Category Archives: Art and creativity

Zackariah and the Non-Profits

In the minutes and hours and weeks following the tragedy, they huddled together on the corner of the street where it happened, in coffee shops and living rooms, and any other place where one or two or more were gathered.

They cried together, leaned on each other, held each other up and caught each other in those moments when their grief overcame them. They shared stories of their friends, laughed at their remembered antics, shook their heads at some of their escapades. They honoured their names, their memories, their lives intersecting.

And time moved on as they struggled to make sense of what they could not make sense of. How could five of their own, five lives whose promise was just beginning to unfold as they travelled through University classes, art college, band practices and sporting events and the plethora of minutiae that make a life, that made these five lives so precious, how could they be gone? How could they be killed in such a brutal fashion?

It was if a giant unseen hand swept down from the north and wiped away the space these five young friends held on earth. One moment, they were laughing and celebrating the end of another school year, the next, they were gone.

Last night, C.C. and I along with hundreds of others came out in support of the efforts of two surviving members of the Zackariah and The Prophets band.  Organized by Kyle Tenove and Barry Mason, the evening featured The Fox Who Slept the Day Away, The Ashley Hundred, Windigo and Jesse and the Dandelions, as well as a moving and emotional tribute performance of Zackariah and The Prophets.

And while nothing can make sense of such a horrible loss, the evening, called, High Hopes, did just that. It reminded all of us that no matter what happens in the world around us, we cannot let go of hope for a better future, hope for a kinder world, hope for peace. And we must take action to keep hope alive in all our hearts.

As C.C. and I sat and listened, tapping our feet to the rocking beat of the Prophets, the many young people in the crowd leapt up and hurried en masse to the front of the performance hall to stand as one body, shoulder to shoulder, arms around each other, singing and waving their arms and moving their bodies to the music.

And as they did in the moments following the events of April 15, they held each other up, they supported one another and moved as one body united in memory of Josh and Zacharia and Kaiti Perras, Jordan Segura, and Lawrence Hong, all of whom lost their lives on that fateful day.

And when it was over, when the music quietened and the last thank-you spoken, there was one thing remaining that carried each of us out into the night — the High Hopes that we can make a difference that Barry and Kyle so desperately wanted to instill in everyone.

Proceeds from the event will go to the Zackariah and the Non-Profits (ZATNP) established by the two young men which will then be distributed among the five scholarships and/or trust funds established for Joshua Hunter, Zackariah Rathwell, Lawrence Hong, Jordan Segura and Kaiti Perras.

Their dream is to make a difference in the world. To ensure that the lives of their friends continue to make a difference in the world.

And they are.

I’m sure their friends would have approved and while it doesn’t make sense of what happened, it does create better in the world from a tragedy that has impacted so many.

We can learn much from these young people about what it means to honour and celebrate the lives of those we love — no matter where in time their stories end.

A gift from the quiet hours before the dawn

coyote

In a burst of exuberance, the wind swept down from the mountains 
whispering stories of faraway places.

“Runaway with me and I will show you the world!” the wind called out and Coyote laughed.
“Here is where I run free,” he told the wind. And the wind blew on and Coyote ran free.

Art Journal Entry, August 26, 2014

There was a time when she believed if she could just be somewhere else other than where she was, everything would be okay.

There was a time when she wished for nothing more than to be someone else other than who she was.

What she couldn’t see in looking for another way of being is that no matter what she wished for, she could never be anyone else other than who she was.

What she couldn’t see was that the parts of her that didn’t fit her well in this place, would not fit her any better in another.

Fearful that she would never find her way, she attempted to jettison her past, extricate herself from being herself to become someone she thought others wanted her to be. “Perhaps if you change directions, or even just your clothes, you’ll find yourself another way,” her nimble mind whispered like the wind blowing down from the mountains, calling her to run away.

And she ran, and ran and still she found herself where ever she was at, trying to run away from the one she could never leave behind, herself.

“Perhaps if you simply stand true to who you are, stay present to what is here in this moment, you’ll find yourself right where you’re at,” her loving heart whispered into the howling of the wind.

Frightened by her heart’s calling and tired of constantly running away, she fell to the ground and rested right where she was at. And in her sleep, her heart beat strong, and her mind grew restful as the truth of who she is set her free to run wild like the wind through her dreams.

“There is nothing to fear in being you,” her heart whispered. “Who you are is who you’ve always been. Perfectly human in all your human imperfections. Beauty and the beast. Loving and loved. A child of the universe, seeking her way into the light of her own brilliance shining brightly on the path of her creation.”

Like coyote and the wind, there is always a calling to venture into another space, some distant place where what is here will not be there. It isn’t until I quit searching for somewhere else to be that I discover, everything I need to be free is here right now, because, no matter where I go, I am where ever I am at.

