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?

Two Haiku

Written sitting at my desk this morning as I watched the sky shift from dark to light.
Mixed media on canvas paper. 7 x 10″

I enjoy putting words to my paintings. Yesterday, when I had finished this one, my beloved asked me, “What kind of berries are those?”

Red, I replied.

And thus…. a haiku was born.

This morning, as I sat at my desk and watched the night sky fade into reds and rose and blue, I snapped the first photo.

And another haiku was born.

_____________

I am fascinated by the haiku form — both by its endurance through so many centuries and its compactness inviting the author/reader to say something about nature and life in so few words — the form is precise – three lines with a syllable count of 5 / 7 / 5 to equal 17 syllables in total.

From the website, Poets.org“the philosophy of haiku has been preserved: the focus on a brief moment in time; a use of provocative, colorful images; an ability to be read in one breath; and a sense of sudden enlightenment.”

It’s a great form to test and stretch your creative muscles.

____________

The painting of the berries was an experiment with watercolours, acrylic ink, spray ink and Inktense watercolour pencils.

Is This The Way?

Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash

Prosery prompt: 144 words

Is This The Way

She set out knowing where she was going.

Out the front door, left at the end of the walkway where it joined the main sidewalk, straight through the first intersection then the next. At the third her memory faltered. “Is it right at this one?” she wondered.

That’s when the man standing at the same intersection said, “Turn left.”  

She studied him carefully. Handsome. Kind blue eyes. “Oh yes,” she smiled and said with a girlish laugh. “Sometimes the great bones of my life feel so heavy I doubt the path in front of me.”

“I will walk with you so there is no doubt,” he said as he led her along the street.

“How do you know where I’m going?” she asked.

Gently he guided her and said, “I’m your husband, dear. I’ve been helping you get where you’re going for sixty-two years.”

___________________________

Dale at A Dalectable Life always inspires me with her ability to reply to writing prompts — particularly those that have a set number of words and a ‘must use’ phrase.

Today, I saw this Prosery Prompt at D’Verse and had to play!

The rules and prompt are:

“Write a story of 144 words or less (not including the title). The story must have a beginning and an end, and should not be poetry. Sounds easy enough right? Here’s the twist: You must use the poetry line I have given you within your story. You may alter the punctuation, but you must use the line in its entirety.”

Today, the chosen line is taken from Spring Azures from the book Wild Geese by Mary Oliver:

‘Sometimes the great bones of my life feel so heavy,’

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. 

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.

Stop. Breathe. Listen.

This year has been heralded in with doing some things differently.

Like Beaumont the Sheepadoodle’s first saunter in the morning.

Up until the week between Christmas and New Year’s, my practice was to let him out the studio door on the lower level of our home to do his little wee and then, off to the park we’d go at 8:30 for our ‘big walk’ and his ‘big business.’

Determined to get my 10,000 steps in every day, I have changed it up. When I awaken, sometime between 6 and 7 am, (even there I’ve shifted as 7 used to be ‘sleeping in’ for me), the first thing I do is bundle up in my longest coat (I’m usually still in my pj’s), don a hat and gloves and winter boots, put Beau’s harness on him and with his extendable leash in hand, off we go for a saunter of at least 2,000 steps. It gives him time to do his big and small business, and it gives me a fresh awakening to the day (not to mention the first chunk of my daily 10,000 steps goal).

Sniffing everything on his path, walking with his ‘hooman’, checking out the geese along the river bank makes Beau’s heart sing.

Walking in the envelope of morning between dark and light awakens me to the beauty of the day and the world around me. The fresh crisp air on my face. The light shimmering on the river’s fast-moving surface. The crunch of snow beneath my feet – stir my senses and open my heart to the beauty of the morning’s song inviting me to take notice of the world all around me and breathe it in deeply. It awakens my heartsong.

In every heart there is a song. A unique beat that calls to each of us with its beguiling invitation to dance, to sing, to live boldly and realize our heart’s desires with every wild, unstoppable expression of our being here on this earth.

It begins with listening to the songs of the forest, the river, the world around calling us to…

Stop.

Breathe.

Listen.

