Breathe. Be. Here. Now.

“Like flowers preserved behind glass, her story wove strands of beauty throughout time.”

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.”

To Love Yourself Completely: Part 2

To love yourself completely, begin with finding beauty in the broken places. Layers of Love – mixed media on canvas board – 7 x 9″

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.”

Namaste

____________________________

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. ❤

To Plan or Not To Plan. It’s not a Question!

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.

Except…

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?”

Huh?

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.

Namaste

Life is Messy. So is Grief.

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
 visiting.
  
 There is no taming grief.
 There is only its heavy cloak
 of companionship
 wearing you down
 until one day
 you find yourself arriving at that place
 where moments spent wrapped
 in grief’s company
 die away
 as softly as the sweet melody
 of the voice
 of the one who is gone
 fades into memory. 

It Has Been A Year

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.

Namaste.

__________________________

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.

Walking In Prayer

I found a wounded bird yesterday.

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.

Crash!

Background for No 72 #shepersisted series – acrylic inks, inks, acrylic paint, gesso

For the past two days, I have been working on the process video for No. 72 of my #shepersisted series.

One thing I’m careful to do is… save my work throughout the process.

One thing my computer didn’t actually do was… save all my work.

Not its fault actually… I discovered this after about 6 hours of work yesterday when it crashed and I discovered I’d lost the final hour of edits.

I couldn’t figure out why every clip I downloaded kept coming in garbled. The video file was getting too large for the limited memory available on my computer. Each download would take me about three tries to get it to import successfully. Include the fact that my phone automatically uploads long videos to the cloud to save space, requiring first the downloading of said video and then the editing because I filmed everything upside down (and no that was not intentional) and you can see why it was taking me so long to edit!

Anyway, the gift of ‘the crash’ is it gave me insight into the importance of emptying memory banks to clear up space for fresh ideas.

See, we humans like to hang onto things. A lot.

We harbour grudges. Disappointments. Regrets.

We roll past hurts over and over in our minds, picking off pieces and chewing on them with the verocity of a baby robin grabbing for a worm dangling out of its mother’s beak.

We act like emotional hoarders, stuffing feelings deep down into our psyches, layering more and more on top so that the ones below can’t get out.

Until… one day… we crash.

Oh, maybe it’s not cataclysmic. Maybe it doesn’t even make the Richter scale of emotional disturbance.

But for each of us, there is a breaking point.

I used to see it everyday when I worked in a homeless shelter. People entering with nothing except the emotional baggage they carried as if those angry, hurting thoughts and feelings could protect them from the painful past that led them to the shelter’s doors.

There was a man at the shelter once who was known for his anger. He was in some ways just one of many except I got to know him better than others because he used to come to the art project I’d started and jam with other musicians. When he was being ‘himself’ he was a loving, caring man. And then, a burst of anger would erupt up and out of his body and he turned into a whirling, crashing terror. A guy bent on self-destruction determined to take everything around him down too.

One day, faced with a possible jail term due to his latest outburst, he came into my office and cried, “Help! I don’t want to be an angry man.”

We got him enrolled in a program that helped him face his past and his demons. He took anger management. He learned to meditate. He worked, hard, on being ‘himself.’

When it came time to go to court to face the consequences of his past actions, he asked if I’d go with him. On the day of his appearance, I waited outside the doors while he stood in front of a judge. “I know I gotta face the consequences of my actions,” he said before going in. “But I sure hope the judge sees I’m a changed man.”

In his hands he held tightly to the certificates he’d received from the various courses he’d taken to create the change he wanted, knew he needed, to be the man he was beneath the anger and pain that hid his inner beauty.

When he came out of the courtroom, he was smiling. Almost dancing. His entire being infused with delight, relief, joy. He’d received a suspended sentence. Community service. No jail time.

I haven’t thought of that man in awhile. He moved on. Went back to the province he’d come from when he was running away from his past. Through the occasional email or phone call, I learned he’d reconnected with his kids. Had a good job. His own place. Was living life.

