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.

I Am Grateful

Thanksgiving Weekend, 2021.

Our second Thanksgiving under the thrall of Covid.

I am grateful for our health.

Our second socially distanced dinner.

I am grateful for our food.

Our second Thanksgiving without gathering family and friends around a crowded table, laughing, sharing, connecting.

I am grateful for the knowing no matter how far the distance between us, we are always connected.

I am grateful for the love.

The friendship.

The sense of belonging I feel because of the people in my life who make it so rich and beautiful.

I am grateful.

Yesterday, I shut down my computer after my third Zoom meeting of the day and decided to create.

I took Beaumont the Sheepadoodle for an early evening walk along the river, (darkness comes early here above the 49th parallel) and when I came home, sat and chatted about our days with C.C. who was just finishing off a Zoom meeting.

Dusk was settling in as I went downstairs to my studio, which has also become my at-home office now that I am working with a client on advocacy and social engagement, and decided to create.

We are able to have a couple of family members for dinner on Sunday, and I know friends who would normally be at our table, are also doing the same, so I decided t start working on nametags for the table.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and let my ‘unsuredness’ be my guide.

“Go outside and gather some branches and leaves,” the muse whispered.

And so I did.

“How about mono-printing?” she teased.

And so I did.

I pulled out my mono-printing pad (a gelli plate), laid down a layer of paint, pressed some branches onto its wet surface, lay a sheet of mixed media paper on top and rubbed all over the back, trying to get the paint lifted while leaving white space wherever the leaves lay on the pad.

And then, as C.C. rattled around in the kitchen making dinner, I dove in.

Colour me delighted. Paint me at peace. Splatter me with joy.

And here’s the thing. This morning, looking at the one at the top of this post, I see where imprinting one of my hand-carved leaf stamps onto the bottom of each and painting it white will really add value to the others.

I have a couple of zoom meetings today and some documents to go through and then…

Well… You know where you’ll find me!

I am grateful.

For this day. For the beauty outside my window where I sit typing. The sun is bathing the sky with rosy hues, the river flows deep in silent communion with nature’s beauty and the golden leaves of autumn hang still in morning’s light.

I am grateful for it all.

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

The She Dares Boldly Manifesto

The She Dares Boldly Manifesto

Let me dare to hear the wild within calling me to dance.

Let me dare to invite the wildness of my heart to set my spirit free to leap and cavort as I throw my arms up above my head in a joyful salutation to the sun and the moon and the stars.

Let me dare to spin and twirl beneath a cloudless sky of blue infinity laughing and exalting in the sheer delight of being alive.

Let me dare to paint the world with childlike wonder, casting doubt and self-consciousness aside as I spread my arms wide to capture all the colours of the rainbow dancing in the magic, wonder and beauty of this day.

Let me dare to seek miracles, to believe in love and let go of holding onto unforgiveness and regrets.

Let me dare to drain every juicy ounce of goodness from the day so that as night settles in and I lay my head upon my pillow, my soul is soaked in a river of joyful celebration infusing my dreams with sighs of contentment for this day well lived beyond the realms of my imagination.

Let me dare to forget about the steps as I leap into this dance of life with wild abandon.

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I have often written about my awe of the muse’s ability to flow in and permeate my body causing my fingertips to ooze vowels and consonants that form words marching into sentences I never imagined could escape from my keyboard.

The manifesto above was just such an occurrence.

Unbidden, but most welcome, the muse arrived as I sat down at my desk in the quiet darkness of morning light not yet broken and began to write.

I knew I wanted to write about the latest She Dares art journal page I’d created — I just didn’t know what.

I needn’t have worried. The muse knew. All I had to do was get out of my head to let her flow freely through my body onto the page (in this case the computer screen but you know what I mean) and become a manifesto I didn’t know I needed/wanted/had to write out.

My wish, the one I dare to dream, is that this manifesto speaks to your heart. I dare to dream you too will rise up and twirl about in childlike wonder of all the magic, beauty and awe in your world.

I dare to hope you dance.

The Path

Every morning I follow the path to the park, Beaumont the Sheepadoodle in the lead, eager to reach the area where he can run off leash.

For the past two weeks I have been taking a different path. We walk up the hill to the escarpment and walk along the ridge overlooking the Bow River winding its way through the valley bottom below.

The fall colours have been breath-taking.

Golds and rust and bright yellows compete with the still green leaves clinging to the last vestiges of summer.

Every morning I follow the path knowing eventually, it will lead me home again.

There is comfort in that knowing. Comfort in its familiarity and predictability.

This morning, Beaumont and I chose to walk the path along the river, forgoing the steep uphill climb to the escarpment.