**************************

The painting and story above came from my meditation. Like the caterpillar story yesterday which came from a dream where I awoke with the image of the unhappy caterpillar and his desire to be anything other than himself,  the image of the coyote slipped through my mind as I sat in silence.

I was seeking a peaceful mind and still the wind blew in.

I tried to push it away. Instead, it insisted on leaving its mark in the form of a coyote, the trickster of Native American lore. I asked coyote what he had to tell me, and the image and story were born.

In my practice, both here on the written page and on my art journal page, I have learned to trust in the process. To allow the words, and images, to appear without trying to discern them before they flow.

It can be challenging. I like to control. I like to dictate, to organize, to force and cajole things into being, just so. I also like to judge what I create. Measure its worth against some unseen yardstick in my mind.

Learning to trust in the process without judgement means, learning to trust in me.

A big leap.

Which is probably why, when I awoke at 3:30 this morning with the image of a cliff in my mind, the words appeared, “Leaping off the edge of what she knew to be true, she found herself believing in the possibility of flight.”

What a lovely gift to find upon awakening in the quiet hours before the dawn.

The spaces between

I spent the weekend in my studio.

I am content.

It was a great way to spend a rainy Saturday and even though yesterday the sun snuck out from behind grey clouds, I couldn’t stop what I was doing. I was immersed in the process and having too much fun! Plus, I was using the collage technique I learned at Jonathan Talbot’s workshop — and what can be more fun than using new knowledge to create?

August 30th is my mother’s 92nd birthday. I would like to say that she is strong and happy and doing well, but that would not be true. Her mind is sharp as a tack but her body is frail and fragile and failing. Quickly.

Other than arthritis, and the fact of age, there is no medical cause for her faltering well-being. It is more an ennui born of everyday sadness, losses she has never been able to comprehend, and the fact she has basically stopped eating.

My mother is sad and neither my sisters nor I are powerful enough to lift the sadness that envelops her.

Which is why I spent the weekend creating something I hope will put a smile on her heart and give her some happiness.

Like mother’s everywhere, my mother loves to show off her family. To tell people of what her children and grandchildren are doing, to demonstrate how accomplished in the world we all are, how our lives have turned out well.

In the past, I created a shadow box of her life. It hangs on the wall of her room which means, she can’t carry it with her. S0 this weekend, I created an accordion book of  her life. Something small and compact that she can put in the basket of her walker and can carry with her where ever she goes if she chooses.

And here’s the thing. In putting photos of her brother’s and sisters, parents, as well as my sisters and brother, I had to decide whether or not to include photos of my nieces, my brother’s daughters. I wanted to. She loves them dearly, but since my brother and his wife’s death in 1997 there has been little to no contact between my mother and her granddaughters. Eighteen and nineteen at the time of their parents’ passing, my nieces were in no shape to comprehend my mother’s grief at the death of her only son. And my mother was not emotionally strong enough to put aside her tears to be able to help them through theirs.

A gap appeared between them. Over the years, it has turned into an abyss and for my mother, that abyss is a deep dark wound of loss and grief and sorrow.

Do I or don’t I include their photos? I asked both my sisters.

We all agreed that to do so would only cause our mother pain. She cannot talk of her two lost grand-daughters without crying and if there is one thing my mother doesn’t need more of in her life, it’s tears.

And so, I left out these two beautiful young women who are part of the warp and weave of our family.

I didn’t want to. I am not particularly good at ‘pretending’ something isn’t what it is. They are part of our family and to leave them out doesn’t change that fact.

I’m also a realist.

To include their photos in a book she will want to show everyone will only leave her open to having to talk about her grand-daughters with whom she has no contact. And that will make her cry.

It was the loving thing to do for my mother and the right thing to do for her heart.

 

 

It’s not about finding perfection.

Exploring 1 Art Journal page August 12, 2014
Exploring 1
Art Journal page
August 12, 2014

Like writing, art-making takes a willingness to move through ‘the bad’ to allow the good to appear.

It is not about finding perfection. It’s about finding the perfect moment to breathe into what appears, exactly the way it is and delight in its presence.

I have been exploring art journalling.

Ah, you may ask, what is an art journal?

Like a diary, it incorporates words and enhances/intensifies them with images to tell your story. An art journal can be used to capture creative ideas, document your thoughts, feelings and happenings along life’s journey, experiment with new ideas and techniques (one of my favourites), and/or to be present in the act of creating for the sake of creating.

I have always been hesitant to call myself an ‘artist’. The label triggers long buried memories of being a teen-ager and wanting to paint and draw but feeling inadequate in the presence of schoolmates who were amazingly talented. My desire to ‘look perfect’ right from the get-go stymied my willingness to risk sharing my creations. I judged myself ‘not as good as’ and let my desire to express myself through visual media go.