I like this person I’ve become, he told me in one of his calls.

He’d become a champion in his own life.

_______________________

The other day, Goff James shared a video and story on his blog of Ben E. King’s iconic hit, Stand by Me. In my comments, I shared the story of how musicians from the shelter where I used to work along with musicians from the community-at-large came together to create a recording of the song.

I hadn’t thought of that man in awhile. Until there he was, amidst all the other performers, sharing the music of his heart, creating change for all the world to know, when we stand together, anything is possible.

_______________________

This post is also part of Eugi’s Causerie – todays’ prompt is ‘Champion’

Your Weekly Prompt – Champion – February 18, 2021

balance in ventures 
breathes strength into champions 
heroes of today


Haiku written by Eugi

Go where the prompt leads you and publish a post on your own blog that responds to the prompt. It can be any variation of the prompt and/or image. Please keep it family friendly. Prompts close 7 days from the close of my post.

Anyone can participate — go on… try it… it’s fun!

Cracks and Other Openings

In the dryness that is an Alberta winter, my fingertips tend to crack if I don’t keep applying lotion to take care of them.

My heart feels the same. Except ‘the dryness’ is the lack of quality time spent with those I love. Hugs. Touching hands. Sitting side-by-side.

To soothe the cracks, I must take care of my heart. I must keep feeding it with the things I know are good for it.

After writing about ‘creating sunshine‘ in my life yesterday I decided I needed to get some things done!

Taking care of the little things clears space for big (and little) shifts within and all around me. It also makes room for the sunshine to stream in!

Yesterday, after walking Beaumont the Sheepadoodle, I packed up three different parcels waiting to be posted, organized a cupboard and… La cremé de la cremé, after stopping at the post office, I picked up books from an amazing woman, Lisa Gareau of Candy Event Consulting. Lisa is holding a Lisa’s Big Bookshelf Blowout event on FB. For fourteen days in February, she is gifting hardcover books from her collection to anyone willing to pick them up.

It pays to be an early riser. Yesterday, Lisa posted several creativity books — all of which I didn’t have. I messaged her and said I’d love to give them a new home and la voilá…

I spent the afternoon lying on the bed, nurturing a sore back with inspiration divined from my new books!

In her description of the event on FB, Lisa writes, “In this lovely month of love … I want to SHARE the love … by giving away (half) of my hard copy “hold-them-in-your-hands” books!”

What a lovely and inspiring thing to do. And… a wonderful way to give herself self-care — not only does she feel the joy of giving others the gift of reading materials to hold gently and lovingly in their hands, she also creates space for big and little shifts in her own world. Space where the sunshine can stream in!

Which got me wondering, do I have items in my home that are no longer serving me that could be of value to others?

It’s great food for thought and a great way to find the ‘Marie Kondo‘ ethos in our home…

Which brings me back to the cracks in this time of sequestered solitude.

Giving is receiving.

In the giving, joy rises up from both the giver and the receiver to meet on the field of reciprocity created between open hands and receiving hands. In that space, our hearts welcome in the soothing vibrations of generosity that stream in all directions, creating healing waves of gratitude flowing everywhere, including into the cracks.

Spring is just around the corner — okay so it’s a far-off corner here in the land of long winters — but it will arrive. The season’s are like that. They always change. It’s just their timing is not always predictable and their duration not always dependable. But they do change.

Perhaps, as I wait for spring, and a vaccination and an easing of Covid restrictions and the paling of Covid in our lives, it’s a good time to begin a springlike opening of spaces in my home and heart.

Perhaps, the cracks will become less sensitive to ‘the missing’ as joy, gratitude and generosity fill my spirit with hope and open me up to the infinite possibilities of Love flowing everywhere.

Perhaps, it’s time to look at the cracks as openings. A place to feel and know and see that what I give to the world fills the inward places of where I feel ‘the missing’.

