as Soft As A Petal Falling

Altered Book Art Journal page — “My Mother’s Prayers” – ‘Soft as Petals’ “As soft as an angel’s kiss, her prayers fell like petals from the heaven’s above blessing everyone on earth.”

For the past three days I’ve been working on a video of my creative process. I filmed myself working on another page from the altered book journal I’ve been creating of my mother’s prayer cards, and have been editing and editing and editing…

It is a good stretch for my brain and a good reminder of how the creative process is not just founded in ‘art-making’, it is everywhere! I have to keep reminding myself that creating a video is in and of itself a creative process. Rather than thinking it’s taking me away from time in the studio, I am focussing on the value of learning new things and how it is expanding my capacity to evolve into new forms of creative expression!

The other day, after commenting on my Mother’s Prayer Cards art journal, someone asked if I was okay. “You seem to be grieving so deeply,” they said. “Are you okay?”

I appreciated their question and concern. It felt very loving.

The fact is, I told them in response, I feel great. Creating this journal of mom’s prayer cards, immersing myself in an exploration of the power of prayer and memory has been a very healing, loving journey. It has expanded my compassion for my relationship with my mother and deepened my knowing of her love. It has also given me an opportunity to heal some of the broken places of our relationship.

In the eulogy I gave for mom at her celebration of life, I wrote, “Being the youngest, I wanted to be the rebel. In fact, for a large portion of my life, I wanted to be anything but like my mother. I am so grateful that through her prayers, I have become more like her than anyone else I ever thought I wanted to be. As I sat with her in the quiet of the night over the final week of her life and prayed with her and sang to her and read to her, I realized that the gift my mother gave me was and is the one I cherish most in my life today – an unwavering belief in the transformational power of Love. “

Kindness was my mother’s North Star. No matter how unkindly I responded to her when she told me she was praying for me, she never responded in kind, she only responded in kindness.

Life is a journey. It isn’t about how fast we go on the road of life nor how long we’re on the road. It’s about how much kindness we invest into each step along our way. It’s about how much we joy we instill in each day and how deeply we fall into Love with everyone and everything on our path.

My mother would have been 98 today. In her life and in her passing, I have found myself growing deeper and deeper into Love through her prayers that continue to be a constant on my path. Thanks mom! Happy Birthday!

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About this altered book art journal page:

I started this spread knowing what the words were. They had appeared while I was in meditation before starting the page and were my guide as I created. “As soft as an angel’s kiss, her prayers fell like petals from the heaven’s above blessing everyone on earth.”

Something To Prove

Beaumont the Sheepadoodle and I are walking back from the river.

He is not great on-leash. Some might say he’s awful. (Sorry Beau. It’s true.)

He tugs and pulls, especially if we’re on our way to the park. On the way home is not as bad. Unless he sees a squirrel. Or another dog. Or a leaf blowing in the wind. Or a butterfly. Or… you get the picture.

Anyway. We’re walking home and he’s pulling and I want him to pay attention. To me.

I stop about 10 feet from the crosswalk at Bowness Road. The deal is, when I stop, he has to stop and sit and then make eye contact with me before we move on.

He does the stop and sit well. The eye contact. Well, let’s just say he can take his time getting there. Like lots of time.

This particular day I’m into what feels like minute gazillion of waiting and he’s still looking around refusing to make eye contact when a voice behind me says, “Excuse me ma’am?”

Startled, I turn my head and see a young boy, about 12 years old, on a bike. He’s stopped on the road beside me and is looking at me with concern.

My mind immediately jumps to, ‘I wonder if he’s lost’ when he says, “Do you need help crossing the street ma’am?”

I almost burst out laughing but manage to control myself and reply (sweetly, I promise), “Oh. Thank you so much. That’s so kind of you. But no, I’m just waiting for my dog to pay attention to me before we cross.”

The young boy nods his head (I’m not sure he believed that I didn’t need help) but with an “Oh. Okay,” he gets back on his bike and rides off.

I didn’t wait for Beau to make eye contact. I pressed the crosswalk light and we crossed.

I had something to prove.

