ThE Incantations

“Whispered into the holy night, her prayers were an incantation awakening sacred joy and delight.” Pgs 51 & 52 My Mother’s Prayer altered book journal

My father was a curious man. He read voraciously and always replied to questions such as, ‘How do you spell ___________?” or “What’s does _________mean?” with the response, “Go look it up in the dictionary.”

Of course, I’d try to find a ‘smart alecky’ answer like, “If I don’t know how to spell it how can I look it up?

It never phased him. He’d make me think about the spelling, what I thought it was, and work from there.

Question about the meaning of life, or things or processes were always answered with, “Go look it up in the Encyclopedia Britannica.”

The EB was the fount of all knowledge when I was growing up. If it wasn’t in the Encyclopedia, it wasn’t worth knowing.

Because French was my mother’s native tongue, I seldom asked her those kinds of questions. For her, I reserved my curiosity about God.

“Why would God place a sin on an unborn child? Aren’t we born perfect and whole in God’s image?”

“Why do dead people have to wait it out in Purgatory for prayers of the living to release them? Doesn’t God forgive all sin? Isn’t that why Jesus died?”

To my mother, my constant questioning of God was an assault on her faith and her being.

I didn’t intend it to be but, because so much of what I learned about God as a child was fear-based, I wanted answers so I wouldn’t feel so afraid.

I didn’t like feeling afraid, especially if the adults around me didn’t have ways to assuage my fear.

And I definitely didn’t like the anxiety of waiting for ‘the Hand of God’ to come crashing down from the heaven’s above and knock some sense into me. Which is something my mother often wished for, at least that’s how I translated her entreaties that I ‘be like the others’ (my 3 older siblings) and stop disobeying her constantly.

“God knows everything,” my mother would say. “He sees you and hears you and he is angry at you for being so bad.”

And she would cry and wonder out loud what she had done to deserve such a difficult child as me.

After years of therapy and inner child work and personal development courses and journalling and a host of other practices to make sense of the mess I felt was ‘me’ inside, I understand how my mother and I walked on such unsteady ground.

How could she keep me safe from the world if I was constantly putting my eternal soul in danger by questioning God’s will?

How could she have peace if I was constantly searching for answers to the things she did not want to speak of?

Namaste

______________________________________

One of the gifts of art journalling is its invitation to experiment. With products, process, perspective…

Awhile ago, I watched a video on using Vaseline with alcohol inks. I wasn’t using Alcohol Inks on this page but was curious what would happen if I used it with acrylic inks.

Magic.

The vaseline acts as a resist so that when I spray onto the page, where ever I’ve applied the vaseline, the ink doesn’t adhere. When the ink is dry, wipe it off and voilá! (Ok. The wiping off takes patience but it’s well worth it!)

The lighter spaces, including within the dark image on the left which was the photo on the page I was working on, remain untouched by the ink.

For me, this page speaks to the mystery of my mother’s faith, of life, of relationships, of the universe.

I see the scrolly piece at the bottom as the filigree frame that separated the penitent from the priest in the confessional.

The lone figure walking towards the lit area of the image on the left is me, searching for answers while staying true to myself — which was not always easy when my path took me far from the Catholicism of my mother’s way.

And the entreaty to, “Be. Here. Now.” is the reminder that the past is not alive in this moment, nor is the future.

Life lives in the now. It is here where the mystery flows with grace into the mystical nature of life, creating magic and wonder in my life today.

Now is where Life happens.

Celebrate it. Cherish it. Create beauty within it.

.

In The Garden Of Her Prayers

Her prayers became a garden. “My Mother’s Prayers” altered book art journal. Pgs 49 & 50

I remember as a young girl my mother admonishing me after one of the squabbles my middle sister and I often had. “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” It was one of her favourite sayings.

My mother kept her silence. A lot.

I used to think her silence hurt her. Filled with all the not-nice things she wouldn’t say, her silence constantly grated against her peace of mind.

As I work in this journal and come to its last pages, I recognize the limitations of that belief. As I paint and meditate on the pages. As I collage a prayer card on the page and allow the words to divine their way into being known, the awareness grows that her prayers were her way of transforming her silences, her secrets, her worries and fears and anger and tears into hope and love and above all kindness.

As a child, I never liked that adage of my mothers.

It was my inability to not be silent that frustrated my mother the most. Particularly, as my speaking out often came in the form of questions about things she never wanted to discuss.

“Let bygones be bygones,” she’d say.

“Stop making trouble Louise. It was long ago. It doesn’t matter today what happened then.”

“Don’t be mean. Be quiet.”

I never meant to be mean, but to explain to my mother the source of my angst or questions required speaking of the things she did not wish to speak of, at least not with me.

Which is one of the gifts of this journal journey.

