Angel In A Canary Yellow Coat

Some mornings, when Beaumont the Sheepadoodle and I head out for our first saunter, we cross paths with the woman in the bright yellow coat.

It is fluffy. Like a polar bear. Cuddly. Like Beaumont’s fur.

When our paths intersect, she always stops to say hello, though she never speaks those words.

The moment she is close enough to be heard, she blurts out some arcane fact of which I have little desire to know if it is true or not. I just like the fact she blurts out facts in the morning.

Did you know, she begins, before going on to tell me some novel thing about the moon, Tom Brady, the height of the Eiffel Tower, the flow of water in the river.

This morning, when we meet, she turns her face upwards as if to catch the tiny flakes of snow drifting down.

She puts one hand out, palm up to receive nature’s benediction and says, while staring pointedly at Beaumont, “These flakes are dog toys falling from heaven.”

Later, after we’ve parted, she to walk up the hill, me to turn into the lane leading to our house, I wonder if I heard her correctly. Did she say ‘dog’ or ‘God’?

It doesn’t matter, forwards or backwards, it is a delightful fact to savour.

I think it’s true.

Snowflakes are dog toys falling from heaven.

Like angels. Always present. Always fluttering their wings to create tiny miracles of joy in every day encounters where strangers come bearing enchanting gifts when their paths cross on snowy mornings.

And facts don’t need checking when they come wrapped up in the wonder of nature. They only need to be heard and honoured with a joyful smile of gratitude for the morning delight.

_____________________________________________________

I wrote this piece in the writer’s circle I participate in every Wednesday night. Created by the remarkable Ali Grimshaw of Flashlight Batteries, the circle is a safe and courageous place to explore word-craft, your poetic nature and our shared human condition.

Ali leads Writing Circles throughout the week. They are a wonderful oasis of beautiful souls gathering around the well of creative expression.

If you are looking for a ‘home’ to find your poetic voice, or just a place to come and rest awhile from the weary humdrum of life’s cachophony, connect with Ali and in that connection you will find yourself immersed in the wonder and awe she creates every week in her circles.

You can find out more about Ali’s online writing circles, click HERE.

_______________________________

and… this is the part I forgot to include!

This post about snow is also in response to the writing prompt today ‘WINTER’ on Eugi’s Causerie

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Your Weekly Prompt  Winter – February 4, 2021.

moonlit frosty nights

a whoosh of winter beckons

the awe of wonder

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.

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And don’t forget…. it’s an invitation for anyone and everyone to join in — even if all you do is go and check out the links to other stories, it will be a delightful journey I’m sure!

Wolf Moon Dancing and other delights

It is early morning. Beaumont the Sheepadoodle and I are indulging in our first saunter of the day. Night has slipped into the envelope of eternity that waits at the edge of the far horizon. The sky is pale blue streaked with rose.

The Wolf Moon is high, still visible in night’s lingering caress.

As I walk and Beau sniffs, my mind drifts full of images and thoughts floating. They feel light and buoyant, like the chunks of ice that clog the slow-moving waters of the river below the bridge where I stand to gaze at the moon.

When I come home, I sit down at my computer to write and the words and images that lingered in my mind pour out.

 Wolf moon dancing in day's light streaking naked across the sky 
 Darkness slips silently away, its caress as soft as a lover kissing her beloved adieu.
Love sighs a glorious prayer of gratitude as earth turns her cheek to welcome the sun's passionate kiss.
 

A dear friend asked me the other day how creativity seemingly just keeps flowing out of me.

I laughed and replied, “I have no idea…” And then after a moment’s reflection replied, “I just accept its presence. I listen to its flow. I don’t question it or criticize its outpourings. I allow them.”

Which is how yesterday’s #ShePersisted painting happened. By allowing it to appear.

