When I learned I was pregnant with my first daughter, I was told I had to go to bed for the first three months.
Oh no! Whatever will you do? friends asked. This is awful.
I had to make a choice. Think of this enforced bed rest as awful, or choose to see it as a gift of life.
I chose gift of life.
Every day, I wrote in my journal about what a gift it was to have such splendid solitude alone, getting to know and love on “Baby Balthazar”, as we called her in utero. I filled each moment with loving thoughts of my unborn child so that she would know deep within her soul how wanted, loved and special she was.
These exceptional days of Covid are also such a ‘splended solitude’, if you choose to see it as such. You can use words that speak of your frustration and angst. Or words that speak of possibility, gratitude, hope.
The frustration and angst may still be there, but they wane in the light of words that illuminate your path with joy and love.
My eldest daughter turns 34 in June. She is expecting my second grandchild, a daughter.
No matter the circumstances of Covid, the words I use to describe her imminent birth are filled with all the love and hope I hold for her arrival and her life.
I wouldn’t want her to know anything else.
Life can be hard. To handle the hard times, she will need to believe in magic, wonder, awe, so that she will have the words entwined deep within her psyche that draw out her courage and love so that she can see and speak of the beauty in her life, no matter the times.
Choose your words wisely. Make them lift you up. Fill you up. Enlighten you. With joy. Laughter. Gratitude. Abundance. Possibility.
Make your words be the expression of all the wonder, awe and beauty you see in the world around you.
Let your words shine bright so that the darkness has no hope of dampening your light and holding your spirit down.
In the wild places of my heart, weeds are welcome. My heart only knows their beauty. Only sees their fierce devotion to life.
The wild places of my heart do not have time to judge or condemn or complain or segregate weeds from the things others call flowers.
The wild places run free in fields of flowers by every name blowing in the wind, growing up towards the sun, nodding their beautiful heads at one another as the wild places of my heart leap and cavort amongst their tapestry of rainbow colours.
In the wild places of my heart I live in the joy of the wild beauty of life teeming with possibility, wonder, awe.
In the wild places, I do not fear unseen viruses. I do not condemn those who see the world differently than me. I do not judge those who live differently, who abide by rules other than mine. Who see the world through different coloured glasses.
In the wild places, I do not judge. I bathe in crystal clear waterfalls of grace. Compassion. Tolerance. Acceptance. I reach up into the eaters pouring down and touch the fierce beauty of life in all its powerful nature.
In the wild places, there is only the sound of gentle hearts beating as one and soft words spoken on the winds of time whispering its stories to the leaves. Wonderful stories that stir hearts and ignite imaginations. Stories of the beauty its witnessed and the wild things its planted on its journey around the world.
I want to live in the wild places.
I want to plant beautiful things that sprout up to create fields of wildflowers captivating hearts and minds and souls.
I want to dance with abandon amidst the stories of the wind, to leap with joy in the rivers running clear and free and breathe deeply of the fresh, clean air that fills me up with gratitude and life.
I want to live in the wild places and plant wild things of beauty wherever I go.
What about you?
Care to join me?
About the painting: Yesterday, Sonia, a lovely artist from Wales whom I met last summer, shared a page from her art journal on her Instagram page. (See her beautiful work on Instagram – HERE or on her website HERE)
Her work inspired me and this painting appeared.
When I began, I did not know it would be about planting wild things of beauty. The words came after.
I think they were always there, the words, pushing me on, stirring my imagination, calling out to be released.
Yesterday, I complete the sixth 2-page spread in my “Sheltered Wonder” art journal.
I am loving the experience. Savouring each moment I spend immersed in the creative flow expressing itself through the exploration of the question: “What are the gifts and learnings that have come through this sequestered solitude.”
It may be an enforced, not asked for nor even welcomed isolation. It holds many gifts and every spread I create for the journal is revealing how many gifts I’ve received and how much I am learning during this exceptional state of affairs.
The process of creating a journal page is very much a reflection of life. My life in this case. It begins with a meditation of some sort – either to music or in silence. As I enter my meditation, I often carry with me a question. Something like: “Where am I right now?” “What’s yearning to be expressed?” “What colour are my emotions today?”
Sometimes, I ask, “What’s in my bucket I need to empty out?”
I have long known that I carried what I call a ‘shame bucket’. I picked up as a child and learned to self-soothe in the presence of that bucket. At a young age, the child in me learned to believe she was not worthy. That bucket held the secrets of her unworthiness, so she held onto it believing she’d be lost without it.
