About 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.

Autumn is Falling

“And all at once summer collapsed into fall.” – Oscar Wilde

This morning, when Beaumont and I took our early morning walk along the river, a thin layer of frost-tipped dew covered the ground.

Autumn is falling.

Leaves are turning.

Geese are flying south.

In the northern hemisphere, we are orbiting away from the sun.

It happens every year. Days grow shorter, shadows grow longer as the sun’s rays lengthen. And though the nights have been growing longer since June’s Summer Solstice, evidence of our turning away from the sun grows stronger with the approach of the autumnal equinox.

This will be our second autumn under Covid’s thrall. As I look back over the past 18 months I am in awe of our human capacity to adapt, to shift, to do what we never imagined possible, what we never imagined would be necessary.

Stay home. Keep our distance from one another. Wear a mask. Sanitize everything. Avoid touch. Get a vaccine.

As I look back I see the toll it has taken on everyone around the world. It has been devastating.

In my extended family, a cousin lost her life to the virus. Others sickened and recovered. An aunt far away and all alone, was unable to leave her apartment for over a year and no one was able to visit. Vacations cancelled. Family reunions postponed. Children growing up at home with little interaction with playmates and schoolmates. Parents stressed with jobs and working at home and caring for children who are underfoot all day and all night long.

And still, there is joy. There is laughter. There is love.

As autumn falls, our numbers here in Alberta are rising with dizzying speed. More hospitalizations, more people in ICUs than at any other time during the pandemic. And the death count climbs as hospitals become overwhelmed with the influx of people needing care.

Yesterday, provincial leadership finally announced increased restrictions to try to bend the curve. Many fear too little, too late.

I fear more lives will be lost. More anger will rise as those who decry restrictions clash with those who are in favour.

For my beloved and I, hunkering down and limiting outside contact has once again become our norm. Double vaccinated, he is still at higher risk should he catch the virus. It’s not worth taking chances.

And as autumn colours grow brighter and birds fly south, I remind myself that, as with all things, all seasons, all times, this too shall pass.

My responsibility isn’t to change the viruses course, I am not that powerful. What I am powerful enough to do is the right things so that its sphere of influence in my life and those around me is as limited as possible. And while it was nice to feel for awhile like I could go outside and meet with friends and do the things I love without worrying about an invisible microbe’s presence, like autumn leaves turning, reality settles in as I once again come to grips with the fact there is a microbe of devastating impact in our midst. I can’t see it. I can’t change it but I can accept, with as much grace as possible, that I can do everything in my power to limit its spread and impact.

And that is what I must do as autumn leaves fall.

I can’t change the season’s turning. I can change how I dress to keep myself warm on frost-covered mornings.

I can’t change the virus. I can change how I behave to stop its spread.

Beyond All We Know.

The leaves whisper amidst the trees branches reaching out towards the sun. “Lean further! Lean further! You’ve got to lean further to reach the sun!”

And the branches push out and away from their trunks, their arms reaching further and further into the space beyond where they must compete with their brethren to gather sunlight.

And the trunks pull back, rooting themselves deeper and deeper into the ground they know so well. Desperately they fight against gravity, trying to keep their branches from reaching too far. “Too far is dangerous,” they tell the branches. “Lean too far and you will break.”

It is the dance of nature. A never-ending ballet of leaves yearning for light and branches pulling against their roots as they reach for the sun.

It is the dance of life.

Our dreams call us to lean out, further, away from our comfort zones, out beyond the realm of where we tell ourselves we will be safe, into the space beyond all we know, all we believe to be true.

Rooted in our fears, we ground ourselves in the belief to risk change is to lose control of all we know, all we believe to be true.

We cannot change when we stand in the same spot, rooted in our fears.

To change, we must uproot our fears and let courage draw us out of our comfort zones into the vast universe of possibility beyond all we know, all we believe to be true.

_____________________________________________

Every morning, Beaumont the Sheepadoodle and I pass through the copse of trees in the picture above.

I haven’t noticed before how far they lean out. I have focused instead on the taller trees surrounding them.

