I Took A Bite of Memory

I took a bite of memory yesterday. It slid across my lips and landed on my tongue full of tantalizing reminders of Christmases past.

It took me back. Back to my early teens. We are living in a white house with a big Chestnut tree in the middle of the front driveway. The deck overlooked the garden and then the city below. The drive backed onto a hillside that took you up into the vineyards that dotted the edges of the Black Forest town in which we lived.  

Inside, the house is full of the smells and sounds of Christmas. My father is baking in the kitchen. Christmas music playing. Loud.

My sister, Anne, and I are squabbling over whose turn it is to vacuum and whose turn to clean the bathroom.

My mother is fluttering around, trying to keep dad’s dishes to a minimum and desperately trying to admonish Anne and I to ‘quit fighting’ and get to work.

My brother is wafting in and out from his room. Like a prince holding court, he stands (forever) in front of the full-length mirror in the front hallway trying to determine between blue shirt, white shirt or maybe a sweater? In the middle of turning this way and that, he asks Anne and me what we think of what ever he is wearing.

We roll our eyes and say, in unison, “Whichever”, and pretend to go back to doing our jobs.

It was our way, we’d placate our brother and then whine together, like co-conspirators in a bad spy movie, about how he always got to go out and do whatever he wanted while we had to do all the work around the house. Sometimes, if we got the tone and attitude just right, he’d think we were talking about him and pester us with questions. “What’d you say?” “What? You think I should go with the sweater?” “There’s nothing wrong with my hair today, right?”  We’d tell him we weren’t even talking about him and scurry off to get our jobs done so we could go meet our friends.

If high-fives had been a ‘thing’ in those days we’d have worn our palms out.

And through it all, my father would be bustling around the kitchen, elbow deep in flour and sugar and everything nice to make one of his many baked Christmas delicacies.

Yesterday, I took a bite of a piece of Stollen. I’d picked it up that morning fresh from the bakers and was transported back to those days long ago..

My father’s Stollen were home baked. It was his way. The kitchen was his domain during the holidays. And while deliciousness was his ethic, excess was his trademark.

In later years, when I was living in Canada and my parents had not yet moved back from Europe, my dad would parcel up a huge box of Christmas goodies and have them delivered by airmail to my front door.

That box came full of his loving hands spicing up every bite and, my mother’s hands too. Because, while the production of so many culinary delights was my dad’s purview, making it all look pretty was my mother’s gift. She shared it well.

Butter tarts. Tins of many different cookies. Pound cakes. Christmas cake.  All wrapped up in crinkly bows. Pretty, sparkly papers around each cake. Cheery tins of laughing Santas and elves and trees all dressed up in Christmas finery. It was a gastronomic and pictorial odyssey.

There was something for everyone in that box. Chocolates for my daughters. A treat for the dog. And always, wrapped in a piece of cheese cloth covered with wax paper, tin foil and red wrapping paper, there was a Stollen. Waiting to be devoured.

I took a bite of memory yesterday.

It tasted good in my heart.

Love. Comfort and Joy.

I sit in the still darkness of early morning. The silence holds me tenderly in its velvety weightlessness.

Hold onto nothing, it seems to whisper. Allow everything in.

I breathe out and let everything go. Everything rushes in.

I breathe in and hold onto nothing. Everything rushes out.

You are the ocean, the velvety silence whispers. You are the sky. The moon and stardust. You are the everything of nothing but Love. There is no need to run or hide or jump up and down for attention. There is no need to yearn or hammer your fists against the universe and sink down into a puddle of weeping sorrow. No need to search for answers or meaning. There is only this nothingness of everything you are when you hold onto nothing and let everything in.

I breathe. In. Again.

Deep. Deep into my belly.

I feel. Deep. Deep in my belly the everything of nothing I hold onto.

I breathe. Out. Again.

Deep. Deep from my belly.

I feel. Deep into the space around me, deep into the darkness of this still silent morning the nothingness of everything I let go of.

And I know without knowing. I feel without feeling. Deep. Deep within my being. Deep in the presence of this moment, that this is the nothing and the everything of all I am. All I can be. All I need. All I want and desire. All of everything I let go of. All of everything I let in.

This is the everything of nothing but what remains when I hold onto nothing.

Breathing deep, I sat in the still darkness of morning.

And that’s where Love found me.

_________________

“My Morning Read”

This morning, as part of my commitment to read a poem every morning, I read Mark Nepo’s, Where is God

And this is what appeared.

There Is Nowhere Love Will Not Go.

Solstice is upon us and with it, I feel the calling of the muse to write my way into the light.

To stretch myself, to tease my poetic senses into verse, to give my mind an opportunity to lean into the unknown, beyond those spaces where my thinking has crystallized into certainty that I have it all figured out… I have begun a practice of reading a poem a morning – and then – letting whatever that poem inspires come into being through word and image.

This piece conspired itself into being after reading, WINTER APPLE From Pilgrim: Poems by David Whyte.

This is Day 2.