As I open my mind and heart to new ideas on being present in this world today through giving and receiving, my world shifts and so does my outlook.

____________________________

PS… I checked with Lisa if it was okay to mention her 14 day Big Bookshelf Blowout (it’s on until Feb 22) – and she said “Yes! I’ve still got lots more books to give away.” Do check it out HERE.

Perhaps, even if you don’t find any books to hold in your hands, you’ll find inspiration to help fill in the cracks between the here and now and the beauty of days to come when we can all gather together again.

When the blues get you down – Create your own sunshine

Spring Dreams – mixed media on 10″ x 10″ x 2″ birch board panel

As Covid restrictions stretch into February and vaccination timelines stretch even further out, I find myself drifting between feeling weary and resigned and wanting it all to just go away so I can ‘get on with life’.

Life is what happens to you while you‘re busy making other plans”.

That line, used by John Lennon in his 1980’s hit, Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy) originally appeared in 1957 in Reader’s Digest as a quote written by Allen Saunders.

It is true today as much as it was back then.

No one on this planet planned for a global panedmic to disrupt our daily lives for a year, and more. Okay. Well maybe some scientists and world health folk and disaster planners did. But for the majority of us, we planned on life as normal.

And then… this all happened and now, I’m planning on not planning as I wait….

In the waiting, there are moments when all I want to do is stay in the weary. To simply sink beneath the weight of this winter cold snap by curling up under a blanket and not coming out again until ‘it’s all over.’

Beaumont the Sheepadoodle. Daily necessities. Living with my beloved. Family and friends. They all play a role in helping me find grace in the wearies and hope in the possibilities of this moment right now leading to one day, soon…

And when none of that works, when I still struggle to lift my head off the pillow and greet the morning with a smile and a grateful, ‘Good Morning World!’ I know it’s time to ‘create my own sunshine.’

Now, I know that sounds trite. And I know there’s a space inside that wants to yell “No Way! It’s not that easy! And that won’t work anyway. Look at the world. It’s a mess and I’m just going to be a mess with it and nothing and no one can tell me otherwise and I know I should do something about this dark space but seriously this dark space is comforting and what can I do it’s all such a mess and I’m so confused and I have no idea what to do and I’m so tired of having to pick myself up again and again and I just want to keep falling down but I don’t know where the bottom is and what if I fall and can’t get up and what if I get up and just fall back down and what if the blues are the only place I’m safe and what if….”

The mind can be a busy place when the weight of this weary world settles in for a nice, long winter’s nap.

Except, there’s not much that’s nice nor ‘nap-like’ when the weight of the world is settled in.

Which is when I head to my studio, or my journal page or outdoors for a walk (yes. even in the frigid, seriously cold temps we’re experiencing right now).

Doing something that gets my blood flowing, my energy moving and my creative juices going is good for whatever ails me – including the blues. (and especially in those times when I tell myself it just won’t work or it’s too much bother!)

Yesterday, in that space where missing those I love felt like a clingy, wet blanket of doom, I knew I had to create my own sunshine within my heart so that ‘the missing’ didn’t become the reason why I didn’t have to do anything other than let my moodiness carry me to the sofa as I drifted through a day of mindless social media scanning and Netflix binging.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think the occasional day of doing little other than curling up on the sofa is a lovely antidote to these times in which we find ourselves.

I also know, that for me, one day can slip into two, then three and on and on until I believe doing the sofa curl-up under a dark blanket of gloom is the best thing for me.

Which is why yesterday, I challenged myself to doing something creative to create my own sunshine — like making a video to go with the Morning Dance Haiku I wrote earlier in the day. Creating and posting the poster for my Vision Board Workshop. Creating a new piece for the art show I’m in this June. Turning up on a Zoom call with my writing circle (that little voice inside was niggling at me to not turn up!). Taking an extra-long afternoon walk with Beaumont.