This morning, I noticed their stance and the muse bid me to awaken.

.Namaste

I Will Always Catch You

When she was just a little girl, her father taught her to climb stairs and boulders and playground monkey bars and ladders.

She would stand at the top, hold out her arms and cry out with delight, “Catch me Daddy! Catch me!”

And her father would stand below, arms stretched out towards her and say, “I will always catch you.”

As time passed and she grew older, the climbs became more difficult, but she was never afraid of falling. She always knew her father would be standing below, arms outstretched towards her saying, as he always did, “I will always catch you.”

Time passed, life flowed onwards and with its constant movement, she too moved away to start her own life far from her father. They still talked on the phone and always on her birthday, she would come to visit to walk to the park where she had learned to climb and fly, safe in the knowledge her father would always catch her.

Seasons changed, years passed and as she grew older so too did her father. Slowly, with the passing of time, he was no longer able to always be there to catch her when she fell, but she always knew that if she did, he would help her get back up. It was his promise.

“I can’t always catch you when you fall,” he told her when first she moved away from home. “But I promise, I will always be there to help you get back up.”

One day, after his daughter called to say she could not make it home to celebrate her birthday with him as she had to travel to a city far away, he walked to the park where every birthday when she was a little girl, she’d climbed the slide and stood at the top and stretched out her arms towards him and called out, “Catch me daddy! Catch me!”,

On this day many years later, he sat on a bench in the shade of a mighty oak tree and watched a little girl with flaxen hair and sparkling blue eyes climb up the stairs to the top of the slide. A short distance away, too far to catch her if she fell, her father stood unaware, his head turned down, reading something on the phone he held in his hands.

The old man, who had once reached out his arms towards his daughter and said, “I will always catch you,” watched in dismay as the little girl stood at the top of the slide and called out to her father, “Catch me daddy! Catch me!”. Her father didn’t hear her.

The old man stood up from the bench and slowly began to shuffle, as fast as his arthritic legs would let him, towards the child who still stood at the top of the slide, arms outstretched calling to her father, “Catch me daddy! Catch me!”

“Hey!” the old man called out to the father standing with his head bent towards his phone. “Hey! Watch out! She’s going to fall!”

The father, hearing the old man’s voice, looked up and saw the old man, his arms waving wildly around his face pointing towards his daughter where she stood at the top of the slide, calling to him, “Catch me Daddy! Catch me!”

In one seamless move, he tucked his phone into his jacket pocket, took three strides towards the slide and reached his arms out towards his daughter. “I will always catch you,” he said as the tiny bundle of her body catapulted itself down the slide into his waiting arms.

The old man stopped and watched the two pair of arms unite. The child laughed in delight as her father picked her up, held her above his head and spun her about just as he had once spun his daughter so long ago.

The father carefully put his daughter on the ground the thee two moved off towards the swings, the little girl holding his hand and she said in her sing-song voice, “I want to swing as high as the sky!” And the father placed her on the stretch of rubber seating and began to push her. The child laughed and called out. “Higher! Higher! I want to touch the sky” And the father pushed her higher and higher until she let go of the swings chains and called out, “Catch me Daddy! Catch me!”

And he did.

Slowly, the old man turned away and began walking back towards his home. His heart felt heavy with the longing for a child’s arms outstretched towards him and his reaching back.

Lost in memory he didn’t notice he’d reached the main road and stepped off the sidewalk without stopping to check for traffic.

Suddenly, a pair of hands reached out and grabbed his shoulders, pulling him back to safety just as a city bus went whizzing by.

Startled, he lost his footing and almost fell to the ground, but the same hands gently caught him and broke his fall. He took a shaky breath, turned his face up to thank his would be savior where they knelt beside him as he sat on the ground.

“Are you okay?” a voice he recognized asked. He turned his face and his eyes opened wide as he peered into the deep blue eyes of his daughter kneeling beside him.

“How is this possible?” he asked breathlessly. “You said you were going to a city far away.”

And his daughter smiled and said, “I wanted to surprise you.”

The old man reached out with a shaky hand to take hers and said, “I’m so glad you were here to catch me.”

