I Am Grateful

Thanksgiving Weekend, 2021.

Our second Thanksgiving under the thrall of Covid.

I am grateful for our health.

Our second socially distanced dinner.

I am grateful for our food.

Our second Thanksgiving without gathering family and friends around a crowded table, laughing, sharing, connecting.

I am grateful for the knowing no matter how far the distance between us, we are always connected.

I am grateful for the love.

The friendship.

The sense of belonging I feel because of the people in my life who make it so rich and beautiful.

I am grateful.

Yesterday, I shut down my computer after my third Zoom meeting of the day and decided to create.

I took Beaumont the Sheepadoodle for an early evening walk along the river, (darkness comes early here above the 49th parallel) and when I came home, sat and chatted about our days with C.C. who was just finishing off a Zoom meeting.

Dusk was settling in as I went downstairs to my studio, which has also become my at-home office now that I am working with a client on advocacy and social engagement, and decided to create.

We are able to have a couple of family members for dinner on Sunday, and I know friends who would normally be at our table, are also doing the same, so I decided t start working on nametags for the table.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and let my ‘unsuredness’ be my guide.

“Go outside and gather some branches and leaves,” the muse whispered.

And so I did.

“How about mono-printing?” she teased.

And so I did.

I pulled out my mono-printing pad (a gelli plate), laid down a layer of paint, pressed some branches onto its wet surface, lay a sheet of mixed media paper on top and rubbed all over the back, trying to get the paint lifted while leaving white space wherever the leaves lay on the pad.

And then, as C.C. rattled around in the kitchen making dinner, I dove in.

Colour me delighted. Paint me at peace. Splatter me with joy.

And here’s the thing. This morning, looking at the one at the top of this post, I see where imprinting one of my hand-carved leaf stamps onto the bottom of each and painting it white will really add value to the others.

I have a couple of zoom meetings today and some documents to go through and then…

Well… You know where you’ll find me!

I am grateful.

For this day. For the beauty outside my window where I sit typing. The sun is bathing the sky with rosy hues, the river flows deep in silent communion with nature’s beauty and the golden leaves of autumn hang still in morning’s light.

I am grateful for it all.

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

The Path

Every morning I follow the path to the park, Beaumont the Sheepadoodle in the lead, eager to reach the area where he can run off leash.

For the past two weeks I have been taking a different path. We walk up the hill to the escarpment and walk along the ridge overlooking the Bow River winding its way through the valley bottom below.

The fall colours have been breath-taking.

Golds and rust and bright yellows compete with the still green leaves clinging to the last vestiges of summer.

Every morning I follow the path knowing eventually, it will lead me home again.

There is comfort in that knowing. Comfort in its familiarity and predictability.

This morning, Beaumont and I chose to walk the path along the river, forgoing the steep uphill climb to the escarpment.

Winding our way through the woods, listening to the dry, fallen leaves crunch beneath our feet and the water lazily babble its way to the east, the muse drifted in and settled in for a visit like a good friend coming for tea.

Words and images, thoughts and ideas scampered through my mind like dry leaves being lifted and scattered by an autumn breeze.

Sometimes I followed their drift. Sometimes I simply nodded in recognition of their presence and let them drift out of my mind’s eye.

Always, I knew they were leading me home. To my heart. My hearth.

I walked the path I haven’t taken in awhile this morning.

I walked with the knowing, the path lead me where it always does. Into beauty, wonder and awe.

Namaste

She Dares to Walk on the Wild Side

You know those moments when you’re working on something and you think… “Ugh. This is going nowhere.” Or, “Why did I do that?” Or. “What on earth was I thinking by doing it that way?”

Yeah.

Those moments.

Well, I hit one of those yesterday.

I knew in my head how I wanted it to look. But, the outcome… well, let’s just say I struggled to get anywhere near what I envisioned with what appeared.

I also know… seeking perfection is the path to frustration. It can also lead to a whole bunch of negative self-talk and doubt.

And staying in my head… well that’s the road to perdition.

Because, in my head, it’s easy to get caught up in the “What is wrong with you/Can’t you do anything right?” game the critter loves to play with my creative expression when I am stuck or over-thinking or feeling frustrated by a new technique I’m playing with — and taking my play way too seriously.

Which is why I am choosing to share this piece even though I struggle to accept its imperfections.

Like it says, I gotta dare to walk on the wild side and let imperfection be a reflection of what my heart is yearning to express.

It’s not about the art. It’s about the process. And the process for this piece incorporates a new-to-me element — using stencils, rice paper and soft pastels together.

I love how it works and looks — I just don’t love how I judge myself so harshly when learning something new!

