Do The Hard. You’re Worth It.

Well, that was fascinating!

There I was feeling frustrated and somewhat miffed, blaming the ‘Techie Witch’ for whisking away all my hard-fought-for edits only to discover… they weren’t missing!

It was user error. When I’d opened the file in my video editing software, I hadn’t condensed the video line enough to see all the components in one view.

Duh.

All I could do was throw my hands up into the air above my head and exclaim as Benjamin Zanders suggests in his wonderful TedTalk, The Transformative Power of Classical Music, “Aren’t I fascinating!”

And get back to editing.

Which is what I did.

Can I take a moment here to pat myself on the back? My friend Jane always tells me I need to acknowledge my accomplishments and not try to pass credit off to others. So… okay. Here I go… I did it and I’m really proud of myself.

I created a 17 minute video of creating one of the paintings for my #ShePersisted Series while filming myself in the act of creating.

I was scared.

I mean, it’s not like I start the process with a clear idea of where I’m going, what the end result will look like.

In fact, I purposefully don’t start that way as I prefer the whole creative process to be more organic, intuitive. An intimate dance with the muse where neither of us leads nor follows. We just flow in and out and all around and up and down ideas pouring out, paint spilling, mistakes becoming integral parts of the whole – where ever the process may lead us.

I do so love that space with the muse. It feels sacred. Honest. Real.

Though I was smiling in my final check-through of the video. I mention at least three times throughout the video how I find it hard to paint faces. And I do. The contours. Shadows. Nuances of painting a face are challenging — but it doesn’t mean I won’t do it.

In fact, just like creating this video was a challenge, painting faces is a challenge I continue to dive into so that I can expand my artistry and confidence.

There are many things in life we think of as ‘hard to do’. Hard to do is not an invitation to not do something. It’s an invitation to dive deeper into ‘the hard’ and find your rhythm, your stride, allowing your courage to open you up to new dimensions you never imagined.

I’m really proud of myself for creating this video. It was hard work. It was fun. It was rewarding.

And it expanded my video-creating abilities as well as my proficiency and confidence with the software and the medium. Big win/wins everywhere in all of that!

And here’s the other thing, last night when I finished, I asked C.C. if he’d watch it. He said yes, even after I told him it was 17 minutes long.

What was interesting was, inside me was this little voice hissing, “Don’t make him sit and watch it Louise. He’ll be so bored…”

I kept watching his face throughout his viewing and he never looked bored – though I did keep having to quiet the ‘don’t make him watch it’ voice.

And I wonder, where else in my life do I diminish my creations by underplaying how important it is to me that I share it with those who are important to me? Where else do I want to play small?

Great questions that make wonderful grist for the mill of deepening my knowing of what it means to live this one precious life with all the colours of the rainbow shimmering in the light of my presence.

And btw, when C.C. reached the end of the video he looked at me with eyes wide-open and said, “I am so proud of you. That is incredible.”

Insert happy heart dance. 🙂

The Story of Love

I lay in bed this morning, in that space between drifting and awake, my mind rootless, unfocussed.

Images floated through like the chunks of ice that keep floating past on the river’s surface, eventually drifting out of sight, disappearing into an unseen future, perhaps melting or getting stuck in an ice block somewhere upriver.

Like my thoughts. Drifting aimlessly until one comes into view and gets stuck in mental gymnastics.

“You can never begin at the beginning again.”

My mind jumped into alertness. “Of course you can,” it insisted.

The thought had other ideas. “Every beginning drifts into the ending becoming a new beginning. The beginning is gone, changed, morphed into something else. To begin at the beginning again, you must wind back all of time, all of what has transpired between the beginning and the moment you decide to begin again. And you cannot wind back time to make everything exactly as it was when you began. You have changed. The air around you has changed. Life has changed. That’s what life does.”

Seriously? Sometimes the thoughts in my mind are a bit too heady for my heart.

At that moment, Beaumont the Sheepadoodle decided he needed to go out and came and stuck his wet nose in my face.

I got up and left the heady thoughts on my pillow.

At least, that’s what I imagined I did.

Until I sat down at my computer and started to type and the thoughts from when I first began to awaken came hurtling back into my mind.

I can’t quite grasp them the way they appeared earlier. I tried. To go back to the beginning of the thought. But time, and awakening, going outside into the cold winter air while the sky was still dark and the air was filled with sounds of the river passing by changed the beginning, making it impossible to rewind my thinking back to the precise space where the thoughts began.

