Category Archives: Adventures in YYC

Bicycle Man. Truck Man and a bag of dog poop on the road in a snowstorm.

Two Bridges from my window this morning – yesterday I could barely see them

The wind is biting. Snow prickles my skin. My cheeks are flushed.

Beaumont the Sheepadoodle is oblivious to the storm blowing as we head west along the snow-covered path towards the off-leash park.

To my left, traffic crawls along Bowness Road towards the city centre. Somewhere behind, I can hear a man’s voice yelling. I pay no attention. I’m working hard to keep moving forward in the blowing snow.

And then, I can no longer ignore the yelling. A dark clothed man riding a bicycle appears on the road to my left. He is on the curbside of the lane of the oncoming traffic, yelling at the cars and occasionally pounding on a side door. “Get out of the f**ing bike lane”, he screams as he slowly makes his way in the opposite direction of the cars travelling on the road.

I am somewhat bemused. I am walking on the path that pedestrians and bicyclists share. There is no bike lane on this part of the road. It begins on the far side of the pedestrian/bicycle bridge which runs parallel to the vehicle bridge where it crosses the river just ahead of me.

At this exact moment in time, Beaumont hunches over to do his business. I stand and wait, all the while watching the tableau of yelling bicycle man unfold.

Bicycle man is off his bike at the edge of the vehicle bridge, yelling at someone in a white pickup truck, pounding his fist on the hood of the vehicle, screaming his refrain that everyone ‘get out of the f**ing bike path’.

A long line of traffic begins to pile up behind the white pickup truck.

I bend over to pick-up Beaumont’s business to the chorus of white pickup man yelling back through his open driver’s window at bicycle man, “There is no f**ing bike path here.”

Bicycle man vociferously disagrees.

He keeps yelling and pounding his fist on the man’s truck.

Suddenly, the man in the pickup truck flings open his door, jumps down onto the road and races around the front of his truck towards bicycle man.

Now they’re yelling face to face. Bicycle man insisting there’s a bike path. White truck man denying its existence.

Suddenly, someone throws a punch.

The other returns it.

And the fight is on.

I am standing across the road, slightly down the embankment on the pedestrian/bike path, poop bag in hand. Startled by this new development, my mind races. What can I do?

Beaumont oblivious to the ruckus, keeps his nose buried in the snow, sniffing out the scents of wandering squirrels and rabbits (or perhaps he’s just trying to stay out of other people’s business).

The fisticuffs are flying. The yelling has stopped – I’ve never thought about it before but it must be hard to throw a left hook and a verbal barb all at the same time.

The cars behind the white pickup truck are still. No one gets out. No one honks their horn. (It’s possible they can’t see what’s going down on the curbside leading onto the bridge.

I pull on Beaumont’s leash, his head pops up out of the snow and we head towards the pair duking it out on the roadway.

“Hey!” I yell loudly as I approach, leash in right hand, poop bag swinging as I wave my left arm to get their attention, “Stop that!”

White pickup man glances towards me. So does bicycle man. I imagine their minds asking themselves, “What the f’ is she doing here?” Perhaps they think I’m going to throw the bag of poop at them if they don’t stop.

Bicycle man turns away with a last, “You’re in the bike lane.” He picks up his bike and struggles to mount it as he begins pedalling westward through the snow.

White pickup man turns back to his truck, gets in and drives off towards the east.

Traffic begins to crawl forward.

Beaumont and I continue on our way in search of the garbage can further along the trail where I can deposit his offering. Still bemused I am also smiling. Did they think I might throw the bag and its contents if they didn’t stop?

And the snow keeps falling and the wind keeps blowing, sweeping away the evidence of the high drama on the road in a snowstorm.

 

Give Thanks. Everyday.

 

Thanksgiving has come and passed. The turkey, pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce have been consumed. The table is cleared. The extra chairs put away and the table once again collapsed to everyday size.

The accoutrements of the festival have been put away for another year.

What doesn’t get put away is gratitude.

