by Louise Gallagher
The world is on the move
Where’s my ticket?
beneath glass ceilings
upon bustling crowds
around touch screen kiosks
and boarding passes
people on the move
to distant ports
in the hope
it will arrive
at the end of the journey
in the same shape it began.
to the other side
busier than its been
through an invisible microbe’s
the world limit
where we go
and who we see.
The world is on the move
to the hope
that when they reach their destination
they will be home
of an invisible travelling companion.
Sometimes, when she thought no one was looking, she would sprinkle fairy dust on the flowers in her garden and watch the colours flow, wild and free, cascading like a stream pouring over a waterfall, onto the ground, turning the world into all the colours of the rainbow.
Delighted by her creation, she'd splash with joyful abandon amidst the running colours until exhausted, she fell into a pool of cherry red and periwinkle blue and sunshine yellow and viridian green swirling all around her. Content to be amongst the living colours dancing in harmony, she'd fall asleep and drift into dreamland.
It was there, floating upon a cloud of shimmering violet, she dreamt of flying high in the sky, sprinkling fairy dust all over the world. And as the colours ran free, pouring their beauty into the hearts and minds of everyone, notes of harmony and joy rang out amongst the hills and valleys, from mountain tops and deep from beneath the ocean beds. And all around the world, the animals danced and the people leapt for joy, and the trees swayed in the beauty, harmony and peace of the world around them.
Satisfied with her creation, she fell deeper and deeper into sleep, wishing and hoping she never had to wake up to a world without colours running free and mountains singing for joy and harmony ringing out in all the voices of humankind.
And so it was. And so it is. And so she sleeps on and on and on.
I have started a new morning practice. I read it on a thread in an art website to which I belong and felt so inspired by the idea, I immediately jumped in.
The process is simple — Close your eyes. Pick a book from your collection. Open your eyes. Open the book to Page 40. Go to Line 8 — read it — now let whatever is on Line 8 be your writing prompt. Set your timer for 6 minutes and begin to write.
The book that picked me this morning (my first morning of entering into this morning practice) was, CREATRIX: She Who Makes by Lucy H. Pearce.
Line 8 on Page 40 reads: “Because, while my own creativity scared me, I knew subconsciously that I still had to be around the magic somehow.”
I set my timer for 6 minutes and began to write.
…There was a time when my creativity scared me, when I let what others think (or at least what I thought others were thinking) dictate how I expressed my creativity. Not that I expressed it much. Mostly I tried to hide it, shield it from outside eyes, keep it buried within me. For some reason, being ‘creative’, or acknowledging that I was creative felt foolish, uncomfortable. I was embarrassed by my own nature. It was as if the very word, ‘creative’ was a dirty word, never to be spoken out loud...
Released by my 6 minute writing flow, the ‘story’ above appeared and flowed out of my fingertips as I began to write this post.
I wasn’t thinking them.
I wasn’t wishing them into being.
They simply flowed.
I hope you try it — pick a book, any book and turn to a page (I like the symmetry of page 40 but you can use any number – your age, house number, day of the week…) go to a specific line number – and use that as a prompt.
Important caveat — have your number scheme organized before you begin. It helps stave off confusion, worry and the possibility of changing your mind to find ‘something better’ to use as your prompt. Part of the magic and beauty of the prompt is its randomness and its consistency.
I hope you do give it a go and let me know how it worked/works for you!
Oh… and do remember to stay out of self-judgement and criticism. Magic only works when we let go of telling ourselves it’s just not possible, or no good or… all that jazz.
I am off this morning to pack up my art from the art show, where because of COVID capacity numbers, no artists were in attendance, just their art. It was strange to receive texts and messages throughout the weekend asking, “Are you here? We are? Where are you?”
Back at home, I worked in my studio. Not creating art. Creating the space, or rather ‘re-imagining’ it.
Two years ago, when my daughter and her partner bought a bungalow and began to renovate it, I became the owner of two solid wood closet doors.
Last year, when we gave a leather couch to a friend for his lodge, one of the doors was used as a solid surface for transport. The lodge is closed in the winter so the door stayed tucked away in storage until our friend went to open up the lodge this past week.
Last week, when I got the door back, I decided it was time to do what I had always intended to do with the doors, transform them into tables for my studio. I’d been using two of those long plastic tables with the fold out metal legs — they worked well, but added no esthetic value to my studio.
It was time for beauty to supersede function.
