It Is My Choice

#ShePersisted Series – No. 30 https://louisegallagher.ca/shepersisted/

Like many, conflict is not my comfort zone. In fact, I sometimes feel that getting a tooth pulled without anesthesia is preferable to wading into a conflict zone.

The challenge is, when I avoid conflict, I create discord within myself and the world around me.

Like a sickly sweet cotton candy ball, conflict cloys and clings, wrapping everything it comes in contact with in almost invisible threads of sticky nothingness that is bad for your health and everything it touches.

Which is why, to find resolution, we must choose to wade through the murky waters of conflict to swim in the waters of harmony on the other side.

Ask my beloved. I might not like conflict but I dislike enduring inappropriate behaviour, injustice, and inequity even more.

It’s a simple equation in my mind. I can choose to carry the discomfort of what someone else has done and let it fester inside while also polluting the waters between us, or I can choose to be accountable for my part of the equation.

For me, that choice isn’t always easy, but it is important. So, even when I’m feeling uncomfortable, intimidated, or like I’d rather just stay silent and pretend like it’s okay, even when it’s not, I must choose to do the right thing to create better.

And staying silent, standing stuck in confusion and fear, does not create better. For anyone.

For me, movements like #MeToo have highlighted the need and imperative for women, and allies, to speak our truth in the face of racism, discrimination, injustice, and all forms of harassment, bullying, gender inequity and patriarchial concepts designed to keep us feeling less than, in our place and silent.

It’s about turning up, paying attention, speaking our truth, and staying unattached to the outcome.

It’s about drawing a line and saying, it is not okay for me that you have chosen to cross that line.

It is not okay for anyone that this behaviour continue, unchallenged.

When we know better, we do better.

And because some people, some men, in particular, have not yet learned it is not okay to charge a conversation with uninvited sexual innuendo or make unsolicited advances, ignoring a woman’s right to choice, or a host of other advances that impair a woman’s ability to work, play and be safe in this world, we must draw hard lines where no man dare to cross. We must stake out boundaries and push back against advances that would pull us back into times past when women’s rights meant having the choice between moving to the parlour or the sunroom after dinner, to do needlepoint and chat of babies and the latest fashions while the menfolk sat around the table drinking port and smoking cigars as they discussed the heady matters of which the womenfolk had no ken.

And yes, I know there are men out there who stand with women and minorities in wanting to change the status quo, who want our world to become a more parity-based reflection of the make-up of our society where women represent 49.6% of the world’s population. (In Canada, women are 50.37% of the total population. In the US, 51.1%.)

And yes, I know change takes time and behavioural change is daunting but what is even more daunting are the challenges women continue to face in 2021 to gain equal pay for equal work. To eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace and a host of other malpractices that limit women’s advancement in their careers and their safety at home, on the streets and where ever they go.

So, while conflict is not my comfort zone, I will not back down. I will challenge injustice. I will confront discrimination, harassment, and bullying and I will not be silent.

It is my choice.

Some Mornings…

Some mornings take my breath away.

One moment I’m immersed in typing, head down, fingers flying across the keyboard, always pushing with just a bit more force on the ‘e’ which has started sticking. Lost in thought and words appearing as I type, I look up without looking, fingers still flying and then, it captures me.

The view outside my window. The world bathed in golden autumn light. Not red. Not yellow. Not orange. An indescribable gold kissed rose that wafts and floats through the trees like a ghost on All Hallows Eve drifting through candle-lit gravestones shimmering in the light of a full moon glowing bright.

My fingers stop moving. My mind stills. I jump up, run to the deck door, fling it open as I call out to C.C. to wake-up and, “Come see!”

There is beauty in everything.

Mystery everywhere.

And always miracles.

Because, the miracle this morning is that in that one looking up moment, I caught sight of morning light in its full intensity, it’s full unfolding.

I would have missed it had I not lifted my head to consider the thought that had just entered my mind as I was typing an email to the CEO of the organization with which I’m working. I was considering the thought, ‘how do I phrase this?’ when I lifted my eyes without really seeing the world beyond, only to be awoken by its beauty.

How many times does this happen?

How many instances of beauty are missed because we’re so immersed in the doing of what needs to get done rather than the being with all that is present?

There is so much beauty in this world. So many miracles unfolding right before our eyes.