I didn’t know what I was going to paint when I began to create a background in my art journal yesterday. I thought I might paint some botanicals and write about the longing for spring that seems to have arrived early in my heart this year. It’s only the end of January and I’m already dreaming of frost-free mornings and buds popping up under the warmth of the sun’s encouragement.

And that ain’t happenin’ yet!

I live at the edge of Rockies, in the land where the plains meet the undulating foothills. Where sky soars forever, and sometimes, so does winter.

We still have 3 months of indeterminate weather. Cold snaps. Polar Vortices. Arctic chills. They’re all in the wind. All a possibility between now and the May 24th weekend when ‘they’ say it’s safe to once again plant gardens.

Painting botanicals seemed like an antidote to the grey on brown world outside.

The muse has other ideas. My creative flow has its own rhythm.

When the inspiration for the #ShePersisted Series of quotes and images began, I thought it would last… just a little while. 1. 2. Maybe 3 paintings. 12 at the most.

Yesterday’s was No. 65. Somewhere between creating the background and writing out what was on my heart, letting myself fall into the flow of creativity rising up from deep within my belly.

No. 65 – #ShePersisted

They said, why must you keep fighting for more. This is all we can give you right now.

She said, I will never stop fighting for my rights until you stop holding onto the rights that are rightfully mind.

This morning, the quote for No. 66 appeared. I wasn’t expecting it or looking for it, but there it was, streaming out of the thoughts that appeared from the words I felt rising up while I stood on the bridge. I almost did a happy dance when the quote wrote itself out.

And…. here’s a ‘teaser’ – “They said, stop shining so bright. She said, I am made of stardust. I am Star Woman shining bright so you can see in the dark.

I can already envision the imagery and energy of the piece. I feel the essence of the Star Woman shining.

And that’s the thing about the muse. When we listen, she flows freely. When we allow the force of her flow to draw us out of our comfort zones, we fall with abandon into the waters of creative expression flowing wild and free.

Namaste

Now’s The Time (#ShePersisted No. 64)

How many times have you heard yourself say, or someone else tell you, “It’s all in the timing and now is not the time.”

Or, “When it’s the right time, you’ll know.”

The question is, who determines the timing or whether it’s ‘the right time’ or not.

Fact is, if I want something to change and you don’t, you’ll find a way to tell me my timing is off. It’s a much easier let-down than, “No”.

Years ago, when I started an art studio in the homeless shelter where I worked, there was a man who every day sat in the large day area on the second floor of the shelter and painted.

As the only shelter open 24/7, it was a busy place. Full of people and noise, comings and goings that would sometimes erupt into loud arguments or angry slamming of fists against walls or people too.

The windows on the second floor were 20ft above the floor. They let in light but no view.

Everyday I would stop by the table where he sat and invite him to come up to the 6th floor studio space. It’s quieter there, I’d tell him. The view is fabulous (which it was. Floor to ceiling windows looking out over the river valley and the hillside beyond). And we’ve got coffee, I’d tell him and lots of space to spread out.

And everyday he would say, “Not today. It’s not time yet.”

One day, I asked him, “Have you picked a date yet?”

“A date for what?” he asked.

“To start coming to the studio,” I replied.

“Not yet,” he said.

“Then why not make today the day. Why not make time now?”

On that day he decided to do it.

He never looked back. And though he was still living in a homeless shelter, sleeping with 1,000 roommates every night, his creative expressions began to blossom and bloom and flourish. As did his sense of self, his pride, and his connections to others.

From selling his work in our various art shows, to painting, writing music and poetry and acting in plays and playing his music on stage as part of the various productions as a member of The Possibilities Project, he made time for creative expression. One year, he even went to New York to participate in an Off-Broadway production of Requiem for a Lost Girl that was germinated in that space by the amazing Onalea Gilbertson, His gifts are many. His contributions, significant. (He’s also the man who gave me the gift of music for two of my poems (The Gift).

I like to think it all began with making the decision to change where he sat.

As humans, we like to find reasons to resist change. We like status quo, even when it limits our freedom, our self-expression, our hearts.