Winding our way through the woods, listening to the dry, fallen leaves crunch beneath our feet and the water lazily babble its way to the east, the muse drifted in and settled in for a visit like a good friend coming for tea.

Words and images, thoughts and ideas scampered through my mind like dry leaves being lifted and scattered by an autumn breeze.

Sometimes I followed their drift. Sometimes I simply nodded in recognition of their presence and let them drift out of my mind’s eye.

Always, I knew they were leading me home. To my heart. My hearth.

I walked the path I haven’t taken in awhile this morning.

I walked with the knowing, the path lead me where it always does. Into beauty, wonder and awe.

Namaste

She Dares to Walk on the Wild Side

You know those moments when you’re working on something and you think… “Ugh. This is going nowhere.” Or, “Why did I do that?” Or. “What on earth was I thinking by doing it that way?”

Yeah.

Those moments.

Well, I hit one of those yesterday.

I knew in my head how I wanted it to look. But, the outcome… well, let’s just say I struggled to get anywhere near what I envisioned with what appeared.

I also know… seeking perfection is the path to frustration. It can also lead to a whole bunch of negative self-talk and doubt.

And staying in my head… well that’s the road to perdition.

Because, in my head, it’s easy to get caught up in the “What is wrong with you/Can’t you do anything right?” game the critter loves to play with my creative expression when I am stuck or over-thinking or feeling frustrated by a new technique I’m playing with — and taking my play way too seriously.

Which is why I am choosing to share this piece even though I struggle to accept its imperfections.

Like it says, I gotta dare to walk on the wild side and let imperfection be a reflection of what my heart is yearning to express.

It’s not about the art. It’s about the process. And the process for this piece incorporates a new-to-me element — using stencils, rice paper and soft pastels together.

I love how it works and looks — I just don’t love how I judge myself so harshly when learning something new!

In that space, I forget all about being loving and gentle with myself as I slip effortlessly into a river of self-condemnation and doubt.

Swimming in that river is not good for my mental health. It dams up my fearlessness, leaving me swimming upstream against the natural flow of creativity as the critter exhorts me to ‘get it right… the first time!

It also makes me want to quit.

I am writing this out because in writing it out, I find myself once again doing what Benjamin Zander suggests in his brilliant TedTalk – The Transformative Power of Classical Music when I come up against my oh so human traits of thinking I need to be perfect when I do something new…

I throw my hands up in the air, shake my head and exclaim, “Aren’t I fascinating!”

And then… I take a walk on the wild side where the beauty of imperfection is a wide open field of possibility, stunning in its capacity to open me up, heart, mind, soul and body to the wondrous nature of life lived wild and free.

Ready for the Fall

I took the photo above on my walk this morning with Beaumont the Sheepadoodle.

An autumn breeze teases the leaves with its whispering incantations to “Let go! Let go”

And Mother Earth whispers, “I am here. I shall always catch you.”

and the leaves cling until tired, they can hold on no longer.

Leaves crackled beneath my feet. The river flowed in lazy consort with gravity’s pulling it along towards a distant unseen sea.

And Beaumont scampered through the fall-dry grasses and my heart felt light and easy.

I hope you are having a wonderful day in where ever you are on Mother Earth.

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and… Beaumont has a lot to say today about my She Dares Boldly calendar (he thinks I should do one called Beaumont Dares Boldly! — Do come join him and please…. help me talk some sense into him! 🙂 What About Me?

She Dares Boldly

I am immersed in video editing. Focused. Engrossed.

And slightly ticked off.

I mean seriously? How many times do I have to edit, download the finished version, hit play and discover…

…it still needs some work.

I go back to the file.

keep editing.

and editing.

Until finally, I tell myself, “Perfection is not the goal. Getting your message across is.”

As I’m nearing what I think is the final, final, final version, I’m still struggling with the ‘title’ for the calendar.

I send the two versions of the title page I’ve created to my eldest daughter. “Which one works best?” I ask.

She writes back, “She Dares Boldly.”

She Dares Boldly was not one of the two ideas I’d shared.

But my daughter is right.

It is the ‘perfect’ title.

I go back to the drawing board. Back into my files to create a new title page until finally I remind myself (again), “Perfection is not the goal.”

The moral of the story… Listen to your children!

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I am pleased to launch my 2022 She Dares Boldly desk calendar. I’ve had many requests for another #ShePersisted calendar but this year, I’m shifting out beyond the #shepersisted realm into the unlimited possibilities of #SheDaresBoldly.

Some of the images were created as part of my #ShePersisted Series but never used in the calendar so I’ve adopted and adapted them — all the quotes focus on “She Dares…”. The calendar will be available on my Etsy shop soon!

Truth and Reconciliation

There is a woman. Close to my age less a couple of years. She has dark hair streaked with grey. Brown eyes. Almost the same height. Not very tall.