This morning, I feel lighter again. No. The pandemic hasn’t disappeared and the world hasn’t suddenly righted itself, but I feel the hope. I feel the light. I feel the possibilities.

And yes, I still miss seeing and being with the one’s I love. I still miss inviting people into our home and going for dinners in restaurants with friends.

But the missing isn’t a heavy cloud of gloom. It is a reality of what I need to do to create a safe space for my beloved and I and all those I love to weather this storm so that one day… soon… we can all gather around a table and not miss faces of those we love because the darkness that consumed them is eternal.

The question is: What will you do to create sunshine in your world today?

I hope you share. Let’s inspire each other and shine a big light for all the world to see in the dark!

Morning Dance on the River.

Light dances on the water where the river flows freely through an icy bordered channel. If I keep my eyes focused only on what appears to be the light dancing, it is as if the river is standing still.

I know it’s not.

Light on the river / Morning dance in the darkness / Love flows through it all.

It is the same in life. Sometimes, I think time is standing still, and then I notice a birthday flowing past, a memory drifting away into forgetfulness and I remember – nothing is static. Everything changes.

Life is energy and energy is not inert. It is constantly moving, shifting, changing, flowing. Like time. Always on the move. Like life. Always evolving.

It was at this time last year that my sisters and daughters and I began to gently move into the space where we knew the light in our mother’s/grandmother’s life was beginning to waver. That space where, at 97, she knew her time on this earth was drawing to an end.

It would be another 15 days before she drew in her final breath and released herself to eternity, but she knew. The one’s she had loved and lost in this life, and the God who had held her steady through every breath, were waiting, she said. She was ready to join them.

In those final days of my mother’s life, if I kept my eyes focused on each breath she took, it felt as though time was standing still. As if, her breaths would keep on going, even though her heart was growing more and more still.

It wasn’t that I wanted her to not go. It was that I wanted her to open her eyes and see that what she was leaving behind was a circle of love that she had woven together through every hardship, every sorrow, every moment of joy.

It was often hard for my mother to see the moment’s of joy. Tormented by depression most of her adult life, darkness often clouded her view of the beauty surrounding her.

I remember as a young girl wishing I could weave a bridge of words that would take us away from where my tormented mother stood in the kitchen in front of my siblings and me holding a knife to her breast and threatening to end it all. That bridge would take us away from the darkness into a land of constant sunshine.

It would be many years before I realized I was never powerful enough to break through the darkness. And, even longer before I learned that even though I could smile my way through even the darkest night of the soul, the darkness owned part of me too.

It was a therapist’s calm question of, “How long have you been depressed?” that created the first visible crack in the darkness for me. I was in my early 40s at the time.

“Me? Depressed? Never.”

I remember how she smiled, slightly, and asked, “What would you do differently if you were?”

It was a really tough question for me to even consider.

I knew how to walk alongside other’s in the darkness. I did not know how to walk alongside myself.

I feared sadness. I feared the depression that had consumed my mother throughout her life. Yet, to love my mother as she was, I had to learn to love her in the darkness. I had to learn to not be afraid of sadness, tears and emotions that did not come wrapped up in a smile.

Much has shifted since that therapist invited me to consider the shadow side of my constant smile. The icy grip I had on maintaining ‘my smile’ has eased as the warmth that comes with letting myself feel deeply, cry freely, live joyfully in darkness and in light, has helped me grow beyond my fear of the dark into loving all of it. All of me. And all of my mother.

And though my memory likes to play tricks on me sometimes, like the light dancing on the water, life keeps flowing with its beautiful truth shimmering in every moment. To see through darkness, we must open our eyes to the light. And, to truly feel and know lightness of being, we must honour the darkness that makes light so much brighter.

I watched the light dance on the water this morning. The river kept flowing. Time kept passing and always, Love moved freely through the darkness and the light holding me always in the circle of Love my mother’s hands wove together through every breath of her life.