The Joy of Arting

I have been working on a ‘top secret’ project as Beaumont calls it.

I laugh at myself when I type that phrase “as Beaumont calls it”. Fact is, Beaumont doesn’t actually speak so he can’t call it anything. All he knows is that I have been back in my studio again.

And that’s a good thing.

I forget when I take long periods away from ‘arting’ how restorative, healing and calming it is to spend time immersed in the creative flow. How fulfilling it is to play with colour and texture, mediums and papers. To let my mind disassociate from the everyday to become embraced by the magical

I can’t write about the project… it wouldn’t be top secret if I did (and my daughters tell me I can’t keep a secret. Ha! Can too!) 🙂

What I can write about is the pure joy of losing track of time and space to become one with the moment, fully embodied in the wonder of now.

What I can tell you about is how when I begin each page of a new art journal, I don’t have a clear vision of the outcome. I simply have a vision of the ‘feelings’ I want it to evoke. The emotions I want to capture, the sense of there being room to breathe freely in this busy, chaotic world I want to create.

Every page is an emotional response to the moment, and on every page, I lay down not just paint, but those very emotions I want to evoke, examine, escape, embrace… show and know

Emotions that sometimes have no words. No space to breathe. No space to be simply because their ability to hide is greater than my ability to know them clearly — and so, I paint them out in an effort to set them free. Or at least, set myself free.

And that is what always happens.

In painting them out, I set myself free to be the light I want to see in a spacious, beautiful, calm and loving world.

Arting. It’s a gift that keeps creating the more of what I want in my world. Love. Joy and Beauty.

Namaste.

National Indigenous History Month

In Canada, National Indigenous History Month reminds each of us of our responsibility, individually and collectively, to create change, to build better, to open our hearts and minds so that Indigenous Peoples know their stories are heard, their history not forgotten and their cries for justice, equality and belonging are heeded.

Last year, the news of 215 remains found at the former Kamloops Residential School on the lands of the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation, rocked the nation. 

Like so many, I grappled with how to make sense of it all. I struggled to find ways to not only understand, but to figure out my role in reconciliation.

We all have a role to play in reconciliation. For me, it’s about learning more without letting the burden of all that was done to destroy the lives, culture, beliefs and rights of Indigenous Peoples, and all that is wrong today, draw me back into denial. It’s about creating space in my heart and mind for truth to illuminate my desire to ‘not know’ so that I can fearlessly see into the darkness of what was done to Indigenous peoples that created my privilege today. And in that seeing, take action to break down stigma, speak out against discrimination and racism and create better for everyone.

As part of my journey, I wrote this poem after hearing the news of 215 remains found at Tk’emlups te Secwepemc. I share it again this year to remind me there is still much to be done and much I can do.

Did They Search For The Children?
by Louise Gallagher

When they discovered
they were gone,
when they realized
their bed was empty
did they search
for the children?

Did they send out a call
for volunteers
to come
band together
with the police and school administrators
and community members
and the parents whose tears 
could not stop falling
as they searched 
desperately
the long tall grasses
that surrounded the school
in a frantic attempt
to find their child
gone missing in the night.

Did they search
or did they already know
it was too late
the child was gone
forever
buried
beneath the black
earth covering
their tiny, fragile body
still
forever more.

And when the mother came
knocking, knocking, knocking
at the door
her body awash in a river of pain
did they bring her inside
and wrap their arms around her
and tell her how,
how this had happened
what had gone wrong
how sorry and ashamed and horrified
they were that her child
was lost
and that they too
would never stop
searching 
for answers
never stop searching 
for her child
forever more.

Or did they slam the door
laughing at her dirty Indian face
leaving her to wander
inconsolably
in the rain and the sleet and the snow
under a hot burning sun 
along the long dusty road
leading away from the last known place
where she had seen her child
enter
that dark day
the police and the Indian Agent
had come
to steal her child away.

Did they slam the door in her face?
Did they turn their backs on the mother
and whisper amongst themselves
how they would never tell
anyone
what had happened
to the child.

These questions
these remains
these stories
of two hundred and fifteen children
found
buried
deep
beneath the black soil
surrounding a school
where children were taken
from their loving families
so the ‘Indian’ could be beaten out of them,
these questions
these remains
these stories
they haunt me.

And I imagine a mother
grasping for her child
as the police tear the wee one out of her arms
and I see Auschwitz and Buchenwald
but I do not see
my Canada

Oh my Canada
we have lived with these stories
burning
deep
buried beneath
the dark soils
of this land
eating away at our nationhood
and still 
we do little.

