She whispered to the sun and the moon and the sea and the trees, “Yes I can!” and the sun and the moon and the sea and the trees gave her wings courage.
And with every whispered, “Yes I can!” her dreams grew brighter and her wings grew stronger.
Heeding the call of her hart’s yarning for companionship on the way, she joined hands with her sisters and together, they created a better world for everyone.
While I do not think that ‘time’ is the healer, I do believe it makes space for healing. As in, my head is feeling better after getting bonked by a mirror a week ago.
I find this part of any healing journey fascinating. Each day there’s an incremental difference until one morning, like today, I wake up and feel like I’ve fallen over the side of ‘will this ever end’ and am now floating in a vast pool of sunlight where ‘this’ is no longer swimming right in front of my face but drifting off with the river’s flow. And though the bruising and cut are still visible, inside, where it matters most, I feel the sunshine bathing my face in its golden glory, the wind whispering sweet nothings through my hair and the cool crisp air of the morning dancing on sparkling rainbows of light on the river of life flowing freely all around me.
It’s a brand new day!
And I feel all new and shiny again.
Which also means, my postponed trip to help my daughter and son-in-love is back on. I’ll be leaving tomorrow morning, bright and early.
I am grateful.
It’s funny how tables, and life, turn. When my daughters were young, my mother was the last person I wanted to come and help me as there was too much angst, too much drama in our relationship to make her ‘help’ a welcome gift.
With my daughter, we have created a relationship where my help is welcome, where my presence is a gift for both of us. My mother’s heart flows full of gratitude for my daughter’s welcome embrace and willingness to constantly grow our relationship in Love.
I am blessed. Grateful and feeling full of the grace of life and love.
I won’t be online much for the next couple of weeks. I wish you a beautiful spring sojourn.
About the Artwork
This is spread 6 & 7 in my Learning to Fly art journal – as with all the pages, it is in response to my 20 Attitudes and Actions on living the life of your dreams — These pages are a response to Attitudes and Actions No.s 10 &11 –
10. Write down all the reasons you can. Post your list on the mirror, the fridge, somewhere you will see it every day—read it often—and add to it everyday.
11. Tell a friend/mentor what you plan on doing. Ask your friend/mentor to be your accountability buddy.
There are moments when the mundane feels so heavy, the woes so full of dark clouds gathering and the worries so close in, that I forget I have room to breathe. To move. To do. To be. To change.
In those close-in to the darkness moments, it’s easy to forget that I am part of something bigger than just these woes and worries illuminating my flaws with their 1,000 watt klieg-worthy glaring light. Or their words spewing out from TV newscasters mouths or plumping up Twitter threads full of bile or just cluttering up my day with their insistence I pay attention to all that is wrong with me and the world today.
In those moments of forgetting all the room around me for other things to take up the space of woe and worry, I will tell myself, there’s nothing I can do. I am too flawed. Too tired. Too lost to change anything.
It is in those moments I must remind myself that I can breathe. Not just your everyday, ordinary take a gulp of air and keep on going kind of breath, but a deep, sinking into my toes, filling me from the bottoms up kind of breath that soothes and replenishes, nurtures and reminds me to Stop-Breathe-Listen-See-Feel-Be-Here-Now-I am the Breath of Life – kind of breath.
In that breath where I find myself breathing in the exquisite beauty of all there is Here-Now -in that breath empty of the flotsam of life swimming around in a sea of news and forgettable TV shows I watch only because I’ve forgotten I’m part of something so much bigger, so much greater, so much more mysterious, magical and mystical than this everyday life I tell myself is my burden I gotta keep trudging through, on and on and on, I am reminded – life is a gift. A beautiful, exquisite, priceless gift. Mysterious, magical, mystical, 4th of July fireworks exploding, rollercoaster-fast heart-pounding fierce, breathless kind of gift wrapped up in the miracle of life.
In that breath I am reminded, I Am Alive.
What a beautiful gift. To be alive. To be. Here. Now.
These are the moments to savour.
These are the moments to remember. To grab onto and never let go. To remind myself, I have power over me. I have power in me. I have power. To change. To get accountable. To not be ‘my flaws’ but to see my flaws as part of my beautiful, exquisite human magnificence.
And in those moments I get to choose.