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Footnote: This happened shortly after I read one of those memes on FB about how what’s wrong with the younger generation today is they respect no one because parents/teachers can no longer use corporal punishment.

My father used to give me the strap when I was young, the writer said, and I’m okay.

I disagree on two counts.

You’re not okay if you think having your butt or hands strapped as a child didn’t hurt you.

And the second count, as this young boy so beautifully showed, there’s nothing wrong with the younger generation (other than perhaps their eyesight).

Love’s Enduring Embrace

In the memory of her prayers, my heart rests in Love’s enduring embrace — 2 page spread. My Mother’s Prayers – altered book art journal

The quote for this two-page spread in the altered book art journal I’m creating called, “My Mother’s Prayers” came to me after I painted in the bird and flowers.

I started the spread not knowing what would appear. I was ‘going with the flow’ and letting it happen as the paint hit the page. As with all the pages in this art journal, one of my mother’s prayer cards is affixed to the page.

There is so much healing grace in creating a project such as this. It invites me to focus on the lessons to be learned from my mother’s passing and her prayer cards. And, it opens me up to exploring those places within where the ‘mother wound’ has not yet come to rest in peace.

Along with the quote that came out of my journalling, “In the memory of her prayers, my heart rests in Love’s enduring embrace“, the phrase, “Learn from the broken. Live from the whole” appeared. Its resonance continues to soothe and illuminate my path.

An aspect of this spread that make it challenging is the fact that I was filming myself as I went along.

It was quite a journey.

Not the creating the two page spread part of the journey, but the, “Oh! Here’s an idea. Let’s create a ‘follow-along’ video of the process with all the bits and bytes of video you took Louise” part.

I do like a challenge!

Though, to be fair, it wasn’t the challenge of putting all the footage into a video that was the hardest. It was when my system crashed at 10pm last night wiping out 2 hours of work. That’s when I decided enough was enough for one day and went to bed.

I got up at 6 this morning and three hours later, Take 2 of the video was finished. Beaumont the Sheepadoodle was particularly grateful. The quick ‘pee break’ at 6am just wasn’t cutting it for him anymore!

One of my commitments to myself this fall is to get my online art journalling workshops started. This video is the first of what I hope is series of ‘follow-along’ videos showing my process.

It’s not perfect — but I sure am learning a lot as I create the videos and, I am growing in confidence with each step along the way.

The video is below — I would really love feedback, ideas, comments to help me grow and all that jazz.

Thanks!

The Threads That Bind Us

It is not time that binds us but the memory of the songs we sang, the stories we told and the love we shared. — My Mother’s Prayers Art Journal

It has been awhile since I posted, and since I sat in my studio creating.

A two week sojourn in Vancouver visiting my eldest daughter and family and then, the long drive home.

I love the 1,000 km drive up over the Coastal Rockies, across the lake country, up over Roger’s Pass, Kicking Horse Pass and the Rockies down the eastern slopes and onto the rolling plains. I love the solitude, the sense of being alone yet part of the ribbon of highway leading me eastward, leading me home.

As I drive, I love to listen to podcasts. One in particular, ‘On Being‘ with Krista Tippet.

The interview she did with Dario Roletto who has been called a sculptural artist, philosopher, and “materialist poet” continues to resonate. In it, Robletto talks about the power of memory to connect us.

It is that thought which inspired my latest two-page spread in the altered book journal, “My Mother’s Prayers,” that I have been creating for the past month or so.

Time is not the thread that binds. Memory is.

I don’t have a lot of memories of my grandmother. I only met her once. She came from India where she lived when we were living in Metz, France. She stayed with us for a month and while with us, I remember her always sneaking my brother and sisters and I money to go buy something ‘sweet’. At least, that’s what I think I remember her saying.

I don’t know if she had a sweet tooth or not. I don’t remember.

What I do remember is being fascinated by this woman who was my mother’s mother who lived in such a far away and exotic land. I remember how she dressed mostly in black. How she fluttered her hands when she spoke, just like my mother and how, when we went to Paris to visit her sons who lived there, she sat in regal grace amidst her vast extended family.