And his daughter smiled again and said, “You need to pay more attention dad to where you’re going. That bus almost hit you. I can’t always be here to catch you.”

And her father nodded his head, his white hair moving around his face like feathers floating in the air.

Slowly he began to stand and asked, “Will you help me get back up?”

And she reached one hand under his elbow and said, “Of course.” And as she helped him get to his feet she said, “I can’t always be here to catch you when you fall, but I will always help you get back up.”

______________________________________

Yesterday, a dear friend, Max, called. We haven’t spoken in a long time, but it was as if time had not passed.

In our conversation, he shared many stories of the people who have helped him on his journey. “I have an idea,” he said. “What do you think about writing a poem called, “I Will Always Catch You.”

Several years ago, Max wrote music to a poem I’d written and recorded called, “Dare“. (You can read about it and listen to the recording, HERE)

I loved the idea of writing a poem to his title — it fits so well to something I used to tell my daughters when, as young adults, they set off to make their way in the world. “I can’t always be there to stop your fall,” I told them. “Sometimes, it’s best I don’t. But know, that no matter where or how hard you fall, I will always be there to help you get back up.”

This morning, as Beau and I walked in the cool September air of an autumnal day, Max’s idea kept percolating through my mind. When I came home, I sat down at my desk and the story above appeared.

Thank you Max. It’s not ‘a poem’… YET – like the river, life takes its own course weaving its stories in mysterious and mystical ways.

Awake. Aware. Alive.

Down by the riverside

In the moment of being present within the grandeur of the Kananaskis mountains, their jagged peaks edging the horizon like the ridged back of a dinosaur sleeping beneath the infinity of the blue sky soaring above the valley bottom stretched out in verdant lushness on either side of a babbling brook joyfully streaming its way through the verdant fields, I forget to be present within the moment. I forget that this moment passing by, like the stream passing through the valley and the clouds slowly drifting out of view, is all there is to experience. That this moment full of soaring peaks and whispering pines is all there is to know.

I am busy.

After-dinner wine on the deck with Jane

Too busy, I tell myself, to stop and savour the feel of the cool crisp mountain air on my face. Too busy to let the sun caress my face, the smell of the Lodgepole pines and white camas and elephant heads tickle my nostrils.

I am too busy.

Until I remember, this moment, this nanosecond of time passing by in man-made multiples of seconds and minutes and hours, is all there is to hold onto, to know, to remember.

It is in those fleeting, liminal moments I stop, look out the kitchen window, close my eyes and breathe in. The air. The sights. The smells. The silence. The whispers, rustlings, muffled voices and the beauty all around me.

It is in those ethereal, tantalizing moments I remember to be present. To be comforted by the knowing, there is nothing else, nowhere else to be. I am here. Embodied in this moment. Awake. Aware. Alive.

A frosty morning tea.

There is nothing to push, pull, rush or divert. Nothing to change.

There is only everything to experience, embrace, delight in and savour.

And then, the moment passes and I return to chopping and stirring, to checking on the bread baking in the oven, the soup simmering on the stovetop, the onions caramelizing in a pan.

Life is like that. Moments happen. Sometimes, we happen to be awake enough, aware enough to experience the depths of its joy, beauty, richness. Other moments, we sleepwalk through time, believing we’ve got lots of time to awaken, or not.

And with each passing moment, we move on. Like the stream burbling through the valley bottom unaware of winter’s approaching harsh winds and frost-riddled chills, we blithely dance and laugh, or stumble and groan our way through each day unaware of the fragile nature of time’s hands spinning away the hours.

We weave our lives in and out of time’s warp and weft, sometimes consciously shuttling the threads to create a picture of intentional beauty, other times letting the threads push and pull their way through without much thought to our design or purpose.

No matter our passage, in the end, regardless of how much intent or inattention we put into the weave, the tapestry of our lives will be woven through all the moments we experienced, awakened, asleep or simply sleepwalking.