Today, I awoke and found myself embodied in nature’s sunrise, awash in life’s glorious beauty bathing the sky in autumn’s glow.

What a beautiful awakening!

Like a Leaf Falling

I am deep in meditation when a leaf flutters down through my awareness, drifting effortlessly into view within the deepness of my knowing.

Softly it whispers. “Like a leaf falling, time moves without your hands guiding its passage.”

What the…?

My first reaction is to shoo the thought away. I mean seriously! I am in meditation. I’m not supposed to be having thoughts!

It won’t be shooed.

There it is again.

I sigh.

My breath deflates.

A thought rises up out of my belly. Resistance is futile. Meditation isn’t about emptying the mind. It’s about being present within all my body to this present moment. And in this present moment, a leaf is whispering to me.

As gracefully as I can muster, I yield to its presence and allow it to settle gently onto the crucible of my knowing, I am held in this present moment, embodied within all that is present here and now, within and all around me. We are all connected.

That leaf and me. That breath of wind. The tree releasing its golden gifts. The earth catching them on its fertile ground.

We are all here, embodied in this present moment. Effortless. Complete. Timeless.

And I breathe.

It is the timelessness that surprises me.

I mean, isn’t all of life about the passage of time?

Time is a man-made construct, some voice within whispers.

Huh?

The construct of time was created by man to somehow make sense of and claim nature’s natural nature to Release. Let go. Be.. Be present. Man doesn’t like the present moment. Man is caught up in fixing the past or designing the future.

In nature, there is no concept of ‘time’. No past. No future. There is only this present moment where all things that are present exist fully alive, fully here, being and becoming.

In this moment, the invitation is to Release. Let go. Be. Release. Let go. Be.

In Philip Shepherd’s work on The Embodied Present, there is an exercise where trainees are invited to walk outside and allow the body to guide them to stop periodically beside a tree or flower or leaf, neither intentionally nor non-intentionally, and state, “I am here.”

The ‘here’ is not a declaration, a claiming of ownership, a marker placed judiciously in time and space. It is simply a statement of communion with all that is present wherever the body has guided you to stand and state, “I am here.”

This morning, as I sat in meditation, a leaf fluttered into view carrying with it a reminder to get out of my mind and into my body. To let go of having to know. To Release. Let go. Be within all that is present in the world around and within me.

And in that sacred nature, to be open and alive within the vast, ineffable mystery of a falling leaf as it drifts effortlessly on the wind’s whispering incantation to Release. Let go. Be.

Namaste

Grace. Gratitude. Joy.

In September, I took a 20 hour a week contract with a not-for-profit. I was excited. Nervous. Inspired. To be able to give back, to share in the NFPs vision of inclusive workplaces employing a diverse workforce felt right. Good. Challenging.

After two years of ‘retirement’ that felt a little derailed under Covid’s presence, I was feeling somewhat adrift. It wasn’t that I didn’t recognize that every time I wrote here or created in my studio, I was living on purpose. It was more that after almost 2 decades of feeling on-purpose everyday knowing that the work I was doing changed lives, I felt a bit disconnected from my purpose to “touch hearts, open minds and set spirits free.”

Supporting a not-for-profit in advocacy and government relations seemed like purposeful work.

And it is.

Though, I must admit, I hadn’t accounted for the challenges of onboarding and getting to know an organization through socially distanced practices.

My hat’s off to any employee who has waded into a new organization during these times, and the employers who have successfully onboarded new staff. It ain’t easy!

But, like anything, if you let go of expectations and stay open to possibilities, it’s achievable.

Which means, I’m learning and growing and adapting and shifting my expectations to embrace this new reality.

I am also adjusting my daily routines and slipping back into my old habit of rising early.

I have always been an early riser. Even as a teenager. Early mornings are my sweet spot. Over the last two years however, my normal 5:30 rise and shine has drifted into a 7:30 yawn and stretch as I slip into an easy awakening.

It’s been an adjustment.

In encountering this new reality, I am remembering my love of early rising and its many benefits. Something I seemed to have forgotten as I slid through each day without having to reference my daily agenda. It was easy over the past two years to keep track of my calendar. There were few appointments or meetings to remember.

Now, my calendar is getting peppered with Zoom meetings and tasks to be completed.

It’s kind of nice.

