2014: The Year of At Onement

At Onement Mixed Media

At Onement
Mixed Media

It was a year to celebrate. To rejoice. To give thanks. It was, as Dicken’s would say,  the best, and the worst, of times. There were moments that truly took my breath away and moments that broke my heart wide open.

A broken heart is an open heart and an open heart is a loving heart.

I am grateful for every moment of 2014. Grateful for the highs and the lows. Grateful for the sorrow and grief, and the love and laughter. I am grateful for the losses and the gains, the missing of loved ones and the welcoming of new friends, new experiences, new ideas.

I am grateful.

There were many turning points in 2014. Many moments that stopped me in my tracks and gave me pause to contemplate the wonder and majesty of life, our human condition, our shared experience here on earth.

There was, the loss of Ellie the Wonder Pooch. The grief of her passing and the celebration of her life. There were friends who gathered to bid her adieu and friends who wrote to wish her well on her final journey. And there was the moment I sat with her in the silence of her final breath and said good-bye. My heart was heavy in that moment and still, there was gratitude for this loving creature who taught me so much about compassion and loving unconditionally and who saw me through the darkest times of my life and walked with me into the light.

There was war and terrorist attacks around the world and drones flying and righteous speeches calling men, women and children to take up arms and heartfelt pleas to put down arms of destruction and hold out arms filled with nothing but love for one another. Here on our Canadian soil the horror of radicalism drove home the need to honor and respect each other where we stand and not give into the call to kill one another in the name of whatever God we worship.

There were outbreaks of disease sweeping through nations and killing indiscriminately.

There were rising oil prices and plummeting oil prices. There were losses and gains. Winners and losers.

And always, there was love giving rise to hope. Making room for possibility. Creating space for better in all our hearts, minds and souls.

2014 was the year of atonement, or as it was said in Old English, At Onement, my word for the year. Meditating on At Onement lead me to oneness, within myself and with the world around me and the Universe. In my focus on atonement, I felt the deepness of gratitude stirring my soul and the breath of forgiveness easing my heart. At Onement drew me closer to understanding the oneness of my human condition and my connection to all humankind. To our connection, our sameness and differences and the beauty in each of our unique places on earth.

2014 drew me closer to my capacity to be the dreamer and the architect of my dreams.

2014 gave me wings and the belief in my ability to spread them wide and soar.

And, 2014 gave me room to grow, to inhale, exhale and take in all the beauty and wonder and awe around me and know, I am safe no matter where I am in the world when I stand in my truth holding onto nothing but my capacity to Love fearlessly, completely, unconditionally.

2014 taught me to let go of fear that I will never be enough, or never have enough, or never know enough.

2014 taught me to celebrate the small moments and the large. It taught me to see the beauty in every heart and make space for the sacred in every moment.

2014 was a continuation of the years before and the years to come where I learn to be my human self in all its complexities, all its wonder and awe, and all its beauty and the beast living in harmony within this flesh and bone that carry me through each day.

2014 was my year to step with confidence onto centre stage of my own life and say, without hesitation or fear or false modesty, ‘This is where I belong. This is where I must be to live this one, wild and precious life for all I’m worth.”

The earth has turned 365 orbits around the sun and now, 2015 awaits.

It too will be a year for learning. A year for growing. A year for stepping into the true magnificence of my human condition where I know unequivocally, that we are all here on this earth to shine, to beam and to love one another with all we’ve got to give. And in our loving unconditionally, we will receive the greatest gift of all — our hearts filled with nothing but Love. No hatred. No condemnation. No fear. Just Love.

As 2015 approaches, I surrender holding onto what was to breathe into this moment where all there is is everything I need to live fearlessly, completely free.

May each of you know the wonder and majesty of your true selves shining brightly for all the world to see, there is only one way for humankind to live together, only one way for us to create peace and tolerance and acceptance. And that way is Love.

Wishing each and every one of you a peaceful and loving New Year.


Waiting for Christmas

DSCF0639It is that holy time of year again. A time when here in the northern hemisphere, we await the coming of the light after the long dark nights of winter. It is a time when the Christian world awaits with expectant breath the coming of a child. A time when fir trees are adorned with glistening lights and carolers sing out to passers-by and children smile at snow falling and presents piling up under the tree. It is a time to celebrate the sacred nature of our world, the miracle of life, the waning of darkness soon to become light.