Jane & CJ

I spent five days in the Kananaskis. Four of them cooking at beautiful Mt. Engadine Lodge. It was a sublimely enriching experience full of laughter, shared times with lovely people surrounded by majestic mountains and lush valleys.

I wasn’t always conscious of the beauty around me, but I like to think that every morsel of food I prepared was imbued with the beauty of my surroundings and the love and gratitude I felt for the gift of time to cook in such a stunning environment amidst the wonderful staff at Mt. Engadine Lodge.

This morning, as I sit at my desk and watch the green leaves of the poplars dancing in the morning breeze and the river flow past in an endless ribbon of deep blue water, I feel rich. Enriched. Enlivened.

I am Awake. Aware. Alive.

I am grateful.

Grateful for everything (even the tougher moments and my (many) mistakes) but especially the people — my dear friend Jane who filled the role of Chef’s Assistant with such grace and joy, her daughter CJ who came for a short visit and taught us how to use her apple corer/peeler (Amazing!), my daughter Liseanne who gave up part of her long weekend to help me in the kitchen for the final day and a half when Jane had to leave, and her husband Al who took the time to BBQ burgers for the staff dinner on Saturday evening before they left. And the Lodge’s incredible Chef, Tony, for trusting me with his kitchen (and the guests’ gastronomic experiences) for four days and the irrepressible Simón, the lodge’s general manager, whose constant smiles and good humour kept me laughing and out of ‘the stress zone’! And all the staff who treated me with such kindness and helped me find where things were and answered my endless questions about “What would Tony do?” and laughed with me (and then helped clean up the mess) when I did things like turn on the giant mix master thinking it was on low only to discover with one flick of the switch… it was set to High — have you ever seen how far a machine like that can fling cheesecake filling? Oh my! Liseanne and I were covered as were the walls and floor and everything else within a two foot radius!

I am grateful.

And… while the last time when I got home I said I’d never do it again. I was wrong. I’d love to! While it was challenging it was also fulfilling. And, as my daughter Liseanne said on our drive home, “I feel accomplished.” And she’s right. Cooking for 29 paying guests at a backcountry lodge with a temperamental (possibly possessed) oven and an occasional meal when the water cistern runs dry and when you can’t run out to the grocery story to pick up a missing ingredient, is no small feat!

But it is fun and challenging and definitely does leave me feeling accomplished.

Below is a short video I created to remember my time at the lodge. A couple of the photos at the end are from the hike my daughter and I took to Chester Lake on the Monday after we left. It was sublimely beautiful.

Thanks Jane. You Da’ Bomb!

Ahh… job well done. Wine well earned… Friendship well shared.

When I arrive home from Mt Engadine Lodge and check my phone I realize… I have barely taken a photo.

It was busy.

And fun.

And challenging and at moments, pulling my hair out worthy. Especially Thursday morning when there was only enough water for guests. That meant… there was no water in the kitchen and the water truck wasn’t scheduled to arrive until later in the morning.

Making breakfast without water for 30 people, plus staff, is challenging without adding in the fact breakfast included poached or boiled eggs and waffles and a waffle machine that kept blowing the fuses. Like at least 8 times!

Oh. And did I mention the fuse box is waaaay downstairs, down a corridor, turn left, down another corridor and walk all the way back to the end of the hall where you’ll find the fuse box in a dark corner?

I wanted to cry. I wanted to throw in the dish towel. I wanted to scream.

I did none of the above. (Thankfully)

I just kept going.

As did my friend and sous chef extraordinaire, Jane, Simon the general manager and all the staff.

We just kept going. Just like the dishes that kept piling up in every corner of the kitchen, pantry and back hallway! We kept going amidst the chaos, laughing and (almost) crying as we went.

The guests never knew anything was amiss — other than a few waffle orders were slower than expected and poached eggs disappeared from the menu. Did I mention the staff are amazing? They are.

Tea and frost in the morning

Life will always throw curve balls. It’s not a one plane, one direction, straight line kind of affair.

The invitation is… to go with the curves, and ups and downs, or exhaust yourself fighting every dip and dive and loop and corner as you try desperately to make straight lines fit the boxes of your predetermined dimensions.