In that space, I forget all about being loving and gentle with myself as I slip effortlessly into a river of self-condemnation and doubt.

Swimming in that river is not good for my mental health. It dams up my fearlessness, leaving me swimming upstream against the natural flow of creativity as the critter exhorts me to ‘get it right… the first time!

It also makes me want to quit.

I am writing this out because in writing it out, I find myself once again doing what Benjamin Zander suggests in his brilliant TedTalk – The Transformative Power of Classical Music when I come up against my oh so human traits of thinking I need to be perfect when I do something new…

I throw my hands up in the air, shake my head and exclaim, “Aren’t I fascinating!”

And then… I take a walk on the wild side where the beauty of imperfection is a wide open field of possibility, stunning in its capacity to open me up, heart, mind, soul and body to the wondrous nature of life lived wild and free.

Ready for the Fall

I took the photo above on my walk this morning with Beaumont the Sheepadoodle.

An autumn breeze teases the leaves with its whispering incantations to “Let go! Let go”

And Mother Earth whispers, “I am here. I shall always catch you.”

and the leaves cling until tired, they can hold on no longer.

Leaves crackled beneath my feet. The river flowed in lazy consort with gravity’s pulling it along towards a distant unseen sea.

And Beaumont scampered through the fall-dry grasses and my heart felt light and easy.

I hope you are having a wonderful day in where ever you are on Mother Earth.

_____________________________________

and… Beaumont has a lot to say today about my She Dares Boldly calendar (he thinks I should do one called Beaumont Dares Boldly! — Do come join him and please…. help me talk some sense into him! 🙂 What About Me?

And her wings grew stronger

Every time she fell, she tried again and her wings grew stronger.

Usually, when I create in my art journal, the words drift into substance dripping with paint and creative sweat somewhere along the path, after I’ve begun the page.

Yesterday, as I sat and contemplated one of the backgrounds I’d created for the art journalling course I taught at Kensington Arts, the words landed before I’d even set up my paints, with a clear and resounding note of “Here I am”, demanding a page upon which to appear.

So much of the fun of art journalling is in the ‘allowing’ of ideas for words and imagery to materialize from somewhere deep within – without judging, limiting or condemning each thought.

So often, as I created this page, I stopped and asked myself, “What am I afraid to try?” And then, I did that.

Like adding gold pearlescent powder to the leaves and birdcage (hard to see in the photo) I haven’t worked with those types of powders in years — it took a lot of opening and closing of cupboard doors and drawers to find them – but it was like encountering an old friend you haven’t seen in a long time. The familiarity, the comfort, the excitement, the remembering of things you’ve shared, the experiences you created together, the memories you built — they’re always there, enriching each step of your journey. As you begin to laugh and chat and share stories, the time apart evaporates and you are left with that wonderful knowing that a friendship like this is not measured by time. It is woven forever into your hearts, spinning songs of joy and laughter through time shared and time apart.

I danced with the muse yesterday. It was an old, familiar tune we played. In its familiarity, woven into each strand of melody, sweet notes of possibility filled my heart, calling my wings to spread and grow stronger.

Namaste

This is the background I started with.

Shine Bright Like The Stars

The first thing I told the attendees in my art journalling workshop on Wednesday night was that I was so excited to be there I came a day early.

’cause that’s what happened.

On Tuesday, I packed up my two rolly bins, loaded them into the car and drove across the city to Kensington Art in anticipation of greeting 12 people into my class.

Except, I realized when I got there I’d somehow put it onto the wrong date in my calendar on my phone. Me and technology… know what I mean?

After laughing with the staff about my excitement, I wheeled everything back out to my car, loaded it up and drove home, laughing all the way.

On Wednesday night, I repeated the driving there but this time, I set-up and after the staff member checked people in along with verifying their vaccination cards, we dove in.

It was fun. Exhilarating. Exciting and challenging.

It’s the first in-person workshop I’ve given since Covid lockdowns began in March 2020. Fortunately, no one balked at wearing a mask throughout the evening. Though I must admit, teaching with one on is… different.

Different is ok. I can either resist or accept. My choice. I chose to accept with grace to ensure each attendee received value from the workshop and felt safe and supported in their exploration of their creative expression.

In preparation for the workshop, I created a number of backgrounds in one of my art journals as examples of ‘where to begin’ to show the class. I find it both cathartic and medicative to spend time simply layering on paint, texture and contours. The objective isn’t to think about what I’m doing. It’s to simply let whatever is seeking to appear, appear.

The first background I started with however, kept calling me to dive in. Three hours later, I had a completed page.