This is a time for renewal, for pause, for welcoming in the light. It is a time to make room for gifts, the gift of life, the gift of love, peace, hope and joy.

It is a time to celebrate the human condition in all its manifestations here on earth. It is a time to celebrate the coming into being – of not just the Christ child, but of all of us.

This is a time of awakening. A time to make room for the spiritual aspects of our nature, the holy essence of our being human. It is a time to slow down, to live in the moment, to appreciate the small things of life unfolding in wonder every day. From the delicate light and warmth of a candle flame to the quiet stillness of the darkness just before the dawn, this is a time to prepare, to make ready, to enter into the anticipation of life coming into being and of light following the darkness.

In this time of waiting and awakening, I invite you to take a deep breath in. In. Out. Breathe. Let your eyes gently close. Let your jaw relax, the muscles of your face soften.

Breathe in. Feel the coolness of the air as it enters your body.

Breathe out. Feel the warmth of your breath as you exhale. Feel the air upon your skin, the softness of its caress.

Feel the world around you, growing quiet, settle into peacefulness and breathe.


Imagine you are standing beneath a star lit sky high upon a hill. Around you the world spreads out in the darkness. Above you a blanket of stars glitter in the velvety dark sky.

Imagine you are all alone yet connected to the millions of others who stand as you do, alone upon a hill beneath the star littered blanket of night.

Imagine, as you breathe in, they breathe out.

Imagine, as you breathe out, they breathe in.

Imagine you are all one breath, connected through this one air you share and breathe into, connected to the millions of others breathing with you. This air that nourishes your body, is the air that nourishes theirs.

And as you stand, breathing as one, you spread your arms wide, raise your face to the moon and stars above and whisper,

“I am here. I am willing. Let the night and the moon and the stars give way to what is to come. I am waiting for the light. In my waiting I open my heart to the beauty and the wonder unfolding all around me. I open my arms to receive the gifts of this season of peace, hope, love and joy. I am waiting.”

We are all waiting.


Let your body feel the peace, hope, love and joy of this wondrous time of year flowing all around and within you. Feel your heart soften, your breath deepen, your mind open wide.

Sit and breathe in the beauty all around, open your heart and mind and soul and body to receive the gifts of the Universe shimmering in the light of a million stars showering your heart in Love.

Breathe. And be one in joyous expectation of the coming of the light.

In this time of waiting, let Love be your companion. Let Love light your way. Let peace be your path from darkness into light.

Now  Breathe. Quietly.

And in this moment of quiet, let a song arise within your heart and you wait patiently for the sun to return, for a child to be born.

Let us each be the light in the darkness awakening for all the world to know peace, hope, love and joy.


Expectant Silence  (An Advent Poem)

In expectant silence
the world awaits
the coming
of a child
a world
of peace

In the quiet
of dawning light
I await
streaming rose and gold
threads of glory
filling the sky
with the promise
of a new day
born in the darkness
of the night

silence descends
light enters

I feel
the breath of the Divine
rising up within me

awakening my soul
with fluttering wings
and with each breath

I become an oasis
of peace


It’s a miracle!

It is a miracle. A wonder. An incredible feat.

I never in a thousand years imagined it was possible. I never, ever thought we could do it! But it’s done. It’s here. It’s been made real.

C.C. and I are ready for Christmas. Early! As in, no spending until the wee hours of Christmas morning wrapping presents for under the tree. No Christmas Eve frantic dash through the mall searching for the perfect gift in stores bare of wares. And no artistic presentation of store bought cookies on a tray pretending they’re fresh from my very own kitchen.

We are done. Ready. Prepared.

Presents wrapped under the tree. Shopping completed. Cookies baked and lovingly nestled inside Christmas tins bought just for the occasion.

How could this have happened?

How has it come to be that we, the king and queen of last minute Christmas panic, are breathing easy and sipping eggnog by the tree with nary a heart skipping its beat or a hair laying out of place.

Preparation my friends. Preparation.