It’s a grey on grey kind of morning. Dark river flowing between white earth. Withered trunks of winter bare trees standing against a bleak tone-on-tone landscape, their leafless limbs extended up into a bleached sky. The delicate fronds of their outer limbs interlace with one another like the filigree of a necklace my mother gave me long ago. It was from India. A gold slipper of exquisitely interwoven strands of gold.

I no longer have that slipper. It was lost to a time when my world crashed into chaos I feared would never end.

The chaos ended but I could never go back to the beginning to unwind the devastation and pain of those years of terror and abuse. 

I could only go forward, gently weaving the many strands of that story into The Story of My Life – one where I live fearlessly and authentically in the beauty of my heart beating fiercely in Love with all of me, my life and everyone and everything in it.

Yesterday, I saw a meme on Instagram that asked, “What’s one thing from your past you wish you’d never done?”

My answer is, ‘Nothing.’

I can’t change the things I’ve done. Nor do I want to. Everything in my life has served its purpose of bringing me here, to this place. I am not powerful enouh to unwind time back to a given point where I can weave a different story of my life. This story. This one I live today was created through all the strands, all the darkness and light, the pain and joy, the hardship and ease I’ve experienced.

I love the story of my life today. It’s the only one I’ve got.  It is a story of Love.

And so, I do what I can do, must do, to keep Love flowing freely throughout my world and my being present, in this moment right now, connected through and in Love with all the world around and within me. I weave beauty out of what was and what is, letting Love be the warp and weave of all I create, all I do, all I am.

Namaste.

About the Zine - Created with one sheet of 9 x 12 mixed media paper, the backgrounds were monoprinted with acrylic paint. I used acrylic inks and gold pen along with gold foil to create the hearts. 
The story grew out of the paintings. 
The video was a 'just for fun' way to stretch my creative muscles.

When the blues get you down – Create your own sunshine

Spring Dreams – mixed media on 10″ x 10″ x 2″ birch board panel

As Covid restrictions stretch into February and vaccination timelines stretch even further out, I find myself drifting between feeling weary and resigned and wanting it all to just go away so I can ‘get on with life’.

Life is what happens to you while you‘re busy making other plans”.

That line, used by John Lennon in his 1980’s hit, Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy) originally appeared in 1957 in Reader’s Digest as a quote written by Allen Saunders.

It is true today as much as it was back then.

No one on this planet planned for a global panedmic to disrupt our daily lives for a year, and more. Okay. Well maybe some scientists and world health folk and disaster planners did. But for the majority of us, we planned on life as normal.

And then… this all happened and now, I’m planning on not planning as I wait….

In the waiting, there are moments when all I want to do is stay in the weary. To simply sink beneath the weight of this winter cold snap by curling up under a blanket and not coming out again until ‘it’s all over.’

Beaumont the Sheepadoodle. Daily necessities. Living with my beloved. Family and friends. They all play a role in helping me find grace in the wearies and hope in the possibilities of this moment right now leading to one day, soon…

And when none of that works, when I still struggle to lift my head off the pillow and greet the morning with a smile and a grateful, ‘Good Morning World!’ I know it’s time to ‘create my own sunshine.’

Now, I know that sounds trite. And I know there’s a space inside that wants to yell “No Way! It’s not that easy! And that won’t work anyway. Look at the world. It’s a mess and I’m just going to be a mess with it and nothing and no one can tell me otherwise and I know I should do something about this dark space but seriously this dark space is comforting and what can I do it’s all such a mess and I’m so confused and I have no idea what to do and I’m so tired of having to pick myself up again and again and I just want to keep falling down but I don’t know where the bottom is and what if I fall and can’t get up and what if I get up and just fall back down and what if the blues are the only place I’m safe and what if….”

The mind can be a busy place when the weight of this weary world settles in for a nice, long winter’s nap.

Except, there’s not much that’s nice nor ‘nap-like’ when the weight of the world is settled in.

Which is when I head to my studio, or my journal page or outdoors for a walk (yes. even in the frigid, seriously cold temps we’re experiencing right now).

Doing something that gets my blood flowing, my energy moving and my creative juices going is good for whatever ails me – including the blues. (and especially in those times when I tell myself it just won’t work or it’s too much bother!)