And I imagine it happening to me
while my daughters were young
or my daughter’s children 
and the children of her friends
right now
being forcibly taken
so the Canadian can be beaten out of them
and I wonder
would we ever recover?
Would we ever 
get 
over 
it
as so many suggest
those who lost their children
and their culture
and their language
and their land
must do
now?

And I wonder
can we ever recover
from our past?
Can we ever wash away
our shame
when we know now,
as they knew then,
we cannot bring
these children back.
They are gone
forever.

Saturday Share

I like to begin my morning with meditation.

It’s good for my world, my body – heart. soul. mind. belly. All of it and all of me and all of the world around me.

Yet, for the past while, I have been scattered in my approach to doing that which I know is good for me. Resistant to sitting in the quiet letting the disquiet within me become seen, known, heard, visible so that in its presence I could become present to it all, and so much more.

This morning, while responding to comments on yesterday’s blog, the lovely JoAnne, of JoAnne’s Rambling blog commented that she is so blessed.

Which inspired me to share the link to the wondrous Kerry Parson‘s collaboration with singer/songwriter, Amy Wood, We Are So Blessed, which brought me back to my meditation mat.

Sitting in the quiet, listening to the soft melodious notes of Amy’s piano, Kerry’s voice, Amy’s song I felt it – my heart’s desire to find its beat amidst the chaos, to find its melody amidst the discomfort, to find its rhythm amidst the unrest.

And, because I like to share things that create beauty, wonder, joy and awe in my life with all of you, I share it here again.

I am Alive. What a Beautiful Gift.

There’s a meme going around social media sites asking readers something like, “If you remember playing outside until the street lights came on, or, If you remember running barefoot in the yard and drinking out of the garden hose, or squishing the orange dot into the margarine that came in a bag…. then you had a great childhood. (or something like that)

We baby-boomers, we like to tell our offspring, had it good. Freedom to play outside without fearing strangers. Freedom to go to the park on our own, play on death-defying carousel thingies with metal bars without fearing we’d puke (’cause that would be so cool anyway!) or chip a tooth on the wooden teeter-totter with the metal handlebar – which I did but nobody seemed phased by the blood running out of my mouth as I ran across the cement to the swings that had metal seats and rusted chains, determined I’d finally be able to pump so hard I went all the way around over the top.

Without a parent or other adult around, there was no one around to tell me to stop — and I definitely wasn’t going to listen to my five years-older-than-me-brother who’d jumped off the teeter-totter while I was midair and precipitated my hard-landing and chipped tooth.

We baby-boomers had it good.

I wonder sometimes, where were our parents? Why did they give us so much freedom?

I don’t believe it wasn’t because they didn’t care, or thought the world was a super-safe place to be. They’d just come through WW2. How could they think that? How could they believe there weren’t dangers out there?

What I’ve come to believe is that they were war-weary. Tired-out from deprivation and rationing, tired-out by fearing would they or their loved ones get through it at all. Tired-out by wondering would it ever end.

And when it did end, they wanted to believe there was nothing to fear and so… they let their offspring, we the baby-boomers, run free as if we had not a care in the world as they continued to do what they’d always done, take care of business.

Busy building families, rebuilding towns and cities, homes and lives, busy trying to bury the past beneath the memories of all they’d seen and lost, they didn’t have time to go to the park or watch our every move or schedule our every second.

They were in survival mode. Mental health, PTSD, Trauma-informed practices weren’t yet a thing. All they could do was keep surviving.

Covid has led me to this awareness.

As the world struggles to open up again and we learn to adjust to living with its presence amongst us like a memory that refuses to fade-away, I am feeling the angst of wanting to let go of caution and run like that childhood me as if I have not a care in the world.

I am feeling the desire to pretend there is nothing to fear but fear itself.

Fact is, there is a lot in this world to fear – but…

Fear. Worry. They change nothing and, have an innate ability to grow stronger the more I give into their stealthy presence.

Running barefoot in the grass, lying on my back in the prairie grasses at the top of a hill, arms and legs spread wide simply to feel the sun and earth bathe me in glorious warmth. Singing my heart out amidst the trees or standing outside the grocery store singing a made-up song into the phone to my granddaughter simply to hear her laugh and not caring who hears. Throwing and smashing eggs on the rocks beneath the bridge as a train goes rumbling overhead and screaming at the top of my lungs…. now those things do change everything.

Because, in those things I am reminded, I am alive.

And isn’t that a beautiful gift.

And So I Do

Silently, like a fir tree shaking off falling snow, I shed winter’s cloak and open my arms to spring’s warm embrace.

Breathing deep, I rejoice in longer days and the warmth of the sun falling upon my skin.

You are welcome here I whisper to the buds beginning to burst from the outstretched limbs of the trees dancing, still naked, in the sun. Fingers soft and gentle, I caress the fragile growth opening itself up to nature’s calling and smile joyfully in the connection. Here I am, I whisper. I see you. And the buds dance in delicate response to the spring air’s urging them to grow wild.