I like the busy. I like the structure.

And that’s what I’m discovering to be most true for me.

I feel more grounded and centered within a structure.

Free-spirited I may be but what allows me the most breadth to spread my wings with ease, is knowing the purpose and direction of my flight.

I don’t need to know the destination.

I just like feeling that my wings are wide-spread with purpose.

I’ve gone back to work, albeit not 5 days a work-week, it is enough to remind me though, of the joy that comes with giving back, with living on purpose and feeling challenged.

I’m adapting. Making adjustments and embracing this change.

There are some things however, that cannot, will not, must not change for me — and one of those is ensuring I protect and preserve my sacred space for creative expression.

I’ve been letting it go in the past couple of weeks. Telling myself my head is so full of learning new things, I’m too tired to take my body down to the studio.

Ahhh…. that critter mind loves to slip in when new horizons open up. He gets scared by wide open spaces and wants to pull me back to safety. Except… his idea of safety leaves me vulnerable to confusion and doubt.

And I smile. Head and body are one. Not two separate entities with the one ruled by the other. For my mind to be calm and peaceful, I must respect the wholeness of all I am and breathe into my entire being, connecting deeply to the flow of all life in and around me.

In that grace-filled space of unity, mind chatter drifts away as effortlessly as clouds on a blue-sky summer day as I fall with grace into gratitude and joy.

And look! It’s not yet 8 am and I’ve just finished my blog – something I’ve been less present with over the past few months.

Because here’s the thing. Writing here every morning sets my day up with grace, gratitude and joy.

And who doesn’t like a day that begins with feeling full of grace, gratitude and joy?

Namaste

The Two Faces of Poverty and Privilege

I am at the park for my early morning walk with Beaumont the Sheepadoodle. He has attempted to demonstrate to a little grey fluff ball of a dog that he is boss. The fluff ball will have none of Beau’s nonsense.

I call Beaumont to my side. “He truly does not know his size,” I say to the woman walking with the fluff ball. “I’m sorry he acted so inconsiderately.”

The woman leans on her walking cane, laughs and tells me not to worry. “She’s 13. She takes no guff from nobody.”

I thank her for her understanding and am about to turn away when she says, “I know you. You look really familiar.”

I turn back towards her and look at her weathered face closely. I don’t think I know her but my memory for faces is often suspect.

“What’s your name?” she asks.

I tell her and she smiles, nods her head and says, “I knew I knew you!” And she mentions an agency I did some consulting for several years ago. It’s a social services agency providing housing and supports for Calgarians facing physical and mental barriers. Many of their clients are housed through Calgary’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness.

I am surprised she recognizes me. It’s a bright but chilly morning. I am wearing sunglasses and a toque pulled low on my forehead.

I say, “Wow. What a great memory.”

She laughs, picks up her cane and waves it in the air as she replies. “My body may be falling apart but at 63 I’ve still got my faculties about me.”

She goes on to tell me about her mom who, at 95, still drives and lives on her own in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. “Though she is thinking it’s time she gave up driving.”

I tell her about my mom, who when she died at 97 last year, was still intellectually sharp, though her physical health was decimated by arthritis.

She looks at me and says, “When you get to be my age you’ll be grateful for your mom’s sound mind too.”

I do not tell her I am five years older than she is. I also don’t tell her I am surprised by her age. Looking at her weathered and lined face I would have given her at least 10 – 12 more years.

And I wonder if what I see is the price of poverty, of a life lived on the margins and its constant struggle to make every dollar and cent stretch to meet a month with too many days. Of worry and strain and fear of one more mishap leading to the last place you want to go, a homeless shelter.

Because I do remember her. Not from the agency that provides housing for her now. I remember her from the adult homeless shelter where I used to work. She wasn’t there long. An adult, predominantly male homeless shelter, is not a particularly safe environment for a woman. Once in, getting out is the number one priority for most women.

But it can be difficult. Especially for ‘older’ women. Lack of education, lack of work experience make it difficult to divine a way back out beyond the shelter’s doors. Compounded by a life time of living on the margins, divorce, death of a spouse, spousal abuse, loss of health and/or an addiction, what little emotional, physical or financial reserves women had are stripped away, leaving them exposed to not just homelessness, but the hopelessness that walks in its every step.