And there the similarities end.

I was born into a family circle that while at times felt frayed and disorganized (my judgement not necessarily the ‘truth’), was never broken. I always knew who my parents and ancestors were. My siblings and aunts and cousins. I knew where I fit in, even when I railed against what I perceived as the limitations of that place of belonging.

She was born of an Indigenous Mother. Was spirited away immediately after birth and never felt the arms of her birth mother hold her, cradle her, protect her. Placed into the arms of a woman whose skin was lighter and her ways, though loving and kind, never touched the core of her being, she lived her life never feeling like she fit in. Not knowing what it meant to belong on a deep and spiritual level within a family circle, she spent her life searching for the missing pieces she could not name.

Eventually, this woman, the one close to me in age whose life path was so different, found herself on the streets. She knew where she fit in on the streets. At the bottom of the barrel, or a bottle as she liked to joke. On the street, her native roots did not stand out so much. On the street, she found her kin. Damaged. Wounded. Battered and scarred, they circled round her in a protective layer of kinship she’d never known before.

“I belong here,” she told herself every night as her head hit the hard plastic pillow of a shelter bed.

“I belong here,” she whispered to the night-time city sky lit by the glow of a pipe being passed around the circle in which she sat shoulder to shoulder with those who looked as beaten and broken as her.

Eventually, this woman who never felt the arms of her mother tenderly cradling her body as she exited the womb and made her entrance onto this planet, found herself fitting into street life as if there was no other place to be. Lost to her adoptive family, never having known her ancestors and kin, she wandered through her days hiding her pain of not knowing where she belonged beneath a protective layer of paid-for-sex that bought her what she believed she needed most, drugs and alcohol and anything else that would keep her alive.

Because, no matter how hard life became, the thing she always did, because it was the thing she’d known how to do all her life was; Survive.

When this woman’s path and mine intersected, we were both searching for a place to belong.

We both found it at a homeless shelter. For me, it was a job. For her, it was a place to survive.

Over time, we shared our stories finding common ground and connection in the one place that held no judgement or barriers. An art studio.

It was there, in front of an easel we found ourselves reflected in the images we created and the stories we told of what had brought us to this place.

That was many years ago. Our paths have gone separate ways.

She moved away. I moved on.

She has been on a healing journey for many years now. She’s working, living, creating, being who she was always meant to be long before a system that thought it knew best what was good for her, tore her from the arms that could have given her the thing she searched for all her life: Belonging.

It is a sobering thought.

It is only the circumstances of our birth that put us on different paths.

And, while I have known hardship, heartache, betrayal and abuse, I have never had to search for belonging, or fight for my right to freedom, equality, justice.

I have never had to hide my ancestry, never had my culture torn from me by its roots, or had my skin scrubbed to make it more white.

I have never known the depths of discrimination, injustice and racism that she has. I have never been put into another woman’s arms without ever having known my mother’s touch.

I have never had to travel her path to find my way back from the darkness of the street where the only way to survive is to do whatever it takes to stay alive.

This woman whose long black hair is streaked with white and whose brown eyes are encircled with life lines etched into her skin, she is brave. She is fierce. She is courageous and true.

I want to be more like her.

Fearless, no matter how the winds of life bow her back. Honest, no matter how tough the truth. Loving, no matter how deep the hatred and condemnation she faces.

On this, Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, let us all seek to be as brave and courageous as this woman and all the women, children, men and ancestors who walked these lands long before the settlers came and took away their right to walk these lands celebrating their culture, history, traditions and truth.

Let us stop erasing the truth of the history that has brought us to this day.

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For S and G and R and so many more and all the children who never made it home and all those who did and were forced to carry the wounds and scars and memories of all they endured and witnessed and hid from in Canada’s Residential Indian School system.

Today is the first time Canada has responded to the Call to Action 80 of the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee. Action 80 called for a federal statutory day of commemoration.

Today also coincides with Orange Shirt Day. Orange Shirt Day is an Indigenous-led, grassroots commemorative day honouring residential school survivors and victims. Founded by Phyllis Webstad, from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation, the orange shirt is a reflection of her experience when, on her first day of school she arrived dressed in a new orange shirt and had it taken from her. The orange shirt has become a symbol of remembrance of all Indigenous children who were violently removed from their families to attend residential schools, enduring experiences which the TRC has described as “cultural genocide”.

 

It’s a beautiful morning

Sitting in morning meditation the idea floats into my body/mind/spirit… “I am not alone.”

I call it an idea because it is more than ‘a thought’. It is a feeling, a sensing, a knowing… “I am not alone.”

It is the sensitivity to being wholly present, embodied within this moment with all of life, nature, everything and everyone in this world.