Over the weekend, I attached the legs I’d bought and re-organized. I also hung the beauty art quilt tapestry that my friend Jane gave me. Bonus.
I LOVE it all. The process of re-imagining. The attaching the legs to the closet doors. The cleaning and organizing. The hanging my tapestry. The feeling of calm that my studio embodies.
This morning, as Beau and I went for our early morning walk, I was thinking about the process of getting ready for the art show and how the ‘knowing’ I had to create for it had sat at the back of my mind every single day for months. No matter what I was doing, there was always the thought “I need to be doing’ simmering away on a back burner.
This morning, that though was gone. Poof! Vanished.
I won’t know until later how I did at the show, though I know a couple of pieces sold, which is lovely.
What I do know is that not being there was strange. Kind of otherworldly almost.
And I know it’s just a case of it being ‘different’ than how I’ve done shows before. Not bad. Not good. Different.
In that ‘different’ is the opportunity to assess what I want.
Like the door that became a table when it returned, when my unsold art comes home, I can decide what next.
Do I re-imagine my online store? Do I hold an art show of my own? Do I….
Lots of options. Lots of opportunity.
All mine to explore.
And, like the sparrows who are transforming the robin’s now empty nest outside my studio doors into a nest of their own, I get to re-imagine what was into something new and wonderful and inspiring just for me… What a lovely opportunity. What a wonderful day!
Every time I sit at my studio table, stare at a blank canvas or page in an art journal, I feel the dark, dank tendrils of fear slithering up my spine. They scurry throughout the dendrites of my brain, plump with their insidiously sour whisperings about why I must stop. Now. Before I prove my worst fear true: I am inadequateto the task.
And every time I put paint brush to canvas or word to print or complete any task I set out to do fearing I can’t, I beat back fear.
Painting has taught me, I must feel the fear. See. it. Acknowledge it even. And then, I must transform it through taking action.
It doesn’t matter if the action leads to a ‘masterpiece’. What matters is, I stepped into the fray, faced my fears and forged on.
Creativity is the art of facing fear down with action. Action that takes you into the very territory fear is trying to keep you out of. Your fear of facing your magnificence, your beautiful self expression of your soul’s calling to be witness to all of life. Your fear of moving beyond your comfort zone. Of facing your fears, and the world. Your way. Wild and Free.
Perhaps, that’s what makes one person dive into their creativity while another will insist they don’t have any – the willingness to face fear again and again and again and still keep going.
Perhaps, it is our definition of ‘creativity’ that needs to expand so that we can all see how inherently creative it is to be human.
I have a friend who constantly says she is not creative, even though she is a marvelous cook, seamstress, friend. One of the things she does that always strikes me as an expression of her creative nature is to make beautiful meals for friends in moments of distress. She artfully packages each meal up with flowers and a beautifully penned note of support and delivers them to her friends in need. Yet, when I point out this is another viewpoint of creative expression, she brushes off my assertions with a, “That’s not very creative. It’s just what friends do.”
“Don’t you worry about intruding on their grief or pain?” I ask. (I have a fear of intruding when people are in moments of distress.)
“Sometimes,” she replies. “But I also know how much comfort someone feels when a friend turns up at their door with a gift of food and flowers when the last thing they can think about is what to make for dinner. So I do it anyway.”
See. Facing fear with action to create beauty, comfort, and ease in the world around you.
Yesterday, a friend picked up one of my paintings he’d purchased. One of his comments touched me deeply. “I love your art,” he said. “It’s so peaceful.” (Thank you BC)
I have never thought of my work as ‘peaceful’. Yet, when he said it, I felt the peace that consumes me when I face my fear of the blank canvas and lay down swathes of color and texture. Perhaps, that is what my friend sees and feels – the peace and joy within me, expressing itself outward onto the canvas.
The great Russian abstract painter, Vassily Kandinsky said, “Color is a power which directly influences the soul.”
I paint with color. It is an expression of my soul. It soothes my mind, my body, my being present.
It calms my fears and, even though I hadn’t realized it before, it stirs my courage awake. Awakened, I beat back fear. Not with angry words and protestations against its presence. But with the most loving, kind thing I can do for myself. Get creating.
And while I often don’t know where I’m going with a painting until I get there, the fastest route to get beyond my fear to find out where I’m going, is to let the colors lead my body into self-expression.
So thank you BC. Not just for your friendship and support of my work, but for your words. They touched me deeply and bring me great joy. And have given me a window into my own self-expression I hadn’t opened before. Much gratitude.