Gratitude is an everyday affair.

This morning, as I sit at my desk and watch the river flow past and the lights of cars travelling east to west towards downtown cross the bridge, I say a quiet prayer of thankfulness.

For the time spent with family and friends. The laughter and memories.
For the quiet of this morning.
My mug of warm coffee.
The music of Hildegard von Bingen playing softly in the background.
The lights from under the bridge dancing on the water as it flows past.
The wind rustling the leaves on the branches of the trees outside my window.
The gentle swaying of the branches.
The gift of Autumn leaves falling. As each leaf falls the branches become barer and the river becomes more visible.

I give thanks for my fingers’ capacity to sense the words forming within me and play them out on my keyboard so they appear on my screen.
For my body’s ability to sit upright in my chair.
My breath.
My body.
My life.

I give thanks for the sound of Beaumont the Sheepadoodle’s paws as he crosses the hardwood floor to come and sit beside me and nudge my elbow so I will give him a pet.
For the night becoming light as the sun rises behind me in the eastern sky.
For the candle burning on the desk beside me casting a beautiful golden halo of light.
For the talent of the potter who crafted my heart adorned mug that holds my coffee so beautifully and warms my hands when I hold it and makes my heart smile when I look at it.

I give thanks.
Everyday.

And as I stop and look outside, the wind picks up and it is raining golden leaves fluttering down to the ground.
I give thanks for the seasons that turn with such beautiful grace reminding me always of the sacredness and mystery of life.

I give thanks.
Everyday.

Namaste.

Surrender to Love

Surrender to Love
Mixed media on canvas paper
11 x 14″
©2019 Louise Gallagher

The snow came. The snow left. Autumn returns, its trees a little barer, its splendor a little less vibrant. Snow riddled clouds have disappeared, the days are warmer again and winter has retreat beyond the distant horizon.

I feel content.

We had guests this week. Delightful visitors from eastern Canada where summer weather has descended the land, pushing even autumn’s hues off the calendar. For now.

And that’s the thing. Weather comes. Weather goes.

The seasons keep changing with the turning of the earth as it spins its story around the sun.

I feel joyful.

My beloved fights a cough. I am determined not to catch it. I pound back Vitamin C and other holistic remedies in an attempt to thwart off any germs that want to take hold. Thus far, I’m winning.

And that’s the thing. Germs come. Germs go.

The seasons keep changing with the turning of the earth as it spins its story around the sun.

And I feel grateful.

I sit at my desk in the soft morning light watching the sun gently kiss the sky good morning with its rosy pink hues. Cars travel across the bridge towards the city center. The river flows constantly eastward. A squirrel leaps from one tree branch to the next, hop-scotching through the forest lining the river. I watch his passage, delighting in his journey.

A leaf surrenders its hold and falls silently to the still green grass below. Piano music plays softly in the background.

And I feel at peace.

The seasons keep changing with the turning of the earth as it spins its story around the sun.

A new day is dawning. Filled with sights, smells, sounds and delights.

And I surrender to its possibilities.  I surrender to Love.

Flowers On A Snowy Day

Autumn Flowers On A Snowy Day
Mixed Media
11 x 14″ on Canvas Paper
©2019 Louise Gallagher

Snowy weekends in September, (I almost typed December) are not for the faint of heart; nor for those without a really good sense of humour!

Here in Calgary, while not an every-year occurrence, snow in September is not uncommon. Yet, every time autumn leaves falling give way to snow dumping, we Calgarians take great delight in sharing photos and our thoughts on this weather phenomena –  on social media, in grocery store line-ups, at the park, in coffee shops… you got it – everywhere.

I am no exception.

When Beaumont and I went for our walk yesterday, I not only took copious photos, I also took a video. I mean why not?  It looked like a winter wonderland and Beau was leaping for joy as he raced through the snow covered grasses. (You can read about our adventures in the snow on his blog — Sundays With Beaumont)

For me, a snowy September, Sunday afternoon was a welcoming invitation to move back into the studio and savour the joy of creating. In this case, with a lovely friend who came to share in creativity and conversation with me. (Thanks Ally!)