Life blossoms with its abundance.

I dance in gratitude.

Such a beautiful gift this life. This presence. These spring buds popping. The geese flying overhead. The grasses turning green. The river running free.

All of it, a gift.

Dance, Mother Nature calls. Dance.

And so I do.

And So I Do
©2022 Louise Gallagher

I feel the spring
air fresh
against my skin
calling me
to cast off
winter’s dark soul
filled journey
into the night
and rejoice
in the sun
drawing the days
out into the light.

I feel life
calling me
to dance.

And so I do.

We are all refugees

I wonder sometimes how my uncles and aunts felt when they left the land of their birth in search of a new land to call home.

India was no longer a welcoming place for them. Their passports, language, customs were French with a melange of Indian culture thrown in. Their father and his father had all been born in India, as had many centuries of their maternal line. Raised in the then French protectorate of Pondicherry, none of them had ever visited France.

When India reclaimed its independence, they had to make a choice – stay and give up their French citizenship. Or leave. Most of them left for the next closest French protectorate, Vietnam.

At first, Vietnam was a safe haven. But then, war broke out and they were forced to flee.

Like many refugees around the world who run grasping battered suitcases and broken promises, they wanted peace. Not war.

Eventually, they mostly settled in France. Even though their skin was a beautiful blend of white and brown, it was easy to ‘fit in’. French was their first language. Their schooling had followed the French curriculum and even though they blended cultures into a beautiful Euro-Asian tapestry, they were Catholic. They knew the rituals and the faith of their new ‘home’ land. Few questioned their pedagogy, though some of my relations, particularly those whose skin was darker than their neighbours, faced discrimination at times.

Some struggled. Others thrived. Others, like my mother, never let go of their love for India, her Shangri-la as she called it.

The heat, the smells, the vegetation, the food, the singsong of Hindi and Tamil voices, the raucous chattering of monkeys in the yellow neon palms and bougainvillea that surrounded their home, ran through her blood like a strand of DNA that could never be altered.

In some ways my mother lived her life as a refugee yearning always to return to the land of her birth if only to hear the sounds of the ocean lapping against the shores she loved so much.

As news of more refugees fleeing Eastern Ukraine fills my newsfeeds, I am reminded of the stories I heard of my mother’s family’s flight from Inida to France. They faced an uncertain future. They endured bombs falling and lives crumbling before finally reaching ‘home’.

And though a few have remained in India, few of those who left returned to take up residence in the land of their birth, the land where both my maternal and paternal grandparents are buried. My cousins in France all return to India for visits. They all have a deep connection to the beauty of the land. But they always return home to France.

I think of the refugees fleeing their homes, carrying their children in tired arms, fearing that each step could be their last. Fearing they might never be able to return as they race ahead of the bombs into an uncertain future.

And my heart breaks and my mind swirls with thoughts of when will we ever learn? When will this destruction of our humanity, this killing of our fellow human beings stop?

And I cannot find an answer.

There is no answer in war. Just as there is no peace. For, with every mother’s son or daughter killed we risk seeding germs of hate and anger that will grow into endless branches of conflict and unrest.

And so, to no longer be a refugee of my own heart, I return to the origin of it all. To Love. For while there is no peace in war, there is always love. Waiting… Patiently. Steadfastly. Always.

Love for our humanity is all that will save us now.

Let us all remember love is present. Love is always the answer even in war.

Namaste.

It is the Season

It is the Season
©2022 Louise Gallagher

It is the season
of budding
open

new growth 
bursting

soft 
as downy feathers
on a gosling’s breast
full 
of life

flourishing
unfolding
beneath sun-soaked days
stretched out

along the sands

of time
slipping effortlessly
away

from winter’s  grasp
erasing all memory
of long dark nights

spent
yearning
for spring 
to awaken
with its promise

of life
circling back

into itself
again and again.


Heidi Baumbach – Making a Difference in Ukraine

Image by jplenio from Pixabay

In the still quiet of dawn not yet broken, I awaken. With a rush, images of war run through my mind. A nightmare I cannot escape.

I turn over. Check the time on my phone. Not quite 5.

I close my eyes but the images awaken in the darkness.

I open my eyes.

In my dream, I am running from a battle. A tank rolls into view. I want to stop it. I put up my hands. Fire flashes from its snout. A blast of hot air washes over me as a tree falls.

I wonder about its survival. Will it ever be able to grow again? Will its family miss its sheltering branches joining with theirs, offering protection from the sun, cover from the rain, a home to nest in for forest animals?

Will it survive?

I turn and run. And awaken.