Is there something in your life calling out to be changed, but you keep waiting for ‘the right time’ to make it happen?

Is there something you dream of creating that you are resisting expressing because you tell yourself the timing’s not quite right?

Decide now. Decide right where you’re sitting, right now… Now’s the time.

Now, take a step and then another. Make it happen.

____

None of us is forbidden to pursue our own good.

Meditations, Marcus Aurelius

____

January Flowers

Here on the prairies at the eastern foot of the Canadian Rockies, January days are full of harsh winter light in a cloudless blue sky.

The land is grey on black on white. Leafless trees stand stark. Barren gardens lie silently waiting for spring beneath a blanket of snow. Prairie grasses rustle dry and brittle in the crisp winter air.

It is there, amidst the frozen landscape lying dormant beneath a January sun, I paint, my palette loaded with all the colours of the rainbow.

Playing with colour distracts my mind from world events and disheartening news of death counts and violence, changes in governments and travel restrictions and weather-forecasters’ foreboding messages of a Polar Vortex about to descend.

It is there, on the palette, I am reminded that my power lies not in my ability to change the whole world but to create beauty in my own. In that act of creation, I set in motion a ripple of beauty flowing within me and out into the world all around me.

It is there I remember that the power of art to awaken nascent possibilities for humanity to find peace, love, joy, together, is not transitory. It is always present.

To awaken it, to be present within and to it, I must keep my attention on the things I want to grow stronger in my life.

Let my attention be on creating joy, love, harmony.

Let my attention be on sharing peace and love with all the world around me.

Namaste

___________________________

I have been feeling unsettled. Discordant notes of anxiety burble up into my consciousness, creating ripples of unease within my peace of mind.

Much of my unease is initiated because I keep returning to newsfeeds that do little to create confidence in humankind’s ability to create better. I tell myself I must stop only to catch myself awhile later falling down the rabbit hole of yet another story about some political, environmental, economic or pandemic related story dragging me into the darkness.

I turn away, come back to the palette and begin again.

Practice they say makes perfect.

I am feeling very practiced at dragging myself out of the darkness, though I am getting tired of the dance!

Yesterday, I desperately needed the distraction of working on small things to help bring myself back into the present moment unfolding right in front of me.

I am grateful for my art practice. Grateful for my beautiful studio where I can find my balance again amidst the noise of the world around me.

How do you find your balance? What do you do to distract yourself from the world ‘out there’ so that you can find peace, harmony and joy within?

Listen to It All

  Listen to It All
 ©2021 Louise Gallagher
  
 I want to listen
 to it all
 to the sun rising
 into the indescribable blue of infinity
 full of whispering clouds floating
 within the sweet nothingness of
 endless sky falling
 into the story of forever 
 kissing the far-off horizon
 where it dips down to touch
 the untold mysteries of the sea 
 diving deep
 deep into the silence
 of the womb
 of mother earth’s divine creation.
  
 I want to feel 
 it all
 deeper than my skin
 peeled back
 to reveal
 my blood flowing red
 my heart beating wild
 in love with the ecstasy
 of being alive
 in this world
 of beginnings and endings
 forever tied up in the stories we tell
 so that we do not have
 to listen
 to the beauty of the silence
 that yearns to be heard
 above the cacophony of our human noise.
  
 I want to listen
 without knowing
 I am listening
 to anything
 other than life
 unfurling
 in all its mysterious beauty
 and unfathomable cruelty
 impregnating the darkness and the light
 with the wholeness
 that rises up
 to embrace me
 when I listen
 deeply
 to it all. 

The Squirrel Hunter (an SWB story)

Me: Beaumont. We need to talk.

Beau: I’m busy.

Me: Beau….

Beau: Yah. Yah. Yah. Whatever.

Me: Beaumont. This is serious.