This woman was one of the fortunate ones. She connected to the appropriate supports and is hanging on to them with every breath and every step she takes.

As I sit at my desk this morning looking out at the beauty of my environment, the green/golden leaves of autumn not yet ready to fall, the river flowing past beneath a cerulean sky, I think about my life and the lives of other women in my cohort.

Our privilege is subtle, but it is there. It creates a natural anti-aging barrier that keeps it from lining our faces with worry and stress, aging us beyond our years. It gave us options throughout our lives that women like the woman at the park probably never had – access to education and training, access to gyms and massages and facials and so much more. It allowed us to choose between a live-in or live-out nanny because we could afford to pay for what we wanted. It filled our fridges with an abundance of foods that left us free of having to make the difficult decisions of whether to send our children to school with a breakfast in their belly or have a dinner for them on the table that night.

It opened doors to career-paths of our choice. Because, if we chose to work or stay at home, if we took a minimum wage job or a second part-time one, it wasn’t out of necessity. It was our choice.

For too many women, the deck they were dealt is weighed down by poverty and its limited choices. Full hands are rare and under the weight of of poverty’s pervasive nature, every card played can take you out of the game, leaving you empty-handed, fighting for your survival.

I met a woman at the park this morning. She reminded me how blessed and fortunate I am to live this life of mine.

I am grateful she is safe now.

I am grateful she touched my life.

I am grateful for it all.

Namaste

Autumn is Falling

“And all at once summer collapsed into fall.” – Oscar Wilde

This morning, when Beaumont and I took our early morning walk along the river, a thin layer of frost-tipped dew covered the ground.

Autumn is falling.

Leaves are turning.

Geese are flying south.

In the northern hemisphere, we are orbiting away from the sun.

It happens every year. Days grow shorter, shadows grow longer as the sun’s rays lengthen. And though the nights have been growing longer since June’s Summer Solstice, evidence of our turning away from the sun grows stronger with the approach of the autumnal equinox.

This will be our second autumn under Covid’s thrall. As I look back over the past 18 months I am in awe of our human capacity to adapt, to shift, to do what we never imagined possible, what we never imagined would be necessary.

Stay home. Keep our distance from one another. Wear a mask. Sanitize everything. Avoid touch. Get a vaccine.

As I look back I see the toll it has taken on everyone around the world. It has been devastating.

In my extended family, a cousin lost her life to the virus. Others sickened and recovered. An aunt far away and all alone, was unable to leave her apartment for over a year and no one was able to visit. Vacations cancelled. Family reunions postponed. Children growing up at home with little interaction with playmates and schoolmates. Parents stressed with jobs and working at home and caring for children who are underfoot all day and all night long.

And still, there is joy. There is laughter. There is love.

As autumn falls, our numbers here in Alberta are rising with dizzying speed. More hospitalizations, more people in ICUs than at any other time during the pandemic. And the death count climbs as hospitals become overwhelmed with the influx of people needing care.

Yesterday, provincial leadership finally announced increased restrictions to try to bend the curve. Many fear too little, too late.

I fear more lives will be lost. More anger will rise as those who decry restrictions clash with those who are in favour.

For my beloved and I, hunkering down and limiting outside contact has once again become our norm. Double vaccinated, he is still at higher risk should he catch the virus. It’s not worth taking chances.

And as autumn colours grow brighter and birds fly south, I remind myself that, as with all things, all seasons, all times, this too shall pass.

My responsibility isn’t to change the viruses course, I am not that powerful. What I am powerful enough to do is the right things so that its sphere of influence in my life and those around me is as limited as possible. And while it was nice to feel for awhile like I could go outside and meet with friends and do the things I love without worrying about an invisible microbe’s presence, like autumn leaves turning, reality settles in as I once again come to grips with the fact there is a microbe of devastating impact in our midst. I can’t see it. I can’t change it but I can accept, with as much grace as possible, that I can do everything in my power to limit its spread and impact.

And that is what I must do as autumn leaves fall.

I can’t change the season’s turning. I can change how I dress to keep myself warm on frost-covered mornings.

I can’t change the virus. I can change how I behave to stop its spread.

Beyond All We Know.

The leaves whisper amidst the trees branches reaching out towards the sun. “Lean further! Lean further! You’ve got to lean further to reach the sun!”