We made a list. Checked it twice. Divvied up the chores. Made a schedule and stuck to it.

Okay. So none of that is true. There was no list. No schedule of chores and definitely no sticking to a plan because, well, there was no plan.

Just blind luck and a bit of perspiration and a whole lot of inspiration.

Like, deciding to hit the downtown mall in the wee hours of Saturday morning before the crowds descended. That plan happened on Friday night while sharing dinner and laughter with a group of friends. “Have you finished your shopping?” someone asked and C.C. replied, “No. We’re going downtown to the mall tomorrow.” Thoughts of crowds and over-heating and standing in line with laden arms and short tempered people all around prompted me to say, “Yes, and we’re going to be there by nine.” Inspiration and desperation united! We were in and out by noon just as the hordes began to descend.

And we did decide that instead of going out one evening as planned, neither of us had the energy. So we decided to stay home and have a quiet evening together. C.C.’s suggestion of wrapping a couple of gifts turned into an evening spent wrapping and chatting and sipping on eggnog and discovering when it was all over that we were done. Finished. Completely out of more gifts to wrap.

And the baking? Well, I’ve always wanted to try making Lavender Shortbread and my essential oil kit includes Lavender and my step-daughter is Celiac and I wanted to ensure she had some treats and well if I’m making gluten free shortbread I’d best make non-gluten free too and the kitchen is messy anyway so let’s make a few dozen and suddenly, cookies made, tins filled and the aroma of fresh baking fills the house.

Which is why at 7pm last night, C.C. and I put up our feet and watched a movie together and didn’t worry about what’s left to be done. Because, there’s nothing, other than a few minor details and a dinner for 20 to prepare and bread to bake and…

Nope. Scratch that. It will all be as it will be. For now, we’re done.



Christmas can arrive any ‘ole day it likes and we’re ready!

Now that’s a cause for celebration.

But, here’s the challenge. I’m not used to be organized early. I’m not accustomed to finding myself space to relax and breathe into this most holy and mystical time of the year.

What a gift.

To simply have space to expand into the sacred nature of this time of year when the Christian world awaits the birth of a child who symbolizes the rising of peace, hope, love and joy for all humankind.

Believer or non-believer, we are a world in waiting. Waiting for a time when peace, hope, love and joy shimmers in the light of possibility dawning that to create the world we want to live in, we must be the change we want to see in the world.

May we all be that which we want for ourselves, our families, communities, country, world. May we all be that which we pray will descend upon our hearts and the hearths all around us. May we all become the light that leads the way for all the world to discover the gift of one another is not found in arms carrying weapons, but in hearts filled with understanding and acceptance for our differences.

May we all know peace, hope, love and joy.

What’s in your backpack?

The other day, while riding the C-train home from downtown, a woman was upset at having to move all the way down the aisle to the open area by the doors to let another passenger get through the aisle. It didn’t seem to connect for her that the reason she had to move was because her backpack was blocking the way of the woman getting off the train.

When the woman with the backpack moved out of the way, she ended up standing in front of me. I smiled at her and made eye contact. She looked at me and complained. “This is awful,” she said. “I hate the C-train.”

“It’s better than driving,” I replied.

“Well, I don’t have that option,” she said. “I don’t have a car.”

“Then it’s a good thing there’s public transit,” I said.

“Harrumph,” she replied. “I’m just glad I don’t have to do this everyday. I’m just trying to get to the mall. If I had to do this everyday I’m sure I’d end up killing someone.”

“Do you really mean that?” I asked.

She looked surprised at my question. “Of course not. But this is awful. I hate people.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I replied and smiled again. “There’s a lot of us in the world.”

She paused. Looked down and then looked back at me. I was intentionally keeping my eyes soft, my heart open, my presence accepting of where she was at.

“I don’t hate all people,” she said. “It’s just crowds like this scare me.”

“I’m not fond of crowds either,” I told her. “But, there’s always someone to talk to in a crowd.”

She harrumphed again and we came to her stop. She departed without saying good-bye. Off to complete her mission of getting to the mall.

I’ve thought about that woman a lot since our encounter.

She is me. I am her. We are all eachother.