If I am not paying attention to the now, that bucket can sometimes haunt the adult me with its need to be filled through acts that undermine my integrity, my values, my sense of self-worth. When I catch myself ignoring doing things I need to do to create harmony in my life, I know I’m in deep doo-doo, totally out of balance, off-kilter. In those times of distress, I have to turn and ask the child to let go of the bucket so I can hold her lovingly in my arms. We both know that the road to her garden of joy, where she feels safe witin me, is through my art. I know. I know. very esoteric — and very, very healing, no matter my physical age.
The universe is filled with mystical insights, wonder, awe and miracles.
Yesterday, after a Zoom call lead by Mary, Joe and Greg Davis, the key facilitators of Choices Seminars, the personal development course I have been part of for the past 14 years, I approached my studio with my question in hand – “What wonder is yearning to be expressed?”
My meditation was filled with a golden lightness of being. With sparkling waters and light as air fairy dancers joyfully cavorting on the water’s surface.
And then, just as I was beginning to come back into the moment, I saw her. A little girl with golden hair standing at the corner of a field of wild flowers. In one hand she held a balloon. It trailed behind her, bobbing and weaving as she walked, brushing the wildflowers with her fingers. Ahead of her, the field of colour turned into a forest.
Will she enter?
I began painting from that place of curiosity. Will she or won’t she?
My art journal pages are many layered. They weave and morph into many things until finding the essence of their story exposed on the page. It could be a word, a quote, a face… The possibilities are limitless and can take many layers to be called forth.
As I look at her with morning fresh eyes, the words that appeared and especially her balloon, I awaken to the essence of her story.
The bucket is gone. Vanished, or perhaps banished. It is replaced by a beautiful translucent balloon. Balloons speak of magic and mystery to me. And while, in the ‘real’ world I do not use them as they are environmentally harmful, in the field of wonder that is my imagination, balloons have great meaning.
It’s hard to get rid of a bad habit, but, if you focus on replacing it with something healthier, more life-giving, the habit becomes a welcome friend.
Yesterday, on the Zoom call, Joe Davis of Choices said, “Habits rule our lives.” And then he went on to describe how our brains are attuned to ‘chunking’, especially around activities that are rote or repetitive. (For more on ‘chunking’ – click HERE.)
Some of my thinking brain’s chunking has enriched and informed my life. Some… well let’s just say, it’s resulted in some not so healthy habits.
And so I wonder and walk and paint my dreams in all the colours of the rainbow… If the little girl can replace her bucket with the beautiful, light-hearted whimsy of a balloon… what else is possible?
I am sitting outside on the deck. Early morning. The air is cool and crisp. I am wrapped up in a blanket. A shawl around my shoulders.
I feel the slight coolness of the air against the skin of my face, my fingers.
Morning sounds greet me. Two geese honking as they fly over. A chickadee chirping. The hiss of the river flowing.
I am feeling content. Satisfied. Peaceful.
I take a sip of my latte, the liquid warm as it crosses my lips, enters my mouth and flows down my throat.
A car crosses the bridge moving from west to east. Its tires hiss on the road’s surface and then it is gone.
Overhead, the sound of a jet plane breaks the quiet of the morning. In this time of Covid, the skies have been so quiet for so long now, it sounds out of place, unusual.
And then it too is gone.
Morning stillness returns.
There is no music playing softly in the background this morning. Only the poetry of nature filling the morning with its songs.
Poetry is everywhere. From the sounds of the river flowing, geese flying overhead, cars travelling across the bridge.
Poetry is everywhere.
“Go sit outside and savour the poetry of the morning,” the wisdom of my heart whispered when I first sat down at my desk to write.
The critter was having none of my heart’s desire. With a plumped up sense of importance, it jumped into the fray. “Don’t be ridiculous,” it hissed. “It’s cold out there.”
At first, I let the critter’s voice dictate my actions. He’s right, I thought. It is still a bit too chilly out there.
My heart is wise. It knows best what I need.
“It’s only ridiculous if you decide it’s ridiculous,” my heart murmured gently. “There is poetry in the morning air. Go and savour its song. Go immerse yourself in its beauty.”
The critter is not one to give up easily. “You’ll catch a cold,” it stated emphatically.
“Now that’s ridiculous,” I replied.
And I came outside.
I am sitting on the deck in the cool morning air wrapped up in a blanket. My laptop is propped up in front of me. My fingers move across the keyboard. The still cool air of morning caresses my skin.
I am surrounded by the poetry of morning.
It floats through the air, every sound plumping up each molecule into round full orbs of delight that tickle and tease my senses with their delicious, poetic nature.
The morning air sounds like it feels. Graceful, effortless, like the ducks bobbing along the river’s surface as they pass by in front of me.