No matter what you are doing today, I hope you take time to hear the trees and the earth, the rivers and ocean, sea and sky calling you to Stop. Breathe. Listen.

In the listening, I hope you hear your heartsong calling you to come alive and dance to the beat of your own rhythm as you set yourself free to express your heart’s desires.

_____________________________________

About the artwork:

Along with carving stamps (which is another thing I’m doing differently), I have been playing with making my own stencils. The birds are a stencil I drew and then cut from one sheet of soft foam. The background is made with acrylic inks, collage and a stencil of trees layered over many times with spray inks.

7 x 10″ mixed media on canvas paper.

Who Do You See?

What Do You See?
  ©2021 Louise Gallagher 

In every image I see

 something of me reflected.

In every image
 there is a reflection I must see.

Sometimes, I want to avoid
 looking at the reflection I see.

Sometimes, I want to see
 only what I want to see reflected.

Always, I must open my heart to see
 what is being reflected back to me.

It is hard sometimes, to look at ourselves in the mirror with our eyes wide-open and say, loud and clear so our heart can hear, “I Love You.”

Try it.

Right now.

Go stand in front of a mirror, look yourself in the eyes, deep into your eyes, take a deep breath and clearly state (keep your eyes open and looking into your heart) “I Love You.”

And, if it’s hard, if you hesitate or want to shut your eyes, or cry or shake your head from side-to-side in disbelief, ask yourself, “What is so unloveable about me?”

And, if the answer comes easy, if you have a list of ready-to-speak reasons why not loving yourself makes perfect sense, start there. Start in that painful, awkward, uneasy place where unself-love resides. Start right there to love those broken, ugly, untouchable places where you tell yourself you do not deserve Love.

We all deserve Love.

We all deserve to love ourselves. Many of us have not been taught it’s important. Or many of us have been taught it’s selfish or conceited. But, if we don’t love ourselves, how will we teach our children to love themselves enough to do the loving things? To treat their life, all life, as precious? To treat themselves and others with dignity and respect?

And, if we cannot love ourselves enough to speak the words today, how will we speak to ourselves in the tough times? In the times when we need tender loving care to get through the rough spots on our road? Or when life hits us with one of its curveballs and we just want to curl up into a ball and turn the world off? How will we take care of our heart, and the hearts of everyone we love, if we are beating ourselves up with Unlove?

Years ago, when my mother was around 85 and living in an assisted living centre, my then-teenage daughters and I went to visit her one evening. As she shared some of her life-story with us one of my daughters asked her, “Do you love yourself Nana?”

Mum blinked her eyes. Fluttered her hands around her face as she always did when she was nervous or uncomfortable and replied with something like, “What a silly question.”

My daughter did not back down. “Do you?”

Mum breathed out. Kept laughing nervously.

At this point both my daughters knew what was necessary.

The pushed her wheelchair to the full-length mirror in her entryway. They said, “Try it. Look at yourself and say, “I Love You.”

My mother was taken aback. She giggled and replied. “Oh no. No. I can’t do that.”

The girls were adamant. “Of course you can.” And each of them demonstrated how ‘easy’ it was to do and say.

“You do it too, mum,” they called out to me.

So, following in my daughters footsteps, I demonstrated ‘the how’ to my 85-year-old mother.

Still she hesitated. With encouragement, she finally looked at herself in the mirror and said, “I Love You.”

And then, she fluttered her hands around her face and exclaimed, “Oooh La La!”

It was such a sweet, tender moment, and at the same time, poignant and sad.

To be 85 and never to have told yourself, “I Love you.”

My mother was not, is not, alone in her silence.

We are a world of human beings who have never learned to say those words to ourselves.

Have you? Ever told yourself how much you love yourself?

When you stand in front of the mirror, who do you see reflected back?

A woman or man of integrity, humility, honour, beauty, strength, courage, passion, dignity, truth, wisdom, compassion, caring….

Or do you just not look? At yourself? Deep into yourself?

Do you just brush your teeth and hair and put your make-up on (and maybe notice with dismay a new wrinkle or two) or shave and avoid looking deep into your eyes?