For a moment, I think it is my nightmare. And, as dreams have meaning, I wonder, ‘what is this dream telling me? Where in my life do I need to make peace?’

And then I remember.

I roll over, grab my phone, scroll through my newsfeed.

It wasn’t a nightmare only I could see, trying to awaken me to peace.

This is the nightmare millions of people are living right now. A nightmare from which they cannot awaken because the war has come to them. The war has arrived in hundreds of tanks rolling across their land destroying homes and roads and bridges indiscriminately. A war where soldiers fire weapons that kill and harm and maim and destroy everything in their line of sight.

The war where missiles fired from jets streaking across a smoky sky tear into a maternity ward killing all hope of peace before it is even born.

_______________________

Heidi Baumbach

If like me you desperately want to do something, Heidi Baumbach is in need of support. Upon hearing of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Heidi, from a small central Alberta town, packed up suitcases of supplies and headed to Warsaw to help. She rented a car, and an apartment, drove to the border and picked up a family. She provided them support until they could arrange to move on to meet up with family in another country. And then, she welcomed in another family.

Heidi is doing this on her own. Any financial help she receives goes to supporting refugees. Not just the families she is sheltering, but also at the refugee camps. As she writes on a recent FB post:

The math is simple.

  • $120 CAD buys $400 of toiletries—enough for me to stock the 3 stall bathroom supplying the entire Przemysl refugee camp for an evening.
  • $25 CAD buys enough for a nice meal for everyone
  • $100 buys what would cost $300-$400 back home for groceries.

If you would like to support Heidi and all she is doing, she has set up a GiveSendGo fund — she is trying to raise $10,000 to buy a van to help bring refugees to Lviv from other areas of the Ukraine and to pay rent on an apartment for refugees.

I heard of Heidi’s mission through a co-worker. His daughter and Heidi grew up together. When Heidi emailed me she told me she thinks of my co-worker as her second father. My co-worker, a CPA, is helping Heidi track donations and ensuring her financial records are beyond reproach.

If you can help, please do.

For me, giving directly to someone on the ground, someone who is on her own making a difference helps me feel less helpless.

You can learn more about Heidi’s story at these links:

Lacombe County News

Global News (Heidi’s interview begins at around 4:50)

Heidi on Facebook

Heidi’s GiveSendGo Fund

_________

This post is also in response to this week’s prompt at Eugi’s Causerie.

The prompt is ‘survival’.

The photo accompanies the prompt on Eugi’s website.

It is the children who make me cry.

It is the children who make me cry. Their sweet innocent faces tucked into a mother’s shoulder, their tiny hands in pink and brown and green mittens holding on to stuffed bears and bunnies, toy trucks, books and backpacks stuffed with the few worldly possessions they can carry.

It is the children who make me cry and the scenes of once tidy bedrooms torn apart by missiles invading, blowing out windows and scattering belongings, shredded by the blast, to kingdom come, that make me cry more.

It is the children who make me cry and the scenes of destruction and the photos of soldiers carrying an older woman across a bombed-out bridge as groups of mothers and children and young boys and older men pick their way across, to safety? To an unknown future?

It is the unknown future that makes me stop and say a prayer and light a candle and promise to not speak of war, to not hold enmity in my heart, to not let anger hold me trapped in believing all of this is about all of ‘them’, the ones who invaded, the ones who fire missiles and lob grenades and drive tanks along residential streets firing into homes where once a child played with her favourite pink bunny while her parents sat tucked together on the couch in front of a TV watching SHUM perform at the Eurovision song contest and cheering and hooting for their beloved Ukraine to win.

It is the ‘us and them’ that makes me feel hopeless. That makes me want to scream, “There is no us and them!” What we do to one we do to another. We are one world. One planet and what we do to them we are doing to one another. And in the tearing apart of their lives we are tearing our world apart.

It is the children who make me cry.

The child and mother have navigated the broken beams and busted concrete of the bridge now. They have boarded a train to somewhere west away from the fighting, the fear, the terror, leaving behind the place they called home, the flowered curtains the mother made and hung with care on the windows of the bedroom where the little girl slept beneath a comforter covered in giant sunflowers, the comforter her mother made to match the curtains that now lay shredded in the glassless window of the roofless house on the street where they once lived.

They are travelling west, leaving behind the life they knew, leaving behind the husband and father they love who must stay to fight this force of destruction that has rolled in carrying with it death and destruction.

They are travelling west.

It is the child who makes me cry, her face tucked into her mother’s shoulder, blue eyes wide, a little pink bunny grasped tightly in one hand as she looks out from the safety of her mother’s arms at a world she does not understand.

It is the wondering of how she will ever make sense of all of this that makes me weep.