I thought about her discomfort at being asked to move so another passenger could get past and her lack of awareness that the cause of the other passenger asking her to move was the backpack on her back blocking the path.

And I wondered about her comment of ‘killing someone’ if she had to ride the C-train everyday.

I wondered about what she was carrying around in her backpack to cause such a visceral reaction to the human condition. What thoughts and ideas and limiting beliefs did she pack with her where ever she went to keep her safe, not realizing that it was what she was carrying that was creating her discomfort?

We all have backpacks we carry around. They’re not always visible but they’re always there. Thoughts and ideas that keep us from seeing, if we were to let go of thinking we are locked in by our thoughts or trapped by the crowds around us, we could be free to simply be present in our world without fear of the people around us, or without telling a stranger on a C-train that if you had to ride public transit everyday, you’d kill someone.

I’m sure she didn’t mean it, yet I wonder where else in her life she goes around feeling uncomfortable and wishing she could just get rid of all the people around her so she doesn’t have to feel so uncomfortable.

And I wonder, if her discomfort is caused by never having been told she is valued. She is loved. She is wanted in this world. Of always feeling like she doesn’t belong, or that there is no safe place for her to be in the world.

She sits with me this woman. She is a mirror. An image of what is true for each of us when we carry around our backpacks of woes and silent limitations, never looking to see if there’s something in there we should be unpacking if only to create space for us to be at peace with the world around us.


Unapologetically Me

Bird of Contentment Mixed Media 24" x 30" Louise Gallagher 2014

Bird of Contentment
Mixed Media
24″ x 30″
Louise Gallagher 2014

I created on the weekend. Spent time in the studio splashing paint and ideas and feelings onto a canvas that had hung around as something else waiting to emerge as what it was always meant to be.

It is the thing about creating.

Within every creation there is that moment where what is apparent is not what appears. Where what was becomes simply the path to what is.

The Bird of Contentment started out a couple of years ago as a landscape. Dissatisfied with where it was at, I applied a layer of cheesecloth and painted over and into the surface. A forest standing silent under a moonlit sky appeared. It hung around for while until this fall when the dark forest asked to become an autumn woods replete with riotous splashes of gold and red and ochre shimmering on the edges of a stream burbling merrily along its way.

I let it happen.

And still, it wasn’t fully expressed. It didn’t feel like my voice appearing on the canvas but rather, more like what I felt my voice should be if I was painting what I thought was easy, expected, common.

On Friday afternoon, I stepped into the studio and let my voice call me out into expression upon the canvas.

A thought had been forming for awhile about what wanted to be expressed on this canvas. I had heard it some weeks ago and let it simmer, let it percolate and coalesce into a calling forth from within me yearning to be released. Rather than just ‘painting over’, I allowed what was waiting to become apparent to give itself expression using what was already there as the foundation of what was looking to appear.

The expression of the Bird of Contentment evolved from the inspiration of a comment my eldest daughter wrote in her birthday card to me.

“Thank you for being so unapologetic about who you are, and what you stand for,” she wrote.

Birds are so delicate looking, so tiny and innocent and fragile and yet, so strong. They hang around the birdfeeder, sit on wires, soar above or float on the calm surface of a pond and are simply present to what is in the world around them. They squawk and tweet and sing and whistle and make themselves heard because that’s what they do. Birds are unapologetically who they are.

Birds naturally do what I have always dreamt was possible — fly.

I have always dreamt of flying yet, for many, many years, I kept my wings tucked into my body. I was fearful that if I let them out, I would not fit into the world. I truly would be the deep, dark secret the critter within whispered to me in moments of unease. “You are a misfit. You don’t belong. You don’t fit in.”

And, because I so desperately wanted to be liked, to be like others, to be part of the whole of the world I saw outside me, I tried to be who others thought I should be, the someone I believed I needed to be to get along in the world without letting my wings show.

And in my unease, I created a lot of ripples.

I like making ripples.

I like creating waves. Of love. Harmony. Peace. Joy.

But, because I was struggling to keep my wings tucked in, I often, unintentionally, created discord. Sometimes, I hurt those I love. Sometimes, I did things that didn’t make sense, that created bumps in the road and upended smooth sailings into tumultuous rides.