And the branches push out and away from their trunks, their arms reaching further and further into the space beyond where they must compete with their brethren to gather sunlight.

And the trunks pull back, rooting themselves deeper and deeper into the ground they know so well. Desperately they fight against gravity, trying to keep their branches from reaching too far. “Too far is dangerous,” they tell the branches. “Lean too far and you will break.”

It is the dance of nature. A never-ending ballet of leaves yearning for light and branches pulling against their roots as they reach for the sun.

It is the dance of life.

Our dreams call us to lean out, further, away from our comfort zones, out beyond the realm of where we tell ourselves we will be safe, into the space beyond all we know, all we believe to be true.

Rooted in our fears, we ground ourselves in the belief to risk change is to lose control of all we know, all we believe to be true.

We cannot change when we stand in the same spot, rooted in our fears.

To change, we must uproot our fears and let courage draw us out of our comfort zones into the vast universe of possibility beyond all we know, all we believe to be true.

_____________________________________________

Every morning, Beaumont the Sheepadoodle and I pass through the copse of trees in the picture above.

I haven’t noticed before how far they lean out. I have focused instead on the taller trees surrounding them.

This morning, I noticed their stance and the muse bid me to awaken.

.Namaste

Awake. Aware. Alive.

Down by the riverside

In the moment of being present within the grandeur of the Kananaskis mountains, their jagged peaks edging the horizon like the ridged back of a dinosaur sleeping beneath the infinity of the blue sky soaring above the valley bottom stretched out in verdant lushness on either side of a babbling brook joyfully streaming its way through the verdant fields, I forget to be present within the moment. I forget that this moment passing by, like the stream passing through the valley and the clouds slowly drifting out of view, is all there is to experience. That this moment full of soaring peaks and whispering pines is all there is to know.

I am busy.

After-dinner wine on the deck with Jane

Too busy, I tell myself, to stop and savour the feel of the cool crisp mountain air on my face. Too busy to let the sun caress my face, the smell of the Lodgepole pines and white camas and elephant heads tickle my nostrils.

I am too busy.

Until I remember, this moment, this nanosecond of time passing by in man-made multiples of seconds and minutes and hours, is all there is to hold onto, to know, to remember.

It is in those fleeting, liminal moments I stop, look out the kitchen window, close my eyes and breathe in. The air. The sights. The smells. The silence. The whispers, rustlings, muffled voices and the beauty all around me.

It is in those ethereal, tantalizing moments I remember to be present. To be comforted by the knowing, there is nothing else, nowhere else to be. I am here. Embodied in this moment. Awake. Aware. Alive.

A frosty morning tea.

There is nothing to push, pull, rush or divert. Nothing to change.

There is only everything to experience, embrace, delight in and savour.

And then, the moment passes and I return to chopping and stirring, to checking on the bread baking in the oven, the soup simmering on the stovetop, the onions caramelizing in a pan.

Life is like that. Moments happen. Sometimes, we happen to be awake enough, aware enough to experience the depths of its joy, beauty, richness. Other moments, we sleepwalk through time, believing we’ve got lots of time to awaken, or not.

And with each passing moment, we move on. Like the stream burbling through the valley bottom unaware of winter’s approaching harsh winds and frost-riddled chills, we blithely dance and laugh, or stumble and groan our way through each day unaware of the fragile nature of time’s hands spinning away the hours.

We weave our lives in and out of time’s warp and weft, sometimes consciously shuttling the threads to create a picture of intentional beauty, other times letting the threads push and pull their way through without much thought to our design or purpose.

No matter our passage, in the end, regardless of how much intent or inattention we put into the weave, the tapestry of our lives will be woven through all the moments we experienced, awakened, asleep or simply sleepwalking.

Jane & CJ

I spent five days in the Kananaskis. Four of them cooking at beautiful Mt. Engadine Lodge. It was a sublimely enriching experience full of laughter, shared times with lovely people surrounded by majestic mountains and lush valleys.

I wasn’t always conscious of the beauty around me, but I like to think that every morsel of food I prepared was imbued with the beauty of my surroundings and the love and gratitude I felt for the gift of time to cook in such a stunning environment amidst the wonderful staff at Mt. Engadine Lodge.

This morning, as I sit at my desk and watch the green leaves of the poplars dancing in the morning breeze and the river flow past in an endless ribbon of deep blue water, I feel rich. Enriched. Enlivened.

