Category Archives: Art and creativity

Where Women Play

We were four women gathered around the worktables in my Wild at Heart Studio.

We had come together to spend time painting and glittering up Christmas ball ornaments to give as gifts and to hang on our trees – and to play and have fun!

There is something incredibly special about being together with a group of women who enjoy creating and learning and sharing.

And for me, there is something very special about being able to share what I love and to teach others new ways of expressing themselves — in this case, painting glass Christmas balls with alcohol inks, glitter and glue!

It is pure joy.

And my heart gives its many veins and arteries a little shake of excitement, pulsing feverishly in agreement — thanks for the nourishment, it says lovingly.

My heart is full this morning.  My bucket too.

This is what the Wild at Heart Studio is all about — creating a safe and courageous space for women of all ages to come together and create community as they explore their creative essence and the joy of being together.

we laughed. We chatted. Shared stories of our lives and mostly just basked in the rarefied air of community we’d created together. At any given moment during the afternoon, one of us would sit back, silently watch the others create and take a deep breath – it was as if our hearts and souls knew that we were engaged in something special, something unifying, something that was illuminating our entire beings with the pure joy of being in a circle of women, doing what women have done throughout the eons — create beauty together.

C.C., my beloved, who was upstairs watching a football game, commented on how much laughter he heard throughout the afternoon coming from the studio.

That’s because we were having fun, I told him.

He smiled and said, “I could tell.”

This morning, I counted the number of balls I’ve decorated over the past week and had to acknowledge — I may have gone a little overboard.

44 balls decorated… and counting. I still have a few boxes left…

Thank you Wendy, Jane and Sandy for making my studio hum with the grace of your presence and the beauty of women creating together. Thank you for being part of my living in the ordinary and beautiful grace of this moment.

Namaste.

 

 

 

Trees Fall Down And Nobody Yells At Them.

I didn’t do it.

No excuses. No reason why not (well actually I have a lot of those but you don’t really want to hear them).  The fact is, I did not reach the 50,000 word target of the NaMoWriNo.

And I’m okay.

When the time is right the writing will be written, I shall continue on.

At this moment in time, I am having way too much fun in my studio, creating a new platform on my website for creative offerings and developing courseware that expresses my life focus of being a Creativity Activist. Oh. And I’ve got Christmas gifts to craft for this year.

If I were really committed to the writing, it would happen. And it’s just not happening write now.

Isn’t that the way of life? We think about the things we’d like to do, and then don’t get to them. Sometimes it’s a conscious decision not to. Sometimes, it’s procrastination. Sometimes, competing priorities or different ones take centre stage. And then, there’s just the good ole’ filling time with other busyness.

Whatever the reason, not doing it is information that can create light in our life or heavy spaces.

In the past, in not reaching a target I might have wasted time chastising myself, beating myself up for what I deemed ‘falling down’. It never really helped. What it did do was create that heaviness of being that nullifies and defies my peace of mind.

Enough is enough.

I don’t need to chastise myself. I have to either get on with completing whatever it was I was doing, or, decide to be okay with not doing it.

In the ‘being okay with not doing’ I can choose to create space for self-compassion and self-acceptance.

I didn’t reach the NaMoWriNo word target.

I did sign-up. I did complete my outline and chapter synopses. I did a bunch of research on an area of the novel that I need to understand to write about it. I did start writing. And that’s a big deal. Those are positive steps.

Time to celebrate the steps taken.

Time to acknowledge I’m exactly where I am. Life is exactly what it is in this moment right now.

And then… it’s back to the studio I go to play and create.

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I’ve been creating more Christmas balls with clear glass balls and alcohol ink and glitter. I do love sparkly things!  Did I mention how much fun I’m having?

 

Dance child, dance.

Perhaps it is the soft glow of the candle burning on the desk beside me as I type.

Or, perhaps the steady stream of lights passing over the bridge, east to west, towards the busyness of the downtown core.

Or maybe the light from under the bridge dancing on the waters of the river flowing inexorably to some far and distant unseen sea.

Or maybe, it is simply the mystical, magical nature of morning.

I awoke this morning, and as happens most days when I sit down to write, I am unaware of the words that will appear, until they appear. My eyes peering into the soft morning glow of dawn easing its way across the sky, I watch the traffic flow, the river dance in the light, the trees stand silent in the lightening dark, and I breathe.