In my twenties, I dated a man who was a hobby artist. He gave me some oil paints and encouraged me to ‘have fun’. Being seriously confined by my desire to ‘look perfect’, my attempts at painting were far from fun, they were painful.

I gave up that idea along with the boyfriend and focused on my writing.

My discourse on ‘who am I’ became restricted to ‘a writer’. An artist I was not.

And then, my eldest daughter was born and from a very early age she displayed an incredible artistic ability. Her stickmen were not just lines and wobbly circles. They were identifiable human and animal creations in lifelike relief.

One of her favourite summer activities involved my lining the deck railings with drawing paper, filling pots with tempera and setting her free to paint the world in all its colours — She was Frida Kahlo in diapers!

And still, I did not pick up a brush until one day, when she was around 15, she asked if we could go to the art store. She wanted to paint and needed supplies. On a whim, I said, “I think I’ll paint with you,” and my love affair began.

There I was, mid-forties discovering a lie I’d told myself as truth wasn’t true. I was an artist.

And the question became, what other things do I tell myself about myself that limit my experiences simply because I tell myself they’re true? What truths do I not challenge in my quest to stay safe in my limiting beliefs?

After over 7 years of continuous blogging (I started my original blog, Recover Your Joy, on March 10, 2007)  with a post called, Scooping Up The Shadows), I have learned a great deal, met some amazing people and… allowed myself to write bad again and again and again.

Along the way, I’ve created a body of work that is a reflection of who I am, how I am and where I am in the world.

I am not perfect. I am me.

I learnt that from blogging everyday about what it is that makes my world shiny and bright, even when clouds are blocking the sun, even when I’m feeling fuzzy and blue or sunny and free.

It doesn’t matter how I’m feeling, my commitment is to turn up on the page and find the gift in everything. To write through the bad to find the truth and beauty in every aspect of my life.

It is not about finding the perfection. It’s about experiencing creation. All of it. And the act of creation is not a defined art. It is limitless.

I have been exploring art journalling. Some of my pages please me. Some of them give me pause to ponder the gifts of creation. They give me space to ask myself, how willing am I to let go of my need to ‘look perfect’ to simply be present to the perfection of this moment, right now.

I am learning and I am grateful for the gifts I find in every moment.

I am a writer, an artist, a creative spirit finding her expression through shadow and light.

Namaste.

To see my latest journal page and read the poem (created with it, In The Quiet Hours) click HERE.

 

Songs of Enchantment

IMG_5673

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

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

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

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

The story above appeared in my meditation as tendrils of thoughts whispering their away into substance.

I opened my eyes and let the words flow. Let them form themselves upon the page.

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

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

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

At River Rock Studio, immersed in the creative process, without access to Internet or TV, the world fell away into that place where all I knew was its beauty. There was no war, no famine, no hurricane or jet planes being shot down. There was no enemy, no terrorist, no terror.

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

It is rarefied air. Elementary. Essential.

I tell myself, it is impossible to maintain such a connection to the essential nature of the world around me when I live connected to the world through everyday happenings.

“It is much too hard work to continuously live with your senses open to being alive,” the critter hisses. “Don’t tire yourself out. It’s not worth it. The world doesn’t care if you create. The world doesn’t need more creation. It needs more safety. More same old. More conformance to staying the course so it can keep ticking along without interference from the likes of you.”

And I sigh.

I know that critter’s voice. It is the voice of self-denial. Of refusal to see, we are all essential to the evolution of life. We are all creative expressions of amazing grace.

Anything is possible as long as I do not shut my eyes to the colours of the world. As long as I stay open and available to the song’s of enchantment flowing all around, all the magic and wonder and mystery of the world is mine to explore, to see, to know.

It is the beauty of the creative process. The wonder of this space where I let go of fear and fall, fearlessly, into awe knowing, to do my best in the world and for the world, I must allow my best to flow free.

 

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I have also shared another poem I wrote at River Rock Studio during my art retreat — this one was written when I returned home and carried the memory of the joy of creativity into my weekend.  Breathing Under Water.

River Rock Studio – Painting in Words

Day 5:  River Rock Studio – Painting in Words

Composition is like a pasta dinner, our instructor, Jonathan Talbot, tells us. If you list the ingredients from least interesting flavour to most interesting, you find that the more interesting the flavour, the less of it you need to use.

We eat our art, he says, and proceeds to enthrall us with one of his many stories of art-making and life and a series of paintings under the name Patrin (‘patron’). It is a Romani word representing the signs travellers leave for each other. Here is a welcoming place. Don’t go to that door. They have good cheese. This vendor cheats… As a teenager, Jonathan lived rough for a while and was taken in by a Romani family in the States. He is a beautiful story-teller and his story is one of family, loyalty, bonds of gratitude that pay homage to a people who treated him kindly and set him well on the road of life at a time when he was lost.

