Blessings & Prayers.

I am interrupting the 12 Days of my #ShePersisted 2021 Calendar posts for a message of Blessings and Prayers.

My cyber friend, David Kanigan, of the Live & Learn blog, shares a passage from Katrina Kenison’s new book, Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment. (It’s a beautiful passage and I’m adding the book to my Christmas WishList – to read the quote – click HERE)

In my response to David’s share, I wrote,

As I type, my beloved is asleep in our bed on the far side of our home.
 Beaumont the Sheepadoodle lies at my feet under my desk in front of the
 window watching the river flow and the darkness outside grow slowly 
lighter.
And while my family is not sleeping in rooms under my roof, I know they
 are safely tucked into beds under their own roofs. Sleeping peacefully.

Such a blessing.
The knowing. My family is safe where ever they are in the world.

And tears formed in my eyes. And a whiff of sorrow drifted through my heart.

And I pause and say a prayer for the families who crowd the sleeping quarters of the homeless-shelter where I used to work. They do not feel safe, no matter how sound the roof of the shelter. It is not their roof.

And I pause and say a prayer for those who are resting uneasily in hospital beds, some who will recover and go home. And some who never will. Not only because of Covid but other diseases and causes too. They are alone in their suffering.

And I pause and say a prayer for those who rest uneasily at home while their loved ones battle for every breath in a place that feels so very far from home. When a loved one is ill and all alone somewhere else, even a block feels like an eternity away. They too are suffering alone.

And I pause and say a prayer for those who are sleeping under their own roofs where violence is not a stranger. There is no safety to be found, no matter whose roof you sleep under, when abuse is a constant partner.

And I pause and say a prayer for the millions of families and individuals around the world who fear unseen terrors falling from the sky because war is ravaging their land. There is no peace to be found amidst gunfire.

And I pause and say a prayer for the mothers searching for food and shelter amidst rising floodwaters or sliding mountainsides or other natural disasters. There is no shelter like home.

And I pause and let my tears flow freely.

I cannot save the world. I cannot change the wind nor tides, rain nor snow. I cannot stop a bullet flying nor a bomb exploding.

What I can do is bear witness with a loving heart.

I can speak up. And I can, even from a distance, contribute whatever I can to ensure that those for whom home is not a safe place know there are safe places to go. I can do whatever I can to ensure those safe places are there no matter how tumultuous the world around them.

And, I can pause and pray and let my tears flow freely so that my heart is not burdened by sadness and worry and fear, but lightened by the knowledge that I am doing whatever I can to make a better world for everyone.

And if in this moment all I can give are my tears and prayers, let that be enough.

And always, let gratitude be my guiding light. May gratitude always bring me home to a loving heart no matter what is happening in the world around me.

_____________________________

And… last night, as I lay in bed just before sleep descended, I thought about all the things for which I am grateful, and all the things I took for granted before Covid arrived and all the things I will never take for granted again not just because they are so precious, but also because some speak to the freedom and privilege I enjoy and never have to say ‘thank you’ for or never have to ask for, simply because I live where I do and am free to live my everyday life without fear.

The Grinch Who Brought Christmas Home

Rick amidst the Christmas trees and balls.

I know. I know. Two posts in one day! What is this world coming to?

Well…. it’s coming to some amazing things. Like this story I shared on my IG and FB today which I just had to share here too!

_______________________

Two months ago, he had a kidney transplant.

This week, clad in a toque and winter jacket and yellow and black pants imprinted with the “Grinch Who Stole Christmas” he’s back to doing what he loves best at this time of year. Decorating the park where he used to walk his black Labrador Retriever, Trouper (I’m not sure that’s his name but I think it was.)

It is an act of Love. Of Memory. Of Community.

Since Trouper passed away several years ago, every late November Rick hauls bags of Christmas tree balls out of his basement, into the back of his car and drives them to the off-leash park where he used to walk with his four-legged friend.

Once at the park he places the bags in strategic points along the path with an invitation to other dog-walkers and passers-by to hang a few, or many, on the trees that line the pathway. Rick himself will spend hours every morning hanging balls and tinsel everywhere he can in the park.