And with each breath, I sink into this moment becoming each moment passing by in one gentle, soothing continuous stream. Time fades away and life flows effortlessly into the gap creating a beautiful song of awakening.

I awoke to poetry this morning. To the dance of words calling me to let go and fall daringly into the mystical grace of nature dancing in wild beauty all around me.

“Dance child, dance,” the music of morning exhorts. And so, I let go and dance.

I hope you join me.

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About the title:  Each week, David Kanigan of Live & Learn shares a post titled “Lightly child, lightly,” in homage to Aldous Huxley’s words from his last novel, Island,

“It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them. So throw away your baggage and go forward. There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. That’s why you must walk so lightly. Lightly my darling…”

“Lightly child, lightly”. I love that phrase and co-opted it this morning in the gentle hues of dawn and memory and nature’s beauty awakening to the light.

About the photo:  Every day Beaumont the Sheepadoodle and I walk to the off-leash park just around the bend, under the bridge along the river’s edge and wander its woods and trails. Every day, if I remember to take my phone, I take a photo of something that entrances me in the nature of our walk. This photo is what delighted my senses yesterday.

The Perfect Beauty of Imperfection

It can be hard sometimes to see that the life we’re living is the perfect life for us.

We tell ourselves, “Life is not a perfect journey,” and then list the reasons that defend our position.

Too often, our expectations of how life ‘should be’ mar our vision of the beauty in the life that is ours. We grade our path as ‘difficult’ and judge it against the ease of another’s. We compare our foothold on planet earth as filled with hard rock stories and bemoan the bounty we see in someone’s soft landing spot. And then, we tell ourselves we’re not ‘the fortunate’. We’re less than, other than, somehow unworthy of a beautiful life. We’re not like ‘those people’ who seem to breeze through life as if they were born to it.

We are all born to live. We are all born to shine.

It’s just sometimes, we peer so long into the darkness, we forget to turn on the lights. Sometimes, the darkness is so deep, we don’t ever remember there being any light.

At my studio table. Works in progress.

Yesterday, immersed in creative exploration, judging, comparing, bemoaning life’s woes fell away.

Carried in the flow of creative expression, time lost its grip. Beginnings and ends of this moment to the next vanished. I was cut loose from Father Time ticking away the minutes and lost myself to floating on the drift of being in the now.

It was bliss.

All that was present was paint flowing and glitter falling wherever it desired — and if you could see my worktable and studio, you’d appreciate how glitter has its own design, crafting its destiny of sparkling up life with joyful élan!

For ten hours I was in the flow, full of contentment, joy, ease. Alive in the present moment, I felt grace infuse each breath with its delicious beauty.

There was no worry. No fear. No anxiety about the outcome. There was just the pure joy of creating and the exhilaration of letting it happen without thinking about where it was all leading.

Sure, I had an idea. A starting point — in this case, 24 clear glass Christmas balls.

And I had some tools — alcohol inks, glue gun, glitter.

And most importantly, I had the open space of time to experiment, to ask myself, “I wonder what would happen if I did…?” and then, the freedom to follow my wonderment.

I had such a day yesterday. A day where all things felt possible because I was in the flow of life, savouring the journey which, rather than perceiving it as separated into distinct moments, felt unseparated from the moment before and the next to come.

And then….

Well, sometimes, the ease and contentment of that long, continuous, blissful moment can feel so fleeting.

This morning, I awakened and realized I needed to do some touch-ups to what I’d created if… and here’s the catch… if I wanted them to ‘look perfect’.

What if I accept they look unique, a perfect reflection of my creative expression in the moment? Because, quite frankly, to see the imperfections you have to compare this morning’s product against last night’s. (Some of the inks flowed down to the bottom of the balls — the glitter’s still in place though!)

Well… here’s my chance to practice what I preach!

What if, I gave up comparison, judgement, expectations of perfection and breathed into the possibility that there is nothing left to be done to create better. There is only this moment to live in the better of all that is possible when I let go of… you got it… comparison, judgement, expectations.

What if… indeed.

Now that would be bliss. That would be life lit up like glitter on a Christmas ball shimmering in the ordinary grace of the present moment.