Ooops! I hadn’t meant to take it all the way! But I’m glad I did!

She knew that every door was a portal to wonder, mystery and awe and did not fear stepping through.

I still needed some sample backgrounds so I dove back in and consciously pulled myself away when I felt the urge to keep going. (Believe me. That’s not always easy when I’m in the flow!)

Yesterday, I opened my journal to the first background and began to play.

And that’s where the magic and the muse found me.

Perhaps it was the influence of the stunningly beautiful full moon of the night before, or the fall Equinox, or both… because somewhere at the edge of night, walking beneath a golden moon, breathing in starlight, wonder and awe, magic embraced me and I let go of thinking to allow what was seeking to be known and seen and experienced appear.

She rose like the moon and shone bright like the stars casting beauty and light into the darkness.

I taught an art journalling workshop this week. My first in-person workshop since March 2020.

It was fun. Exhilarating. And a great reminder to let go and be present in the fullness of the moon and the stars and all of life, to bathe in the wonder and the awe of this moment right now.

Namaste

PS. I’m teaching another workshop at Kensington Art on Wednesday, October 27 — if you’re in the Calgary area and want to join in, it would be lovely to see you!

I Will Always Catch You

When she was just a little girl, her father taught her to climb stairs and boulders and playground monkey bars and ladders.

She would stand at the top, hold out her arms and cry out with delight, “Catch me Daddy! Catch me!”

And her father would stand below, arms stretched out towards her and say, “I will always catch you.”

As time passed and she grew older, the climbs became more difficult, but she was never afraid of falling. She always knew her father would be standing below, arms outstretched towards her saying, as he always did, “I will always catch you.”

Time passed, life flowed onwards and with its constant movement, she too moved away to start her own life far from her father. They still talked on the phone and always on her birthday, she would come to visit to walk to the park where she had learned to climb and fly, safe in the knowledge her father would always catch her.

Seasons changed, years passed and as she grew older so too did her father. Slowly, with the passing of time, he was no longer able to always be there to catch her when she fell, but she always knew that if she did, he would help her get back up. It was his promise.

“I can’t always catch you when you fall,” he told her when first she moved away from home. “But I promise, I will always be there to help you get back up.”

One day, after his daughter called to say she could not make it home to celebrate her birthday with him as she had to travel to a city far away, he walked to the park where every birthday when she was a little girl, she’d climbed the slide and stood at the top and stretched out her arms towards him and called out, “Catch me daddy! Catch me!”,

On this day many years later, he sat on a bench in the shade of a mighty oak tree and watched a little girl with flaxen hair and sparkling blue eyes climb up the stairs to the top of the slide. A short distance away, too far to catch her if she fell, her father stood unaware, his head turned down, reading something on the phone he held in his hands.

The old man, who had once reached out his arms towards his daughter and said, “I will always catch you,” watched in dismay as the little girl stood at the top of the slide and called out to her father, “Catch me daddy! Catch me!”. Her father didn’t hear her.

The old man stood up from the bench and slowly began to shuffle, as fast as his arthritic legs would let him, towards the child who still stood at the top of the slide, arms outstretched calling to her father, “Catch me daddy! Catch me!”

“Hey!” the old man called out to the father standing with his head bent towards his phone. “Hey! Watch out! She’s going to fall!”

The father, hearing the old man’s voice, looked up and saw the old man, his arms waving wildly around his face pointing towards his daughter where she stood at the top of the slide, calling to him, “Catch me Daddy! Catch me!”

In one seamless move, he tucked his phone into his jacket pocket, took three strides towards the slide and reached his arms out towards his daughter. “I will always catch you,” he said as the tiny bundle of her body catapulted itself down the slide into his waiting arms.

The old man stopped and watched the two pair of arms unite. The child laughed in delight as her father picked her up, held her above his head and spun her about just as he had once spun his daughter so long ago.

The father carefully put his daughter on the ground the thee two moved off towards the swings, the little girl holding his hand and she said in her sing-song voice, “I want to swing as high as the sky!” And the father placed her on the stretch of rubber seating and began to push her. The child laughed and called out. “Higher! Higher! I want to touch the sky” And the father pushed her higher and higher until she let go of the swings chains and called out, “Catch me Daddy! Catch me!”

And he did.

Slowly, the old man turned away and began walking back towards his home. His heart felt heavy with the longing for a child’s arms outstretched towards him and his reaching back.

Lost in memory he didn’t notice he’d reached the main road and stepped off the sidewalk without stopping to check for traffic.

Suddenly, a pair of hands reached out and grabbed his shoulders, pulling him back to safety just as a city bus went whizzing by.