Within days, the park is festooned with balls that glisten in the morning sun amidst the branches of the trees. A big sign will be hung above the trail, suspended from two trees on either side of the pathway. It reads, Candy Cane Lane. Another sign will be posted further along the trail with photos of Trouper and Rick and an invitation to take a candy cane from the red and white canes that are hung from the branches of the tree beneath which the sign sits.

“I just love how this brings community together,” says Rick.I just love how Rick does so much to bring community together to create something beautiful.

March Woman – Transformation in Action

March Woman – 2021 #ShePersisted Calendar (click on photo to purchase yours!)

There is much in this world I do not accept.

War. Famine. Poverty. Injustice. Discrimination to name a few, including economic and social policies that leave some feeling they are ‘less than’ while others believe they have a right to consider themselves ‘greater than’ because of an inherent bias in what they consider to be their privileged status.

And there is much in this world that I feel I have no power to change or affect.

Yet, when I take care of my own world, when I create better in the emotional, physical and spiritual environment around me, my world changes. And, while it is easy to say, those changes are infinitesimal in the big picture, the ripple effect of millions of small changes can create transformation of a grand scale.

We are all one humanity. One people on this one planet called earth. We are all connected. Through the air we breathe. To the trees and the sky and the water and the animals and the flora. We are all connected.

What we do to eachother and to our planet matters.

But how can I change what others do?

In the simplest of forms, I can’t. I am not that powerful. Nor is it my ‘job’ to change another.

What I do have the power to do is inspire change in the world around me by ensuring how I am, what I do, say, create, share creates better for everyone in the world around me. Holding space for better, my ripple becomes a constant ebbing outward of peace, harmony, joy, Love.

In that rippling effect, the things that annoy me abate, the feelings that keep me playing small diminish and the fear of making waves or being different washes away.

In their place, transformation within my world happens. And if there are millions upon millions of us transforming our own worlds, our collective ripple can become a tsunami of hope, possibility, change leading to transformation on a grand scale.

And never has that been truer than today.

Yes, Covid 19 is running amuck. Yes, there is political, economical and environmental strife everywhere.

And everywhere, there are human beings doing their best, giving their all to create lasting change that will, and must, transform our world for the better.

The March #ShePersisted Woman is a reminder to no longer accept you don’t have the power to change. To never give up on believing transformation is possible.

It is.

We just need to keep doing small things with great heart that change our worlds so that ripple by ripple by ripple the entire planet is transformed through each of us creating a better world for everyone and everything on earth.

Namaste.

February Woman – Full of Grace

February – #ShePersisted 2021 Calendar https://etsy.com/ca/dareboldlyart

There is a video circulating on social media of Marta C Gonzalez, who in her prime during the 1960s, was a prima ballerina with the New York Ballet Company. She passed away in 2019 after many years of living with Alzheimer’s Disease. Just before her death, she was given headphones to hear Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, which she had performed in 1967.

The body remembers what the heart knows.

In the video, as Ms Gonzalez listens deeply to the music, her hands begin to flutter in her lap and then rise, higher and higher. Gracefully, seemingly effortlessly, she stretches out her arms and they float like angel’s wings through the air around her.

And with each note, she moves through the dance of her younger years from where she sits in the wheelchair that moved her through the world in her final days.

The body remembers. The heart knows.

Alexis’ social media post.

Yesterday, my daughter Alexis posted a beautiful passage on her social media about this time of waiting. Waiting for Covid to pass. Waiting to see our loved ones again. Waiting to be free to move out into the world without fearing this dreaded virus.

We are all waiting.

How we wait. How we move through these days of rising caseloads and deaths matters. A lot.

It matters because every life on earth matters. A lot.

It matters because we are all connected. And in that connection our survival matters.

It matters that as of this moment when I write this post, 55,514,668 human beings have been taken ill by this virus. 1,335,279 have not survived. I wrote those number 45 minutes ago when I began this post. Those numbers are now – 55,531,335 cases 1,335,467 deaths)

It matters because when we move beyond the confines of our homes, step out of our safe little bubbles into our communities, we are affecting the life of every single person we come in contact with.

We can be carriers of hope or carriers of unwitting illness.

It is our decision.

Yes, we will get through this. And, though there are days when I rail against the limitations, when all I want to do is visit a friend, or have dinner in a restaurant with my beloved or travel west to see my daughter and her family, I know that what I do right now matters.

And how I go through it matters. A lot.