I close my eyes and welcome in the poetry of morning. It sweeps through my body, cascading in wave after wave washing over me with its melodic, hypnotic invitation to get present within this moment right now.
I feel myself sinking deeply into the moment. Becoming one with all that is my world right here where I sit wrapped up in a blanket on the deck in the cool morning air.
I breathe in and out. In and out and open my eyes. The world is brighter. Lighter.
I watch a squirrel performing an arabesque in the trees. It turns its body upside down as it clings to a branch before letting go and leaping fearlessly through space, twisting itself right-side up, midair, to grab hold of the next branch. The leaves rustle melodiously as it moves through the forest canopy bursting into fullness with each passing moment.
I hear the song of more birds chirping. A single plaintiff whistle. A magpie squawking.
The poetry of morning surrounds me.
Gratitude fills my body with its song of joy. My heart breaks open with the beauty of this day awakening.
Morning has broken. Day has begun. My heart is full of the poetry of life.
Worry and being present cannot inhabit the same space. Worry is about future events. It focuses on obsessive thoughts of events that may or may not happen. Being present is exactly that – you are here in the now, free of worry, experiencing this moment.
Worry feeds your head brain with the illusion only it will keep you safe from the worst of what you think might happen.
The heart knows best how to stay present in the moment. The body becomes embodied in the present when your heart beats freely without fear clouding your senses and muddying up your peace of mind.
Listen to your heart. Let it run wild. Let it leap over obstacles. Dive deep into unknown waters. Soar high into cloudy skies and limitless blue possibilities.
When you heart runs wild worry falls away, fear subsides and life flows freely.
Let your heart run wild.
Since Covid became a ‘real’ thing in our world, my beloved and I have practiced self-isolation. Always there has been a niggling worry at the back of my mind about what if…?
What if he gets infected? What if he doesn’t survive? What if…
I tell myself, that’s just worry Louise about future events over which you have no control. Breathe and be in the moment. Breathe into your heart, let it run wild with delight in this moment where you are both well and healthy and savouring this secluded time together. Let worry go.
Worry responds, “Go ahead. Try. But you’re gonna fail. I’m stronger than your heart. Remember. I live in your brain. I know everything.”
“Oh no you don’t,” the wisdom that breathes deeply within my belly responds, coursing with energy up through my body, into the far extremities of my arms, my hands, my fingertips that feel the air moving all around me. With effortless grace, the energy flows down into my legs, my ankles, my feet, connecting and grounding me to the earth.
“The heart sends more messages to you every moment of every day than you send to it, my belly informs my brain. “You think your way through life. The heart feels its way into and through every moment. It flows with life-giving blood that nourishes my organs, my cells, my skin. It breathes life into the essence of my being alive.”
My heart knows life, intimately.
My brain only knows what it thinks life is. It cannot feel it. Experience it. Taste it. It takes the whole body – head included — nourished by the heart’s blood-pounding ways, to do that.
The heart feels everything. The body joins it in communion with all of nature. The brain says, “Let me think about that.”
The heart and body respond, “Come, run wild with us through life’s forests. Come, swim with us in its seas of plenty. Let your thoughts rest within the delight of this moment right now. Let worry go.”
I breathe and heed the call of the wild.
My worry serves no purpose than to pull me away from the exquisite nature of this moment right now.
“The purpose of self-isolation is to stem the worry, Louise,” my heart whispers lovingly. “It’s the right thing to do for both of you. It isn’t about divining the future, it’s about building safe, courageous space to live confidently in this moment right now knowing, deep within all your being, that in this moment right now, you are alive within the precious, holy, sacred gift of life.”
In these exceptional times, as in all times, every breath counts. Every breath is precious. Anything that disrupts the flow has the potential to ignite my worry – if I let it.
Breathing deeply into the beauty of this moment, I let my worry drift away upon the river of life that sustains me.
The sun is bright this morning. The sky pastel blue on the horizon slipping effortlessly into deeper hues high above.
Buds unfurl on the trees and bushes that line the riverbank, like a priestess dancing in a temple, gracefully removing her veils, one by one. The buds unfurl a little bit more, growing bigger and fuller, day by day. The world turns greener as nature reveals itself in all its finery, its dance an erotic unveiling of joy and life.
Joy. Happiness. Gratitude fill my heart. I feel myself come alive within the sights, smells and breath of nature’s mystical dance of wonder.
Yesterday, I dove into creation, unveiling the mysteries of the muse as I painted and sketched and meditated on Sheltered Wonder.
In the inside cover page, a doorway appears. A portal to the unknown, the new, the mystical, the magic of life. Around it, the words are written: Enter here all who wonder. Dream. Dare.