I awoke with the first stanza of this poem drifting through my mind.
When I wrote it down, the second stanza wrote itself out as if it knew its truth long before I heard the words calling.
When I went in search of an image to include with it, the image above was the first image I opened on my computer. It is from the Sheltered Wonder art journal Icreated last year to mark all I’d learned, experienced and grown through during the initial months of our sequestered solitude.
The body knows even when the mind doubts.
Yesterday, in response to a comment by the lovely and thoughtful Kiki, I told her I wished I’d taken a video of the raw journal. And then… while I was looking for something else, I accidentally uncovered the 19 sec video I’d taken of my Learning to Fly art journal before I started to create the images and quotes.
The body knows even when the mind doubts (or as in this case, forgets).
Like going from autumn to winter. Here in Alberta it can happen in less than a day, just as spring can pop out and then be burdened again with snow. Some days, like this morning when Beaumont the Sheepadoodle and I went for our walk, I’m not prepared for the sudden leap backwards from 22C (72F) yesterday to 3C (37F) this morning – my hands were really cold!
Another transition I find challenging is moving from working in my art journal to a canvas. My mind starts chattering about how ‘There are rules when painting on a canvas.” “A canvas can’t be wasted.” “Make it good.” “Don’t mess up.” “This isn’t as much fun…’
Which is what happened when I went back to working on a painting I’d begun a couple of weeks ago in preparation for an art show I’m in next month.
I had an idea of what it ‘should’ be. Big pops of colourful flowers on the background of smaller flowers I’d already painted.
I worked hard to make my vision come into reality.
But it just wasn’t happening. I felt stiff. Confined. Like it was all just turning to muck and mud.
I took a breath. Stepped back. Made myself a cup of tea and contemplated what was going on.
It wasn’t that the painting was awful. It was that my mindset was full of ‘stinkin thinkin’.
I was getting caught up in my expectations of how it should be, versus allowing whatever was seeking to appear to find its way into expression.
I wasn’t letting it be. I was trying to make it become…
And that’s why I was feeling so frustrated and uncomfortable. That’s why the critter was prattling on about how I couldn’t paint. How I wasn’t good enough. How my art sucked.
To find my inner knowing/intuitive self, I had to shut off my thinking mind and get into my ‘belly brain’. I needed to allow myself to sink deep into my body so that I could be present with the process instead of trying to force it into what I was trying to make it become.
It was a great lesson.
Getting stuck in your head. Dousing yourself in self-judgement. Self-criticism. Self-harshness and a desire to control the outcome all play a role in limiting joy, self-expression, creativity and passion.
To live life fully I must release myself from expectations. I must let go of the outcome to fall deeply into the process of being alive in this moment. Right now. Unfolding in all its ineffable mystery.
When I hold on too tightly to the outcome, I lose sight of where I am, what I’m doing, how I’m being in this moment right now.
I’m pretty sure spring leaves don’t tell the tree, I’ll only leaf out if I can be 3 inches long, two inches wide and a certain green hue. And they definitely don’t say, “Oh. And I’ll only unfurl if you promise to not make me turn orange and fall later in the season.” They leaf out fully immersed in the journey of leafing out.
To be fully immersed in my life, I must release my need to control the journey and throw myself with wild abandon into each moment unfurling in the deep unfathomable mystery of life.
I have been MIA from social media for a few days. Though, for me, ‘MIA isn’t – missing in action’. It refers to ‘Mesmerized in Art-making’.
I have been creating and, when I get so immersed I lose sight of the world around me, of all that is happening as I dive deep into creative exploration.
Yesterday, I completed the final pages of the Learning to Fly art journal I’ve been working on for the past few weeks.
This morning, I’ve come up for air, but not for long, I’ve an art show to get ready for in June and another project I’ve started to work on that has a deadline I can’t miss and a host of small tasks to complete.
Life is full and wonderful!
About this artwork:
As I sat down to work on this page, I wrote out a little story that had popped into my mind and was calling to be released. It guided the page’s creation.
“Standing at the river’s edge she cast her dreams out into its rushing waters. And the river caught her dreams and carried them out to a distant sea where mermaids sang and dolphins leaped and stars were born in the skies above.
As she stood watching her dreams float away, she heard the mermaids’ sweet song and built a boat of wishes strung together with her hopes untied from her fears. Holding onto nothing but her desire to catch her dreams, she set sail to find the distant sea she’d always dreamt of.