There was a time when I thought that my mother just wanted to avoid talking about everything and anything that did not please her or paint her in good light with the saints to whom she whispered her prayers. And while she did like to ‘look good’ and spent a great deal of energy worrying about what others thought, it was her right to choose what she did or did not speak of.

In my constant questing for answers, and her desire to not speak of things for which she knew her answers would not be enough for me, there was no safe container for either of us to find our way through the turmoil of the past together.

In all probability, my mother did speak of the unspeakables she carried deep within her heart and mind. It’s just, the only one she trusted with her thoughts and feelings, fears and doubts, anguish and anxiety, was her God.

My mother, like me, was never perfect.

She was kind. Caring. Generous. Shy. Quiet. Creative. Loyal. Steadfast.

And above all, she was a woman of great faith.

A woman who wanted the best for others. And even when she didn’t know how to give it, or how to speak the words, she never doubted that her faith was enough. In her steadfastness, in her constant prayers, I was free to grow fierce and loving. Strong. Wild. Free.

As this page says, “Her prayers became a garden where Love grew stronger in the memories of those she left behind.”

Namaste.

Faith Was Her Way

Faith Was Her Way — Pages 47 & 48 – altered book art journal, My Mother’s Prayers


I am almost finished the altered book art journal I’ve been creating with the Prayer Cards my mother left behind when she departed this earthly plain in February.

It has been a sacred journey of great healing. Of appreciation. Acceptance. Growth. Love.

As I created this page in the journal, my heart full of memories from my recent trip to visit my grandchildren in Vancouver, I thought about my mother and how, when she learned her great-granddaughter would be named Ivy, after her mother, she took my daughter’s hands and held them as tightly as her crippled fingers would allow and whispered, “Thank you.” Her prayers were answered.

My mother never got to meet her great-granddaughter who was born in June, but I know that where ever she is, she continues to pray for everyone just as she did throughout her life, never doubting her prayers would be answered.

The words that appeared for this page are: “Her prayers gave her strength to have faith in darkness and in light.”

It didn’t matter what path my mother was on, what fork in the road appeared before her, or what obstacle blocked her way, she always prayed. To God and Jesus and Mother Mary and all the Saints, asking for their interventions to guide her, protect her, save her and those she loved.

Faith was embedded in her DNA, stretching across time and space, spanning the past through the connective tissues that carried her into the future.

Faith was her way. Prayer was the song that carried her through life’s travails, its glories and tragedies, its beauty and its ugliness.

For my mother, faith held her fast in her belief that God would never let her down. Prayer lifted her up into His everlasting arms of Love.

Namaste

In Good Times And In Bad (An SWB Post)

There’s a new conversation over at Beaumont the Sheepadoodles blog this morning.

He was kind of ticked off I went away. Again. And by the fact I missed posting last Sunday!

I hope you join him in his witty repartee and clever ways of always winning every conversation!

Click HERE to read.

May Every Child Know Love

Rain. Sleet. Fog. Snow. Blue skies. Darkness falling.

Roger’s Pass

It was all present on my drive home from Vancouver to Calgary on Wednesday. I had planned to drive through on Tuesday but a snowstorm derailed my plans and I got to spend an extra day with my grandchildren, daughter and son-in-love.

I thought about staying until the weekend but the forecast was for more snow later in the week and into the weekend. Best to ‘carpe diem’ and slip through between the storm past and the storm forecast.

I left early – my goal, to reach home before darkness fell.

I just made it.

My heart is full. My heart arches with longing to once again hold these precious little one’s in my arms. To laugh with them. To read stories and make them up too! To sing silly songs and watch Blippi, my grandson’s favourite TV show, so that I can hear his laughter and watch him do his ‘excavator dance’.

And now I’m home. Separated by the miles and miles of land between us and the snow-capped mountains that edge the horizon, their serrated ridges a reminder of my grandson’s dinosaur inspired imitations when he gets out of the bath. Wrapped in his blue towel with the stuffed dinosaur head, he stomps around the house shaking his body from side-to-side and waving his arms as he roars. I pretend to be scared, cover my face and cry out, “Oh No! A dinosaur! I’m so scared!” And then, he laughs and giggles and we go through it all over again. And again. And again.

I remember the moment my daughters were born. I remember that feeling of pure all-encompassing love that descended upon me and enveloped me with its abiding presence. I remember feeling so overwhelmed with love that I felt like I’d never breathe deeply again. I remember holding them and never wanting to let go.

And then I did. Let go. I had no choice. To be their parent meant creating space for them to find their wings and learn how to fly.

And then, my grandson and now my granddaughter arrived and I feel those feelings of not wanting to let go and I know those feeling of being so deeply immersed in their presence the world outside fades and I feel enveloped in Love. Consumed. Captivated. Mesmerized. Entranced. Enchanted.