It is still possible to do these acts of discord – but in becoming free to express my voice, unapologetically, I am more adept at seeing when my actions create that which I do not want to create in the world. Discord and unease. Tension and pain.

It is the gift of time. When I see that I have created is not creating better in the world, I must breathe deeply into my unease, acknowledge the discord I’ve created and commit again to the path of creating more of what I want in my world. Love. Harmony. Peace and Joy.

It has been the evolution of my voice. The letting go and surrendering to my heart calling me to live from and through my own unique  voice. To be unapologetically me.

And it has been the evolution of this painting.

From silent dark forest to tumultuous autumn woods to the Bird of Contentment.

I have splashed and sprayed and covered up and over. I have dug into and scratched the surface, I have wiped it clean and coloured it up.

And through it all, I have reached moments of discord. Those spaces where what is happening feels too raw, too real, too revealing, too vulnerable that I just want to stop. Step away. Forget it. Let it go and move on.

And still, I have persevered and persisted. I have kept digging into it. Keep moving through the discord to find the harmony and joy of being real and revealed.

There was a moment on Friday where it was very apparent to me that this painting was going nowhere. Where everything looked discordant and so jumbled up and ‘blah’ that I thought the only answer was to just throw the whole thing out.

I wanted to quit.

But the voice of my wings calling me to fly free persisted.

Don’t give up. You can do this. Be present. Be patient. Be open to letting it happen. Trust.

And so, I trusted in the process and let my wings appear through the messy globs of paint yearning for expression on my canvas.

And in their appearance, the Bird of Contentment arose.

And that’s the thing.

I couldn’t see how the final painting would appear until I got over my resistance to letting go and gave voice to my fear of flying.

In the freedom to be unapologetically present as who I am in front of the easel, what was always there waiting to be revealed appeared and in its appearance, my voice sang out loud and clear.

I am free to be me!

I am content.


Announcing my first ever art Calendar!

I also created a calendar over the weekend of some of my art and words.  It was a fun and joyful way to express myself.  I’ve decided to take a step ‘out there’ and offer it for sale. There’s still time to order a copy before Christmas!  🙂

You can preview and order it here:  2015: A Year To Dare Boldly

Birthday gratitude and other things

I had a beautiful birthday.

I worked from home, finished off an article I’ve been procrastinating on, sent it off to the editor and it is done.

A sigh of relief, of gratitude for getting it done, of satisfaction for a task completed, moves joyfully through my body.

That’s the thing about things that sit on ‘the pile’ waiting to get done. They don’t actually go away until I transform the energy I waste avoiding them, into the action of doing them.

Avoidance strengthens fear.

Avoidance not only adds to stress levels, it also creates a chemical reaction that, with every time we avoid a particular thing, sends tiny little messages to the brain that says, “See! Avoiding it actually felt good. Let’s get better at avoiding it so we keep getting that tiny fissure of relief in the immediacy of our avoidance!”

In actual fact, while that tiny fissure of relief is  momentary, it can create giant waves of discord when activated too often.

Those waves of discord are created from the worry, shame, fear, excuses, blame… whatever emotions we encounter when avoiding doing something we know is good for us, or we need to do, or we have to do because…

In the case of the article I finished editing yesterday, it was a commitment made in the summer to a magazine for an article on the challenges of housing formerly homeless individuals in community. My former boss had asked if I would do it, and it seemed like a good idea at the time.

And it was. It’s just, between the original draft and the final, there have been many revisions, and many other items, (not to mention excuses) that got in the path of completing the article.

Yesterday, I worked from home and got it done. It is gone. Off my desk. Finished. Final.

And while the fissure of relief from avoiding it repeatedly was kind of intoxicating in a sick and cyclical way, the relief from having it finished, never to be thought of again, never to be shoved aside or discounted or procrastinated over, is even greater!

Once done, I had time to review a document I need to work on this week — and the benefit is, I can work on it without thoughts of what I ‘should’ be finishing clouding my thinking.

It is easy to convince ourselves that not doing what needs doing is okay – at least until tomorrow.

Challenge is, tomorrow will arrive and the not doing will begin to take up more and more of our mindspace as we spend more and more time rationalizing why we’re avoiding doing what is there to do.