And then, one day, while she was sailing to the murmur of the mermaids chanting, surrounded by leaping dolphins and falling stars cascading into the waters all around, she heard the calling of her wings unfolding.
Joyfully, she cast aside all her doubts and leapt into the unknown, light as air, radiant as a moonbeam.
And in that moment, she flew high and fell in love with her dreams soaring all around as life unfolded in the mystery and magic of her dreams coming true.
“What a most glorious adventure,” she called out to the sun and the moon and the stars and the sea. And the mermaids sang and the dolphins danced and stars shimmered in the depths above and below her.
And so… the story begins…
The story was freefall writing that simply appeared on the page, the consonants and vowels pouring out the tip of my pencil.
I felt immersed in the magic and mystery of dancing with the muse, untethered from the need to ‘get it right’, perfect, ‘just so’.
What a gift of nature!
The photos below are the final spreads from the journal –
The affirmation, confirmation and support I received filled my heart with gratitude and joy. I felt alive.
Which got me wondering… Do I take enough risks?
Oh, not the jump out of an airplane or ski down virgin terrain on a steep backcountry mountain kind of risk but the emotional, spiritual, deeply personal risk of vulnerability.
Sadly, I think the answer may be… not often enough.
Which is why I write here.
To teach myself to live life wide open. My heart unlocked. My psyche unsheathed. My entire being unarmoured-up.
To stretch my vulnerability muscles, to expand my willingness to be real, authentic, known. To increase my capacity to live outside my comfort zone – I must choose vulnerability.
‘Cause in many instances, that’s what living ‘sheltered’ behind our protective walls and habitual nature of hiding our ‘true nature’ is – A fear response to dangers unknown about which we are constantly negative fortune-telling in order to protect ourselves from hurts we experienced in the past and fear will happen again.
It is such a convoluted story we tell ourselves about what could happen. And because we don’t want it to happen, we tell ourselves we have to armour-up when in reality, disposing of our armour and allowing ourselves to be wholly present and vulnerable is what keeps us safe.
I remember when, after being released from a relationship that was killing me, I received a call one morning telling me that the man who wanted me gone had escaped from jail. “We don’t know where he is,” the detective told me on the phone, “but we figure he’s probably going to try to find you.”
In one instant all my hard won peace of mind evaporated and I was catapulted into a raging storm of fear engulfing every cell of my being. I remember taking Ellie, my Golden Retriever who had gone through much of that journey with me and been my ballast and comfort for so much of it, for a walk in the forest where we had walked every day since his arrest.
Suddenly, every rustle of leaf, every crack of twig, every shadow was ‘him’ waiting to leap out of the bushes and drag me back into the past.
I remember standing amidst the towering pines and crying, trying to force myself to keep walking further along the path. I couldn’t do it. I turned and ran back to my apartment, slamming the door shut and lying on my bed sobbing.
And then… it struck me.
He had absolutely no idea where I was and had no way of finding out. We had had zero contact since his arrest months before.
While he was a danger, he was not a real and present danger. It was my thoughts playing havoc with reality.
I had a choice. Live behind locked doors or go out into the sunshine. I unlocked the door and Ellie and I went for our walk.
Sure, there were niggles of fear wafting around me but I chose to risk facing them rather than armour-up against them.
It has been a constant learning in my life. To un-armour myself when my mind is screaming at me to raise the drawbridge, man the ramparts and take cover.
And the only way I know to do that is to face what I fear and risk — being vulnerable, real, authentic — and… to love myself, all of me, warts and wisdom, darkness and light, beauty and the beast.
And so… I write it out.
What about you? Are you willing to take a risk today?
The painting I’ve used to illustrate this poem is from my She Persisted Series. When I wrote this poem yesterday, I considered going into the studio and creating a painting to go with the words (but after six hours of cleaning the garage, I was too tired! – Not sure why I thought it would only take a couple of hours but hey! I’m always the optimist.). I still may do that but this painting, which is No. 37 in the series, felt ‘right’.
I AM NOT BROKENby Louise Gallagher
I am not broken
though I do have cracks
I am not cracked
though I do have wounds
I am not wounded
though I do have scars
I am not scarred
though I do have cuts
I am not
I am not my cuts.
I am beautiful.
cuts that cut deep
of the places
that have shaped
I am not broken.
I am woman.
I am me.
I hadn’t intended to write two poems yesterday morning but… having spent much of my life learning to heed the muse’s urgings, I could not ignore her call to write this one out.
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