This morning, I’m going with acceptance.

How blissful!

Nurture Your Creativity

I am coming up to the end of six months in this new re-write of my life post ‘out-in-the-world’ career.

I’ve learned a  lot and rediscovered some things about myself I’d completely forgotten.

Like, when I get focused on something, it’s hard for me to break away. The corollary to my ‘focus’ is I can be easily distracted from my ‘To-Do List’ by Netflix. (Hence why The Crown devoured many consecutive moments deep into the wee hours one night – I couldn’t turn it off until I got to the end.)

But seriously, two of the greatest rememberings are how much joy I receive through creating in my studio and how much I love to spend time in the kitchen.

On the studio angle, one of the things I’m realizing is how integral an endpoint is to my creative purpose. While I derive great joy from creating just for the sake of creating, I am very motivated by an ‘endgame’.

The art journal I created for my Heart Your Art Out course at Kensington Art Supply is a good example. Creating it as an example for the course motivated me. One of the outcomes is, I’ve been invited back at the end of January to deliver another course and will be giving a one day course at the end of March — so stay tuned!

Earlier this fall, I sent a query to be included in an art show that is one of my favourites. Last week, I received notice the jury has accepted my application and I will be showing my work at the “Cultivate Your Art” show and sale at Vale’s Greenhouse in Black Diamond next June! For me, this is a ‘bucket list’ thing. I love their annual art show and to be one of the invited artists is huge for me!  Which means, I’ll be creating like mad come January to have a body of work to show. They also want me to show my #ShePersisted series — which is very exciting!

Name Cards — inside each the message reads: The Gift I see in you [a loving heart] [a generous soul] [a wise heart] – each gift is specific to each dinner guest
On a closer to home level, take my dinner party nametags. Every Christmas we have a large family-style dinner with immediate and honourary family.  In the past, because of the demands of work, I love making these nametags but would often scramble to create them in the week before the dinner simply because I was so busy at work.

This year, I’ve almost finished them and it’s not even December yet!

Bonus! It means that this re-write gig has also created a bit more flexibility in my life.  As my birthday is the second week of December I have historically disallowed Christmas in the house until after my birthday. This year, I’ve already bought some gifts and Christmas music is a regular on my playlist! Though the tree will still have to wait until after the 9th!

The second ‘Great Remembering’ involves kitchen-time. Many years ago, a girlfriend and I had a cooking school and I had a short 10-minute cooking show on a local cable network. Which is all just to say, I love to cook.

The Joy of Baking Bread — thanks, Dad! You taught me well.

Challenge was, with work and its many demands and stressors as well as simply living life day-to-day, my kitchen time was relegated to sporadic bursts of activity mostly centred around an occasional dinner party.

Now I have time to create in the kitchen, and I am loving it.

Which has lead to possibly one of the greatest things I have learned/remembered since my last day of formal, out-in-the-world work almost six months ago —

Life isn’t about ‘output’.

Life is about living fully each moment,  experiencing the joy, passion and love that arises when I let go of ‘busy’ and fall with grace into being present to whatever I’m doing.

Six months after my last formal workday, my life isn’t as ‘busy’ as it used to be. But it most definitely is richer, fuller and more joyful.

I don’t miss my life before this re-write began. I don’t have time. Immersed in doing what I love, I am fully engaged in savouring each moment of creative expression, no matter where I am or what I am doing.

It’s all mighty grand!

And bonus, with my nametags almost done, I’ll have more time to create (stress-free) tasty treats and other goodies to imbue this Christmas season with not just glitter and glam, but peace, hope, love and joy!

 

 

The Beautiful Oops!

Good Morning Pear
Mixed media on canvas paper.
9 x 12″
©2019 Louise Gallagher

Artist and teacher Bob Ross calls them, “Happy Little Accidents”. I prefer the name Barney Saltzberg uses in his delightful children’s book, Beautiful Oops!

Sometimes, beautiful oops’es create moments where all we want to do is quit. Or throw away whatever we’re working on and start again.

And then, something happens to change our perspective, to open the doors of our limited thinking and suddenly, that “Oh Gawd, what was I thinking?” becomes a heartfelt “Thank you,” to whatever spiritual being, divinity, energy, or absence of, we believe in.