The difference is, this time I get to experience it all while witnessing my daughter transform into the kind of mother every child deserves. Loving. Kind. Patient. Imaginative. Creative. Caring. Funny. Playful. Permissive without being domineering. Disciplined without being controlling.

She is soft spoken even in the face of a tired child’s tantrum. She lovingly honours each child’s individual needs, creating space for their unique personalities to shine through. Even at three months old, she respects her daughter’s expressions, responding with loving-attention no matter the time of day or night. She creates a safe and courageous container of love for their children to shine and learn and grow and flourish.

The sadness of leaving is lightened by the memories of my time spent with them all and the knowing that, in Alexis and my son-in-love, these two precious beings have been gifted parents who will love fiercely and stand steadfast in their promise to love them forever and always.

What a beautiful gift of Love. For their children. Each other. The world.

May all children in this world know they are loved. They are safe. They are precious and unique.

Namaste.

Enjoy And Let Go

Beaumont the Sheepadoodle always has so much to say about my trips away.

And this one is no different.

I’ve posted his blog this morning (yes, it’s Monday) and wanted to share it here.

He said it’s the least I can do for going away. Again. 🙂

You can read it HERE.

The Way Of A Mother’s Love.

Her prayers fed hungry souls and created a world of goodness and light for all to see.

I have a memory of my parents. They are in their kitchen. My dad is making one of his famous stews, or perhaps bread. Dirty dishes cover the counter. There is lots of noise. My father was not a quiet man.

My mother is fluttering around him. She is trying to clean up his mess as he cooks.

“Leave it,” he mutters. “You’re getting in my way.”

She ignores him. He keeps muttering angrily. She stifles her tears at his angry words and keeps doing the dishes.

It was their way.

The kitchen was his domain. Keeping it clean was her contribution, except for those times when he would give way to her desire to prepare her ‘fancy’ dishes. He’d grumble and mutter about ‘fancy food’ being a waste. About how the aromas bothered his sinuses, especially garlic. You shouldn’t mask good, hearty food with that garbage, he’d continuously blurt out whenever mom prepared one of her beloved curries or special dishes redolent with the aromas of India and France spicing the air and dancing together on the palate.

Whenever my mother came to visit she would immediately gravitate to my kitchen and start to clear away dishes and wipe down counters.

Helping out was her way.

It was not my way so I’d shoo her away.

It was the story of our life.

My mother wanting to help out. Me rejecting her help.

I am still that way. I don’t like people in my kitchen. I don’t accept help easily.

Back then, I didn’t understand my mother’s love language. I didn’t understand that after a lifetime of being told by my father that she was ‘in the way’, she wanted to find a way to be of service in peace.

In her lifetime, I never found a way to let her help out in peace.

In my lifetime, I am making peace with the places where strife stirred our relationship into a mess. I am letting go of the hurts and cooking up a new way of being at peace.

This, “My Mother’s Prayers” altered book art journal, is my path.

Like a coat of white paint covering graffiti on a wall, I am painting the past with beautiful colours that weave a glorious tapestry of acceptance and forgiveness from the memories that litter my mind. Like crumbs leading me home to my heart, I am following their way into peace and harmony.

It is not our differences or all the moments we caused each other pain that matters in my life today. It is the beauty I create to honour their memory that transforms them into joy and peace and harmony.

My mother and I never had an easy relationship. In memory and in life, I am free to let go of the unease and fall with grace into the Love that was always there and always will be. Now and forever.

That is the way of a mother’s Love.

Namaste.

___________________________________________

I am off to Vancouver tomorrow to visit my daughter and her beautiful family. For the next ten days, I shall be immersed in the joy of being with my grandchildren and sharing special moments on the coast.

C.C. and I debated about my going. The ‘second wave’ of the Corona Virus is expected to hit soon. Can I do the drive safely?

He was to have driven out before me with a friend, stopping to golf at several different courses along the way. After much consideration, he cancelled his trip but, we’ve decided that as long as I take all precautions, the risks are low. I do the 11-hour drive in one day, stopping only once for gas and calls of nature (which I plan for very carefully).

These are the times in which we live. Given Covid 19s presence and my aversion to flying in its midst as well as winter’s imminent arrival and the dangers of driving high mountain passes in winter months, this is probably the last time I’ll be able to see them until next spring.

I am grateful my daughter welcomes me with such love and grace.

I won’t have much time to post while I’m gone. See you sometime after the 15th.

Namaste and Happy Thanksgiving!

Fun Times 10,000 Times

Mixed media on watercolour paper 9 x 10″

There is something mystical about spending time in the studio creating without ‘a plan’.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Plans are important. When organizing an event, an election, a campaign for something, an attack maybe, plans are critical. But… when plans involve other people, or objects, it can be hard to predict how they will respond to your plan. As Dwight D. Eisenhower is attributed with saying, “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” 

As an aside, the originator of the quote, which was not quite so pithy until condensed by a speechwriter, was a Prussian Field Marshall in the mid 19th century, Helmuth Von Moltke, who said, “No operation extends with any certainty beyond the first encounter with the main body of the enemy.” Yeah. You can see why someone had to make it more quotable. Source

I kind of like what Mike Tyson is attributed as saying, “Everyone has a plan until they’re punched in the mouth.”