Yesterday, in that space where missing those I love felt like a clingy, wet blanket of doom, I knew I had to create my own sunshine within my heart so that ‘the missing’ didn’t become the reason why I didn’t have to do anything other than let my moodiness carry me to the sofa as I drifted through a day of mindless social media scanning and Netflix binging.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think the occasional day of doing little other than curling up on the sofa is a lovely antidote to these times in which we find ourselves.

I also know, that for me, one day can slip into two, then three and on and on until I believe doing the sofa curl-up under a dark blanket of gloom is the best thing for me.

Which is why yesterday, I challenged myself to doing something creative to create my own sunshine — like making a video to go with the Morning Dance Haiku I wrote earlier in the day. Creating and posting the poster for my Vision Board Workshop. Creating a new piece for the art show I’m in this June. Turning up on a Zoom call with my writing circle (that little voice inside was niggling at me to not turn up!). Taking an extra-long afternoon walk with Beaumont.

This morning, I feel lighter again. No. The pandemic hasn’t disappeared and the world hasn’t suddenly righted itself, but I feel the hope. I feel the light. I feel the possibilities.

And yes, I still miss seeing and being with the one’s I love. I still miss inviting people into our home and going for dinners in restaurants with friends.

But the missing isn’t a heavy cloud of gloom. It is a reality of what I need to do to create a safe space for my beloved and I and all those I love to weather this storm so that one day… soon… we can all gather around a table and not miss faces of those we love because the darkness that consumed them is eternal.

The question is: What will you do to create sunshine in your world today?

I hope you share. Let’s inspire each other and shine a big light for all the world to see in the dark!

Now’s The Time (#ShePersisted No. 64)

How many times have you heard yourself say, or someone else tell you, “It’s all in the timing and now is not the time.”

Or, “When it’s the right time, you’ll know.”

The question is, who determines the timing or whether it’s ‘the right time’ or not.

Fact is, if I want something to change and you don’t, you’ll find a way to tell me my timing is off. It’s a much easier let-down than, “No”.

Years ago, when I started an art studio in the homeless shelter where I worked, there was a man who every day sat in the large day area on the second floor of the shelter and painted.

As the only shelter open 24/7, it was a busy place. Full of people and noise, comings and goings that would sometimes erupt into loud arguments or angry slamming of fists against walls or people too.

The windows on the second floor were 20ft above the floor. They let in light but no view.

Everyday I would stop by the table where he sat and invite him to come up to the 6th floor studio space. It’s quieter there, I’d tell him. The view is fabulous (which it was. Floor to ceiling windows looking out over the river valley and the hillside beyond). And we’ve got coffee, I’d tell him and lots of space to spread out.

And everyday he would say, “Not today. It’s not time yet.”

One day, I asked him, “Have you picked a date yet?”

“A date for what?” he asked.

“To start coming to the studio,” I replied.

“Not yet,” he said.

“Then why not make today the day. Why not make time now?”

On that day he decided to do it.

He never looked back. And though he was still living in a homeless shelter, sleeping with 1,000 roommates every night, his creative expressions began to blossom and bloom and flourish. As did his sense of self, his pride, and his connections to others.

From selling his work in our various art shows, to painting, writing music and poetry and acting in plays and playing his music on stage as part of the various productions as a member of The Possibilities Project, he made time for creative expression. One year, he even went to New York to participate in an Off-Broadway production of Requiem for a Lost Girl that was germinated in that space by the amazing Onalea Gilbertson, His gifts are many. His contributions, significant. (He’s also the man who gave me the gift of music for two of my poems (The Gift).

I like to think it all began with making the decision to change where he sat.

As humans, we like to find reasons to resist change. We like status quo, even when it limits our freedom, our self-expression, our hearts.

Is there something in your life calling out to be changed, but you keep waiting for ‘the right time’ to make it happen?

Is there something you dream of creating that you are resisting expressing because you tell yourself the timing’s not quite right?

Decide now. Decide right where you’re sitting, right now… Now’s the time.

Now, take a step and then another. Make it happen.

____

None of us is forbidden to pursue our own good.

Meditations, Marcus Aurelius

____

Stop. Breathe. Listen.

This year has been heralded in with doing some things differently.

Like Beaumont the Sheepadoodle’s first saunter in the morning.

Up until the week between Christmas and New Year’s, my practice was to let him out the studio door on the lower level of our home to do his little wee and then, off to the park we’d go at 8:30 for our ‘big walk’ and his ‘big business.’