Beau: Taking me to the groomers and inflicting all that brushing and fluffing on me is serious Louise. If what you wanna talk about is what I think you wanna talk about, well that’s not serious. It’s just dawgie nature.

Me: Catching a squirrel isn’t serious?

To read the rest of Beau’s misadventure with a squirrel, click HERE to go to Sundays with Beaumont (I know! A dawg with a blog! Imagine! 🙂 ) He hopes to see you there!

If I Could…

Mixed media – 7 x 10″ on mixed media paper. (Collage, stamps, inks, acrylic paint and love)
 
 
 If I Could Give You My Heart
 ©2021 Louise Gallagher
  
 If I could 
 I would give you my words
 plump and full of
 promises
 dancing in the ecstasy
 of never having to leave
 you 
 without words
  
 If I could 
 I would paint you the sunrise
 bold and fiery
 colours streaking across the sky
 full of morning delight
 threaded with gold
 melting like butter
 upon a piece of warm buttered toast
  
 If I could 
 I would sing you a song of sunset
 full of sun-bathed mountains
 stretched out across the horizon
 like a dragon 
 sleeping
 at the edge of the world
 where sky tumbles into the sea
 and the moon rises high
 and pulls the night up into a sky
 full of stars falling like snow
 melting your dreams awake
  
 If I could
 give you my heart
 would you listen
 deep
 to the beat of its silence
 echoing throughout the vastness 
 of time wooing your fear
 of falling
 asleep
 like a lullaby
 spun into a cradle of love
 that can never break
  
 If I could 
 give you my heart
 would you listen
 deep? 

Yesterday, I entered my studio without any clear idea of what I wanted/needed to create or without having heard what the muse was whispering into creation.

I opened my art journal to a blank page. Threw down some colour and text and lines. And took a breath.

A deep one.

I closed my eyes, let my conscious mind sink down, down, into the crucible of my belly, into the font of where creativity rises up to inspire, cajole, exhort me into being wildly, joyfully present to all that is present where ever I’m at.

And that’s when I felt the murmurings.

Of words. Of song. Of flowers and trees and birds and life flowing.

I started to draw and paint and when I was finished, she appeared.

I told C.C. “She’s my Frida Kahlo meets Marie Antoinette.” He laughed and asked, “Where’s the cake?”

“Her cake is the words she spins into stories the flowers breathe in,” I replied. (I might even have been a little flippant. But the muse didn’t care…)

And thus, the words appeared… Her words grew into the stories flowers told to chase away grey skies and cloudy days.

_________

This morning, when I sat down at my desk, I didn’t know what I was going to write.

I closed my eyes, took in a breath and watched it sink with my conscious mind floating on air down, down, down into the crucible of my belly. The busy places in my heart grew still. The stuck places melted… and that’s when I felt the murmurings.

Of words dancing and sunrises melting and hearts listening deeply and breaking open to love.

And the words guided my heart into creative expression.

Namaste

Learn and Grow.

When my first article was published in my mid-30s, I didn’t believe I’d ever be ‘a writer’. At least not out there in the ‘real’ world. And then, my first feature article was published in a magazine and there I was, a ‘real’ writer. (OK. In my defence, I don’t think being published makes you any more or less a writer – but getting paid to write did help my writer’s confidence!)

When I started painting in my mid-40’s I didn’t know I could, especially since most of my life I’d told myself I had no artistic ability. And then, I picked up a paintbrush, dabbed it into a pot of paint, smeared it on a canvas and fell in love with visual-storytelling.

In my 60s now, I still want to learn new things to fall in love with.

Like video-making.

Using the tools at hand, my art, my words, my smartphone and laptop, I have been playing with creating videos of my artwork, both process and finished product.

Recently, I created a mini-movie of one of the mini-art journals I made in a series I’m working on, A Book of Seasons.