Okay. So back to ‘no plan’ at my art table.

Yesterday I sat down to play. And that was as far as my planning went. Without thinking about what I wanted to create, I pulled out some watercolour paper because there was still some paint in my dish that I thought I’d use up. It’s a nice thing about watercolour paint. Unlike acrylics, it ‘comes alive’ when touched by water when still on the palette or dish.

Mixed media on watercolour paper 9 x 10″

More than anything yesterday, I wanted to simply practice making subtle backgrounds.

And then, I met my ‘enemy’. The ‘add one more element’ artist in me who just can’t ‘let go and let be’.

That artist usually appears when I get to a point where I’m liking where I’m at. No. No. it hisses! It can be better! Add Something More.

Sometimes the ‘something’ works. Sometimes not.

Like in the painting above. That big rose…

It was really soft and subtle until I decided to try out some pastels on it. That’s when I discovered my white pastel stick had a bit of black on the edge. Naturally, I didn’t check the edge until I touched the page…

Then it became an experiment in figuring out how to soothe the dark splodges with more vibrant pink.

And perhaps that’s the point of planning. The plan was to ‘have fun’. My responsibility was to breathe into the joy and the mess and find the fun in it all.

The fact is, amidst the fun there were moments of distress and stress. Moments where I wondered, “What am I doing?” and moments where my heart sang with joy.

Through it all, there was the creative impulse beating wildly free with its exhortation that, “To have fun you gotta let go and be present in it all.

To Let Go and Be Present In It All doesn’t mean ‘anything goes’. It means I am willing to let my curiosity take me places without my judgement interfering. It means I’m willing to be open to curiosity, experimentation and practice.

It’s said that it takes doing something 10,000 times to become a master.

Imagine if I imbued every 10,000 attempt at doing something again and again as ‘fun’!

In that case, I’ve had a lot of fun over the past 13 years writing blogs! With 3,896 blog posts published since I posted my first blog on March 10, 2007 (this includes 1,677 posts on my original blog, Recover Your Joy) I am over a third of the way to becoming a master blogger. Now that’s a lot of fun!

Perhaps it’s time for me to have fun painting 10,000 flowers…

Namaste

There Are No Accidents In The Human Heart

There Is No ‘Us And Them’. – two page spread in altered book art journal, My Mother’s Prayers

My mother was devoutly Catholic. She was also very superstitious.

Though putting shoes on a table isn’t particularly hygienic at the best of times (like if they’re new) for my mother, it was cause for panic. It was a harbinger of impending death.

Stir with a knife. Stir up strife.

Black cat on your path. Look out!

We used to tease her a lot about her superstitions. Here response was to pray for us with another Hail Mary.

And, though her faith was firmly embedded in Catholicism, her roots were grounded in the land of her birth and the Hinduism of Southern India.

In my parent’s home, the Crucifix along with statues of Mother Mary and Jesus Christ dominated. But there was always a place for Shiva and Brahma. And, because my father liked to stir things up, there was always a Buddha or two sitting on a shelf high above our heads. As a little girl, I loved to rub the Buddha’s belly. No matter how high the Buddha sat, I’d climb up on a chair or reach up on my tiptoes and rub away. My mother told me it would bring me good luck.

I still have a Buddha on a shelf in my kitchen along with a statue of Shiva and an elephant with its trunk upturned (its good luck). The crucifix my mother carried around the world with her since leaving India decades ago, sits on the mantel in my studio and yesterday, I carefully placed the figurines of Jesus and Mary that sat on her bedside throughout her life on the side table by the sofa. A tiny Laughing Buddha stands with them.

My parents taught my siblings and me to listen and see and feel and know and honour everyone. Not by the labels of society, but by their hearts. They taught us that there is room for everyone at the table no matter where they came from, where they were going, or what they brought to the table.

If Buddha and Christ could stand side by side on a counter, why couldn’t we sit side by side at a table?

Yesterday, after finishing rearranging and organizing my studio, I delved back into the altered book journal I’ve been creating in honour of my mother. “My Mother’s Prayers”.

It is not an accident that the left side of the page has a prayer card of Mother Mary. Just as it is not an accident that Brahma graces the right side of the page tucked beneath the purple flowers I painted in remembrance of my mother.

As my parents taught me; There is no ‘Us and Them’. We are not our faith, or colour of our skin or land of our birth. We are our hearts and there are no accidents in the human heart. There is only Love.

Namaste.