There were so many times while working on the piece pictured above that my thinking mind wanted me to quit. To give up. To say, “Nah. I’ll just move on to something else, or perhaps, I’ll just paint over the whole thing and begin again.”

It’s always a good thing to expect the unexpected when in the creative flow. It seldom disappoints.

Yesterday, as I was deep into my need to organize myself and my art-making into some semblance of orderly process where I was in control and the creative process was under my domain, a voice deep within me whispered, “You’re stuck. Go change the music.”

Walking over to my studio desk, I opened my laptop and thought, “Well, as I’m here I’ll just check my emails.”

And that’s when the magic happened.

At the top of my Inbox was an email from a lovely man I met while at  The Embodied Present Process (TEPP) retreat in October. His email contained a link to a song and its beautiful invitation to “Loosen. Loosen and let go of the weight of the world”.

In need of the distraction, I hit PLAY and suddenly found myself moving and swaying throughout my studio.

Several songs later I had danced my ‘stuckedness out’ and came back to my work table feeling centered and present in the moment.

Present in the moment that is all that is, I loosened my hold on wanting to organize my life and everything in it and let the muse flow freely.

I am grateful.

I kind of like the Good Morning Pear. 🙂 She pleases my heart and calls me deeper into the mystery of the present moment and the magic of creative expression.

Namaste.

 

 

To Be or Not To Be. What’s the Real Question?

how bright will

A bird does not ask if one day it will fly. A fish does not wonder if it will swim just as a river does not worry about where it’s flowing. It just flows.

It’s only us human beings who wonder, “What will I be?”

It starts at an early age.

When I was a little girl I would tell people I wanted to be an actress when I grew up because I wanted to make people laugh and cry and feel all the colours of the rainbow. That occupation did not sit well in my household so I changed it to a psychologist – maybe I could help people smile more?

And then, I grew up, (well at least kind of) and neither of those occupations were on my radar. But then, neither was becoming a leader in the not-for-profit sector working in homelessness on my agenda either. It just kind of happened.

Which brings me back to Hamlet’s famous question,

“To be or not to be.
That is the question.
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer,
the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
or to take arms against a sea of troubles.”

There is nothing noble in suffering. No rewards. No commendations. No aspirational title like, “Chief Sufferer of Life’s Slings and Arrows.”

There is only suffering in suffering. And I don’t know about you, but when I’m suffering, I kinda like to see the world as suffering along with me. It feels less lonely.

The situations that create suffering in our lives are not always of our design or choice. The things we do to keep us tied to the suffering, well, those are sometimes based on choices we make, albeit often unconscious and often circumscribed by the limitations of our environment and history. And while it is possible to change our circumstances, when we’re mired in suffering that keeps us tethered to the pain of our existence, it’s hard to recognize — there is another way To Be.

Working in a homeless shelter, I encountered daily people whose belief in themselves was so limited by their circumstances they could not see any hope of the possibility of change. Their roads had been dark so long, there was no glimmer of light in the tunnel of the dark and gloomy past, present and future they believed was theirs and theirs alone.

When I first started working in the sector, I started an art program in the shelter where I worked. I believe that it doesn’t matter where we’ve landed on the road of life, what matters is we stand up again and again and take one little step after another, again and again.

And that can be hard when the bottom feels like it is constantly falling away.

Which is where ‘creative expression’ plays a leading role. Standing up is hard without a foundation. Tapping into our creative core gives us access to a solid place to begin to see there is a possibility of some kind of ‘different’. As we dive in, we begin to see the world in varying hues of grey until the darkness opens up to all the colours of the rainbow.

And so, I come full circle.

The view from where I sit this morning as I type.

This morning, as I look out through my window at the beautiful blue sky above, two birds fly swiftly by. A gentle morning breeze brushes the snow clinging to the bare-limbed arms of the tree lining the river, pushing it gently into the air. Beneath the surface of the swiftly flowing river, fish swim in its depths.

Birds fly. Fish swim. The river flows. The sun rises and I smile at the symmetry of my life.

Once upon a time, I wanted to be a light so that I didn’t feel so alone in the dark and maybe, others wouldn’t too.

Today I know there is no choice to be or not to be a light. The question is, “How bright am I willing to shine?”

How bright are you willing to shine?