While creating it, I learned many things. Like, lighting is everything when filming a mini-art journal and because I’m not all that comfortable with my recorded voice my discomfort makes my voice sound ‘fake’. Learning to become comfortable with how I sound when recorded is a constant journey of practice and… learning to love myself without fearing I will be judged harshly by others. Because, my discomfort with how I sound is not founded on what I think, it’s based on what I fear others will think.

Good learning. Good growth opportunity.

See, even before I became a published writer, I worried others wouldn’t like my words, which meant they wouldn’t like me. And needing people to like me was not healthy for me. It meant I was measuring my worth on what other people thought of what I was doing and saying instead of being comfortable with myself and authentic in how I am in the world.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s lovely if people like me – it’s just not healthy when the need for others to like me overshadows my being authentic and real, honest and true to my values, principles and beliefs – and my creative expressions.

Which brings me back to creating videos.

I’ve been having fun.

And as my friend Rod Winkler likes to remind me, having fun is important! So is not taking myself too seriously, a trap I can fall into when I’m learning something new.

Like the painting above. Yesterday, I decided to stretch myself and paint something almost realistic. I don’t tend to paint realism. I’d like to believe it’s because I prefer the abstract but the ‘honest truth’ (that’s such a contradictory expression isn’t it?). I think it’s because I’m afraid whatever I paint won’t look ‘real’ so I don’t do it.

Looking at my painting of the vase of lilies I can see how I can improve on the flowers. I can also see how I need to celebrate what I created.

It’s the yin-yan of learning/doing something new.

I want to do it perfect the first time knowing it takes practice and repetition to learn something new and grow my expertise as well as my knowledge base.

See, I don’t lose what I already know when I paint ‘realism’. I simply expand my skillset and my capacity to see the world in different lights.

Learn and grow.

It is my mantra for this year. It is the perfect accompaniment to my word for 2021 – “UNFURL”.

To unfurl, I must grow. To grow, I must learn to be comfortable with the imperfect nature of life, and learning something new so that I can keep growing.

Keep learning. Keep growing.

____________________________

And… this is the video I created of my A Book of Seasons mini-art journal.

And the wind howled…

Geese huddle along the banks of the river, necks tucked down into their bodies, their webbed feet invisible beneath the surface as they drift in silent communion with the fast-flowing water upon which they float.

The trees bow their branches as the wind howls its woeful tale of the war and violence, sickness and death, poverty and grief it has witnessed on its journey around the world.

It is the time at the edge of dark when dawn races to rid the sky of night. Beaumont and I walk into the wind. Sky dark and brooding above. Pavement slick and wet beneath our feet.

It is raining. A rare occurrence in January here on the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies. The snow is quickly disappearing. The river ice is thawing.

A woman walks on the other side of the bridge. Shoulders hunched forward. Hands in pockets. Coattails flapping around her knees. We nod our heads towards each other as we pass as if to say, “Are we the only crazies out in this wind?” Her mouth is set in a grim line. Her body taut with determination as she walks with the wind at her back, upper body angled forward as if being pushed by an unseen hand.

A dried October-dead leaf spins past. Beaumont tugs on the leash. Gives a bark as if to say, “Come back! I want to play with you!”

I hold the leash steady in my hands. I cannot let him pull too much. There is ice beneath my feet. I must watch where I’m going.

The wind doesn’t care about my concerns for safety. It sends a handful of dried October leaves flying past. Beau strains harder on the leash. I pull harder to bring him back to my side. Our eternal dance of tug-of-war. Pull, drawback. Pull, drawback.

And the wind howls.

The geese huddle and float. One stretches up and flaps its wings, honks and then settles back down onto the water’s surface.

The trees bend and sway in a riotous dance of swinging arms and bodies contorting into the shape of the wind as it storms through.

And the wind howls as if with every breath it is emptying the woeful memories of all it has witnessed on its travels around the world into the dancing branches of the trees. Once free of their gloomy presence, it catapults itself into the sky to cavort again with Mother Nature.

