Category Archives: Adventures in YYC

Let us be like a butterfly…

There was once a little girl who was afraid of colour. To see the golden yellow of the sun, or the deep green velvet of the forest, or the vibrant hues of the garden filled her heart with fear.

Terrified of all the colour in the world, she walked through each day with her eyes squinted against the onslaught of beauty that she could not witness. Fearful of the world of colour  that bombarded her senses with every glance, she covered her ears to the songs of enchantment all around and cowered beneath the belief that she was right to cling to her fears.

“Give me black and white,” she pleaded in the darkness of her mind.

And the world closed in around her until all she saw were the shadows between the colours of the world.

I wrote the story above several years ago. It had appeared in my meditation, tendrils of thoughts whispering their away into substance.  When I opened my eyes and let the words flow, they found their substance on the page and formed themselves into story.

It is what I find most enlivening and mystical about the creative process. When I stop squinting my eyes, when I stop fearing what might be, or not be, magic and wonder happens.

When I fear, when I force or try to push the muse into a container, to direct her into this way or that, the wonder disappears and I am left feeling left out, apart, and let down, telling myself, there is no magic. There is no mystery. there is no possibility of beauty rescuing the light from the darkness.

In fear, I fall into that place where all I see is what I fear. Where all I know is what I expect to be; the mundane, the same as, the predictability of my life lived in the comfort of the darkness I crave when I let go of seeing the light in everything and everyone.

In my studio, immersed in the creative process, the world falls away into that place where all I know, all I sense, is its beauty. In that space, with my music playing, candle burning and my fingers splattered with paint, there is no world out there, there is no war, no famine, no hurricanes and definitely no virus taking the world hostage.

There is only the muse and me. Connected. Committed. Creative. And in that connection, I become part of the flow of the essential essence of the Universe. I am one with life. One creative expression flowing with the expressions of all the world around me.

In these days where a virus is shutting us into our homes and keeping us at safe but constrained, distance from one another, connecting to our creative core, expressing our gratitude in songs of joy and messages of hope, is vital to our well-being.

We are the ones who must create the path for the world to survive this viral onslaught. We can only do that together.

Staying home, keeping our distance, washing our hands, matters. To ourselves, our loved ones, friends, community. It matters to the world.

It also matters that we stay connected to the beauty, the wonder and awe of the world within ourselves and all around us. It matters that we share our best to create better for all the world.

Imagine…

We are each a butterfly fluttering our wings to create a tsunami of well-being around the world.

When we flutter our wings as one, we create One world of possibility, hope, beauty and Love.

Take Good Care Of You – 10 Self-Care Tips to Promote Well-Being

Yesterday, I created a list of 10 Self-Care Tips To Promote Wellbeing During Social Distancing which I shared on my social media accounts.

This morning, I spent an hour on the phone with a technical support person at GoDaddy. Before I called, I’d spent a frustrating 45 minutes trying to figure out a solution to my problem myself.

That one hour with Ivan S at GoDaddy felt like good self-care. He was kind, patient (a necessity with me when trying to work out a technical problem) and funny in a really nice way.

What struck me was that my stubbornness (spending 45 minutes trying to fix a technology issue I have no idea how to fix is a clear indication of its gravitas), does not equate to self-care when I choose to ignore healthy and more peace-inducing ways of getting the job done.

In these stress-riddled times, taking care of our well-being is critical.

Here are some ideas to help you stay calm (and nope – calling technical support is not on it but it could be! Bottomline, if you are feeling stressed and need to chat with a human, calling a trusted family member or friend, reaching out to a therapist, the distress centre, is important!)

10 Self-Care Tips To Promote Wellbeing During Social Distancing

Handshakes and hugs are out. Elbow bumps were in but they too have fallen by the wayside as we hunker down at home and practice social distancing.

It can be hard in these times of chaos and upheaval to remember to take care of yourself. Yet, it is especially in these uncertain times that self-care is vital. Fear creates panic and panic robs our bodies of its natural defenses, weakening our immune system and putting stress on all our organs.