It is all I am, all that is, all that grows and breathes and lies inanimate in and all around me.

The idea floats into my being, present and connected, and as it begins to flow gently through my body, like water drifting down through pebbles in a glass, I feel a sense of peace embrace me and fill me up.

I sip from its nourishing waters and tears gently begin to flow down my cheeks as I fall effortlessly into the beauty of all that is. Present. Here. Now.

When I open my eyes the world outside my window is bathed in carmine-hued morning light. The leaves are tinted autumn gold and the river flows past in reflective homage to the day breaking through night.

It’s a beautiful morning.

Namaste

And her wings grew stronger

Every time she fell, she tried again and her wings grew stronger.

Usually, when I create in my art journal, the words drift into substance dripping with paint and creative sweat somewhere along the path, after I’ve begun the page.

Yesterday, as I sat and contemplated one of the backgrounds I’d created for the art journalling course I taught at Kensington Arts, the words landed before I’d even set up my paints, with a clear and resounding note of “Here I am”, demanding a page upon which to appear.

So much of the fun of art journalling is in the ‘allowing’ of ideas for words and imagery to materialize from somewhere deep within – without judging, limiting or condemning each thought.

So often, as I created this page, I stopped and asked myself, “What am I afraid to try?” And then, I did that.

Like adding gold pearlescent powder to the leaves and birdcage (hard to see in the photo) I haven’t worked with those types of powders in years — it took a lot of opening and closing of cupboard doors and drawers to find them – but it was like encountering an old friend you haven’t seen in a long time. The familiarity, the comfort, the excitement, the remembering of things you’ve shared, the experiences you created together, the memories you built — they’re always there, enriching each step of your journey. As you begin to laugh and chat and share stories, the time apart evaporates and you are left with that wonderful knowing that a friendship like this is not measured by time. It is woven forever into your hearts, spinning songs of joy and laughter through time shared and time apart.

I danced with the muse yesterday. It was an old, familiar tune we played. In its familiarity, woven into each strand of melody, sweet notes of possibility filled my heart, calling my wings to spread and grow stronger.

Namaste

This is the background I started with.

Shine Bright Like The Stars

The first thing I told the attendees in my art journalling workshop on Wednesday night was that I was so excited to be there I came a day early.

’cause that’s what happened.

On Tuesday, I packed up my two rolly bins, loaded them into the car and drove across the city to Kensington Art in anticipation of greeting 12 people into my class.

Except, I realized when I got there I’d somehow put it onto the wrong date in my calendar on my phone. Me and technology… know what I mean?

After laughing with the staff about my excitement, I wheeled everything back out to my car, loaded it up and drove home, laughing all the way.

On Wednesday night, I repeated the driving there but this time, I set-up and after the staff member checked people in along with verifying their vaccination cards, we dove in.

It was fun. Exhilarating. Exciting and challenging.

It’s the first in-person workshop I’ve given since Covid lockdowns began in March 2020. Fortunately, no one balked at wearing a mask throughout the evening. Though I must admit, teaching with one on is… different.

Different is ok. I can either resist or accept. My choice. I chose to accept with grace to ensure each attendee received value from the workshop and felt safe and supported in their exploration of their creative expression.

In preparation for the workshop, I created a number of backgrounds in one of my art journals as examples of ‘where to begin’ to show the class. I find it both cathartic and medicative to spend time simply layering on paint, texture and contours. The objective isn’t to think about what I’m doing. It’s to simply let whatever is seeking to appear, appear.

The first background I started with however, kept calling me to dive in. Three hours later, I had a completed page.

Ooops! I hadn’t meant to take it all the way! But I’m glad I did!

She knew that every door was a portal to wonder, mystery and awe and did not fear stepping through.

I still needed some sample backgrounds so I dove back in and consciously pulled myself away when I felt the urge to keep going. (Believe me. That’s not always easy when I’m in the flow!)

Yesterday, I opened my journal to the first background and began to play.

And that’s where the magic and the muse found me.

Perhaps it was the influence of the stunningly beautiful full moon of the night before, or the fall Equinox, or both… because somewhere at the edge of night, walking beneath a golden moon, breathing in starlight, wonder and awe, magic embraced me and I let go of thinking to allow what was seeking to be known and seen and experienced appear.

She rose like the moon and shone bright like the stars casting beauty and light into the darkness.

I taught an art journalling workshop this week. My first in-person workshop since March 2020.

It was fun. Exhilarating. And a great reminder to let go and be present in the fullness of the moon and the stars and all of life, to bathe in the wonder and the awe of this moment right now.

Namaste

PS. I’m teaching another workshop at Kensington Art on Wednesday, October 27 — if you’re in the Calgary area and want to join in, it would be lovely to see you!