen anyone cry anywhere in the kingdom.

This was not good. He did not know what to do. He did not feel in control and now, giant tears were rolling down his cheeks. What was wrong with him?

Carrena, seeing the knight’s discomfort walked to his side and put her arms around his shoulders.

Surprised at her move, and her touch, the knight stood still. What was happening? He could feel his blood flowing warmly through his body. He could hear the pounding of his heart. What was happening?

To hide his discomfort, the knight shook off Carrena’s arms and stepped back. “How dare you touch me! What were you thinking? You do not touch a knight. You are not worthy.”

Not at all deterred by the knight’s response, Carrena smiled at him and reached out to take his hands.

He could not resist. Her touch was as gentle as a dove’s feather floating through the air to land lightly on the ground.

“You do not determine my worth,” she told him gently. “I do.”

Confused, with the sound of the king’s trumpet getting closer, the knight didn’t know what to say. And he didn’t want Carrena to let go of his hands. They felt so warm in her grasp.

“What was that thing you did when you put your arms around my shoulders?” he asked.

Carrena laughed lightly and the knight’s heart stirred again. “That was a hug,” she told him. “You were crying and I comforted you with a hug.” She looked into the knight’s eyes. “Have you never been hugged?”

“We do not touch one another in my kingdom,” the knight told her.

Carrena couldn’t imagine such a thing. To never touch one another. To never hug or comfort another.

“Thank you for allowing me to touch you now,” she said softly.

And then, with a final blast of trumpet notes announcing his arrival, the king entered the chamber.

To be continued…

 

 (Click here to read Part 1)

(Click here to read Part 2)


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The Girl with the Heart of Gold (Part 2 – continued)

Continued from this post

Alone in her turret, Carrena looked around at the cold, dark room. There was a straw mat on the floor with a worn blanket thrown across it. Beneath the slit of a window, there was a wooden table and chair and nothing else of comfort.

Carrena walked over to the slit of a window and looked out.

All around she saw dark gloomy lands. The trees were bare. The fields were covered in dried out stubble. There were no birds singing. No flowers growing. There was no sign of life. No voices laughing and talking and sharing stories of the day.

Looking at the lands, Carrena felt sadness embrace her.

“Stop it,” she told herself. “Feeling sorry for yourself will not change anything. It will only make you feel worse.”

And so, she began to sing.

“I walk in beauty now. Beauty lies before me. Beauty lies above me, behind and below me.”

The knight, only half way down the turret stairs heard her song.

He stopped and listened. It was the same song he had heard throughout their journey back to the kingdom.

In her voice, he felt it again. That thing he’d never felt before. The feeling of his heart beating. Of his blood flowing warmly throughout his body.

He was confused.

What would he tell the king?

He did not want to lose the sound of her song. He did not want to reveal to the king that he had found the girl with the heart of gold and carried her to the castle. He did not want her to lose her heart.

Slowly he kept descending the staircase towards the king’s throne room.

What could he do to protect Carrena’s heart?

It was a foreign feeling to him this need to care for another. It felt good, different, warm, and he did not want to let the feeling go.

Just as he reached the entranceway to the king’s throne room, a page came racing out. “The king has fallen! The king has fallen!” he cried for everyone to hear.

The knight raced towards the king’s throne and found his liege lying on the floor, gasping for air.

“That song! That song!” the king cried. “Stop it. Stop it.”

The knight, not wanting to reveal the truth of where the song came from, lied.

“I don’t hear anything, your Highness,” he said.

“It’s her song,” the king wailed. “The song she sang everyday to our child. I cannot bear to hear it. I order you to make it stop.”

And as he spoke, tears rolled down the king’s face.

The knight, never having seen his king cry before, did not know what to do and so he asked the only question he could think to ask.

“What song Your highness?”

“That song that I hear right now,” the king cried. Tears rolled in glistening streams down his cheeks. “She was my world and all the beat of my heart and then one day while I was out, she was kidnapped and disappeared.” And his shoulders shook as he told the story and his words came out in violent gasps. “She sang it always to our child and they took our child too. A girl. A beautiful little girl. I searched the world wide and far and could never find them… I could never find them.” And he cried louder and louder.

The knight had heard stories of the king’s loss. The entire palace whispered of those sad days long ago when the king, burdened by grief and unable to find his love, had locked away his heart and never let it be known again.