Some days I’ll share here. Some I won’t. We’ll see what the adventure brings!

There Is Nowhere Love Will Not Go
©2020 Louise Gallagher

Let this longest night
 fall
 effortlessly
 into dawn breaking open
 the sky
 bereft
 of winter’s days
 trapped
 inside
 with only the sheltering bones
 of this abode
 where you have held yourself
 sequestered
 to keep you safe.
 
Let this solitude
 play
 effortlessly
 the strings of your heart
 straining
 to not break
 under
 the weight
 of isolation 
 and worry
 that no matter the distance
 between two hearts
 love 
 will not be
 enough
 to keep you safe.

Let this Solstice
 awaken
 effortlessly
 your faith
 in Love’s authority
 to illuminate
 even the darkest night
 with its power
 to break open
 the dawn
 light returning
 to your heart
 on this darkest morning
 of the year.
 
And in that breaking open
 may you remember
 always
 there is nowhere
 Love will not go
 to keep you safe.

A Poem for Solstice

A Poem for Solstice
 ©2020  Louise Gallagher
In the presence of imminent light
 I linger in supine decadence
 along the edge of darkness
 holding close 
 memories of the sky
 littered with stars cast like dice 
 upon the pitch black velvet bed
 of night 
 softly lit
 by the sliver of a moon
 hanging
 like a partially open door
 inviting me into the mystery
 unfolding
 in the heavenly realms
 beyond the horizon
 where neck stretched
 face upturned
 I wait in eageer anticipation
 for the return of the light
 breaking through
 the edge of darkness.
 
Morning casts aside
 the fiery blanket of dawn
 as light kisses the darkness adieu
 and slips gracefully
 from night’s embrace.
 
I awaken
 to dawn’s breath
 calling me into the mystery
 of life
 unfolding
 on this new day
 born from darkness.

Mt. Engadine Lodge Revisited

The snow started falling Thursday evening and kept falling and falling all through the night, the next day and Saturday.

When we drove away after the ploughs had cleared the road to Mt. Engadine Lodge, it was still snowing.

Saturday Morning

The world around us looked like a picture-perfect Christmas card. Fir trees laden with snow. Misty, mysterious clouds clinging to the mountain tops. White blankets of snow covering the ground, shrouding bushes and everything else in its pristine whiteness.

I went into Mt. Engadine Lodge to help out in the kitchen again for 3 days.

This time, my beautiful friend Jane joined me as my ‘Sous Chef’. She chopped and chatted, keeping the kitchen filled with her delightful presence as I baked and stirred and cooked and coerced the ancient oven to behave.

It was a delightful time filled with laughter, creativity, deep conversation, shared moments and the fun that comes with the familiarity of an almost 40-year friendship.

I am grateful.

Through the kitchen window.

The Solstice has passed and the earth has turned on its journey towards the sun.

The anticipation of the ChristChild’s birth shimmers in the air filled with the mystery and the majesty of this story that has held reign over the Christian world for over 2,000 years.

Bells ring. Children laugh and play in the snow. The sky is blue and freckled with white fluffy clouds drifting by in leisurely disarray.

From Where I Sit Today

A squirrel digs into the freshly fallen snow for the pieces of bread and nuts I scattered. He dashes across the lawn, his mouth full of the treats he’s uncovered. With one leap, he clears the fence, landing with aplomb in the bushes that line the river. Snow drifts to the ground and with a hop, skip and a jump, he scrambles up a tree. Leaps from one bough to the next landing on the branch of the tree behind. Quickly he darts down the branch and disappears into a hole in the tree’s trunk.

A special bottle to share after dinner is served, the dishes are cleared and the day is done.

He is home for Christmas.

May we all be home for Christmas this holiday season. May our hearts be full with treasured memories of Christmases past and the joy of being surrounded by those we love gathered around tables laden with delicacies of the season.

May we know peace, love, happiness and joy.

May your Christmas be blessed and bright. May your heart be filled with joy, contentment and peace in the New Year!

Merry Christmas everyone!

__________________________________________

My Guest Chef days at Mt Engadine have come to an end. Fortunately, J received his work visa back and is once again cooking up a storm at the Lodge.

What a wonderful opportunity to be gifted a chance to fill my bucket list and my heart with the experience.

Thank you everyone at Mt. Engadine Lodge for filling my heart with such beautiful memories. Your incredible graciousness, kindness and support made the experience one I shall treasure dearly.

 

2nd Sunday of Advent: Make Time For The Sacred

“What is precious
inside us does not
care to be known
by the mind
in ways that diminish
its presence.”
Excerpted from, The Winter of Listening, David Whyte

It is the second week of advent. As you wait for the sun’s return, as you listen for your deepest knowing to awaken from these long dark nights of winter, listen to your heart. Listen to the silence and winter calling you to know the otherness.

This is the time of endless nights growing darker. Of day’s light growing weaker in the soft approach of winter solstice, in the coming light of the child’s birth drawing near.