In a field of white sheep, a black sheep is more interesting, he finishes off his story-telling and I am reminded of the analogy I used years ago when teaching creativity to grade schoolers. The cat sat on the mat does not paint a very interesting story. But, when I say, the cat sat on the dog’s mat, what happens?  And the students would get all excited about the possibilities of what could happen if…

Collage-making is an exploration of ‘what could happen if…’  If I put this image next to this, if I layer this on that, if I juxtapose this thought with this idea…. what could happen?

Like life, the outcome is seldom predictable, often uncontrollable. We must stay unattached to the outcome to give ourselves the freedom to explore the context of the elements and aspects of where we’re at to find ourselves free of expectations that the journey will be anything other than….. fascinating!

Benjamin Zander, co-author with his wife Rosamund Stone Zander, of “The Art of Possibility” shares his response when life throws curve balls or he takes a left instead of the right he’d planned. Rather than judging himself, or calling himself a loser, or stupid, he throws both arms up above his head, puts a huge grin on his face and exclaims, “How fascinating!”

I make many mistakes working in a medium I’m not familiar with, learning new techniques. When I choose to judge them as ‘mistakes’, I limit my capacity to push through what is happening into that mystical place of all that is possible when I let go and fall into wonder, awe, Love.

How fascinating!

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Painting In Words

©2014 Louise Gallagher
(Written at River Rock Studio, July 31, 2014)

Lost in a sea of colours and shape
painting in words
poetry pouring down
from cerulean skies
burnished with umber and quinachrodone gold
floating on a sea of Pyrrole Orange
I forget that place where right and wrong
matter as I attempt to hold on
to a design I cannot let go of.
Lost in the deceit
of believing letting go
will kill my dreams
of creating under water.

Diving into the nothing
that is left
when I let go
I fall
effortlessly
into the divine essence
of life
flowing in all directions
immersing me
in its wonder.

Letting go
I fall
free
of holding on
to nothing
but everything
I am
when I
let go.

Day 4: River Rock Studios

Day 4: River Rock Studios 

“It is not our job to criticize our work,” says Jonathan Talbot, our instructor. “It is our job to do it.”

Art is a way of seeing. Of knowing beauty in the world and expressing it. Art is man’s nature. Nature is God’s art, or, as Aristotle wrote, “things come into being either by art or by nature.”

The discussion of what is art stems from a comment Barbara, one of the other student’s shared about the beauty of the sunset the night before. We had been speaking of women artists. Discussing how few have been recognized throughout time, yet how many there were. “We’ve forgotten the greatest female artist of all,” said Barbara. “Mother Nature.”

And immediately upon hearing her comment, Jonathan asked the group, “What is art?”

Art is language to me. It is a way to communicate with each other, to connect, to share our unique expressions through creative works and ideas and expressions. Art inspires. Evokes. Creates meaning. It liberates our inner voices, opens us to the true essence of being human. Art is the language of our human greatness, from every perspective, whether we judge it good or bad. Art makes room for us to ‘speak’ of our aspirations, to express our dreams, our yearnings, our heartbreaks, our fears and sorrows. It raises our awareness from the mundane into excellence.  The horrific into beauty. It is all possible realities expressed through the being of its creator.

What is art to you?

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Every morning, Jonathan invites the group to gather outside as we light the candle to honour the artists who have come before us. We are all connected. Through time. Through our creativity, through the collective nature of the muse.

And each morning, he asks me to create the space for us to connect.

Here is the story I wrote for the group this morning.

Journal Entry, Wednesday, July 30, 2014  Mixed media on watercolour paper
Journal Entry, Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Mixed media on watercolour paper

And The Moon Beamed

Patience dear ones, the moon whispered to the stars. It will come to pass. The sun will slip into dusk and your time to shine will come, but first, you must learn to shine in the light of day believing in your own magnificence. one night, the whole world will see the brilliance of your light. But for now, you must practice patience.

And the sun shone, and the moon beamed and the stars twinkled knowing their night would come.

And then, it came to pass that the sun fell into night’s seductive embrace and the stars came out and played Twinkle, Twinkle upon the velvety blanket of night delighting in the lightness of being all that they were born to be in the light of day.

And they shone. Bright.

And the world turned and the sun slept and the moon beamed down upon the earth wrapped in eternity’s embrace.

See my dear ones, whispered the moon to the glittering stars. There is no need to be anything other than what you are born to be. Brilliantly bright and magnificent.

Shine dear ones. Shine.