The knight had always believed the stories were just a tale. A myth to explain away the coldness of the king’s heart. No one ever dared question the king and so, he’d simply ignored the story and continued to do his master’s bidding.

“Tell me you can hear her song,” the king demanded of his knight. “Tell me you can hear it too.”

The knight was scared.

Tell his master that he had lied, that he had brought the girl with the heart of gold to the castle and she was the one causing his pain? He knew his very life, and hers, were at stake and he did not know what to do.

And then, a strange thing happened.

The king took a breath and grabbed the knight’s hands and looked deeply into his eyes. “It is so beautiful,” he cried through his tears. “Listen. Can you not hear it?”

To lie or not to lie? And he knew the answer as he listened to Carrena’s song.

“I hear it,” said the knight. “It is the girl. The girl with the heart of gold.”

“What?” cried the king, releasing the knight’s hands and getting quickly up from where he had fallen. Thoughts of limitless riches and gold beyond his imagination filled his mind. “You have brought the girl with the heart of gold to my castle and not told me? You shall die for you insubordination!”

“I did not have time,” the knight told the king. “I only just returned when you heard her song. I was on my way to tell you when she began to sing. I did not have time.”

The king did not want to listen to his vassal’s excused and demanded he bring the girl to him immediately. “We will deal with you later,” he added for good measure just to scare the knight.

Fearing what would happen, the knight climbed back up to the turret room. When he entered, he was shocked by the transformation of its bleak surroundings. Boughs of flowers draped the walls, a beautiful blanket of moss covered the drab straw mat. The table was covered in a lacy cloth and the floor in a woven rug of multi-hued fibres. At the window slit, birds clung to the rock walls, their songs filling the room. And in the midst of all the beauty, Carrena sat quietly singing.

The knight could not believe his eyes and wanted to rest awhile amidst all the colour and beauty. But he knew he had no choice but to fulfill on his master’s orders. Quickly.

“You must run,” he told Carrena. “The king demands your presence and I cannot let you go near him.”

Carrena stopped her song and walked towards the knight. She took his hands in both of hers and gazed deeply into his eyes. “It’s okay,” she said. “I want to meet this king of yours whom you fear so deeply. I can feel your heart and it is pure. I will ask the king to set you free.”

“No!” screamed the knight. “You must do no such thing. I cannot be free until I die and if you demand anything of the king, he will kill me.”

“Don’t be silly,” Carrena replied. “No one is that powerful. No one can hold the reins on someone else’s life. I will insist he set you free.”

The knight was beyond words. Her song had touched his heart deeply and he knew he could not let the king take her life and remove her heart.

“Listen carefully,” said the knight to Carrena. “I will let you run away if you promise not to confront the king. You must go.”

“But you brought me here to meet your king,” said Carrena. “I must meet him.”

“No! You do not understand. The king wants to steal your heart of gold because he believes it will give him wealth beyond his greatest imaginings. You must run away.”

….. To be continued……

 

 


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The Girl with the Heart of Gold (a fairytale)

In a land far away, in a time long ago, there lived a king with a heart of stone. It had not always been this way. Once upon a time, his heart had beat freely, flowing with love and kindness. But he had loved and felt the pain of loss. Fear of having his heart-broken all over again had taught him to harden his heart. And so, it had turned to stone.

To keep his heart from breaking apart, he had built a wall of gold around it, telling himself the more he had, the better he would feel.

The people of his kingdom bore the brunt of his desire to acquire wealth and riches. Whatever they produced, whatever they had, went to feed the king’s need for more and more gold, until worn out and tired, they quit caring for the land and taking care of their crops and animals and one another. Over time, the lands grew fallow and the crops failed. Cows quit giving milk and the hearts of everyone in the kingdom also turned to stone.

The king became angry. His people had nothing to give and his coffers grew bare.  His heart grew harder and harder as the fear that he would run out of gold and riches took hold of his mind.

He ordered his minions to scour the land for every drop of gold, every ounce of grain, and every piece of wealth they could find.

And his kingdom grew darker and darker.

One day, one of his knights came to him and told him the story he had heard of a young girl with a heart of gold who lived in a land far away.