To make excuses for how I am or celebrate who I am, right now, in all my human contradictions, complexities, curves and straight lines adding up to one amazing being who has the power to stand up, speak up, and take action to create change that matters. Change that could just save my own life from being my excuse for not living it truly, madly, deeply in love with all I am and all I do and all I have in this moment, right now.
These are the moments to live. Always.
And to remember to Breathe.
Breathe it all in
and Begin Again.
Breath by life-giving breath to stop making excuses for myself and start living fully accountable for this life that is so precious, so divinely orchestrated, so…. mine.
“Sometimes, the only way to experience the journey fully
is to learn what the journey has to teach you.”
Lately, I feel like I’ve been swimming in a sea of Hope. Angst. Curiosity. Confusion. Sorrow… An alphabet soup of emotions that flow full of these times when my beloved and I wait to receive our first vaccination in 10 days mixed with the wonderment of what that could mean… How will things change? Will they change? Will I be different? Will the world feel safe?
I have learned a lot, grown a lot, experienced a lot throughout this past year of sequestered solitude. All of it is, as Ram Dass called it, “grist for the mill”.
Over the past two days, awash in that sea of alphabet emotions, I worked on the painting above. I had actually started it many months ago and set it aside – or at least the background part which had a heart on it which I really liked but wasn’t sure if I wanted to do more with it.
The background was in a pile I keep for those moments when I want to explore but have no clear starting point or idea of what I want to do. When I pulled it out, I set it beside an alcohol ink background that was waiting to be cut up and made into bookmarks.
“Ha! Why not sew flowers on the alcohol ink background, cut them up and collage them onto the other background?” a voice inside whispered. I’m not sure if it was the muse or the critter testing my resolve to let go of thinking some pieces I’d created were ‘precious’ or the inner voice of wisdom urging me to just be present in the process.
And then the voice said, “And while you’re at it, why not cut the heart out of the original background so you can affix it over the flowers?”
Whoever it was, I decided to heed them. I cut out the heart (Ouch. That was not easy!) I pulled out my sewing machine and got to work sewing flower shapes onto the Yupo paper (it’s a synthetic paper used with alcohol inks).
I liked the look of the flowers and began affixing them to the background with a gel medium.
And that’s when the yucky-messy ‘oh no what have I done’ happened.
See. Alcohol ink is not permanent unless you spray it with a fixative. I hadn’t done that. Suddenly the colours and patterns I’d liked so much began to bleed and blend and fade and mix and just get kind of all yucky. Okay. A lot yucky.
I wanted to throw the whole thing out but I’m also very stubborn.
So I kept digging in.
Two days later the piece is a testament to so much of what the past year has taught me.
When I opened my laptop to work on the quote, I also stumbled across a poem I’d started awhile ago that I’d set aside. (Does anyone else have umpteen WORD documents left opened on their computer? Hmmm… I do and it’s always a lovely surprise to discover what I’ve started and not finished – okay so maybe ‘lovely’ isn’t the word but I’m going with it)
Anyway, I wrote the quote onto the painting and then started working on the poem that also represents so much of what this past year has taught me.
There are moments when the tears I fear to shed wallow in the spaces behind all that I cannot see in the world beyond my front door as I sit feeling trapped inside eyes closed to hold back the tears I dare not release for fear they will flow like the river never ending.
In those moments I must swallow hard the lump of fear jammed up against the worry pounding at the roots of my angst squaring off against thoughts threatening to riot amidst the litany of all that has happened all that has gone on all that is lost and discarded and missing in these days of being cut off from the way things were before, before the pandemic rolled in and declared its presence known on the other side of front doors slammed shut against its entry.
In those moments I must remind myself that one year is but a moment in time’s great expanse spanning all of life with its threads of wonder and awe and beauty unfolding whether I sit behind closed doors or walk the forest paths alone along the river waiting for the time when it is safe to open the front door and let go of fear.
Perhaps, as the river flows and the seasons change and this tiny microbe loses its power over hearts and lungs my tears will flow free falling without fear of never ending.
Growing up, I was never particularly fond of the name Louise, though I did like its meaning, “Famous Warrior”. Named after my father, Louis, I felt trapped between my mother’s desire I be ‘a good girl’ and my father’s wish I be the second son he’d wanted.