There is no box.

There is only a great big playing field of possibility waiting for you to run through rainbow coloured fields of wild-flowers inviting you to leap into the fray of life’s beautiful mess.

It was a great 3 days of cooking and laughing and sharing and being present to the beauty all around and the people who made it such a rich adventure.

The skies were clear. The mountains soared and the valley bottom stretched out from horizon to horizon in verdant tranquility, its edges guarded by stately firs marching up the slopes and larch trees just beginning to show their golden colours.

And in the end, even though I’d sworn to C.C. on the phone on Thursday night that I would “Never do this again,” when Simon said he had a big favour to ask me on Friday morning, (I thought he was going to ask me to never come back to cook) and ended up asking if I’d be able to help out this week again, I said yes.

So did Jane.

I’d say we’re bears for punishment but I think it’s more that we’re leaping gazelles roaming free on the wild side of life. (Okay, so maybe lumbering bears snuffling through the wild grasses is more apropos to our state of being, but I really like the idea of being a leaping gazelle so I’m sticking with it! 🙂 )

‘Cause here’s the thing… Jane and I have been friends for almost 40 years. We have travelled, hiked, skied, biked and experienced all sorts of adventures together. We’ve raised our children together and they are best friends too. We’ve laughed, cried, yelled, banged pots in backcrountry lodges (that’s a whole other story) to wake up our fellow skiers so we could hit the wide open spaces nice and early, and we’ve sat by roaring fires singing and sipping wine and telling tales. We’ve crossed glaciers and raging rivers with 50lb packs on our backs and shared the load and lent an arm or hand or smile or a pot and ladle whenever necessary.

We have been through a lot together.

And this… this cooking for a crowd in a backcountry lodge… well it just makes our friendship taste richer. Our experiences melt onto the memory bed of my mind like the first spoonful of a delicious chocolate soufflé hot out of the oven melting on my tongue.

I am grateful for so much in my life and have been blessed with so much. Family and friends top the list and Jane makes that list sing like a wooden ladle banging on a pot in the pristine air of a Rocky Mountain morning!

And while the pot may, or may not, sprout a few dents after said banging (there are no photos so hey! No proof it ever happened!) the road ahead is always smoother when accompanied by great friends.

Thanks Jane. You da’ bomb!

________________________

PS — along with the main lodge and six beautiful log cabins, Mt. Engadine has 5 Glamping Tents that are available year round. Cozy with a delightful tinge of outdoorsy adventure, they’re warm and snug and comfortable.

Pure delight! Especially on Thursday night when it rained and we lay in our beds, the fire burning bright as we listened to the sound of the rain on the canvas. Yummy!

Here’s a 20 second video from the porch of our tent.

.

The Marathon Runner

My morning tea at Mt Engadine Lodge

When my mother was alive we counted her birthdays by her number of years on earth.

Yesterday, for my sisters and daughters and I, her 99th birthday was marked with the number 2. It was her second birthday since leaving this earth February 25th, 2020. She was 97.

When she was born in 1922 in India, the average life expectancy in her land of birth was around 25 years of age (I should mention that was for the average Indian who did not live as privileged and protected a life as my mother and her siblings and cousins, the majority of whom have all lived beyond the age of 80, Of my mother’s 9 siblings, 3 continue to grace us with their presence).

When my mother arrived in Canada in 1946, life expectancy was around 60 years of age. As in so many things she did, my mother defied the odds.

One day last week, before I headed off to the mountains to play ‘Chef’ at Mt Engadine Lodge, I met a man jogging through the park while I was walking with Beaumont the Sheepadoodle.

He stopped to admire Beau and told me he and his wife were dog-sitting his son’s Labradoodle. “They’re such great dogs,” he said.

I agreed and then asked him about the running shirt he was wearing. It had a photo of a city skyline imprinted on it and the word, in big bold letters, BOSTON, printed beneath the skyline.

“Did you run the Boston Marathon?” I asked.

He smiled, touched the shirt with one hand against his chest and said, proudly, “Fifteen times.”

“Wow!” was about all I could respond.