If avoidance strengthens fear, doing it creates peace.

And I like peace of mind and heart. I like the peace of knowing that I am right with my world and all is right within me.

I finished a task yesterday I’ve been putting off for awhile. Now that it’s done, I wonder what I was putting off for so long. Perhaps it truly was just the addiction to those tiny fissures of relief that were getting in the way of my seeing how easy it was to strengthen what I want more of in my life, just by doing what I feared!


And thank you for the Birthday wishes!  It was a grand day.


Thank you 1


Lessons in Giving

There was a time in the homeless sector when it was believed that emergency shelter was the only response to help someone in homelessness. No matter how long they stayed in the shelter, or living on the streets, someone had to ‘do the work’, like getting sober, getting on meds, or any other of the 5,342 things we thought they needed to do to make their lives ‘right’, before they could be housed.

And then, along came Housing First. A radically simple and effective approach to supporting people out of homelessness.

One such housing first initiative here in Calgary is, The Madison. The 16 suite apartment building which is owned by the Calgary Homeless Foundation, the Madison provides 24/7 on-site support and housing for 15 formerly homeless veterans.

Three years ago, when I began the Christmas at The Madison project, the intent was to raise money to provide gifts and a dinner at Christmas for the men living at the Madison. It was my way of giving back, and involving my family and friends in the act of giving.

I grew up in a military household. My father was in the RAF and then the RCAF and for most of my formative years, we lived on military bases in Canada and Europe. My father was a proud, and silent, man. He never spoke of the war years. He never spoke of his losses, his regrets, his sorrows. He soldiered through everything, including the heart attack that took his life almost 20 years ago.

My father taught me many things. One of them was the value of a good meal and when he passed away, I wanted to find a way to honour him, to say thank you for the love, the generosity, the many lessons on how to live life fully and completely.

The Madison has become such an opportunity.

Like my father, the men living at the Madison have all served their country. Silently. Proudly. Stoically.

And, like my father, they carry with them memories of the things that have happened, the things they’ve done, the losses they’ve felt and sometimes never known how to express or make sense of.

My father was never homeless, at least not in his adulthood. But, there was a time when he was rootless, lost, alone and feeling abandoned. He never spoke much about those years, about being sent all by himself at nine years of age from London, England to a Catholic boarding school in Gravelbourg, Saskatchewan. The Atlantic Ocean and three-quarters of a continent lay between him and home, and he was heartsick. He ran away as a young teen to Montreal, Quebec and worked in a bakery and when war broke out, he lied about his age and joined the RAF.

From then on, his life was a silent story. A book that only he could read, if he ever dared to open the pages.

Giving back to The Madison is my way of giving back to my father. Of making amends for the harsh words I flung at him through my growing years, for the lack of compassion and understanding I never held out to him in his living years.

This year, giving back to The Madison is also a reminder of another very important lesson my father taught me.

For me, I feel like the Christmas at The Madison Benefit Concert is all about the little concert that could. Now entering its fourth year, I am excited to take each next step in its possibilities as it grows into its own strength.

Like the men living at The Madison.

Three years ago, a horde of volunteers accompanied me as we decorated and baked and cooked and served up Christmas dinner with all the fixin’s, including gifts for each of the residents.

Last year, we’d scaled back the size of the crowd so that we didn’t overwhelm the community the men had created at the Madison.

This year, that community of men, along with their team from Alpha House, want to celebrate Christmas of their own making.

It kind of feels like a miracle to me. To evolve from a building of singular men who had only two things in common, they were all veterans and they were all homeless, to a community that wants to create a special day for themselves, is incredible and inspiring and very, very heart-warming.

My father taught me long ago that helping people is very different than supporting them until they can help themselves. People fall in life, he’d say. It is inevitable. Sometimes, they need help to get back up. Never should we become their arms and legs, their hearts and voices. We can’t live someone else’s life, he told me. That’s their job. Just as it’s yours to live yours being and doing the best you can.

This year, the men living at The Madison are doing the best they can to create a Christmas of their own making.

I feel inspired. Giving is receiving and I am grateful for all that I have received.