I wanted to be Natasha. As in, a Russian Princess with black hair and piercing blue eyes and alabaster skin who wore rustling silk gowns and always got her way, and when she didn’t, threw tantrums and stomped her tiny slippered feet with impunity.
Or Rebekah. Grandmother to Joseph. In the photos of her in the big, red-leather-bound book with the words, The Catholic Bible embossed in gold on the front that sat in a dominant place in our living room, Rebekah had black hair and dark eyes, like me. She looked beautiful, like I imagined my father’s mother to be. I never met my father’s mother, but she too was Jewish, which seemed exotic to my childlike mind. We seldom spoke of her. She divorced my grandfather when he was a child. The story my father told was that she didn’t want him so sent him away from London, England to boarding school in Gravelbourg, Saskatchewan, when he was eight, while his sister stayed to live with her in London. Many years later I would learn that wasn’t the full story, but it was the story we grew up with.
I loved the story of Rebekah in the bible. How she cemented her place in history, used her feminine wiles and wits to create a dynasty and a place in history for her favourite son. In a house where my sisters and I used to joke about our brother that, “the sun rose and set on the son”, I liked how Rebekah knew exactly what she wanted and was committed to do what she needed to get it.
Rebekah’s path did not sit well with my mother. Women don’t behave like that she’d insist whenever I’d ask to read Rebekah’s story. It’s not ladylike to be so domineering, she’d say, before turning to a page she preferred we read.
Looking back, I can understand why my mother insisted we read only the stories that extolled the virtues she deemed to be ladylike. I wanted to be the things she did not admire in women. Independent, strong, willful even, like Rebekah, but was often told I was petulant and demanding, bratty even, like Natasha, my Russian wanna-be namesake.
For many years, I got lost somewhere between the pages of that red-bound-leather bible and the confusing messages of the world around me. “Be smart, but not too smart. Boys don’t like smart girls.” “Dream big, but not too big. Boys don’t like girls whose dreams are bigger than theirs.” “Be outspoken, but not too outspoken. Boys don’t like loud-mouthed girls.”
For my mother, there was never a question that being like Mary was the goal of every woman. Nor was there any question in her mind that I would ever attain such grace. I was just too flawed and imperfect to ever get there.
I didn’t particularly want to, ‘get there’. Yet still, I tried. And constantly failed. It felt like a set-up. By God. The Bible. The stories of men who dominated its volumes and its unrealistic expectations of women’s virtues. Society and its double standards. My body that, no matter how hard I wished it wouldn’t, kept turning into a body men desired.
I have long since come to terms with my name and nature and femininity. Time, and a whole lot of therapy, have given me perspective. But, as I began to write this piece I went back and read the stories of Rebekah and was transported back to those childhood days when my mother would take down the red-leather-bound bible from its perch and open it to a story she wanted to read.
In that memory I am reminded of the sacred nature of those moments. Of sitting close to my beautiful mother listening to her soft lilting voice, her hands fluttering in the air between us as she read the stories that meant so much to her. Of how each turn of a page revealed yet another stunning painting of a Biblical scene in living colour.
Sometimes, she’d read a story from one of the four Book of Saints that accompanied the red leather-bound bible.
The ones about the women saints, those who defied the odds, who did great things with great courage and even greater spirit ignited my imagination. I wouldn’t realize it then, but those are the stories that birthed the feminist in me.
I wanted to be like those saints. Not the pious part. That just wasn’t my gig. But the strong, committed, overcoming challenges and standing up to unrighteousness and corruption and wrong-doing in the world… now that part grabbed my dreams of who I wanted to be in the world. The challenge was always to find my path without having to be the ‘good little Catholic girl’ my mother dreamt I’d become.
It would take me many years, and buckets full of life experience, to find my own way.
And while as a child, I’d often rather have been out playing in the backyard, today, I am thankful for those times when I sat beside my mother as she read stories from the big red-leather-bound bible on her lap. I didn’t know it then, but in those quiet moments she was giving me many gifts. A love of beauty, of story, of art, of possibilities. And the courage to use my voice and gifts to create a better world today.