Startled, he lost his footing and almost fell to the ground, but the same hands gently caught him and broke his fall. He took a shaky breath, turned his face up to thank his would be savior where they knelt beside him as he sat on the ground.

“Are you okay?” a voice he recognized asked. He turned his face and his eyes opened wide as he peered into the deep blue eyes of his daughter kneeling beside him.

“How is this possible?” he asked breathlessly. “You said you were going to a city far away.”

And his daughter smiled and said, “I wanted to surprise you.”

The old man reached out with a shaky hand to take hers and said, “I’m so glad you were here to catch me.”

And his daughter smiled again and said, “You need to pay more attention dad to where you’re going. That bus almost hit you. I can’t always be here to catch you.”

And her father nodded his head, his white hair moving around his face like feathers floating in the air.

Slowly he began to stand and asked, “Will you help me get back up?”

And she reached one hand under his elbow and said, “Of course.” And as she helped him get to his feet she said, “I can’t always be here to catch you when you fall, but I will always help you get back up.”

______________________________________

Yesterday, a dear friend, Max, called. We haven’t spoken in a long time, but it was as if time had not passed.

In our conversation, he shared many stories of the people who have helped him on his journey. “I have an idea,” he said. “What do you think about writing a poem called, “I Will Always Catch You.”

Several years ago, Max wrote music to a poem I’d written and recorded called, “Dare“. (You can read about it and listen to the recording, HERE)

I loved the idea of writing a poem to his title — it fits so well to something I used to tell my daughters when, as young adults, they set off to make their way in the world. “I can’t always be there to stop your fall,” I told them. “Sometimes, it’s best I don’t. But know, that no matter where or how hard you fall, I will always be there to help you get back up.”

This morning, as Beau and I walked in the cool September air of an autumnal day, Max’s idea kept percolating through my mind. When I came home, I sat down at my desk and the story above appeared.

Thank you Max. It’s not ‘a poem’… YET – like the river, life takes its own course weaving its stories in mysterious and mystical ways.

When Adventure Calls, Say YES!

Brunch at Mt. Engadine Lodge – Photo source – https://mountengadine.com/gallery/

Yesterday, I spent several hours taking and editing photos of my artwork and loading them onto my ETSY store – DARE BOLDLY ART

I know… shamelessly commercial, but… it’s also real, ’cause here’s the thing –

I don’t create to sell, I create to express my inner desires, hopes, dreams, feelings, thoughts, ideas, concerns, confusion, contemplations.

And then, my walls become too crowded. My cupboards become cluttered with pieces of art gathering dust, growing weary of the darkness.

And so… I enter art shows and fairs in the hope that in selling a few pieces not only do I create space, I also create inspiration for the next creative expression (along with coin to buy the prerequisite supplies – though given that my studio is full of supplies, that buying more supplies probably comes with a douse of over-consumption!)

But, regardless of why I want to sell my art — (I really do need the space) I have finally started to load some of my paintings onto Dare Boldly Art!

Over the next few weeks I’ll be adding more — but today…

Well, today I’m off for three days to be “The Chef” at Mt. Engadine Lodge in Kananaskis Country. They are between chefs – the new second chef starts Sep 6 and the current chef needs a break! I’m happy to oblige! (The photo above is taken from the deck)

Not quite ‘backcountry’ (you can access it via a gravel/dirt road) it is however off the beaten path as well as ‘the grid’.

This is the same lodge I cooked in at just before Christmas 2019 – just before Covid locked the world down and lodges such as Mt. Engadine struggled to make their way through the chaos and closures.

Through good management, committed staff and strong Covid protocols, the Lodge has pulled through.

Colour me excited!

Last time I was there, it was a winter wonderland. This time, I’ll be entering a late summer/ early fall (the temp this morning is 0C – 32F) playground of burbling streams, mountain flowers carpeting meadows in all the colours of the rainbow and birds singing and soaring in the air.

And… bonus! My friend JD is joining me again to keep me company and play the role of ‘sous chef’. I’ve packed along a bucket of paints and ephemera for us to play with, my hiking boots and a stack of cookbooks to devour as I plan out the meals for the next three days.

Before cooking at Mt Engadine the first time, cooking in a backcountry lodge was on my bucket list — now it’s on my ‘repeat often’. It is exhausting but fun. It’s (kind of) scary and challenging. It connects me to my creative core – cooking for 30 people does that – and it reminds me that life is a constant adventure when you say YES! to its many beguiling invitations.

See you all next week!

And PS — please do come check out my store — if only to say Hi!

Happy cooking. Happy living! Happy. Happy.