Determined to get my 10,000 steps in every day, I have changed it up. When I awaken, sometime between 6 and 7 am, (even there I’ve shifted as 7 used to be ‘sleeping in’ for me), the first thing I do is bundle up in my longest coat (I’m usually still in my pj’s), don a hat and gloves and winter boots, put Beau’s harness on him and with his extendable leash in hand, off we go for a saunter of at least 2,000 steps. It gives him time to do his big and small business, and it gives me a fresh awakening to the day (not to mention the first chunk of my daily 10,000 steps goal).

Sniffing everything on his path, walking with his ‘hooman’, checking out the geese along the river bank makes Beau’s heart sing.

Walking in the envelope of morning between dark and light awakens me to the beauty of the day and the world around me. The fresh crisp air on my face. The light shimmering on the river’s fast-moving surface. The crunch of snow beneath my feet – stir my senses and open my heart to the beauty of the morning’s song inviting me to take notice of the world all around me and breathe it in deeply. It awakens my heartsong.

In every heart there is a song. A unique beat that calls to each of us with its beguiling invitation to dance, to sing, to live boldly and realize our heart’s desires with every wild, unstoppable expression of our being here on this earth.

It begins with listening to the songs of the forest, the river, the world around calling us to…

Stop.

Breathe.

Listen.

No matter what you are doing today, I hope you take time to hear the trees and the earth, the rivers and ocean, sea and sky calling you to Stop. Breathe. Listen.

In the listening, I hope you hear your heartsong calling you to come alive and dance to the beat of your own rhythm as you set yourself free to express your heart’s desires.

_____________________________________

About the artwork:

Along with carving stamps (which is another thing I’m doing differently), I have been playing with making my own stencils. The birds are a stencil I drew and then cut from one sheet of soft foam. The background is made with acrylic inks, collage and a stencil of trees layered over many times with spray inks.

7 x 10″ mixed media on canvas paper.

What If Trees Can Talk

When the leaves fell and winter came, the trees did not stand naked against the sky and cry for mercy. They called to one another, as trees do, urging each other to stand together. Together, their leafless limbs called out, we can weather Arctic storms and Polar chills. Together, we are strong.

And snow fell and covered the earth in its virgin blanket and the sun beamed and the moon sang a song of the seasons turning, turning as the earth spun and the stars pricked holes into the dark of night so they too could watch the storms of winter pass through.

And the trees stood strong, together. They whispered amongst their kin, ‘Dig deep. Dig deep’. And they thrust their roots ever deeper into the frozen ground as the storms howled and snow fell and their sap ran slower, slower but always enough to carry the breath of life flowing inside their weathered trunks.

And the winds blew and the seasons changed and spring arrived with its beguiling invitation to blossom and flourish.

And tiny seeds poked their heads out of the earth and the sun welcomed them with its golden beams full of warmth and growing light. And buds appeared on the trees’ many branches and slowly, ever so slowly beneath spring’s warm kisses, they blossomed and flourished.

When winter came the naked trees did not cry out for mercy. They stood together and weathered the storms and when spring came, as is their nature, they blossomed and flourished again.

_______________________

About the artwork:

I have been exploring creating stamps. What fun! I carved the large leaf stamp, printed it with black ink onto a very sheer piece of pale pink rice paper. After creating the background, I affixed it to my journal page and then painted it with acrylic ink.

I also collaged in a piece of woven white rice paper and a pansy I had dried at the end of summer.

I love exploring, ‘what if’s’…

The ‘what if’ for this journal page was, “What if trees can talk?” According to Robin Wall Kimmerer author of Braiding Sweetgrass, they can. I like that belief.

The photo is of two stamps I’ve carved.

Vision Board 2021

I spent the morning gaining clarity on my path for 2021.

I hosted a session on Zoom on creating a Vision Board with two friends.

As we created, we laughed and chatted and shared stories and sipped our coffees and got glue on our fingers and on everything else too!

And like women gathering at the wekk, we found ourselves in that sacred space that opens up when women come together in community.

A Vision Board is a visual tool that is both metaphorical and literal. With the use of images and words, it helps focus your intention, your desires, your wishes for your life – or one particular area of your life.

For me today, my vision board focused on my ‘creative expressions’. What I want to consider, conceive, and create this year.

Perhaps the most powerful morsel of clarity (which takes a huge bite out of my self-doubt and sometimes confusing thoughts on what I want to do next) is the answer that appeared to the statement – The unifying link between my work and my love for [life is]… Visual Storytelling & Words.