I remember the story of my Uncle Noel getting a plague from the police for his excellent driving and how everyone scoffed and laughed when it happened.

The day he got the award, the police were assessing drivers on the roads of Paris in an attempt to identify those who were obeying the rules of the road (a very uncommon practice in Paris) in an effort to encourage safe driving practices. My uncle had picked up Grandmother from the airport and was driving her back to Uncle Reggie’s apartment. An unmarked police car followed him, just that once, and he was awarded a safe driver citation. It was the only time in his driving career he did not speed, swear and gesture belligerently at other drivers and ignore all the road signs.

I also think that was the trip my brother stayed home alone for the first time. He ended up having a party that created quite a mess in our home. We brought Grandmother from Paris on that trip and when we entered the apartment and dad saw the mess, he was furious. Grandmother calmed him and thanks to her, George was not punished for his misdeeds.

It is perhaps that escapade that cemented the notion that ‘the sun rises and sets on the son’ in our household. Unfortunately, that notion would lead to a number of incidents and life travails that left him ill-equipped to handle the pressure.

But that’s another story.

This story is about my mother, my grandmother and me — Granddaughter. Daughter. Mother. Grandmother.

Just like my mother and grandmother. It is the thread of our being all of those roles that binds us. Unbreakable. Unchangeable. Inviolate.

As I journey through my mother’s prayer cards and my process of healing the ‘mother wound’ through remembering and honouring her life, her death and her memory through creative expression, I find myself softening. Ripening. Opening. Evolving.

It is a journey. An exploration. An awakening.

And I am grateful for it all.

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About this art piece.

“My Mother’s Prayers” incorporates the multitude of prayer cards that my mother collected throughout her life to guide her nightly prayers.

On every two page spread I include at least one card — some you can see, some I paint over entirely.

Throughout her life, my mother prayed. At times, I mocked her for her practice. Often, I challenged her offerings. It wasn’t until after I became a mother that my heart began to soften and understand her desire to keep me safe.

This page is about the trinity of being a daughter, mother, grandmother. Before affixing the heart behind the images of my grandmother, mother and me to the page, I tore it into three pieces and then reconnected it on the page.

Like life, our hearts can be hurt, feel heavy and broken. Yet, no matter how broken we feel, a mother’s heart is always open. Proving the adage true — a broken heart is an open heart and an open heart is a loving heart.

My mother loved deeply. Working on this journal is awakening me to her love on a very deep level.

Written on the upper right section of the heart are the words:

“Three pieces. One heart. Three lives. One song. Three stories. One prayer.”

My mother’s prayers whisper throughout time. They are the memory that binds us. The love that holds us. The gift that lives on.

And Roses Fell From Heaven

One of the questions I ask myself when I’m feeling stuck or undecided about what to do next is, “What makes my heart want to dance?”

And then, I close my eyes, take a couple of deep slow breaths. In. Out. And listen.

I listen to my body, my heart, my skin, my heart.

I imagine myself sinking from my head down, down, down into my heart. Further still, I imagine my consciousness sinking down, down, down into my belly.

And I listen.

I listen to the sound my body makes as I breathe. In. Out. I listen to the sounds around me. The quiet hiss of my computer. The piano playing softly in the background. The leaves rustling outside my window. The hiss of traffic crossing the bridge. The birds cawing. The hum of the refrigerator. The purr of the furnace fan. The river flowing.

And I feel.

I feel the sensation of the air entering my body, up through my nose, down into my lungs. I listen to the sound my body makes as I breathe. In. Out. The feeling of my thoughts floating down, down, down, from my head into my body. The stillness within as I sit and embody all that I am. All that is here. All that is in this moment.

And then, when I feel myself settled deep within my body, when I feel my entire being held in silence and grace within the moment, I repeat the question, “What makes my heart want to dance?”

Yesterday, the answer surprised me. Not because it wasn’t about painting or creating. It was.

What surprised me was the image that rose up from my belly and made my heart want to dance.

My eldest sister found a couple of prayer cards from my mother in the room where she used to stay in when she was strong enough to go for weekend visits. One of the cards was of Saint Thérèse de Lisieux, also known as, Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face.