The following 10 tips offer some practical ways you can help yourself find your balance and inner calm, regardless of what’s happening in the world outside. It’s not about sticking your head in the sand and ignoring the facts of Covid-19s presence. It’s about staying conscious of the things you can control, the things you can’t, and acting on your inner courage to do the things you can do to keep yourself balanced and calm in the face of the unknown.

These tips can be incorporated into your everyday life, singularly, in groups of 2 or 3 or all together. It’s up to you. You are in control. You have the power to decide what you’re going to do with your day and how you’re going to take care of yourself.

    1. Light a candle. Daytime. Nighttime. Anytime. Scented. Unscented. Candlelight sets the scene for relaxation. It immediately signals to the brain to slow down. Your body remembers to breathe and you remember to get present.
    2. Listen to music. Avoid angry music, but soft, soothing, relaxing sounds (without words helps to turn your thinking-mind off). If you play tunes you like with words, sing along. Sing out loud. Sing at the top of your voice!
    3. Read a book. Listen to a podcast – something that inspires and excites you – while you sip a cup of your fav tea.
    4. Meditate. Sit in the quiet or play music. Find a guided meditation online. Just sit quietly and be present to the moment. Let the voices in your head float through like clouds across a blue sky. Breathe. In. Out. Breathe. In. Out.
    5. Pour yourself a bubble bath. Soak in it. Close your eyes. Breathe in the scents. The air. The feeling of being at peace, your body supported by warm, soothing water. (You can do 1 – 4 while in the bath! Wine in the bath works too!)
    6. Have a dance party. You don’t need a partner. All you need are some of your favourite tunes, a bit of space and your body – sitting, standing, lying down. Move whatever feels like moving. Let go. Let yourself feel the beat, let yourself move to the rhythm. Move as little or as much as you want – just move!
    7. Go for a run, a walk, a saunter. Do yoga at home, Qi Gong. Tai Chi – Gyms are closed but that doesn’t mean your body needs to stop moving. There are lots of resources online to inspire your personal workout.
    8. Spend time in nature. Get outside. Go for a walk with your dog, or a friend – just keep your social distance.
    9. Learn. Spend time doing/learning things you love to do. Cook. Sew. Paint. Write. Call a friend. Clean the fridge (it can be good for the soul to clear out ‘past due date’ foods!) Do woodwork – do something that sparks your imagination.
    10. Connect.  Connect. Connect.  You may be at home. You may be alone but there are things you can do to not feel lonely. Social distance doesn’t mean separation. It just means keeping the virus from spreading through the use of proven measures (like not getting too close to others). But, we all need to connect, to hear another’s voice, to share stories. Reach out. Create a Zoom call, FaceTime call with family and friends. Use technology to keep you connected across the distance so that your mental health does not become a victim of social distancing.  Repeat often. Connect. Connect. Connect. 

We are all in this together — all around the world. Self-isolation, social distancing are, for most of us, uncomfortable, uneasy actions to take.

We need to take them — what we need to ensure is that in taking them, we don’t overburden ourselves with worry, anxiety, feelings of being totally alone, fear and depression.

Please. If you are feeling overwhelmed. Reach out.

Your well-being is very, very important. You are very, very important.

Take good care of you and let’s all take good care of each other.

 

 

#CreateBoldly – An invitation

 

In The Memory of a Tree
11 x 14″ on acrylic paper
Mixed Media

I know. I know.  Two posts in one morning!

This one is actually from my SM feeds yesterday. I wanted to post it here as an invitation to you to join in too!

Create Boldly. 
#
CreateBoldly

Create Boldly is a creativity challenge I’m leading to keep myself, and anyone who cares to join me, grounded in gratitude, generosity and grace as we move through these unprecedented times. If life comes without a script, living through a coronavirus pandemic comes without a guidebook.
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Create Boldly is an invitation to stretch yourself and your creative muscles and write your own guidebook on what it means to be alive at this time, right now.