I didn’t spend any time creating last week. A contract to do some community engagement for an agency in the homeless serving sector along with a flu-like bug kept me focused in other areas — and because I lay in bed for a day, it also meant I got hooked on a Netflix series, The Spy. Have you watched it? It’s very powerful and based on a true story.

Netflix and Prime offer up a lot of inducement to avoid giving into studio seduction. My heart and soul are grateful I heeded the muse’s call and fell into her creativity-infused embrace.

The muse not only inspired the Autumn Flowers on a Snowy Day painting (above), she also stirred my feminist soul to create the 52nd painting in my #ShePersisted series which I began in February of 2017. That muse, she’s still got lots to say about living life free of out-dated concepts of ‘what women want’.

No 52 – #ShePersisted Series
I Want What I Have Always Deserved
11 x 14″
Mixed Media on Canvas Paper
To view the entire series please visit: https://louisegallagher.ca/shepersisted/

This morning, as I sit at my desk and look at the snow-blanketed world around me, my mind wants to grumble but finds no footing in my heart’s restful state. It’s only weather and weather can change quickly here at the eastern foot of the Rockies. Other than a romp with Beau to the park and a trip to the grocery store to stock up for visitors arriving tomorrow from Ottawa (I know, Ottawa is expecting October to open with 30 degree Celsius and they’re coming to ‘extreme winter conditions’ (the weather network’s description of our current conditions) here in the southern prairies), I have nothing on my agenda.

Ah yes! Rejuvenation is a great way to rewire my life post-retirement! No matter the weather outside, I welcome every day with a joyful heart and my creative expression burning brightly inside!

Snow? In September? What the Weather?

Autumn falls in golden glory, shedding summer blossoms and leaves like rose petals falling upon the smiling faces of a newly wedded couple.

There’ll be snow tomorrow, the weatherman drones on, his smile masking his dismay at Autumn’s duplicity. Like the river flowing endlessly to the sea, the wind pays no attention to the slithering fear the weatherman’s words convey into the heart’s of city folk who throw their words at television screens like a magician throwing knives in the hopes they do not hit their mark. “Snow tomorrow? Too soon. Too soon.”

Autumn leaves falling pay no heed. Impervious to our pleas for one more day  the winds blow free of summer’s promise bringing with them dark clouds brewing up an early winter storm.

In this moment, right now, I sit at my desk watching the river flow endlessly to the sea. No ice in site. I want to keep this image, right now, as my future state but know, I must release it so I can flow freely in the beauty of this moment, right now.

Snow will come. The ice will dam the river. Birds will flock south. The leaves will fall.

There’s snow coming tomorrow, the weatherman intones and I breathe deeply into the beauty of each golden leaf falling gracefully.

I cannot change the weather. I can change my state of being present in this moment, right now.

I breathe in. Breathe out and move into acceptance.

The weather will be what the weather will be. For this moment, right now, I choose the peace and joy of being present in the beauty falling all around me.

Perhaps though, it would be wise to go buy a new pair of winter boots today.

Mountain Magic at Twin Falls Chalet

Twin Falls from a distance

When my daughters were young, I imagined sharing mountain time together. Of hiking and skiing in the backcountry. Of getting away together to places far from the maddening crowd, where Internet and cell phones did not interrupt being present in the presence of being together.

This weekend my youngest daughter and I created magic together on a trip into the backcountry to Twin Falls Chalet, a remote mountain lodge run by the irrepressible Fran Drummond.

It was a weekend of pure bliss. Of time to kick-back, relax, spend time with my daughter, and to push myself physically. It was also an unexpected gift to fall in love all over again with being in the mountains.

I had forgotten. Forgotten how mountain time, especially in the backcountry, is restorative and rejuvenating. And in this time of my rejuvenation post leaving the formal workforce, it was a welcome and much appreciated respite.