About the Art: After our mother passed away at 97 years of age last February 25th, I brought home the stack of prayer cards she used every night to say her prayers. For several months, I worked on an altered book art journal, incorporating her prayer cards into each page. The 2-page spread above is from the printed copy of the finished book which I created of the altered book art journal (I wanted to give both my sisters a copy so needed to have it printed). The 3 faces are my grandmother, mother and me. If you’d like to view the print-copy of the book, you can see it here.
For me, the book stands as a testament to the power of art to heal hearts and the past while inspiring beauty in the present day and awakening courage to create a more loving tomorrow.
It took two days to complete. Two days of breathing deeply and allowing the muse to guide me.(In case you’re wondering, I’m referring to the finished journal page above.)
It’s hard. The letting go of expectations, of the need to ‘make pretty things’ and just be present within the process, allowing what wants to be revealed to appear in its own way.
It’s hard. But it’s worth it when it happens.
Not necessarily because the finished piece is ‘beautiful’ by artistic standards. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn’t.
The ‘worth it’ comes in the sense of peace and calm that envelopes and holds me in tender arms of gratitude and grace.
Gratitude because in the process of unfolding I release the goal of ‘making art’ to my heart’s yearning to allow the art within me to become me. In its revealing nature, I discover hidden (to me) pockets of creativity, desire, whimsy, curiosity, wonder…
Grace because while immersed in the process I feel myself carried gently along a colourful stream of creative energy that feels singular to me yet is deeply connected to the collective consciousness of all of life.
And, because when I am flowing with the stream, worrisome thoughts of self-criticism, judgement, negativity, ‘the future’, ‘why am I doing this?’ effortlessly float away, setting me free to simply Be. Here. Now.
It is divine.
This place where I allow without pushing, accept without resisting, embrace without holding on, become without doing.
And then I smile.
Because I really, really want to explain this piece which is quite different in many ways than my normal work…
Because… out of the flow, my critical mind looks at the piece and says… Hmmm… you know you could have taken the stems off the dried flowers before you glued them in. Oh. And do you think the bottom half is cohesive with the top? They’re such different styles. And, seriously Louise, what is this piece all about?
I am a ‘meaning-maker’. If you’ve hung around my blog long enough, you know that I love to dive into the inner self and shine a light on its secrets, mystery and beauty. It is as natural to me as breathing.
When I made ‘the decision’ to include the dried flowers in the page I was a bit surprised but, as I was in the flow, I let it happen.
Plus, I have a stash of dried flowers from summers’ past and now felt like a good time to use some. The photo has been sitting on the edge of my studio table for months. Seriously months. It was on a card I’d bought a couple of years ago, unearthed when I was cleaning up my studio one day. I don’t often use other peoples photos in my work but this one has intrigued me for so long I decided to use it along with some of my dried flowers. It’s a blend of a very different look and feel for me as well as part ‘Oh. This is my style too’ (I paint botanicals a lot into my pages) — It felt wonderful to step outside my comfort zone and play fearlessly.
As I kept working on the page, I could also feel my ‘thinking’ mind’s questioning of what on earth was I doing?
Time and time again throughout the two days of working on this journal page, I had to bring myself back into the flow by repeating quietly to myself…
Breathe… Be. Here. Now. Breathe… Be. Here. Now.
The quote appeared once I was finished. Somewhere deep within me, is a sense of the threads of time appearing like pearls in a necklace. Polished by time and the sea and the tide flowing in and out and over and into an oyster’s shell, that little speck of dirt grating against its body transforms into something of beauty.
Like the dried flowers. Perhaps they were once part of a posy the woman held in her hands as she sat waiting for her lover to appear in the night…
And so… when I was done and closed my eyes and held my hands upon the page, its essence appeared in the words written on the lefthand side.
.”Like flowers preserved behind glass, her story wove strands of beauty throughout time.”
Yesterday, I posed the question at the end of Part 1 of To Love Yourself Completely, “Knowing what you know now, what are you willing to do to love yourself completely.”
It’s such a delicious question. So invitingly full of possibilities.
I mean, think about it, knowing what you know now, knowing how important it is to love yourself completely, the paths to self-love are endless.