If you don’t have a creative practice, it’s an opportunity to stretch completely outside your comfort zone, or, if you already do have one, to stretch your practice in unexpected ways.

How It Works

Every 2 or 3 days (I’m going with unscripted here), I’ll offer up a prompt via a theme — and you get to do the rest.

Today’s theme is: The Memory of Trees.

 

The Invitation:

Create your own poem, prose, haiku, story (as long/as short as you wish) based on the prompt, and paint, draw, use your computer or use paints, pencils, crayons…, and create a visual reflection on your poem/prose/story. Or you can just write something or paint/draw/sew/embroider/quilt something — remember, it’s unscripted.

There’s no right nor wrong way to participate. There is only the invitation to step into this space with me and explore what can happen when you let yourself Create Boldly.

All you need to do to participate is decide to do it and share your offerings here, on your FB or Instagram page and tag me (mlouiseg88) and use the hashtag — #CreateBoldly

That’s it.

An invitation.
An empty space.
An opportunity.

I hope to see you here in days yet to pass.

My interpretation of the prompt is a poem and a painting. I’m not sure which inspired which or which came first, the prompt, the poem or the painting…

In The Memory of a Tree
©2020 Louise Gallagher

In the memory of a tree
its roots are deeply planted
in the soil, grounded
in earth’s eternal journey
spinning around the sun.

In the memory of a tree
the seasons change,
time passes
like a river.
Nothing stays the same.

In the memory of a tree
spring bids farewell
to winter
and summer turns
to fall.
Everything changes.

Social distancing is our invisible fence

The beavers have been busy. Last fall, they chopped down over 50 trees along the riverbank for their lodge upriver.

Recently, they started working on the trees again.

Yesterday, as I walked the path along the river, I saw a city Parks & Rec truck driving towards me on the trail. Two women and their dogs stepped aside and let the truck pass.

When the truck got to me, the driver slowed down, stopped, rolled down his window and said, “What a beautiful dog!”

Beaumont did a little dance, (I swear that dog speaks English) I thanked him, we chatted for a few seconds, he drove away and I continued walking towards the two women who now had their dogs on leashes. As we passed each other, one woman asked me, “Are they giving out tickets?”

This park is an ‘unofficial’ off leash area. In conversation with our City Councillors office, I’ve been told its formal designation is pending a report on the entire rivers area. Ticketing, while possible, is not part of the ‘plan’.

I gave a startled laugh and replied, “Oh no. He just stopped to chat.”

“Oh good,” the woman replied. “I can let my dog off leash.”

I smiled and without conscious thought, reached out and gave her shoulder a reassuring tap with my gloved hand. “Absolutely,” I replied.

And then I realized what I’d done.

“Oh no,” I said from a safe distance. “I apologize. I didn’t mean to touch you!”

The women both turned to me, surprised looks on their faces. One woman held up both her hands, waved them in the air and said, “It’s okay. We’ve all got gloves on.”

The other woman laughed and said, “But be careful. You could get ticketed for touching.”

I laughed back and replied, “Now that would be a touching ticket!”

And we went our separate ways.

It is here. This consciousness. Awareness. Hyper-vigilance. It is here.

And it’s good to laugh. To tease each other. And to stay conscious of protocols that protect us.

I touched a woman’s shoulder yesterday. It is my intuitive reaction to someone else’s worry, concern, dismay.

In these days of Covid, it is not the thing to do. Even when wearing gloves.

It is good we could laugh.

It is good I remember to hold back my normal social responses in favour of social distancing.

It is all good.

___________________

On another note, the Parks Team have been busy erecting chicken wire fences around the trunks of the trees that line the river in an attempt to keep them safe from busy beavers.

Those fences, like social distancing, are erected as a barrier against harm. They keep trees safe from nature’s natural nature to do what it must to survive, to evolve, to transform, to create.

Social distancing is our invisible fence.  Let’s keep it strong so we stay standing in good health and vibrancy.

 

Covid 19 – I’m keeping my distance.