I can rail against the confines of these times, this virus, this life of narrowing options. Or, like Marta Gonzalez, I can allow the music of my heart to be heard and felt and known. I can act with grace. Because, even though my beloved and I have made the decision to once again sequester in solitude at home, grace has not left the house.

And so, just as my daughter teaches in the words she wrote, I call upon patience, kindness, consideration and above all, grace, to move us through these difficult days so that one day, soon I hope, we can all breathe easily again.

And when we do, may our bodies remember what our hearts know. We loved one another and took care of each other in the darkness and the light.

And when these times have passed, as they surely will, may the stories we tell remind us of how, even when grief and fear and sadness and loneliness and uncertainty filled our world, we danced with grace through it all.

Namaste

And, just in case you haven’t seen it, here is the video of Marta C. Gonzalez dancing Swan Lake. There is a moment at the beginning where her hands begin to move and then collapse onto her lap. When the gentleman kisses her hand with such loving grace, she begins again to dance. So beautiful.

Life’s Ineffable Mysteries

Unlike past visits from the other side where my mother sat on the closed lid of the toilet smoking a cigarillo in a long ebony holder and drinking a martini, this visit was more in keeping with my idea of spirits from the other side.

Ethereal. Mystical. Luminous.

Like other visits however, she arrived while I was in the bath.

I of course responded like I always do. I piled the bubbles up in a vain attempt to ensure she could not see me naked.

“Louise my darling girl,” she said. Her voice was softer, warmer than I remembered it. Her gentle laugh made me think of raindrops dancing on still water. “Spirit doesn’t seek to see the human form. Spirit seeks only to experience the soul.”

“Better safe than sorry,” I replied. Though I don’t think I actually said it outloud, she heard me.

“You have nothing to be sorry about, Louise,” she whispered. “You are safe in Love’s embrace.”

Harrumph. Who knew spirit was so literal?

She laughed that raindrop dancing laugh again and said, “There’s so much about life and spirit you do not know, Louise. Stop trying to find the answers.”

Again with the reading my mind.

“Life is full of mystery,” she whispered. “Your journey is not measured by how many answers you find before you go. It’s about allowing the mystery to be present, where ever you are, in the ineffable beauty of this moment.”

Seriously? I got so many questions I keep trying to answer and now she tells me to stop looking for answers and just be present?

Harrumph again.

And yet…

What if…

I just breathe?…

I close my eyes. Inhale. Exhale. Deeply.

I imagine my thoughts are like autumn leaves drifting down, down, down to the forest floor where they come to rest in the crucible of the womb of Mother Nature. I feel my body melt into the warm bathwater. My heartbeat slow. My breathing deepen.

I open my eyes.

She is gone.

Vanished.

And still, I know. Deep within my soul. I am not alone.

A Book of Hope

I lost my mind yesterday.

Ok. So not literally. But, for awhile, I was so totally immersed in creativity, I forgot to ‘think’ and settled into the state of ‘being’. with the effortless grace that comes from being Wholly Alive. Present. Connected. At One.

And in the wholeness of being, anxiety, fear, stress, worry, did not stand a chance. They drifted away as fluidly as a leaf floating on the river passing by my studio doors.

I was at One. In the PHLOW as my friend John calls it.

Power  (I also like to think of this one as Presence)
Harmony
Love
Order
Wisdom

In that place, there was no need to push worrisome thoughts away. They were just like that leaf floating by. There was no need to fixate on outcomes – of world events happening right now, or of what was transpiring on the worktable in front of me.

In that moment, all of it and none of it was present with and within me. In that moment I was one with the world outside my studio doors and the world within me.

In that moment, all was in harmony, unfolding just as it was. I was not in charge of the world’s destiny. I was responsible for living mine. Fully. Completely. Wholly.

It was all flowing with grace to the rhythm of the moment flowing past. Dancing joyfully in the circle of Love that surrounds and sustains me. Singing, wild and free to the song of life.

In that moment flowing seamlessly into the next, what mattered most was what I experienced in that moment.

Joy. Gratitude. Acceptance. Appreciation. Love. Peace. Harmony…

There is a song from the late 60s that my brother used to play again and again on my dad’s tape recorder. “Master Jack” by Four Jacks and a Jill.