When my mother left India in 1946, her father gave her a statue of St. Thérèse. It was standing by her bedside when she took her last breath.

St. Thérèse was named my patron saint when I took my confirmation when I was about 9 years old. “Pray to St. Thérèse” my mother would tell me in those moments when I was struggling or being a ‘bad girl’. “She is your heavenly advocate. She will help you.”

I didn’t like being called a bad girl and didn’t think a saint would actually call me that. I also wasn’t much into praying so I let my mother do the heavy lifting.

In later years, I left Catholicism behind but held onto the mystical, spiritual nature of life. Angels felt ‘real’ to me. I would call upon them to guide and support me, though I wasn’t too enamoured with the saints. I could not relate to their piety and as a consequence, seldom named St. Thérèse as my advocate.

And then, I fell into a pit of darkness of a relationship that almost killed me. I remember thinking in the really dark moments towards the end, that even death was too busy to bother with me. Why would the angels answer my pleas?

Of all the things I lost during that relationship, one of the one’s that has been the hardest to reclaim is my belief in the spiritual nature of life.

Creating this altered book art journal of my mother’s prayer cards is leading me back. It is connecting me to the spiritual essence of this journey called ‘my life’.

Yesterday, as I held the St. Thérèse prayer card in my hands, a tiny voice whispered in my mind, “And the angels heard her prayers and carried them to the wind who blew them all around the world in a song of love for humanity.”

And my heart danced and I began to create.

This morning, as I checked to ensure I spelled her name correctly and had the accents properly placed, I read the expanded quote written on the card. Words spoken by St. Thérèse de Lisieux before she died at the age of 24. Words I hadn’t read before I started painting…

“When I die, I will send down a shower of roses from the heavens, I will spend my heaven by doing good on earth.”

Thanks mom!

Namaste.

Dare To Go Deeper

“Rest Here” – Watercolour and acrylic ink on watercolour paper.

When I started painting 20 years ago, I had spent most of my life saying… “I am not an artist. I am a writer, but have no artistic ability.”

And then, on a whim and a desire to spend more time with my eldest daughter, I picked up a paint brush loaded with colour and fell in love.

Yesterday, as I sat at my studio worktable and debated whether to follow the guidelines of the online course I’m taking with Laura Horn or ‘just do it my way, I could hear the critter winding up his full-on, ‘You Can’t Do That’ diatribe in preparation for letting me have it, ‘the full truth and nothing but the truth about my artistic limitations. “You are not a watercolour artist,” he hissed. “You don’t even like working in watercolour. Why don’t you just skip the watercolour and play with your acrylic inks. It’s safer that way. You won’t be disappointed or look like a fool.”

The only way I know to quiet the critter is to breathe and acknowledge his fears.

“I hear you. I know you’re just trying to protect me but I’ve got this. I won’t know if I like them or not until I at least attempt to learn how to work with them. I’ve got this.”

The critter was not quite ready to call it quits. “You don’t got this! It’s bad enough you think you’re an artist but seriously… Well there are so many real artists out there who are so much better than you. They at least sell their work. You? You can’t even get it up onto your Etsy site so people can buy it.”

“Oh that’s what this is about? Not having my art up on my Etsy page?”

“Well you gotta admit Louise, you’re a bit of a disappointment there. Know what I mean?”

And a deep primordial fear awoke within me the longer I listened to the critter’s voice. “Oh no! I am a disappointment!”

I felt that fear. It felt so real. So tangible. So true.

And the the wise woman of care and courage whispered deep within me, “You are never and can never be a disappointment,” the wise woman of care and courage whispered deep within me. “What feels disappointing is when you do not give yourself grace to explore, test your boundaries, and use your mistakes to grow deeper in your understanding and communion with you, your life and the world around you.

And then…

I loaded my palette with watercolours and fell in love.

This morning I awoke from a dream vibrating with a deep awareness of all the lessons yesterday’s exploration of watercolour taught me.

And I smile in gratitude. Calling myself ‘an artist’ doesn’t mean I know it all or have all the answers or have even done it all or explored all the possibilities of my art-making. It means I’m open to the full and intoxicating exploration of my creative essence.