Even after baking fresh bread. After making a big batch of mushroom soup and a beef stew. Even after packing up my paints and brushes, my papers and ephemera, I decided not to go.

I was going off to a week-long artist’s retreat in the foothills of the Rockies today.

Yesterday, I called and said I wasn’t coming.

My beloved has a cold. He also has a chronic medical condition. He’s in the high-risk group.

But that’s not really why I cancelled.

I cancelled because I did not want to worry. I did not want to fear inadvertently bringing disease into our home.

I cancelled because I love him.

I made the decision after I saw that Alberta’s number of cases had doubled yesterday. Yes, they are all travel-related but, one of the others at the retreat will be going back and forth to the airport a couple of times for work while I’m there. I do not want to lay the burden of my worry on my friend. And, if you look at the statistics from around the world, this virus exponentially increases on a daily basis. Travel is its gateway. Airports one of its conduits.

It wasn’t an easy decision. I love being at this retreat centre. Savour time spent in the foothills, surrounded by nature’s wild beauty. And I particularly like creating with these friends.

But I couldn’t do it.

To dive deep into my creative essence I need to let go of ‘worldly’ concerns, of worry, of anything but creative expression.

I couldn’t do that when no matter how deep I breathe into the moment, I know my beloved is sick and I am not doing everything I can to protect his health.

So, I decided to practice ‘social distancing’. I hadn’t heard the term before my eldest daughter sent me a link to an article in The Atlantic, Coronavirus: Cancel Everything. In it, the case for social distancing is clearly laid out. In the data, it’s also hard to argue with the fact that to stem Covid 19’s spread, we must change our behaviours.

Yesterday, I scrolled through many articles on Covid 19 and how to prepare for its inevitable presence in the community.

I was looking for reasons why it was okay for me to go.

There were many.

None of them out-weighed my responsibility to the one I love. My responsibility to do the right thing in these difficult and challenging times to create better for everyone. A week ago, I probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought. I would have gone.

In just one week, the sinister reality of Covid 19’s presence has darkened the globe and the lives of 14 people here in Alberta, 7 of whom were reported on yesterday. It’s impact cannot be ignored.

This isn’t because the media have created fear and paranoia. They are simply reporting the facts — Covid 19 is killing people and there are things we can do to mitigate against its impact. Media are also not the ones telling people to hoard toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Human nature’s doing that.

I’m doing what I can.

Sure, it’s possible that my response is over the top for the situation right now. It’s possible it is predicated upon the recent passing of my mother and death’s heavy cloak of sorrow clouding my vision.

That is all possible, but none of it outweighs the reality of Covid 19’s lethal capacity to take life.

If I can do anything to stop it from hurting the ones I love, I must.

It doesn’t mean I won’t be creating. I have a beautiful studio at home. It’s french doors open out to the trees lining the river which I can watch flow from where I sit at my work table. It has a fireplace and all the supplies I need to create. It also offers peace of mind. And when it comes to creating, peace of mind is the foundation of my expression.

So, for the next few days I shall be ‘pretending’ to be on an artist’s retreat. I’ll go for long walks (Beaumont will be very grateful as he is not allowed at the retreat centre). I’ll make lemon tea with honey. Share my fresh bread and mushroom soup and other meals with my beloved.

It will be a different experience than I had anticipated and I’m good with that. Different doesn’t make it ‘not as good as’. Different means it will include the one I love and share my life with. It means having the peace of mind of knowing I am expressing my love for him the best way I know how. By taking care.

I am grateful.

Where the Wild Things Roam

His eyes are dark and piercing. His coat tan and shaggy, fluffy fur collar around his neck.

From where I sit at my desk, looking out the window, he appears like a wraith flowing through the forest.

He stops at the edge of the trees, just by the fence that separates our property from the trees and bushes that line the river.

He stares up at me.

I stare back.

I reach for my phone to take a photo. It’s not on my desk.

I get up, grab it from the island and race back to my desk. He is gone.