It has popped into my mind several times the past few days. The lyrics for the first verse and chorus seem apropos to these times in which we live,

It’s a strange, strange world we live in, Master Jack / You taught me all I know and I’ll never look back / It’s a very strange world and I thank you, Master Jack

You took a colored ribbon from out of the sky / And taught me how to use it as the years went by / To tie up all your problems and make them look neat / And then to sell them to the people in the street.

It’s a strange strange world we live in Master Jack.”

It is a strange strange world we live in.

As it was in 1968 when that song was released, it’s also a big, beautiful, miraculous and magical world full of wonderfully inspired moments that fill me with awe and possibilities for better, for change, for love to grow in the hearts of all humankind. Moments that give me great HOPE.

I am leaning deeper into HOPE today. Allowing the flow to draw me into the mystery, the beauty, the wonder of every moment.

_________________________

About A Book of Hope

Yesterday, I finished the little booklet I started working on the day before. A Book of Hope.

The images above are all from that book. The one below are the pages I shard yesterday.

It is small — 2.5 x 4″. 4 x 4 page spreads16 pages.

Each 4 page spread tells a story of HOPE.

Hope is a flower basking in the sun sharing its beauty with everyone.

Hope is the waves crashing [into your dreams] daring you to awaken and set sail towards your dreams.

Hope is a birdsong calling you to spread your wings and fly wild and free.

Hope is the wind whispering to the wildness within to dance like no one is watching.

As I created I wasn’t thinking about ‘the page’, I let my intuition {and the muse] guide me. I let my senses lead me deeper and deeper into the PHLOW.

__________________________________

And…. here’s Master Jack by Four Jacks and A Jill.

Leaning Into Hope

I am not good with surprises. I like to know. Before things happen. This trait is so deeply ingrained that I generally read the ending of books first. Even non-fiction.

Some of it’s possibly because I can be somewhat competitive. Ok. Highly.

I like to think I can figure out the ending of movies and books before they happen. Hence why I read the ending of books first. Somehow, my brain thinks that if I know the outcome I can go back to the beginning and focus on the story without having to spend time trying to figure out where it’s all going before I get there.

I didn’t say it was a rational thinking pattern. It’s just the one I’ve adapted to for most of my life.

Yeah. I know. But… My thinking pattern does have its benefits.

Seriously. It does.

I am an observer by nature. I love to watch both the world around me and how people move through it. And, I love to watch myself as I journey through any given set of circumstances or events to bear witness to ‘my process’. My state of mind. My attitude. My blindspots. My weaknesses and strengths.

And here’s what I’ve noticed about my mental state in the past while.

I’m on edge.

I’m not focused.

I have a tendency to start one thing and then another and then another only to discover I have 3 or 4 things ‘in process’ and nothing finished.

I also immerse myself in mundane tasks (and complete them), which is great except, there’s no pattern to how or what I’m tackling.

For example. On Monday I cleaned out all my flowerpots. I’d started the process a couple of weeks ago when the forecast was for snow the next day. After cleaning out the six pots that line the front walkway, my hands were frozen as was the earth surrounding the roots of the plants so eventually I stopped. As an aside, it took about half an hour for my hands to warm up once I stopped digging in the ice cold dirt.

Did I mention I’m also stubborn? Yeah well. It’s possibly true.

Anyway.

As Monday was unseasonably warm, I decided it was as good a time as any to finish the unpotting job. ‘The job’ included wheeling the giant green compost bin down the hill at the side of our house to the bottom deck to give me easier access. After emptying all the pots on the lower deck, I positioned the bin on the grass so I could then go out on the main deck above it and throw all the dead plants off the deck into the bin.

Worked like a charm.

Except… I then had to wheel a now completely full bin up the hill and back into the garage until pick-up next week.

Which wouldn’t have been too bad except for the fact I’d just spent two days flat on my back with Sciatica.

Yeah. Well. I did say I was stubborn….

I spent most of the rest of that day flat on my back again.

But the pots are all winter ready!

See what I mean though? I’m doing things without being fully present.

Granted, I could have asked C.C. for help but… remember that competitive streak thing? Mix it with a dollop of stubborn and I am convinced I can do it myself. Thank you very much.

Which brings me back to my state of mind.

Yesterday, after cleaning the oven (it really needed it and my sister was cleaning hers so…) Anyway. Clean oven makes for a clean mind. Or something…

I went into the studio and began to work.