This is a time when our patience grows thin as we rush about, fighting crowds and traffic, endlessly hurrying towards one more checkmark on the list, one more item scratched off on the gifts we must buy.

Join me for a brief interlude of quiet reflection on this, the Second Sunday of Advent.

Second Sunday of Advent reflection and meditation

Make Time for the Sacred

It is the first Sunday of Advent. A time for reflection, for waiting, for anticipation.

Several years ago, I created an Advent contemplative course to celebrate this waiting for the light to return — Make Time for the Sacred.

This morning, I opened the file and listened and was again reminded of the importance of entering this time of anticipation with a loving, open heart.

I invite you to join me in this sacred season every Sunday between now and December 25th. I’ll be posting each week’s reflection on Sunday morning.

This week’s reading as well as the link to the recording of the reading and the questions can be accessed on my website – HERE

A Christmas Poem — Alleluia Chorus

Allelluia Chorus

Alleluia Chorus
©2018 Louise Gallagher

Darkness rests
still
is the night
lingering at the edge
of day
break
waiting
waiting to appear
to open up
hearts and minds
to the wonder
of a thousand tiny fragments
of light ascending
into heavenly hosts
of alleluia
exalting
in the beauty of spirits rising
in Love and Light.

Alleluia
Alleluia

The Christchild is coming.

Alleluia
Alleluia

Love is in the air.

And I wonder… what does God call me?

O Come. O Come Emmanuel.

The third Sunday of Advent has past. Christmas Eve awaits.

Anticipation hangs in the air, glittering with the shimmer of a thousand candles glowing in the night. And still we move further into the darkness. This season of ice, where cold has seized the birds’ wings. Where news of The Christchild’s coming rings forth across the land. Where yearning for the sun’s return rings in every heart.

I wait in expectation of the holy of holy nights when hope shall spring forth in a world of peace, hope, joy and Love.

And still, my heart is heavy. Our world so sorely in need of peace continues to gravitate towards pain, war,
suffering, killing. Our world so desperately in need of quiet rages in the agony of death.

And still I wait.

O Come! O Come! Emmanuel.

O Come! Bring forth peace, hope, love and joy.
Bring it on oh holy one. Bring it on.

I am ready. I am willing. I am open to peace, hope, love and joy.

And still I wait.

Frustration rises. Fear edges into my awakening.

Can we not see? Can we not know that we are killing one another with our guns and ammunition. Our
insistence that we are right, they are wrong. Our fighting for ground. For religious beliefs and social
acceptance.

Can we not see?

O Come! O Come! Emmanuel

And I am reminded. Peace begins with me. I cannot make peace when I hold onto anger, fear, frustration. I
cannot be peace when I make war against the world around me.

O Come O Come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Oh Israel. To thee shall come Emmanuel

I remember as a child my mother humming this song. Her sweet clear voice echoing in the dark. I loved to
hear her sing. Loved to hear her voice.

And I breathe.

And hear the invitation to deepen my understanding of this season and its promise of peace, hope, love
and joy.

I breathe and feel its truth calling to my heart, this universal truth that speaks of our humanity — we are
born in the reflection of God, Yahweh, Allah. We embody God’s greatness, him or her or it – it doesn’t
matter what word we use for God. She does not listen to our words. Hhe hears our hearts. It sees our
truth.

We are limitless in our possibilities. We are magnificent. We are holy. We are divine.

This is not ‘God’ as limited by our language, but rather a concept of God that is unlimited through a
broadening of our vocabulary — The Divine. Creator. Yaweh. Almighty Father. The Divine Mother. King of Kings. Spirit. Lord. Allah. Buddha. Brahma. Divine Mystery.

So many names and yet, always the same message — to come home to Love. To be loving. To allow Love to be our answer in all things, all ways, all beings.

In this time of waiting, in this time of darkness I let go of the words I know and step into that place where I
broaden my ‘God vocabulary’. That place where I lean beyond the secular of my language to the Divine
presence embodied in the collective will of woman/man, a spirit that embraces me in wonder as I stand in Love.

In love, I breathe into my divine essence and come home to my heart.

In love, I come home to the One.

In love, I hear the Divine calling of my name as I embrace the beauty and the wonder of my human condition, this condition I share with each of you for we are each are the Divine Expression of Amazing Grace, no matter the names we use to call God, Creator, Yaweh, Allah and so many more.

And I wonder, I call God many things. What does God call me?

Child. Friend. Believer. One. What does God call me?

Perhaps the answer is… Home.

_____________________________

An Expectant Silence

expectant-silence-copy

An Expectant Silence  (An Advent Poem)
©2016 Louise Gallagher

In expectant silence
the world awaits
the coming
of a child
heralding
a world
of peace
hope
love
and
joy.

In the quiet
of dawning light
I await
morning
streaming rose and gold
threads of glory
filling the sky
with the promise
of a new day
born in the darkness
of the night

silence descends
light enters

I feel
the breath of God
awakening my soul
with fluttering wings
I become
an expectant oasis
of peace
hope
love
and
joy.