As are, it feels at times, the places within where ‘unlove’ exist in constant disharmony. Those wounded places where self-neglect and shame and other signs of self-abhorrence hideout and manifest themselves in harmful ways that diminish your light and leave you feeling less-than and unworthy, angry and discontented, sad and weary…
They don’t hideout in your heart, those wounded places. They’re buried deep within your psyche, swimming in a sea of emotional angst infecting every facet of your being with their angst-riddled ways. Their presence robs you of knowing and sharing your talents, gifts, beauty and light with passionate abandon.
What will you do to love yourself completely?
For me, the studio is where I come home to my heart, where my mind stills its constant chatter and I become embodied in the infinite beauty of being all I am in the present moment.
Yesterday was no different.
As I began to create, I knew I wanted to explore the question. What will I do?
Not holding myself to a set idea or plan, I gathered random items to work with. A dryer sheet. A delicate piece of crocheted lace my mother had given me. A broken chain from a necklace I’d used when I made my wedding bouquet (it was made of brooches and necklaces from family and friends). Some painted papers. A leaf I’d printed on a piece of fabric. A page from a book of poems that belonged to my father on which I’d drawn a heart-shape and other bits of ephemera including a bit of painted paper from one of my paper dolls.
I got out acrylics, inks, watercolours, my sewing machine and let my imagination run wild as I zigzag stitched items together and glued them onto a canvas board I’d painted at the start.
When I was done, I sat quietly, eyes closed and rested my hands on top of the completed piece.
What is your story? I asked it. What truth are you revealing?
The answer drifted effortlessly up from the font of wisdom that is always present deep within my belly. Or, perhaps it floated down from the collective consciousness that connects us all (I don’t consciously know where it came from – it just appeared, as truth often does)
To love yourself completely, begin with finding beauty in the broken places.
Ahhh yes. My heart sighed. Truth.
And my body embraced it as my mind quietened and rolled the words around and around.
Find beauty in the broken places.
There are so many, my mind whispered.
And my heart replied, “They are all so beautiful to me.”
I shared this piece yesterday with an art journalling group I belong to. One of the members called it – Layers of Love — it fit so beautifully. Thank you Pamela W. ❤
Art-journalling is about creating without a ‘plan’. It’s about allowing myself to be free of ‘intention’ or a destination and to simply be present to whatever the heart is yearning to set free.
Yesterday, when I started, I kind of blew it before I began.
I had an idea. That idea flowed into a plan. I was ready to execute on it when I sat down at my studio table. I was going to paint the rest of the faces of my paper dolls.
As I settled at my worktable to begin, I felt the stirrings of the wise woman within me. “Be still,” she whispered. “Be still.”
Now, being still is great in meditation. it doesn’t get paint on a page.
She kept whispering. “Be still.”
I stopped, took a deep breath. Closed my eyes and listened deeply.
And that’s when I heard her question. “What if it’s not about painting their faces but cutting the ties that bind?”
Not paint the faces? But that was my plan.
I felt her amused smile tingle all the way down to my baby toes. “Your plans are so… enchanting,” she said. “What’s even more enchanting is to let go of your plans and listen deeply to your heart.”
Oh. Listen deeply to my heart.
I bustled around my studio for awhile, tidying up, watering the plants, filling Beaumont’s water dish. You know, doing the things we humans do when we’re trying to avoid doing the things our heart is calling us to do. Facebook scrolling. Instagram — looking for inspiration.
Right? Yeah. I know. Busted.
Except, the scrolling helped. I re-read the quote I’d written from my art journal page on Friday,
"In every heart there is a song of love yearning to be sung.
Listen deeply to the yearnings of your heart."
The heart knows.
I picked up the paper doll chain I had planned on painting, took a breath and cut the paper connecting the first two dolls. The ones whose faces were already painted.
I breathed again.
A lovely whiff of flowery-scented air caressed my face. My heart expanded with delight at its touch.
Ahhh… I felt free!
The symbolism is not lost on me.
The import not unnoticed.
I began to paint.
In the end, the painted dolls I’d planned on collaging into whatever I created didn’t get collaged in.
Instead, I went with the wildness dancing in my heart. I let go of my plan and found myself breathing deeply into the radical gift of creative self-kindness – letting everything go, holding onto nothing except the art of creative expression.
And as I cast paint upon the page like seeds floating upon a gentle spring breeze, I felt the child within smile and run off to play amongst a field of wildflowers blowing in the wind.