And then he went on to extoll the virtues of staying fit, of having a hobby, of being engaged with life.

That man’s name is Gerry Miller. “You can connect with me via social media,” he told me as he prepared to start jogging again (he was on kilometer 15 of his 32 km training run). “I’m pretty well known in jogging circles and in the elder community.”

When I got home I looked him up.

Well known? How about renowned.

At 85 years of age, Gerry is the number 1 ranked over 80 marathon runner in the world (an activity he took up at the age of 58 at his son’s urging). He holds 3 gold medals and 2 silver medals in his age category and, at the time of our chat, was preparing to run the London Marathon this October — as long as they let me into the country, he told me with a big smile.

In our brief encounter Gerry reminded me of the value of ‘attitude’.

His was infectious. Exuberant. Invigorating.

So much so, I wanted to drag my running shoes out from the back of the closet and hit the trails again. But not before first googling the question, “Does running with severe arthritis in my feet make it worse?”

Sigh. The fact is, any impact sport will negatively impact arthritis.

Time to formulate Plan B.

Time to augment my daily walking with biking, swimming and weights (gently of course 🙂 ).

My mother was 97 when she left this earth. Never a particularly active woman, arthritis ate away at her body strength and agility with every passing year and though her mind stayed alert, she lived with excruciating pain. She seldom complained about the pain. She did complain about what she perceived as God’s Plan.

Often, in her final years she would ask, “Why doesn’t God take me?”

And I would reply, “Because he’s not ready for you yet.”

“I’m ready,” she would respond.

My mother left this earth ready to go. She’d been preparing for her departure for years.

I don’t know when I will leave this earth (none of us do) but I do know, I want to spend each day with an attitude like Gerry’s. Active. Engaged. Eager to take on new challenges. Excited about the next opportunity. Looking forward to the next kilometer or adventure.

Aging is not a death sentence. It is an integral part of living, as natural as breathing. We can’t avoid getting older. We can avoid getting old — in our thinking, our way of living, our attitude and our outlook.

And to do that, we must keep moving, doing and being excited about life.

When Adventure Calls, Say YES!

Brunch at Mt. Engadine Lodge – Photo source – https://mountengadine.com/gallery/

Yesterday, I spent several hours taking and editing photos of my artwork and loading them onto my ETSY store – DARE BOLDLY ART

I know… shamelessly commercial, but… it’s also real, ’cause here’s the thing –

I don’t create to sell, I create to express my inner desires, hopes, dreams, feelings, thoughts, ideas, concerns, confusion, contemplations.

And then, my walls become too crowded. My cupboards become cluttered with pieces of art gathering dust, growing weary of the darkness.

And so… I enter art shows and fairs in the hope that in selling a few pieces not only do I create space, I also create inspiration for the next creative expression (along with coin to buy the prerequisite supplies – though given that my studio is full of supplies, that buying more supplies probably comes with a douse of over-consumption!)

But, regardless of why I want to sell my art — (I really do need the space) I have finally started to load some of my paintings onto Dare Boldly Art!

Over the next few weeks I’ll be adding more — but today…

Well, today I’m off for three days to be “The Chef” at Mt. Engadine Lodge in Kananaskis Country. They are between chefs – the new second chef starts Sep 6 and the current chef needs a break! I’m happy to oblige! (The photo above is taken from the deck)

Not quite ‘backcountry’ (you can access it via a gravel/dirt road) it is however off the beaten path as well as ‘the grid’.

This is the same lodge I cooked in at just before Christmas 2019 – just before Covid locked the world down and lodges such as Mt. Engadine struggled to make their way through the chaos and closures.

Through good management, committed staff and strong Covid protocols, the Lodge has pulled through.

Colour me excited!

Last time I was there, it was a winter wonderland. This time, I’ll be entering a late summer/ early fall (the temp this morning is 0C – 32F) playground of burbling streams, mountain flowers carpeting meadows in all the colours of the rainbow and birds singing and soaring in the air.