I am Awake. Aware. Alive.

I am grateful.

Grateful for everything (even the tougher moments and my (many) mistakes) but especially the people — my dear friend Jane who filled the role of Chef’s Assistant with such grace and joy, her daughter CJ who came for a short visit and taught us how to use her apple corer/peeler (Amazing!), my daughter Liseanne who gave up part of her long weekend to help me in the kitchen for the final day and a half when Jane had to leave, and her husband Al who took the time to BBQ burgers for the staff dinner on Saturday evening before they left. And the Lodge’s incredible Chef, Tony, for trusting me with his kitchen (and the guests’ gastronomic experiences) for four days and the irrepressible Simón, the lodge’s general manager, whose constant smiles and good humour kept me laughing and out of ‘the stress zone’! And all the staff who treated me with such kindness and helped me find where things were and answered my endless questions about “What would Tony do?” and laughed with me (and then helped clean up the mess) when I did things like turn on the giant mix master thinking it was on low only to discover with one flick of the switch… it was set to High — have you ever seen how far a machine like that can fling cheesecake filling? Oh my! Liseanne and I were covered as were the walls and floor and everything else within a two foot radius!

I am grateful.

And… while the last time when I got home I said I’d never do it again. I was wrong. I’d love to! While it was challenging it was also fulfilling. And, as my daughter Liseanne said on our drive home, “I feel accomplished.” And she’s right. Cooking for 29 paying guests at a backcountry lodge with a temperamental (possibly possessed) oven and an occasional meal when the water cistern runs dry and when you can’t run out to the grocery story to pick up a missing ingredient, is no small feat!

But it is fun and challenging and definitely does leave me feeling accomplished.

Below is a short video I created to remember my time at the lodge. A couple of the photos at the end are from the hike my daughter and I took to Chester Lake on the Monday after we left. It was sublimely beautiful.

Live Well. Stay Connected.

I love this photo because it is full of joy — and my granddaughters desire to get moving written all over her face! 🙂

When my 97-year-old mother passed away in 2020, three weeks before the first Coronavirus enforced lockdown, we were able to celebrate her life with family and friends. Grief and gratitude for this woman who had given so much to everyone were present. We were fairly confident the virus wasn’t.

For our family, the passing of our matriarch was a shared experience that enriched our lives and brought us closer, not just with one another but with our many friends, most of whom had known our mum and loved her for her gentle ways and many kindnesses.

In the final two weeks of her life my mother was never alone, never without a loving presence sitting at her bedside, talking, reading, sharing, laughing, caring. Sometimes, friends dropped by to say hello, and good-bye. It was a loving, peaceful farewell made even more beautiful because we each knew that we belonged within the family circle my mother had woven and stitched and patched and repaired throughout her life.

For older adults, having a sense of belonging is vital to physical and mental health. Yet, too often, social isolation and loneliness shadow their days and nights, leaving them exposed to many diseases.

The CDC reports that “Although it’s hard to measure social isolation and loneliness precisely, there is strong evidence that many adults aged 50 and older are socially isolated or lonely in ways that put their health at risk. Recent studies found that:

  • Social isolation significantly increased a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity.
  • Social isolation was associated with about a 50% percent increased risk of dementia.
  • Poor social relationships (characterized by social isolation or loneliness) was associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.
  • Loneliness was associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide.
  • Loneliness among heart failure patients was associated with a nearly 4 times increased risk of death, 68% increased risk of hospitalization, and 57% increased risk of emergency department visits.    Source

I have often wondered how my mother lived such a long life, and aside from severe arthritis, a relatively healthy life.

My mother was seldom lonely.

She made it her mission in life to befriend strangers, to surround herself with people about whom she cared and who cared for her. She lived connected to a vast network of family and friends. And though there were times we worried about her mental health and her ability to cope with life’s ups and downs, her resilience and ability to make meaningful relationships where ever she was, her habit of always giving back in whatever way she could, kept her safe and secure to her final day.

Many older people are not so fortunate. Nor connected. As we age, so too does our close community. This can lead to feelings of loss, loneliness and isolation. These feelings can be exacerbated by life circumstances such as transitions to retirement and accompanying loss of identity, ill health, loss of a spouse or friends, mobility problems, vision and hearing loss, lower income, residential changes, and changes in access to transportation.