I Wrote A Letter To My Lover

Two things happened this morning. Both took me in unexpected directions.

Gratitude and curiosity fueled each experience and brought them together on a river of creative expression flowing free.

David Kanigan’s Monday Morning WakeUp Call today lead me to the website, The Vale of Soul-Making. Exquisite. Provocative. I got lost in its words.

The morning post I receive every day from Daily Om connected me to thoughts I’d had yesterday about personality. How it’s so easy to get trapped in believing ‘we are the way we are and there’s nothing that can be done about that.’

At the time of that thought drifting into my mind, I was walking along the rocky beach between the river and the forest, my mind skipping from thought to thought, like a stone skimming and dipping, skimming and dipping along the water’s surface.

At one point a thought skipped into view that surprised me. “You know, Louise,” the thought whispered. “One of the gifts of that relationship with the man of ill-intent was that because your personality was so completely submerged in his abusive ways, when he was arrested and you got your life back, you had to rebuild yourself up from the soles of your feet to the soul of your being who you’re truly meant to be.”

It was a fascinating thought. But, because I was wandering along the river, savouring the sunshine on my face, throwing the ball and watching Beau race after it interspersed with his stopping every so often to follow a scent that caught his olfactory glands in unexpected ways, I let the thought drift away.

This morning, I read one of the many quotes offered by Nick Flynn at The Vale of Soul-Making and that thought skipped back into view.

And then, I read “Finding Another Perspective” at Daily Om and my heart did one of those skippity-dippity hops it likes to do when it finds the subterranean flow of its beat rising to the surface in joyful exhalation and my lungs gave a giddy sigh of satisfaction and my lips smiled wide and my eyes popped open and I exclaimed to no one and to the world, “Oh Yes!”

And then…. as so often happens when I follow the winding way of my thoughts flowing through, a poem appeared as if floating on a lifeboat of possibility.

And here it is. I do so love the unexpectedness and joyfulness of the muse’s way of drawing me into creative expression.

A Letter To My Lover
by Louise Gallagher

I wrote a letter to my lover
long gone from this sphere
of my life orbiting 
around the one I have become
rising up 
from the ashes of a love
that was never truer
than the lies
he told to enslave me
in the poisonous venom
of his unrequited self-hatred.

I wrote a letter to my lover
Thank you, I said,
you saved me from my belief
who I was, was all I could ever be
locked up in a painful construct
of believing I was never good enough
to be free.

I wrote a letter to my lover.
I am free.

Why I Art Journal

Art Journal page – created in 2015

I am a visual thinker. I imagine/see/experience things in my mind’s eye – what’s in front of me, what’s behind me, what’s inside me, what’s beyond me – before I get to the touching, feeling, knowing stages.

It is my pathway into understanding, learning, growing, evolving. It is as much a part of me as my heart, limbs, skin, bones.

Which is why I art journal.

Art Journalling is my pathway to embracing all of life… its sometimes inexplicable, ineffable and incomprehensible moments as well as its exquisitely moving, breathtaking ones.

It brings me home to my heart. It reminds me to let go of judging and move with grace into acceptance, gratitude and trust.

Art Journalling soothes me, excites me, awakens me to the wonder and awe that is everywhere, in all things, in all ways of being present with, in and of life.

And… it reminds me to stop looking for ‘the path’ and let the path appear as I create.

Another gift of art journalling is its awakening of the muse within me because, while I often speak of her as being ‘out there’ she is actually ‘in here’. Within me, all around me, everywhere. Through art journalling, I connect with her flow and find myself unravelling the knots that get tied up in my thinking I know the way, I have the answers, I get it.

Art journalling reminds me, there is no need to ‘get it’. The gifts are in letting go of ‘getting’ to fall effortlessly into BEING. Of it. With it. Within it. All.

That’s why I art journal. It keeps me grounded in my heart and whole body and out of my thinking mind. It fills me with hope — that there is a way through everything even when I think all hope is lost. It brings me great peace full of the possibility in all things, all people, all life. And, it brings me into deep, abiding connection within the exquisite, ethereal and mystical nature of the world around and within me.

If you’re interested/curious about art journalling, I have a few short posts on my website on How to Begin. I’m working on updating them with videos but for now… they are a good place to get acquainted with, not just the ideas and concepts — and lack of rules — of art journalling, but also your own creative core. Because… the lack of rules is what intrigues me and excites me most about art journalling. It’s always, always an expression of YOU! And what could be better than that?

I hope you pop over and check them out — and let me know what you think. Please. I’d love to hear your thoughts and feelings and ideas.

Much gratitude.

Click HERE to access The Art of Journalling