And… bonus! My friend JD is joining me again to keep me company and play the role of ‘sous chef’. I’ve packed along a bucket of paints and ephemera for us to play with, my hiking boots and a stack of cookbooks to devour as I plan out the meals for the next three days.

Before cooking at Mt Engadine the first time, cooking in a backcountry lodge was on my bucket list — now it’s on my ‘repeat often’. It is exhausting but fun. It’s (kind of) scary and challenging. It connects me to my creative core – cooking for 30 people does that – and it reminds me that life is a constant adventure when you say YES! to its many beguiling invitations.

See you all next week!

And PS — please do come check out my store — if only to say Hi!

Happy cooking. Happy living! Happy. Happy.

I Wrote A Letter To My Lover

Two things happened this morning. Both took me in unexpected directions.

Gratitude and curiosity fueled each experience and brought them together on a river of creative expression flowing free.

David Kanigan’s Monday Morning WakeUp Call today lead me to the website, The Vale of Soul-Making. Exquisite. Provocative. I got lost in its words.

The morning post I receive every day from Daily Om connected me to thoughts I’d had yesterday about personality. How it’s so easy to get trapped in believing ‘we are the way we are and there’s nothing that can be done about that.’

At the time of that thought drifting into my mind, I was walking along the rocky beach between the river and the forest, my mind skipping from thought to thought, like a stone skimming and dipping, skimming and dipping along the water’s surface.

At one point a thought skipped into view that surprised me. “You know, Louise,” the thought whispered. “One of the gifts of that relationship with the man of ill-intent was that because your personality was so completely submerged in his abusive ways, when he was arrested and you got your life back, you had to rebuild yourself up from the soles of your feet to the soul of your being who you’re truly meant to be.”

It was a fascinating thought. But, because I was wandering along the river, savouring the sunshine on my face, throwing the ball and watching Beau race after it interspersed with his stopping every so often to follow a scent that caught his olfactory glands in unexpected ways, I let the thought drift away.

This morning, I read one of the many quotes offered by Nick Flynn at The Vale of Soul-Making and that thought skipped back into view.

And then, I read “Finding Another Perspective” at Daily Om and my heart did one of those skippity-dippity hops it likes to do when it finds the subterranean flow of its beat rising to the surface in joyful exhalation and my lungs gave a giddy sigh of satisfaction and my lips smiled wide and my eyes popped open and I exclaimed to no one and to the world, “Oh Yes!”

And then…. as so often happens when I follow the winding way of my thoughts flowing through, a poem appeared as if floating on a lifeboat of possibility.

And here it is. I do so love the unexpectedness and joyfulness of the muse’s way of drawing me into creative expression.

A Letter To My Lover
by Louise Gallagher

I wrote a letter to my lover
long gone from this sphere
of my life orbiting 
around the one I have become
rising up 
from the ashes of a love
that was never truer
than the lies
he told to enslave me
in the poisonous venom
of his unrequited self-hatred.

I wrote a letter to my lover
Thank you, I said,
you saved me from my belief
who I was, was all I could ever be
locked up in a painful construct
of believing I was never good enough
to be free.

I wrote a letter to my lover.
I am free.

Live Well. Stay Connected.

I love this photo because it is full of joy — and my granddaughters desire to get moving written all over her face! 🙂

When my 97-year-old mother passed away in 2020, three weeks before the first Coronavirus enforced lockdown, we were able to celebrate her life with family and friends. Grief and gratitude for this woman who had given so much to everyone were present. We were fairly confident the virus wasn’t.

For our family, the passing of our matriarch was a shared experience that enriched our lives and brought us closer, not just with one another but with our many friends, most of whom had known our mum and loved her for her gentle ways and many kindnesses.

In the final two weeks of her life my mother was never alone, never without a loving presence sitting at her bedside, talking, reading, sharing, laughing, caring. Sometimes, friends dropped by to say hello, and good-bye. It was a loving, peaceful farewell made even more beautiful because we each knew that we belonged within the family circle my mother had woven and stitched and patched and repaired throughout her life.

For older adults, having a sense of belonging is vital to physical and mental health. Yet, too often, social isolation and loneliness shadow their days and nights, leaving them exposed to many diseases.