And, when we’re feeling lost and alone, when we fear we have no one we can safely reach out to, our mental and physical well-being are at risk.

We live in a diverse society. Not just gender, race, faith, sexual orientation and culture but age too. As in other developed countries, Canada’s population is aging. The number of Canadians aged 65 and older will rise from 14% (4.8 million) in 2010 to 25% (10.4 million) by 2036 (Statistics Canada, 2010). By 2056, 1 in 10 Canadians will be aged 80 or older (Martin-Matthews, 2011).

We are also living longer and continuing to make meaningful contributions to society well beyond the socially accepted retirement age of 65.

To ensure we capitalize on the age diversity that exists in society today, we must ensure our policies, programs, services and structural facilities are designed to promote social inclusion, connection and belonging. To capitalize on the significant contributions older generations are making and will continue to make for the common good, we must not limit their potential.

My mother was 97 when she took her last breath. If she had one regret, she used to say in her soft, lilting voice, it was that she hadn’t accumulated great wealth to leave behind for her children and their children.

She need not have any regret. What she left us is far more valuable. She left us knowing we belong to one another and an appreciation for the power of social connection.

Will We? Can we? Change.

This is the view from where I sit in the mornings, meditating, writing, watching squirrels scamper in the trees, the river flow past.

The view is cloudy these days. Smoke-filled molecules saturate the sky with ash and toxins.

Yesterday, I uncovered the furniture on the deck. No rain is forecast.

The air is too smoky to sit outside. I covered the furniture up again this morning. I don’t want to collect toxin-laden molecules in its cushions.

There is no reprieve in sight. Wildfires continue to burn. To the south. The north. West and east.

I fear Mother Nature’s desperate pleas for help remain unheeded.

My days remain unchanged. I write and paint and walk with Beau along the river. I spend time with my beloved. We see friends a bit more now. I hugged my daughter yesterday. We don’t have to wear masks everywhere anymore. I still carry mine in my purse and car. In jacket pockets. I want to be safe and be a safe person to be around.

It is summer in the city. A different summer every year. Of note, each year feels marked by more and more days of smoke-laden air and time spent indoors with windows and doors tightly closed.

And I am reminded again. We must each do our best to pull ourselves back from the abyss of environmental disaster.

Yesterday, I read up on incandescent versus fluorescent and LED lightbulbs. I spent the afternoon ensuring there are no incandescent anywhere lightbulbs in our home.

A friend mentioned using only bar soaps – from laundry to dishes to hands to hair – she has dispensed with all plastic containers in her home.

There’s always something more I can do to make a difference.

I must keep reading up on possibilities.

Yesterday, I also read about why the sun glows red in smoke-filled skies – red rays are longer and stronger than blue rays, thus, are more adept at travelling further through the smoke-filled sky.

It was that thought which inspired the poem below. That, and the weekly prompt from Eugi’s Causerie.

Eugi's Causerie Prompt 

Your Weekly Prompt –Petals – July 29, 2021

“The soul has words as petals” – Edmond Jabes

Go where the prompt leads you and publish a post on your own blog that responds to the prompt.

It can be any variation of the prompt and/or image. 

Please keep it family friendly. This needs to be a safe and fun space for all.

Again, as always seems to happen, I had no idea where the prompt would take me until I was done.

There is a melancholy in my writing this morning. A yearning for clear blue sky and fresh air. I want to be more upbeat, promising, hopeful. I struggle.

I am hopeful. I’m also leery. Can we? Will we do what must be done to step back from the edge?

Can we? Will we? Change.

Sky Coughs. Ash Falls.
by Louise Gallagher

Heat rises
day breaks
through night
sunrise bruises the horizon
in rose petal colours
of crimson, gold and purple
blue light fades
like a memory
vanishing
into long ago days
spent languishing under a summer sky
unblemished
by smoky clouds
drifting languorously
away 
from earth’s forests
burning
red
hot.

In the distance 
an engine backfires
a car travels west to east
over the bridge
towards city centre
carrying its lone occupant
to a job
buried deep
within a towering building
reaching 
greedily
for the sky.

Above,
sky coughs
ash falls
like a symphony of petals
tumbling
silently
to the ground
covering the earth
in summer's finest snow.