“Find me this girl,” he ordered his knight. “Bring her to me and remove her heart and do not fail or I will take out your heart.” For the king believed that with a heart of gold, he would have all the riches in the world and would never know fear again.

The knight gathered up six men and rode for days to the town where he had heard of the girl with the heart of gold. Not knowing his intentions, when he asked the townsfolk about the girl, they happily told him how to find her home.

He hadn’t needed to ask. It was easy to tell which house was hers. All around it flowers bloomed in a riot of colour and pattern. Birds sang in the trees and a brook burbled as it merrily flowed along at the edge of her property.

In the garden, a young woman sang and worked. She had long blond hair and her skin was smooth and white. Her hands were buried deep into the rich soil of her garden and when she turned to greet the knight and his men, her blue eyes sparkled and danced and her smile warmed their hearts.

Blinded for a moment by the beauty of her smile, the knight forgot why he had come. “What is your name?” he asked her hesitantly.

“Carrena,” she replied, standing up and brushing the dirt from her hands. She walk towards him and held out her hands to take his in both of hers. She was so nature al and kind the knight could not refuse. Shlooked deeply into his dark eyes and asked, “And what is your name?”

Surprised at her question, commoners never asked knights their name in the land where he came from, and they definitely didn’t hold their hands, the knight abruptly removed his hands from hers and scolded her loudly. “Do not be impertinent. My name is not of your concern. My king has ordered me to find you and bring you to him. You will come with me now.”

Carrena smiled at the knight gently. “You must love your king greatly to do his bidding with such fierceness.”

“Love my king?” the knight said. “I do not love my king. I fear him and I do his bidding. It is what I must do.”

“I do not know your king,” Carrena said. “It is sad that you fear him and that he has ordered you to take me to him because I cannot go. My home is here and I do not want to leave it.”

“You have no choice,” said the knight. “It is my king’s wish.”

Carrena smiled at the knight, and took his hands again in hers and looked deeply into his eyes. “Please thank your king for the invitation and give him my best wishes. I will not go with you.”

Angered by her refusal, and confused by the sudden warm beating of his heart from the touch of her hands, the knight pulled his hands away and ordered his men to grab the girl.

They were too fast for her and suddenly, she found herself wrapped inside a blanket and tied to the back of the knight’s horse.

They rode fast and furious and as they rode back towards the king’s castle, the lands around them grew darker and darker. They barely stopped to eat and drink yet no matter how tired she became, the young woman sang softly to herself.

Her song frightened the knight even more than the king’s demands. “Stop singing,” he ordered her.

“I will not,” Carrena told him. “Singing calms my fears and reminds me that love is always greater than fear.”

And so she sang and as she sang, the knight felt his heart melt more and more and he grew more and more confused. He could not tell her what the king intended for her. It would be too painful a truth to reveal. And so, he remained silent.

When they arrived at the king’s castle, the knight carried the young woman into the cold, dark palace and up into a chamber high in a turret. He ordered the servants to bring her food and water and told her she must stay there until the king demanded her presence.

To be continued tomorrow….

The Whole story.

Part 1:  The Girl with the Heart of Gold

Part 2: The Girl with the Heart of Gold

Part 3: The Girl with the Heart of gold

Part 4: the Girl with the Heart of Gold


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Soul-full encounters on the journey

I raced the sun. Drove west into the darkness that rested above the peaks lining the far horizon while behind me, pink light streaked across the sky, lighting up day’s beginning. By the time I reached Canmore, an hour west of the city, the sun had won the race. Day had broken.

I was driving towards a day of retreat. A day to meditate in group on the beauty and synchronicity of being within a circle, grounded, connected, at One.

It has been awhile since I joined my meditation group. Life. Excuses. Piled up piles of busy-making lists have all intervened in my commitment to join the group to be of service through silent contemplation of our collective power to create peace, love and joy in the world.

As written in The Rule of St. Benedict, “always begin again“.

I begin again.

To connect to group. To be part of a weekly commitment to join the circle and delve into the silence, and the wonder, of what is waiting to reveal itself when I quit doing, doing, doing and allow myself the grace of being. Present, at one, at peace with where I am, connected to the soul-full synergy of my fellow travellers on this journey of Life.

It was a beautiful day. A joyful and playful encounter. A graceful reminder to stop. Breathe. Listen. Feel.

And to begin again.

I am grateful.

There is no yearning copy