Beginning of our hike into the Chalet

The hike into Twin Falls Chalet is not a cakewalk, but it is beautiful. It’s just over 8 kilometers with about a 300 metre elevation gain to the Chalet. Lots of switchbacks and lots of views that take your breath away. (Our second day we hiked the 10km trail – up to the top of the falls (another 350 metres elevation gain) and then hiked along the Whaleback down to Marpole Lake and back to the Chalet — exquisite!)

Arriving at the Chalet Friday evening felt like finding Hansel and Gretels cabin in the woods, without the mean old witch stoking the fire.

Instead, you stumble into the Chalet to be greeted with a warm welcome and offer of coffee by its proprietor, Fran Drummond, a tiny speck of a woman with 82 years of life under her belt and an attitude that goes on into forever.

As my daughter and I were hiking out yesterday we talked about Fran and her incredible attitude. There’s no ‘end game’ for Fran. There’s just ‘the game of life’, and one she sees herself playing with every bit of her being until her last breath in some distant future. Fran sees herself going and going and going, continuing to run the lodge, which she’s overseen for the past 57 years, with the same passion and vigor she does now. She’s feisty, determined, stubborn and did I mention opinionated?

Sitting down to an incrediblely hearty and delcious meal at the large family style table includes Fran’s recounting of stories of her years spent hosting dinners and guests at the Chalet as well as her work in the oil patch as a librarian for a major oil company and a trainer. It also comes spiced up with her commentary of Parks Canada, how Canada is working (or not) and what the government, on every level is doing wrong (with a few rights tossed in with the same elan as the Amaretto she’d liberally sprinkled over the fresh peaches she’d hiked in earlier in the week that she served for dessert on Saturday night along with fresh baked Butter Tarts straight out of the wood burning oven). Fran is that unique ingredient that makes the stay at Twin Falls so enchanting, invigorating and fascinating.

At one point Fran told us that she was considering running as an MP for the PC party but she wasn’t sure she could take 4 years of living in Ottawa. “Why would you want to?” I asked.

“Because Canada’s not working,” she replied, nodding her head and giving us her mischievious grin and laugh. “Everybody’s got a responsibility to make it right and I can’t just give up.”

Giving up is not in Fran’s books. And, even though Parks Canada is looking to shut the chalet down at the end of this year for a major overhaul next spring that will see it out of operations for 2020, Fran is determined to fight them to the bitter end.

Having spent the weekend amidst the rustic and magical environment of Twin Falls Chalet listening to Fran share the history and lore of the area, I believe her. She will not give up.

I spent a weekend in the backcountry with my youngest daughter. It was a beautiful time spent connecting and communing with nature.

It was pure Love in action.

I forgot my reading glasses — which made reading and writing challenging. I also didn’t take in any paints and only had a ball point pen to work with.  it was kind of fun and challenging!

It’s Stampede time in the city! Yahoo!

 

I laughed yesterday as I stood on the street corner waiting for to cross. It’s Stampede time in the city and there are daily parades everywhere. The parade that was holding me up from crossing the street yesterday had horses and First Nation’s chiefs and a big Stampede float with a bunch of people sitting on it, laughing and waving at everyone standing by waiting for it to pass.

They waved and called out, “Yahoo!” and I waved back.

I did not yell out, “Yahoo!” That felt silly.

Which is what struck me most. How concerned I was with the opinion of strangers.

The desire to not look silly, to not make a scene, is buried deep in my psyche.  Perhaps it stems from childhood when I was always spinning and laughing and chattering about this and that and continually calling out for the attention of the adults around me.

Don’t be so ridiculous. Stop making a fool of yourself. Stop it! People are looking. Calm down…

My monkey-mind critter knows these phrases well. He likes to repeat them in the most inopportune times and while I know he’s only trying to protect me, his concern is grating. His caution limiting.

Like when I want to feel part of the excitement going on all around me, and he reminds me not to do it because he fears I’ll look foolish.

Seriously?

How silly is that?