And the trees gather the stories of the wind into their sturdy trunks and in the magic of photosynthesis, the wind’s stories are transformed into oxygen so that all life on earth can continue on.

And the wind howls and the river flows and the geese huddle and Beaumont and I walk into the wind until it’s time to turn back and let nature push us eagerly towards home.

________________________

It was a wild walk with the wind this morning. And now, I am back at my desk, looking out at the river and the trees. The wind has stopped howling. The sky is blue and the geese have taken flight.

All is well in Mother Nature’s flow.

In The Sacred Nature Of A Tree

 
 I stand beside a tree
 reach out my hand
 and touch its gnarled trunk 
 where the scars of time lay weathered 
 in undulating ridges of knobbly wood
 and granulated particles 
 pressed together
 to mark the passing of time
  
 I run my fingers along the path
 the squirrels ran as they played 
 a wild game of tag up into its branches
 to that place 
 where they nestle together
 through the long cold nights of winter 
 beating its icy winds
 against the sheltering limbs
 they call their home.
  
 And I hear the sweet song
 of a robin returning to the nest
 it built high above the ground
 to keep its babies safe 
 until they are strong enough
 to fly free like the wind
 far from the sheltering limbs
 of this tree they once called home.
  
 I lean my weary body against the tree
 and close my eyes 
 as if closing them 
 will block the sight of the scars
 of time passing and the disquiet
 of these times of isolation and worry
 that do not weather well
 in my troubled mind 
 stirring up thoughts
 that grip my heart with the fear
 this place I call my home
 no longer holds a safe place
 to breathe.
 
 And the tree stands tall
 swaying with the wind
 welcoming the seasons into its branches
 and I hear the whispers of time
 running through its sap
 in juicy fecund certainty
 that this too shall pass
 with time passing.

  “Rest here," the swaying branches
 and rustling limbs seem to say,
 "Rest here and lay you burdens down. 
 Here, where my weathered trunk
 meets the earth and my roots dig deep
 into the soil holding me steady
 in the ice cold winds of winter
 and the long hot days of summer.”
  
 And I take a breath deep into my bones
 and feel the warm sweet nature
 of the air around me
 enter my body.
 I breathe out
 and imagine all my worries
 sinking 
 down 
 into Mother Earth’s fertile womb
 and I feel my heart 
 beat
 slow
 and my breath
 flow
 in and out
 with ease.
  
 And the earth
 and the tree
 and the squirrels sleeping in the hollow
 and the robin nesting in its limbs
 breathe with me
 in the sacred nature
 of all of life 
 on this planet
 we call our home.
   

I do not know why I took this picture of a tree yesterday, but, as I walked through the woods and Beaumont the Sheepadoodle ran through the winter dry grasses, this tree called to me.

I clicked a couple of shots and Beaumont and I continued on our way.

And then, at 2am, I awoke with the words of this poem rustling through the sleep soaked crevices of my mind.

I got up and left my beloved sleeping in our bed. I padded quietly into the living room where Beaumont slept on the sofa. He barely raised his head to acknowledge my intrusion before falling back to sleep.

I opened my laptop where it sits on the desk in front of the front window of our home that overlooks the tree-lined banks of the Bow. And I began to write in the quiet warmth of night resting peacefully inside our home.

__

Outside, darkness shrouds the world. On the deck, white Christmas lights twinkle along its glass enclosure.

A streetlight shimmers on the river’s surface where it passes under the bridge.

The sky is heavy. No stars on this cloudy night.

And I sit writing.

It is not what I’d thought of earlier for today’s post. Thank goodness WordPress lets me schedule it for posting at a more practical hour. Perhaps when this posts, I shall be sleeping once again.

The muse… I’m not sure she sleeps and she’s definitely not as practical as WP. She likes to have her way with my creative expressions.

I just wish she’d be a little more thoughtful about the time she chooses to stir my imagination and awaken my creative juices to the desire to listen to my heart and flow free.