See what I mean? This piece is not particularly pleasing nor a good reflection of my artistic nature. But I want to keep it real so sharing my failures is important. this piece reflects the disquiet and lack of focus that consumed me when I sat down at my studio table.

The first piece left me feeling very dissatisfied.

I could feel my nerve endings, zapping one another, seeking contact.

I could feel my thoughts skittering about my mind like a fly trapped in a bottle. Ever notice how they seem to fly in squares. Weird. Right?

Never mind.

Back to my story.

So. Knowing I was unsettled and unfocused, I decided to work small.

I decided to create a mini art journal and call it, “Hope is…”

I can’t tell you why this idea popped into my mind other than to say that the muse is my ally. In times of distress, she tends to gather my thoughts and target them on an idea she knows will help me focus.

Working small helps me focus. Working on something inspirational, does too. It soothes my troubled mind and eases the strain in my heart and reminds me that trying to know the future is like trying to control how fast the river flows outside my window.

Now is the only moment I have to be present.

Now is the place and time to invest my best.

Now is where I find myself at peace. In harmony. Full of gratitude, leaning deeply into… HOPE.

What about you?

What do you do to bring peace of mind into your state of being?

How do you settle yourself in the present?

___________________________

Bonus! The muse also offered up four more quotes for my Hope Is… journal. That’s what I’m going to focus on today.

Thank you universe for your beauty. Your gifts. Your everything!

And as to the world out there. I am of much better service to the ALL when I am All Present in the Now.

Namaste.

Learning To See… and Feel… and Be

“Openings” Mixed media on watercolour cardstock. 5×7″

On his blog, I Can’t Sleep David Kanigan shares two photos he took of sunrise this morning where he lives on the east coast near New York City and a quote from Rainer Maria Rilke. (click here to see David’s beautiful photos)

Both his photos and the quote ease my restless mind, awakening me to the sea of calm and peace within me.

The Rilke quote is:

I am learning to see.

I don’t know why it is,

but everything enters me more deeply and doesn’t stop where it once used to.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge

I commented and wrote,

“And the challenge becomes… as I learn to see and listen and feel deeply, all my senses awakened, it is not just ‘the good’ that enters. It is all of it.

Your images this morning enter and touch those raw parts that are on alert, waiting. waiting. waiting for news that is still too soon to tell.

Thank you for the peaceful respite and the reminder to see the beauty and let it wash away the anxiety. To feel the Love and let it embrace the fear.”

I remember when my daughters were born, how I’d sit and stare into their beautiful faces for hours and hours on end. I felt immersed in beauty, Love, joy, gratitude.

I remember thinking and feeling like I’d never in my entire life witnessed anything so miraculous and beautiful as their tiny beings.

They were so perfect. So innocent. So wondrous. They were, and still are, a true reflection of Love.

This morning, as I type, tears form in my eyes and gently find their way down my cheeks.

The sky above is pale blue. To the west, a single cloud stretches out across the near horizon drifting effortlessly towards the south. Its body is white above melting into dusty white and grey below.

To the north, a bank of grey on grey cloud covers the sky in mystery.

The weather is turning.

It always does.

Just like the season.

Yesterday, the day that has consumed so much of my thought and time for the past while came and went.

The results are too close to call, the newscasters say.

And, like the clouds floating across the sky, I let the news pass and fall deeper into Love.

And the world keeps turning.

And beauty and the beasts keep dancing.

And tolerance and disrespect keep meeting on the playing fields of lives lived in far away places and right here in the city where I live.

And joy and sorrow keep embracing in the hearts and souls of those who have lost a loved one, a dream, a game or perhaps their way on the road of life.

And through it all, Love keeps flowing, keeps filling the spaces between all of it.

Yes. I am learning to see.

And feel.

And honour.

And accept.

And embrace it all.

It is all here. All present.

I feel it all and let it flow. In the flow, Love prevails and holds me in its sheltering embrace.

In the flow, I am safe.

Namaste

____________________________

About the artwork:

I spent an afternoon creating backgrounds on 5 x 7″ watercolour cardstock.

I’m now playing with them and creating greeting cards.

The joy has been, particularly in the instances where I don’t particularly like the background (like the large image at the top which was really ugly!) finding the beauty calling itself into being seen.