Life is such a beautiful gift. Joy is such a delightful companion. And self-kindness is such a loving force of nature it can heal all wounds, even those we don’t know we carry.
I hope you spread a little kindness on yourself today — better yet — a lot!
I hope your joy ripples out into the world in rivers of delight creating gardens of Love wherever you go.
I was the final note in the quartet of children that made up the siblings in our family. Growing up, I often felt like the cymbals. Clashing and clanging at odd moments while everyone else knew their part off by heart, chiming in appropriately, hitting their notes, playing in harmony.
Today, only my sisters and I remain of the original band. My daughters and two nieces now carry the tune. While the notes between the sister-pairs are strong, the notes between the cousins are far apart and barely audible. Since my brother and sister-in-law’s tragic deaths over twenty years ago, my nieces have had little contact with any of us. The drama and turmoil of those days leading up to and following their parents’ deaths were incomprehensible for an 18 and 19-year-old. As my brother and mother had an argument shortly before the events unfolded, and my mother was inconsolable in her grief, they chose to distance themselves from all of us. The distance was never closed.
Losing her son was a heavy loss for my mother. Losing her connection with her first-born granddaughters was a loss that weighed heavily on her heart for the rest of her life.
Yesterday, to find balance and calm in a day that while significant in terms of the calendar, was still just another day, I headed into my studio to create.
I have always believed it is the gift of Love that brings us into this world and love that carries us out. All we can leave behind is that which carries us in, through and out of life – Love.
We, the ones left behind on this earthly plane have a choice, to pick up the remains of pain and turmoil or follow the path of love.
I am grateful for my practice of art journaling. For its grace and reflective space and healing arts. It holds me steady on the path of love.
In this page, the six roses represent our original family — My mother, father, brother, two sisters and me.
The five birds flying together represent my sisters and me and my two daughters. The two little birds just coming out of the rose on the left are my two grandchildren.
In the middle, flying separately in a misty sky, are my nieces and grand-nephew. The flowers at the bottom represent La Grande Famille growing wild and free and loving all around the world.
No matter if we spend time together or how far apart our stories, we are always connected through this circle of love that is our family.
As I finished the page, the words came to me, “In the garden of your life let love grow wild and free.”
I also created another page yesterday (I use another journal alongside me as I paint to wipe off excess paints).
As I wiped off paint and held myself lovingly within the harmony and the discordant notes of family, I knew this page was about not fitting into a box, but living in the messy of life. Something that spoke to all my emotions on this day.
I wasn’t sure what I was feeling/expressing until I finished and then sat down to write in my journal what creating this page brought up for me. And that’s when I understood…
Grief is Messy…
Grief Is Messy
by Louise Gallagher
Grief is messy.
It follows no well-known path
travelling to the beat
of its own drum
and pushing through boundaries
you desperately put in place
to keep its presence at bay.
Grief is stealthy
It dresses up in familiar clothing
masquerading as your best friend
while its steals your identity
encroaching on the spaces
of your heart
you want desperately to avoid
There is no taming grief.
There is only its heavy cloak
wearing you down
until one day
you find yourself arriving at that place
where moments spent wrapped
in grief’s company
as softly as the sweet melody
of the voice
of the one who is gone
fades into memory.
I sit at my desk, a candle burning, furnace humming, Beau sleeping on the chaise beside me.
Outside, the sky is slowly lightening as dawn gently pushes night away towards the west.
On this morning, a year ago, we were sitting vigil with my mother. We knew the end was near. We just didn’t know, today would be the day she took her last breath as her spirit released her body and she crossed over to that place where she believed completely that my father, brother, her parents and all her siblings who had gone before her were waiting, with open arms, to greet her.
We knew the moment was coming. We just didn’t know the time.
And then, we did.
10:35 am. Tuesday, February 25, 2020.
It has been a year today. A year of sadness. Sorrow. Grief. Joy. Laughter. Growth. Healing.
It has taught me many things. One of them being about the power of my mother’s prayers. The power of prayer isn’t in the one to whom we pray. It is in the one who prays.
Faith is like that. It isn’t about the one or ones or things or ‘its’ we believe in, or the doctrines of religion or church we follow and adhere to. It is in our ability to let go of questioning ‘the why’ or believing our ‘why’ is the way for others and breathing into what brings us peace, solace, comfort.
