All posts by Louise Gallagher

I believe in wonder. I believe we are all magnificent beings of divine beauty. I believe we can make a difference in this world, through every act, word, thought. I believe we create ripples with everything we do and say and want to inspire everyone to use their ripple to create a better world for everyone. I'm grateful you're here.

Naked We Danced

Photo by Velizar Ivanov on Unsplash

 

In my twenties, I lived alone in a small community about 45 minutes from the city in which I was working at the time. It was all rolling hills and wooden houses perched on tree-covered hillsides. During the week, I drove into the city and worked in the corporate world. Weekends, I cast off my tailored suit and spent time amidst the flora and fauna, savouring time along and time spent visiting with neighbours and friends laughing and sharing stories and drinking wine and eating meals we cooked together.

My closest neighbours were a husband and wife about 20 years older than me, Alan and Claire. I adored them, especially Claire who constantly encouraged me to shed the tentacles of what she called my rigid Catholic upbringing and ‘let loose’ in the here and now.

After a rainfall, Claire would pound on my door and invite me to come ‘squelch in the mud’. Clothes optional.

Sometimes, she’d challenge me to join her around a fire and dance with the woodland fairies as we flung our bodies into the air. Breathlessly, we’d call-out to Demeter and Aphrodite, beseeching them to release us from the metaphorical ties that bound us to outmoded ways of being alive in this world. Clothes optional.

On full moon nights, she’d stand in the woods below my deck and howl into the night, inviting me to come play with her and the forest nymphs. And always, clothes were optional.

In my twenties, it was easier to shed my clothes, though sometimes, my mind didn’t always make it comfortable. Back then, unfettered by the worry of wrinkles and folds, of gravity’s inevitable pressures on the loosening in the elasticity of my skin, I didn’t let vanity or fear hold me back.

In my sixties now, I can feel the weight of time, of years of gorging on unhealthy body-image messaging doled out by mass media extolling the virtues of achieving a ‘perfect’ body. A body that can only be achieved if… you try this diet, wear this style, don this perfect make-up {formulated specifically for women of a certain age of course} and pile on oodles of dyes and product to your hair. Products that promise to wash away time’s passage because, everyone knows, time damages you. Time makes you less beautiful. Desirable. Seeable.

I don’t want to believe that. I don’t want to believe beauty is a diminishable element. It’s just different from ‘back when’ I fearlessly danced naked amongst the trees and didn’t worry about propriety and wrinkles of time.

In the years gone by, I have learned that the passage of years makes me… who I am today. How I am today, how I feel about me, how I express my life is an alchemy of time and elemental beauty that wells up from within. It is weathered lines softened in the evening light. Curves and edges blending. It is my expression of the wounds and wisdom I carry and release, how I breathe lovingly into beauty and the beast, dark and light, vanity and uninhibited self-expression.

Then again, when the sillies are upon me and I look aghast upon the ravages of time, I wonder if maybe it’s time to hire an army of a-gazillion tiny minions to airbrush my body in the here and now. In their careful and perfect ministrations, I will look like I am agelessly flowing through my days, svelte and all filmy and gauzy like sheer curtains blowing in the gentle breeze wafting in off a mediterranean sea.

Then again, maybe, rather than taking giant leaps of imagination, I just need to forget about time’s passage and take baby-steps in the here and now letting go of the ties that bind as I fall into the loving embrace of life as it is, in this moment, right now.

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Thank you everyone for sharing your thoughts and ideas, your own vulnerabilities.

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Photo by Maru Lombardo on Unsplash

 

 

 

Morning Reveries

A Chinook arch hangs low in the sky above the city.

The temperature rises with the warmth of its breath caressing the air.

The sun hides behind the arch.

I sit at my desk listening to piano music softly playing in the background, my fingers resting lightly on the keyboard of my laptop. Thoughts skitter through my mind like the squirrels leaping from tree branch to tree branch outside my window. The warm winds have cajoled them out of their nests. They run across the snow. Play chase in the trees and bushes.

On the far side of the river, the water runs freely in a slim channel under that hugs the shoreline.

Outside my window, on this side of the river, there is only the stillness of ice stretching out from the river bank.

The river lies quiet in the morning.  The ice clings to the cooler temperatures of night. Its surface is a glassy expanse of smooth ice and granulated snow blocks backed up against gravel bars that stretch out from the abutments beneath the bridge.