Whatever you do in front of that mirror, that’s what you do in the world. So, if you want to change the world, start by changing how you look at yourself in the mirror and what you say to yourself.

Start by practicing, “I Love You.”

You’ll be amazed by what happens.

And PS — if it’s too hard to say the words, get a crayon that writes on glass and start by writing it out and reading it to yourself every day until you’re ready to claim the truth.

Sometimes, self-love starts with baby-steps…

______________________

About the artwork:

I am fascinated with carving stamps. I created the botanical on the left by first imprinting it with vaseline on the page (the vaseline acts as a resist to the paint) and then using the same stamp to print it on the right with black ink.

The little botanical is also a stamp I carved.

The background is watercolour and acrylic inks – the ‘mesh’ is created by using drywall tape as a stencil and dabbing paint through it.

Mixed media 8 x 10″ on canvas paper

The words were put in place in Photoshop (not physically printed on the page)

What If Trees Can Talk

When the leaves fell and winter came, the trees did not stand naked against the sky and cry for mercy. They called to one another, as trees do, urging each other to stand together. Together, their leafless limbs called out, we can weather Arctic storms and Polar chills. Together, we are strong.

And snow fell and covered the earth in its virgin blanket and the sun beamed and the moon sang a song of the seasons turning, turning as the earth spun and the stars pricked holes into the dark of night so they too could watch the storms of winter pass through.

And the trees stood strong, together. They whispered amongst their kin, ‘Dig deep. Dig deep’. And they thrust their roots ever deeper into the frozen ground as the storms howled and snow fell and their sap ran slower, slower but always enough to carry the breath of life flowing inside their weathered trunks.

And the winds blew and the seasons changed and spring arrived with its beguiling invitation to blossom and flourish.

And tiny seeds poked their heads out of the earth and the sun welcomed them with its golden beams full of warmth and growing light. And buds appeared on the trees’ many branches and slowly, ever so slowly beneath spring’s warm kisses, they blossomed and flourished.

When winter came the naked trees did not cry out for mercy. They stood together and weathered the storms and when spring came, as is their nature, they blossomed and flourished again.

_______________________

About the artwork:

I have been exploring creating stamps. What fun! I carved the large leaf stamp, printed it with black ink onto a very sheer piece of pale pink rice paper. After creating the background, I affixed it to my journal page and then painted it with acrylic ink.

I also collaged in a piece of woven white rice paper and a pansy I had dried at the end of summer.

I love exploring, ‘what if’s’…

The ‘what if’ for this journal page was, “What if trees can talk?” According to Robin Wall Kimmerer author of Braiding Sweetgrass, they can. I like that belief.

The photo is of two stamps I’ve carved.

Vision Board 2021

I spent the morning gaining clarity on my path for 2021.

I hosted a session on Zoom on creating a Vision Board with two friends.

As we created, we laughed and chatted and shared stories and sipped our coffees and got glue on our fingers and on everything else too!

And like women gathering at the wekk, we found ourselves in that sacred space that opens up when women come together in community.

A Vision Board is a visual tool that is both metaphorical and literal. With the use of images and words, it helps focus your intention, your desires, your wishes for your life – or one particular area of your life.

For me today, my vision board focused on my ‘creative expressions’. What I want to consider, conceive, and create this year.

Perhaps the most powerful morsel of clarity (which takes a huge bite out of my self-doubt and sometimes confusing thoughts on what I want to do next) is the answer that appeared to the statement – The unifying link between my work and my love for [life is]… Visual Storytelling & Words.

Wow!

I didn’t know when we began at 9 this morning that I would find that response.

And that’s the beauty of spending three hours individually and collectively focussing on ‘self’ and creating a visual storyboard of ‘what I want more of in my life’ and ‘where will I place my focus?’ this year.

If you haven’t created a Vision Board for 2021 (or ever before) it’s Easy. Fun. Enlightening.

I’ll be creating a ‘cheat sheet’ on how to do it and will post it on my website. Stay tuned! I’ll add the link here when I’m done!

(And that comes from the clarity I gained this morning! How exciting is that!)

Thank you JD and SV for spending the time with me and for inspiring me to focus my attention on the ‘what’ of this year.