I wonder if I actually saw him. If this big, fluffy wild thing really was there.

I open the deck door. Step out into the chilly January air, move across its cold surface in my bare feet and peer upriver, through the trees.

And there he is. Loping along the river bank further upriver. He stops. Pauses. Turns his head to look back at me. He turns back towards the way he was going and continues on his way.

I snap a photo of his retreating back and he is gone.

I sat at my desk yesterday and a wild thing appeared in the woods in front of my window.

For a moment, I was surprised. Taken aback.

He looked at me as if to say, “Look at you sitting there in warmth and comfort, all domesticated while I wander the woods, wild and free. Come. Play with me.”

From the safety of the deck, which is 10 feet off the ground, I watched him lope gracefully through the woods, following the upstream bend of the river.

The closest I came to playing with him was to capture a photo from afar.

Perhaps it is best to keep my distance from the wild things. To watch from afar their fearless journey through the wilds of the city where the river flows through it and houses edge its banks.

Perhaps, being wild at heart doesn’t mean throwing off the cloak of gentility I wear to fit into this tamed and wild world I inhabit.

Perhaps, his call was not to come play with him but to remember the wildness of my heart calling me to cast off fear and run free as the wind through all my creative explorations.

Perhaps, he is my spirit animal calling me to remember I am wild at heart.

Or perhaps, he was really just saying, “This land is my land. I live here too.”

A coyote watched me as I sat writing at my desk yesterday.

A wild thing wandering the banks of the river as it flows through the city.

He paused, looked at me and continued on his journey to the west. To the grasslands beyond the city, the rolling foothills that lead to the Rockies.

He didn’t stay long in my view but his passing through reminded me to give in to the wild callings of my heart.

I am grateful.

 

Despite your regrets, are you willing to ‘live the better’?

The river moves like sludge this morning. Its free-flowing surface is becoming clogged with chunks of ice that dip and bob as the waters flow towards the rapids that have formed beneath the bridge where the ice has gathered on either side and created a narrowing in the river. Once through, the waters rush forward, racing towards the sea, or the next impediment to their progress.

The river reminds me of life.

We move along, picking up hurts and pains, clogging our flow with things we refuse to let go of, tell ourselves we cannot forgive or forget. We come to a narrowing, deposit bits and pieces of our past and dreams unlived that keep piling up along the banks and then race through whatever opening we can slip through, hoping the way ahead is clear.

Sometimes it is. Sometimes, like the river racing through the rapids, the way ahead is marred by a curve that creates space for ice to gather and impede the river’s flow.

As C.C. and I have both been battling a cold this past week, I have spent a fair amount of time lying on the couch watching Netflix movies. (After I watched the new season of Grace and Frankie of course) In one movie, the protagonist asks the hero as he’s about to attempt, yet again, to kill him after the hero has, yet again, foiled his plans for world dominance, “Did you actually think you could get to the moment of your death and not carry some regret for the things you couldn’t do?”

I don’t think you can — get to the end of your life and not carry some regret for the things you couldn’t do. I also don’t think that’s what matters.

What matters is, what we do with our regrets for the things we’ve done we wished we hadn’t. How we choose to live our lives because of the things we regret yet cannot change.

Are we willing to quit using our regrets as an excuse to continue to behave badly? To continue to not do the things we want to do? To live our dreams fully?

Are we courageous enough to face our regrets and say to those we’ve hurt, “I behaved badly. I’ve hurt you. I apologize. I am committed to doing better.” — and then… live the better.

Are we willing to look in the mirror and tell ourselves, “You are not some automaton destined to live by other people’s standards?  You deserve to live life on your terms, and as long as your terms create better for everyone, go for it!”

See, that’s the crux of it. Whatever we do, it must create better for all, because if it isn’t good for all, it’s not good for the one either.

And when I live my life by that maxim, my regrets no longer have the power to clog up the river of my life, no matter how stuffed up my head feels because of a cold or how deep the Arctic freeze that is clogging up the river outside my window.