Morning has broken. Day has begun. I want to cling to the soft, cloying blanket of sleep. To remain cocooned beneath the covers, my body pressed up against my husband’s back.

Beaumont the Sheepadoodle has other ideas. Morning business calls. His wet nose pushes against my hand lying on top of the covers. He pulls me from my slumber, out into the coolness of the morning.

Day has begun. Morning has broken. The sky hangs low and grey. I stretch my body into the day. Welcome the softness of the air against my skin.

Morning has broken.

I greet the sacredness of this day with a whispered prayer of gratitude.

Morning has broken.

Here I am.

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I am grateful to David Kanigan of Live & Learn who shared a verse from Rainer Maria Rilke, “Part Two XIV,” from Sonnets to Orpheus on his blog this morning. Rilke’s words caressed my mind, stirred my heart into morning reveries.

 

 

Painting naked and other fears

My Husband and Me – Mixed Media on Canvas Paper – 11 x 14″ – ©2020 Louise Gallagher

 

Yesterday, I spent hours giggling and laughing as I dived into creative expression, drawing and painting and adding whimsical touches to what I’m calling a ‘Self-Portrait’ of C.C. and me. He’s the taller one. 🙂

What I didn’t do was what Eric Maisel, Ph.D. suggests in his book, Fearless Creating – A Step-by-Step Guide to Starting and Completing Your Work of Art — paint naked.

Georgia O’Keefe did it. Chagall. Victor Hugo – they all worked naked. According to Maisel, it’s the path to unleashing the wildness within. He writes in Fearless Creating:

The wildness has many faces. It is an amalgam of passion, vitality, rebelliousness, nonconformity, freedom from inhibitions.  Think of this wildness as “working naked.”

The thought of working naked makes my heart beat fast… with fear.

I get what he’s suggesting. I’m just not there. Yet.

It’s a fascinating and tantalizing idea. I can understand its premise and how it could free me up to ‘the wildness’ – that place within where my aliveness is made manifest with purpose and calmness. “A wild person with a calm mind can make anything,” writes Maisel. “A hushed, wild person is a god, a marvelous actor, a marvelous cellist, a marvelous writer, a marvelous sculptor. Creators are hushed wild people.”

I want to be a hushed ‘wild-one’. I yearn to live from the wildness within me, to set myself free of living by norms that tame my self-expression and do not invite me to run with scissors in my hands into the fires of life calling my heart to run wild and free.

And I hesitate to paint naked.

I also recognize that in my hesitation I am making visible the strings that keep me tied to living my life ‘by the rules’, not taking risks with my art-making, and not being 100% committed to my creative expressions.

Ridding myself of my inhibitions, curbing my need to ‘fit in’, to not rock the boat has been a life-long process of undoing lessons learned as a child and cemented on the road to adulthood on how the world works best — i.e., Don’t rock the boat. Be a good girl. Don’t speak up unless asked. Do what you’re told. Quieten down. Follow the rules…

Yesterday, I painted a whimsical self-portrait — just for the fun of it.

I may have kept my clothes on but I did let myself off the hook of worrying about making ‘good art’ and fed my soul with colour and whimsy.

It was a day of pure delight, my senses flowing with the muse and my heart leaping with joy as I let myself get swept away in creative expression.

Yesterday, I painted.

Maybe one day, I’ll be free enough to paint naked, or at least, as Maisel suggests, do what feels hard to do. Start with doing the dishes naked and work from there.

Perhaps it’s time to put blinds on the glass doors of my studio…

 

Love is the Way

What if I didn’t question the path before me and accepted that it is blessed and that all I need to do is take each step in the presence of Love.

The question arose in my meditation. It shimmered in the morning light, sliding along the frozen surface of the river outside my window. And, like the waters immediately in front of me, my mind became still, accepting and reflecting both the darkness and the light, the depth and the shallowness of my thoughts.

What if I believed the path was blessed and I had to do nothing but take each step?

And the muse answered — There would be no misstep. Only beauty shimmering in darkness and light in its depths and shallows. There would be only the perfection of each step filled with Love.

It was a scary thought. To hold true that each step before me was blessed. For, if I truly believed each step before me was blessed, I would dance in the light of Love. I would sing loud. I would laugh and spin about. I would embrace fearlessness in each step. I would not fear falling, shining, being my all and my nothing. I would not fear.

I wrote in my journal:

The Path is the Way. Trusting in the Universe I find The Way to trust in the Path where each step unfolds as a blessing before me.