Wow!

I didn’t know when we began at 9 this morning that I would find that response.

And that’s the beauty of spending three hours individually and collectively focussing on ‘self’ and creating a visual storyboard of ‘what I want more of in my life’ and ‘where will I place my focus?’ this year.

If you haven’t created a Vision Board for 2021 (or ever before) it’s Easy. Fun. Enlightening.

I’ll be creating a ‘cheat sheet’ on how to do it and will post it on my website. Stay tuned! I’ll add the link here when I’m done!

(And that comes from the clarity I gained this morning! How exciting is that!)

Thank you JD and SV for spending the time with me and for inspiring me to focus my attention on the ‘what’ of this year.

What Will You Do?

The photo is taken from the bridge I look at when I am sitting at my desk.

Beaumont the Sheepadoodle and I cross it every morning when we take our first walk of the day. I am (usually) still in my PJs. My long black winter coat covers me well. There are usually not many people out at this ‘just before the dawn’ walk.

This morning, we set out about half an hour later than normal. I’m grateful we did as the sun greeted us as we turned back towards home.

We stoped in the middle of the bridge. Beau to sniff out all the scents. Me to breathe into the beauty around me and to listen to the river running fast and loud beneath the bridge.

The river runs noisy. An ice island is forming between the two middle buttresses of the bridge, pushing the water out into two separate channels on either side. The river flows in from the west, meets the tip of the ice island, separates and crowds itself into the narrow channels that run along either shore under the bridge.

I stop and listen. The rushing waters burble, leaping over each other in a wild cacophony of sound. Their glorious song is full of possibilities. As if the waters know, they cannot flow back to their beginnings and must keep moving ever-onwards towards the distant sea that waits with eager anticipation to embrace them.

The river carries no regret.

May we all travel like the river.

May we all carry no regrets.

____________________________________

 What Will You Do?
  ©2021 Louise Gallagher 

 What will you do with the limitless possibilities 
 of this new year that reaches far beyond 
 the past you know so well 
 into the distant horizon you have not yet travelled?

 Will you turn your back on its promises
 dragging past hurts and pains and disappointments
 as you stumble and fall 
 beneath the burden of all you carry?

 Will you step forward, 
 lightly and confidently, 
 into the unknown promises 
 yearning to unfurl
  into the spaciousness created
 when you let go of the things 
 that do not serve you well on this journey?

 What will you do?

The Poetry Hour

Every Wednesday evening, for the past five weeks, I have gathered on Zoom with four other women and with our guide, Ali Grimshaw, poet, coach and facilitator and curator of the Flashlight Batteries blog, we have written poetry together.

I have attended many workshops and retreats and have always felt inspired by the community that is created when a group of people with a shared creative passion come together in support of one another and their craft. No matter how long the workshop, by the end I always feel like I have just participated in something rare and precious. It’s as though, in coming together, we wove the threads of our collective consciousness into a song of our human magnificence playing in harmony with life.

I always thought it was the physical space that facilitated those experiences. After five weeks in Ali’s virtual space writing with a group of women, all of whom met as strangers, I’m not so sure it has anything to do with the physicality. I think it has everything to do with the people.

We span several decades. Come from across North America (as the lone Canadian, I am the only ‘foreigner’). Have varied backgrounds and occupations, and still, in the collective space of the Zoom time we share, deep bonds of affection and admiration have been formed.

Last night, as we spent our last hour and a half together in this five week section, I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay in that divinely special space and just breathe in the magic and wonder of the faces in front of me.

Thank you Ali for being you. Thank you for creating a safe, courageous space to write and share and be inspired. And thank you to Kelley, Chere, LilliAnn and Kayleigh for sharing your words, heart and light with such gracious care.

________________

I wrote both poems above during last night’s session. I created the painting with Slow Down during an online workshop I’d taken several years ago on the Divine Feminine. It was my first watercolour and collage. As I was getting to post this morning, that painting came into mind to go along with the poem. It was very serendipitous but I love how they walk hand in hand.

I took the photo accompanying My Heart Grew Weary outside our old home many years ago. I remember it was spring. The snow was melting and I had gone out in the morning with Ellie, the Wunder Pooch and saw the drops of melting snow on the fir tree’s needles. I had to capture it for beauty’s sake. I also remember being pleasantly surprised by my phone’s ability to take such a photo!