The CDC reports that “Although it’s hard to measure social isolation and loneliness precisely, there is strong evidence that many adults aged 50 and older are socially isolated or lonely in ways that put their health at risk. Recent studies found that:

  • Social isolation significantly increased a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity.
  • Social isolation was associated with about a 50% percent increased risk of dementia.
  • Poor social relationships (characterized by social isolation or loneliness) was associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.
  • Loneliness was associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide.
  • Loneliness among heart failure patients was associated with a nearly 4 times increased risk of death, 68% increased risk of hospitalization, and 57% increased risk of emergency department visits.    Source

I have often wondered how my mother lived such a long life, and aside from severe arthritis, a relatively healthy life.

My mother was seldom lonely.

She made it her mission in life to befriend strangers, to surround herself with people about whom she cared and who cared for her. She lived connected to a vast network of family and friends. And though there were times we worried about her mental health and her ability to cope with life’s ups and downs, her resilience and ability to make meaningful relationships where ever she was, her habit of always giving back in whatever way she could, kept her safe and secure to her final day.

Many older people are not so fortunate. Nor connected. As we age, so too does our close community. This can lead to feelings of loss, loneliness and isolation. These feelings can be exacerbated by life circumstances such as transitions to retirement and accompanying loss of identity, ill health, loss of a spouse or friends, mobility problems, vision and hearing loss, lower income, residential changes, and changes in access to transportation.

And, when we’re feeling lost and alone, when we fear we have no one we can safely reach out to, our mental and physical well-being are at risk.

We live in a diverse society. Not just gender, race, faith, sexual orientation and culture but age too. As in other developed countries, Canada’s population is aging. The number of Canadians aged 65 and older will rise from 14% (4.8 million) in 2010 to 25% (10.4 million) by 2036 (Statistics Canada, 2010). By 2056, 1 in 10 Canadians will be aged 80 or older (Martin-Matthews, 2011).

We are also living longer and continuing to make meaningful contributions to society well beyond the socially accepted retirement age of 65.

To ensure we capitalize on the age diversity that exists in society today, we must ensure our policies, programs, services and structural facilities are designed to promote social inclusion, connection and belonging. To capitalize on the significant contributions older generations are making and will continue to make for the common good, we must not limit their potential.

My mother was 97 when she took her last breath. If she had one regret, she used to say in her soft, lilting voice, it was that she hadn’t accumulated great wealth to leave behind for her children and their children.

She need not have any regret. What she left us is far more valuable. She left us knowing we belong to one another and an appreciation for the power of social connection.

My Grandmother’s Code Revisited

After two weeks with my grandchildren (and their parents) my heart is full. Of love. Laughter. Joy. Contentment. Wonder and Awe.

Before my grandson was born I wrote a Grandmother’s Code for myself to remind me of what I wanted my grandchildren to learn and know — not just about me but about being in this world.

As I played and chatted and soared on imaginary space ships to the moon and talked to trees in the forest and searched for crabs beneath rocks on the beach, I wondered, what am I teaching them? Am I teaching them about kindness? About diving deep into your imagination to explore what’s possible and to believe in your dreams? Am I teaching them to love fierce, live wholly, be present?

This morning, I went in search of my Code to check out how well I’d lived by its tenets. I’m grateful I did.

What do I want to teach my grandchildren?

I want to teach them that who and how they are in the world makes a difference because their being in this world makes a difference.

I want them to know that this world is a place of awe and wonder. That amidst the turmoil, pain and chaos, that kindness, beauty, creativity, compassion are essential. And that in all things, all places, all situations, Love is always the answer.

And I can only do that by living through:

The power of kindness.

The beauty of honesty.

The gift of creativity.

The exquisiteness of compassion.

The grace of Love.

By living these tenets in all ways and all things I am, I want my grandson and granddaughter (heck. make it the whole world) to know that you don’t have to do anything to make a difference. You are the difference you bring into this world. Make your difference be a reflection of all you are when you walk with integrity, act through kindness and do all things with a heart full of love and compassion.