We seek to fill our lives with that which we think is missing. What if we chose instead to subtract? To take away the things that do not work rather than layer over them with more and more?

What if, instead of seeking love, we chose to believe Love is always present, flowing eternally within and all around us?

Breathing into all that is not present when I still my mind and body, I found myself remembering to sink back into that place where I know, deep within me, that all my seeking to know the way, to understand the path, is just a way to keep myself busy from being all that I am.

When I let go of seeking, I open my heart, my mind, my body and soul to being present.

And in my being present with all that is, I become, all that I am, connected to all that is present – Love.

May your day be filled with being all that you are when you stop trying to become all that you tell yourself you can be if you only had more of everything.

Namaste.

Despite your regrets, are you willing to ‘live the better’?

The river moves like sludge this morning. Its free-flowing surface is becoming clogged with chunks of ice that dip and bob as the waters flow towards the rapids that have formed beneath the bridge where the ice has gathered on either side and created a narrowing in the river. Once through, the waters rush forward, racing towards the sea, or the next impediment to their progress.

The river reminds me of life.

We move along, picking up hurts and pains, clogging our flow with things we refuse to let go of, tell ourselves we cannot forgive or forget. We come to a narrowing, deposit bits and pieces of our past and dreams unlived that keep piling up along the banks and then race through whatever opening we can slip through, hoping the way ahead is clear.

Sometimes it is. Sometimes, like the river racing through the rapids, the way ahead is marred by a curve that creates space for ice to gather and impede the river’s flow.

As C.C. and I have both been battling a cold this past week, I have spent a fair amount of time lying on the couch watching Netflix movies. (After I watched the new season of Grace and Frankie of course) In one movie, the protagonist asks the hero as he’s about to attempt, yet again, to kill him after the hero has, yet again, foiled his plans for world dominance, “Did you actually think you could get to the moment of your death and not carry some regret for the things you couldn’t do?”

I don’t think you can — get to the end of your life and not carry some regret for the things you couldn’t do. I also don’t think that’s what matters.

What matters is, what we do with our regrets for the things we’ve done we wished we hadn’t. How we choose to live our lives because of the things we regret yet cannot change.

Are we willing to quit using our regrets as an excuse to continue to behave badly? To continue to not do the things we want to do? To live our dreams fully?

Are we courageous enough to face our regrets and say to those we’ve hurt, “I behaved badly. I’ve hurt you. I apologize. I am committed to doing better.” — and then… live the better.

Are we willing to look in the mirror and tell ourselves, “You are not some automaton destined to live by other people’s standards?  You deserve to live life on your terms, and as long as your terms create better for everyone, go for it!”

See, that’s the crux of it. Whatever we do, it must create better for all, because if it isn’t good for all, it’s not good for the one either.

And when I live my life by that maxim, my regrets no longer have the power to clog up the river of my life, no matter how stuffed up my head feels because of a cold or how deep the Arctic freeze that is clogging up the river outside my window.

While my husband lay sleeping.

On Saturday morning, after taking Beaumont the Sheepadoodle out for his morning business, I carried my coffee and the newspaper back to bed. As my husband slept beside me, I opened the paper to the insert honouring the 57 Canadian victims of Flight 752, shot down by a missile in Tehran last week.

I did not want to read it. I did not want to read all the stories, the names, see the photos. I didn’t want to. But, I knew I must. This was the one small thing I could do in this tragedy that leaves me feeling helpless and frightened for the future of our planet.

I lay in bed, tears streaming down my cheeks as I learned about the lives that were lost, about the people who loved them, stories from their co-workers and friends. Though insignificant in the totality of the tragedy, that hour spent reading about their lives made a difference to me. In that act, I could pay tribute to those who died, and their families who must now learn to live with the empty spaces their loved ones once filled.

I am not sure if I could have done it if I was alone in my bed, an empty space beside me.

But I don’t have to think about that as my husband is here, not gone like those who lost their lives on that flight and the countless others who will lose their lives today in other atrocities we humans inflict upon one another every day.

I want to be angry. I want to get mad. To express my sadness and sorrow in ways that make others feel as badly. I want to demand we all ‘wake up’ and stop killing one another.

And I know that none of my demands and assertions I know best will change the world for the better. My anger and blame-throwing will not create a safer, kinder planet. It will not add to the more of what I want to see in this world.

Only Love can do that.

I must choose Love.