Prayer is a personal act of faith that reminds us to care about those for whom we pray.
My mother always knew that. It wasn’t that her faith got in the way of our relationship. It was that our ways were different and my questions, confusion, angst built a wall between our differences neither of us knew who to cross. The only way my mother knew how to take down that wall was through prayer.
She was wise that way. When she did not know what to do, she prayed.
Today is the one-year mark of our mother’s/grandmother’s passing. My sisters and daughters and I will gather later today on Zoom to mark the day, her life and this circle of love she created through her every breath.
I wrote this poem a year ago today as I sat in the quiet stillness of the morning just before my mother’s last breath.
A girlfriend and I had met for a walk. I’d started at the off-leash so Beaumont wouldn’t feel too constrained walking for an hour on-leash. We headed east, along the path that winds its way along the river, my friend and I chatting and catching up. Beaumont walking beside us (between tugs on the leash). We walked about forty-five minutes in one direction before turning around to walk back to our starting point.
It was then that we spied the bird. Its tiny red and black feathered body lying in the middle of the sidewalk. Shivering. Barely breathing. Almost still.
We couldn’t leave her so I used one of Beau’s bags to gently pick her up and cradle her in my hands. I could feel her tiny heart beating fast. She was alive.
So we kept walking back to our cars in the hope that she was simply stunned by an encounter with another bird or perhaps a car.
As we walked, I kept breathing on her while my girlfriend held Beau’s leash.
As we walked, I whispered words of encouragement and hope over her tiny, inert body.
I pray for you wings to fly free. I pray for you blue sky days. And whether you body recovers and you flutter your wings or take your last breath dreaming of flight, know that you are held in hands full of Love.
Step. Breathe warm air onto her body. Step. Breathe warm air onto her body.
A walking prayer.
She still wasn’t moving by the time we got back to our cars so I tucked her gently onto the front passenger seat, ensured the seat warmer was on and Beau and I drove home.
At home, C.C. found a box for her. I lay my electric heating pad in the bottom, covered it with a towel and carefully removed the plastic bag I’d carried her in while I placed her on the warm bed we’d made.
As she settled into the nest she opened her eyes and looked at me. She wasn’t shivering any more. She just wasn’t moving very much.
I waited awhile to see if her strength returned. She moved around a bit but never tried to spread her wings.
As I’ve done in the past when I’ve found wounded wildlife, I called the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conversation(AWIC) for guidance. They rescue injured and orphaned wildlife throughout the province and provide professional care to support the rehabilitation and release of all rescued wildlife. During the day, they have volunteers who will come and pick up the animals, but, if there are no volunteers available, they have a network of vets in the city where you can take the animal for care until AIWC can pick it up in the morning.
Always, whenever I’ve called AWIC, the volunteer at the end of the line has been kind, helpful, caring.
Always, the experience has reminded me of the importance of taking care of one another.
Birdsong, watching the songbirds hop about in the bushes and trees in our backyard, spying them sitting on branches as I walk, always brings me joy. It’s as if the birds know we humans need their song and presence to lift our spirits.
We need to take care of the birds.
We found a wounded bird yesterday. I carried her in my hands and breathed warm air onto her almost weightless body,
She reminded me of how easy it is to take care of one another. How sharing a smile, a kind word, a gentle gesture eases the burden for those who have fallen along life’s paths.
I do not know if that bird will fly again or if she will gain her angel’s wings. I do know the songs she sang, the joy she brought into this world is a gift of nature that matters to our world.
Whether she takes to the skies again or gains her angel wings, I am grateful for our time together. She reminded me of the need to always walk gentle of heart, connected to nature.
Learning to live in harmony with nature is critical to the survival of our species. Living in harmony begins with taking care of one another.
We found a wounded bird yesterday. Her song was silent. Her wings still.
In our brief time together she reminded me of the need to care for one another. She reminded me that there is power in prayer.
And in that encounter, I am reminded of the constancy of my mother’s prayers. Tomorrow marks one year since my mother took her last breath. As I sit in the silence of the morning, as I walk in the woods, along the river, on busy city streets, I hear her whispered incantations showering me with care. They rustle in my heart like a sweet, gentle birdsong filling the air with Love.
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