The lessons…

  • Sometimes you just gotta load your fear up with a bunch of paint and let the colours play it out on the canvas of life.
  • Just because you say you can’t doesn’t mean it’s true.
  • Don’t believe everything you think.
  • It’s okay to not know. You can’t learn all sides of the truth if you tell yourself you already know them all.
  • Truth reveals itself slowly, like a rose coming into full-boom. It needs care and time, nature’s grace and a willingness to be surprised by what is coming into bloom so that it can evolve into its full beauty.
  • Life is like your palette. Load it up with yummy colours. Mix them up to your heart’s content and let them dance with wild abandon on the canvas of your wildest dreams come alive in living colour.
  • When you think you’ve gone as far as you dare, dare to go deeper.
  • You are not, and can never be, a disappointment. End of story.

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About the painting.

The following two photos are of the different stages of this painting where I wanted to quit.

At this one, I thought, “Oh. I like it. What if I mess it up?” Problem was… the lesson I was on called for botanicals and painting over the background… Breathing through my fear of messing it up, I dove deeper.

Hmmm…. This looks good. Why don’t I just leave it at this point?

And… I dove deeper.

I’m grateful I did. I learned a lot.

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PS. As to my Etsy store… I’m going to work on loading it up and have it launched properly by September 15. That’s a commitment! To me.

Connection. Community. Coherence

When I sat down at my studio worktable yesterday morning, there was one phrase that kept drifting through my mind, “And her prayers became the song the night sang to sing the stars awake.”

I pulled out the altered book journal I’ve been working on with my mother’s prayer cards and gave myself over to the muse.

It did not start out well…

You know how you can be working on something and think, “hmmmm…. It’s okay but I’m not really sure what I’m doing here…”

My first instinct is to quit. To paint over. To tear it up.

My deeper knowing is to keep deliving into it. To allow myself to work through the ‘yucky’ to get to whatever is looking to be expressed.

When I do that, it happens. Like magic. There’s this moment where I feel so connected and so immersed in it all that my heart sings and my soul dances and my body sinks deeply into gratitude.

Yeah? Well, yesterday, that happened.

There I was, feeling stuck and blah when without thought, I felt my entire being sink effortlessly into that place. Breathing deeply, I felt the silence expand between my heart beat’s steady tattoo as my soul seemed to hang suspended in time. I felt as though I was floating in harmony with the universe and all of life surrounding me. My senses awoke to the moment and I sighed and whispered to the sun and the clear blue sky and the breeze drifting by as the leaves whispered their incantations of love and ease and bliss, “Ohh. I see you. I feel you. I know you. Here I am.”

And in that moment I felt the breath of my mother’s prayers wrap me in their sweet tender embrace and the world felt oh so precious, oh so sacred, oh so new and fresh. And I felt embodied in the present moment, connected, in partnership, part of and all of the trees and the leaves, the breeze and the sky, the river floating by, the chickadee perched on the birdfeeder and the squirrel spinning in acrobatic grace through the branches of the trees.

In that moment, I was embodied in ‘the now’. At one. Complete. Part of. All of. Connected. Whole.

“And her prayers became the song the night sang to sing the stars awake.”

Watercolour and acrylic ink on watercolour paper.

And then, later in the afternoon, my dear friend Jane came over to paint outside. And it happened again. I was one with the embodied present. Whole. Complete. Filled with a sense of harmony and peace.

That’s what creating is — it’s not about outcome, or style, or technique or saleability.

It’s about being present within the journey of creating. Being connected and whole.

And it’s about community.

Both these pages were created as part of two different courses I’m taking. When I shared the spread from My Mother’s Prayers on my Instagram yesterday, an artist friend wrote back,

“My spiritual community both soothes my soul and lights new fires.” Tracy Brown

“I put my Instagram artist friends in this category”, she said.

Yes.

Being present is about connection, community, coherence.

Thank you for being part of my community. For taking this journey with me. For illuminating my path with your light and making it easier to see in the dark.

I am grateful.