Love is the one force, the one presence that is present in it all. In the anger, the sadness, pain, sorrow, grief, despair,

Love is always present.

It flows eternally, waiting forever for us to awaken to the truth of our humanity:  We are not separate beings walking in isolation on a planet made up of many singular people acting as individuals or collectively under individual flags. We are One humanity co-habiting this One planet. A collective humankind that has the power to create life or destroy it.

It is our choice.

When one of us walks in anger, we all feel it. When one of us kills another, the loss is universal. There is no one person to blame, no one country at fault. We are all accountable. All part of the tragedy and the loss of our humanity and the destruction of our planet.

Flight 752 took off from Tehran airport last Wednesday carrying the hopes and dreams of those on board as some travelled towards home and some to new adventures. Those 176 passengers and crew will never come home. They’ll never explore new horizons, never experience their dreams coming true. They’ll never again brush their teeth or tuck their child in bed with a goodnight kiss and a whispered prayer for ‘sweet dreams’. They’ll never again know the feeling of laying in their loved one’s arms or the excitement of running into the arms of their families waiting for them at the arrival gate.

They will never take another breath, another step, another bite of an apple, a pear or the sweetness of life. They are gone and the empty spaces they leave behind will now be filled with the tears of those who carry their memory and struggle to find meaning in the empty spaces they once filled.

I read the stories of the lives lost on Flight 752 on Saturday morning. The space beside me was filled with the comfort of my husband sleeping. And as I read, Love flowed freely, in my tears, my sorrow, my anger and my hope that one day we will choose that which makes life so beautiful and rich. That which makes life worth living –  Love.

Everything Changes and Some Things Stay the Same

My Writing Space

In the winter, when I sit down at my desk in the morning, it is usually dark.

I find it comforting. The soft darkness of the room enveloping me, the glass in front of me separating me from the air outside, which on a morning like this when the thermometer registers a chilly -32C, is a good thing.

This morning, the sun was already up by the time I sat down.

I slept in.

I think it’s becoming my new normal. To fall asleep and to rise later.

But I’m not sure I like it, or at least have adjusted my creative juices to the shift.

I have always been a morning person. Creatively, that always meant the muse was most active in the mornings. Words flowed easily. Ideas sparked naturally. Images cascaded onto the canvas with ease, in the early hours, slowing down as the day progressed.

It’s not to say that the rest of the day isn’t filled with creative expression. Just that in the morning, I don’t think about the process. I am one with the process.

It is possible that this current late rise phase is because of the cold that has settled into my body like a bear curling up in his den for a long winter’s nap. No sense coming out until the temperature outside rises.

Or, it could be that because of the absence of a formal workplace with its time clock demands and deadlines, my body and mind have decided I can relax.

This morning, as the sun peeked in through the blinds and I lay in bed contemplating my day, it dawned on me that I am in the final quarter of my first year of being in this rejuvenation phase of my life. And then, later, as I sat at my desk writing, I realized my math was, as it often is, somewhat wonky!

I left the formal work-world May 31st of last year. That puts me into the 7th month of re-designing my life. Lol — given that there are 12 months in the year, I’m still almost two months away from the final quarter.

Just goes to show, some things never change. No matter the changing circumstances of my world, math has never been, and still is not my forté!

But lots has changed. Where once I bemoaned sleeping in, now I welcome its luxury.

Where once I told myself I ‘had’ to go to sleep by a certain hour, I’ve relaxed my standards and let my natural rhythms have their way.

I also no longer feel compelled to fill my calendar with ‘things to do’, meetings and coffee dates. In fact, given the weather and this cold, I may not schedule anything until spring, just in time for the bears to come out of hibernation.

Everything changes and somethings just say the same. What hasn’t changed for me is the delight I feel every morning when I arise knowing my day is mine to organize, let loose, let flow as it may.

Baby, it’s cold outside, but inside, well, let’s just say I’m off to the studio to put it back in order — something I haven’t done since clearing off the tables which I needed to use for Christmas dinner. We went away, my daughter moved in for three weeks and used the open floor space as her dressing/suitcase area.

They moved into their newly renovated home last night and now… I am off to play.

Of course, that’s after I take Beaumont to the park for a short, and I mean short, romp. Even with his new coat and boots, it’s still too cold out there even for a furry friend.

(BTW – stay tuned for Sundays with Beaumont — he has a lot to say about his new outfit! Spoiler alert — he’s not impressed. 🙂