A bunch of people are riding by on a float doing exactly what I’m afraid to do because I’m worried others will look at me and say, “Look at that silly person!”  People in all likelihood whom I will never see again, I might add!

How often does that happen to you? You want to leap in but hold yourself back from taking the plunge because you might look too enthusiastic. Too excited. Too different. Too… silly?

Let it go.

Let laughter be your answer. Let your enthusiasm carry you away from holding back and leap in!

It’s okay. People may not think you’re silly. They may actually think, I wish I was courageous enough to do that too!

It’s stampede time in the city. There’s all sorts of yahooing! goin’ on!  Think I’ll saddle up and ride me a cowboy!  No! Wait! That’s rude. That’s not appropriate!  Real women don’t talk like that!  At least that’s what the critter says.

But it is kinda funny that ole’ expression. Sort of a ‘turn the tables on the cowmen kind of talk.

Nevertheless, let sanity and good taste reign. What I meant to say was… Think I’ll saddle up and join the parade!

Yahoo!

The Road Less Travelled: Adventures in YYC

IMG_7313

The city core is filled with quiet spaces that invite walkers by to pause, catch their breath and sit awhile. In the west end of downtown there’s Poetic Corner, a tiny oasis of zen-like space designed to give passers-by pause to contemplate the giant arachnid sculptures perched on the stone steps.

On 7th Avenue, there’s the park by the NOVA building, complete with meandering streams and streaming waterfalls.

Yesterday, while walking to a meeting in the late afternoon, I passed the park at the MacDougall Centre, the southern offices of the Premier and found myself entranced by the sounds of the tumbling waterfalls, the firs whispering in the breeze and the birds chirping in their branches. I’ve passed this park many times and never taken the time to discover it. I’ve always been on my way to somewhere, a meeting, a lunch date, back to the office. I’ve always had a reason to hurry by.

It is the nature of being at home in the city.

While sitting with a couple of girlfriends on Monday sharing lunch at a local pub, I glanced out the window beside us and spied a Magpie hopping along the roof of an SUV parked beside the building.

“Isn’t that interesting,” I commented to my friends. “I see that Magpie and my mind immediately started to discount its presence.”

Magpies are everywhere in Calgary. They squawk and taunt from tree tops and where ever else they’re perched. They hop along lawns, willing errant squirrels and other rodents to chase them. In the sunlight, their feathers glimmer with pearlescent hues of green and blue and aqua. But mostly they’re considered a nuisance.
What struck me as interesting though was how watching that bird on the rooftop immediately took me back in time to a vacation in New Zealand. We’d gone for a month’s ski trip only to discover the snow was awful. So instead, we toured about the south island. One day, sitting in a pub chatting with my then husband and some other friends we’d met along the way, I spied a Kia hopping along the roof of a vehicle parked outside.

I thought the bird was cute. His antics amusing.

He’s a nuisance, our friends said.

I laughed and went outside to take his photo.

It’s all in our perspective.

Sitting in that pub in New Zealand, everything looked fresh and new. Everything was interesting. Nothing looked like a nuisance.

Sitting in a pub in Calgary, I see the world through my eyes accustomed to the everyday. Magpies are nuisances. Parks I pass everyday are just that. Everyday spaces I don’t have time to explore.

ThIMG_7316anks to the awareness gained through my observations of that Magpie, I took the time yesterday to stay awhile in the park at MacDougall Centre. I walked beneath the firs, skipped across the blocks of concrete that cross the stream at the top of the waterfall and sat on a bench in the late afternoon sun soaking in the tranquility of my surroundings, even as the city traffic scurried by on the avenues bordering either side of the park.

I didn’t hear them.

I was immersed in the beauty and wonder of the space that surrounded and embraced me. The space I was inhabiting in that moment.

I still made my meeting on time. The difference was, I carried with me the tranquility of that moment in time, when I stopped to take the road less travelled and savoured the world around me.

Or, in the words that end Robert Frost’s iconic poem, The Road Not Taken,
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.