There are Wonder Rules to guide me:
I do not know from whence the Rules appeared. The muse has her ways.
At first I thought, What? Rules in Sheltered Wonder? How can that be? Where’s the freedom in rules?
I invited my mind to stay open, to let my curiosity guide me. What do the rules represent?
Nature has a natural order. Its innate rules create a safe container for all sentient and non-sentient beings to thrive and grow, evolve and transform.
We need rules to create the safe container for each of us to express ourselves courageously, freely, uniquely. The underlying rule, especially in the time of Covid: To be good for me it must be good for all.
If my going outside the safe enclosure of our home risks my health and well-being, then I am risking the health and well-being of my beloved. And possibly, others too.
I see the beauty in self-isolation to find myself embraced by grace. It keeps me safe. Us healthy. It gives me the freedom to express myself fearlessly without fearing for the well-being of others.
I began the exploration of Sheltered Wonder yesterday. Guided by five natural rules of order, I am free to express myself in ways I cannot imagine until I dive deep into its wonder. There, cloaked in nothing but my imagination running wild in the garden of creativity, I am free to dream and create boldly. Listening deeply to my heart’s calling, I find myself soaring high above my fear of falling.
Freed from my fear, I dance joyfully in the temple of creativity, expressing the beauty I discover with the lifting of each veil obscuring my creative nature.
As children, I remember my sister and I spending hours playing “Make Believe”. We reenacted our favourite movie, The Parent Trap, again and again. We made up stories which we then acted out, complete with costumes and props.
What we created felt so real to us.
And then, somewhere on that journey from childhood to adulthood, make believe was no longer appropriate. We were told to grow up.
I used to wonder why does ‘growing up’ have to include letting go of our capacity to play and create and imagine a world of magic and wonder?
It’s one of the things I loved about having children and now a grandson. I can play make-believe and no one tells me I need to grow up. When my grandson and I visit on FaceTime, he inevitably will ask me to show him the glittery butterfly I didn’t put away with the Christmas decorations. I fly the butterfly around the room and sing made-up songs as he watches, eyes wide.
In those moments, my heart knows complete, absolute, precious joy.
Yesterday, I began working on an art project I’ve been ‘creating in my mind’ for the past several days. The mind part isn’t so much about what it will look like, but rather, the meaning/purpose of the project.
The cover, pictured above’ is made from an empty Wheat Thins box just like the one pictured. Who knew that an empty cardboard box could be transformed into an art journal cover? My child’s mind did. My creative core did. As did my heart.
All it took was paint, time and a willingness to let go of my need to make something ‘perfect’. To choose instead to delve into the mystical nature of the creative process, allowing its urges to guide me.
In “Man’s Search for Meaning” Viktor Frankl’s brilliant opus on what he learned from his time in a concentration camp he writes:
When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
This experience of sheltering in place, of watching death counts mount, of fearing for my beloved’s well-being, of limiting our social interactions is my stimulus. What I write here, how I choose to fill my time, how I choose to feed my mind and imagination, are my responses.
Sheltered Wonders, as I’m calling this art journal, is how I am choosing to capture my reflections of these days and weeks of self-isolation.
I could choose to call it, The Covid Disaster, or something like that, but that would mean the journal would be about the virus. It’s not. It’s about the amazing gifts I’ve found during this time of sheltering in place. As my beloved and I have narrowed our world to quiet times at home, walks with Beaumont the Sheepadoodle and time spent together, our pace has slowed and our relationship deepened. Sure, my waist may be a little thicker and my hair somewhat scraggly but the gifts of time to breathe easily, to wonder and create in the kitchen, the studio and on the page have been immensely rewarding.
Covid is a global stimulus none of us can escape.
How we respond now and in the days to come, as stay-at-home edicts are relaxed and the world begins to ‘awaken’, will determine our growth and our freedoms.
We can choose to keep the gifts of family connection, of time to slow down and find a healthier more liveable pace, of time spent baking, creating, sharing with those we love, the gifts that we’ve remembered, like childhood playtime, in this time sheltering in space.
Or we can choose to scramble back onto the hardtack reality of filling our time with the busyness of the past – a busyness that for many felt constricting and overwhelming.
How will you respond?
A note about Sheltered Wonder – It is based on themes for each page — things I feel are germane to my experiences during this time of self-isolation. Belonging. Companionship. Community. Peace. Pace. Purpose. Creativity.
I’d love to hear what you think are important themes. Please do share – like Nance whose comment on my blog yesterday inspired this post today, you may inspire a page or two in my Sheltered Wonder journal!