Category Archives: family and friends.

Mountain Magic at Twin Falls Chalet

Twin Falls from a distance

When my daughters were young, I imagined sharing mountain time together. Of hiking and skiing in the backcountry. Of getting away together to places far from the maddening crowd, where Internet and cell phones did not interrupt being present in the presence of being together.

This weekend my youngest daughter and I created magic together on a trip into the backcountry to Twin Falls Chalet, a remote mountain lodge run by the irrepressible Fran Drummond.

It was a weekend of pure bliss. Of time to kick-back, relax, spend time with my daughter, and to push myself physically. It was also an unexpected gift to fall in love all over again with being in the mountains.

I had forgotten. Forgotten how mountain time, especially in the backcountry, is restorative and rejuvenating. And in this time of my rejuvenation post leaving the formal workforce, it was a welcome and much appreciated respite.

Beginning of our hike into the Chalet

The hike into Twin Falls Chalet is not a cakewalk, but it is beautiful. It’s just over 8 kilometers with about a 300 metre elevation gain to the Chalet. Lots of switchbacks and lots of views that take your breath away. (Our second day we hiked the 10km trail – up to the top of the falls (another 350 metres elevation gain) and then hiked along the Whaleback down to Marpole Lake and back to the Chalet — exquisite!)

Arriving at the Chalet Friday evening felt like finding Hansel and Gretels cabin in the woods, without the mean old witch stoking the fire.

Instead, you stumble into the Chalet to be greeted with a warm welcome and offer of coffee by its proprietor, Fran Drummond, a tiny speck of a woman with 82 years of life under her belt and an attitude that goes on into forever.

As my daughter and I were hiking out yesterday we talked about Fran and her incredible attitude. There’s no ‘end game’ for Fran. There’s just ‘the game of life’, and one she sees herself playing with every bit of her being until her last breath in some distant future. Fran sees herself going and going and going, continuing to run the lodge, which she’s overseen for the past 57 years, with the same passion and vigor she does now. She’s feisty, determined, stubborn and did I mention opinionated?

Sitting down to an incrediblely hearty and delcious meal at the large family style table includes Fran’s recounting of stories of her years spent hosting dinners and guests at the Chalet as well as her work in the oil patch as a librarian for a major oil company and a trainer. It also comes spiced up with her commentary of Parks Canada, how Canada is working (or not) and what the government, on every level is doing wrong (with a few rights tossed in with the same elan as the Amaretto she’d liberally sprinkled over the fresh peaches she’d hiked in earlier in the week that she served for dessert on Saturday night along with fresh baked Butter Tarts straight out of the wood burning oven). Fran is that unique ingredient that makes the stay at Twin Falls so enchanting, invigorating and fascinating.

At one point Fran told us that she was considering running as an MP for the PC party but she wasn’t sure she could take 4 years of living in Ottawa. “Why would you want to?” I asked.

“Because Canada’s not working,” she replied, nodding her head and giving us her mischievious grin and laugh. “Everybody’s got a responsibility to make it right and I can’t just give up.”

Giving up is not in Fran’s books. And, even though Parks Canada is looking to shut the chalet down at the end of this year for a major overhaul next spring that will see it out of operations for 2020, Fran is determined to fight them to the bitter end.

Having spent the weekend amidst the rustic and magical environment of Twin Falls Chalet listening to Fran share the history and lore of the area, I believe her. She will not give up.

I spent a weekend in the backcountry with my youngest daughter. It was a beautiful time spent connecting and communing with nature.

It was pure Love in action.

I forgot my reading glasses — which made reading and writing challenging. I also didn’t take in any paints and only had a ball point pen to work with.  it was kind of fun and challenging!

Home again. Home again.

I am home.

We left Gabriola Island on the 10:05 ferry Saturday morning and began the journey back. We had intended to wend our way through the Okanagon but grey skies, rain and C.C.’s Interclub golf game Monday afternoon gave us pause to reconsider.

We drove through in 2 days.

I am grateful we did.

I am ready for home. Ready for routine. Ready to settle in and ease into for this next phase of my life.

As we drove my mind wandered to thoughts of ‘the future’. What does it look like? What will I do? What’s in store?

It is inevitable that my mind does that. Leap into future planning, future vistas.

Home isn’t just a place to be. It’s the place where I live my life, day by day, moment by moment.

I like structure. I like knowing what I’m doing, what’s ‘supposed to be’ happening next. And while I am still committed to my ‘unplanned’ summer, I feel the urge within calling me to look into out there, on that distant horizon for ‘what happens next’.

I am resisting its call and looking within instead.

Peering deeply into myself to feel the ebb and flow of creativity as it crashes into the shores of my desire to be present with all that is when I stop pushing and pulling and trying to make ‘what is’ into something I want it to be.

For now, I shall be spending time preparing my workspace. Clearing out clutter. Setting up my studio to be a space that infuses each day with creative spark and inspired curiousity.

There’s a fair amount of ‘grunt work’ to be done.

Since moving into this house a year ago, I have not tackled the back storage room where all my boxes of art supplies were loaded in by the movers.

On the road as we drove…

There is no rhyme or reason to the placement of the room’s contents. And, because the move out from our old home was so fast (the sale included a 14 day possession date), a lot of my supplies were simply loaded into boxes without a plan. The movers didn’t label what they were packing so now I go on the adventure of discovering what is there. What is needed, and what is not.

I’m excited!  Stampede is on and I don’t have to dress-up and play cowgirl. I get to revel here at home as I create my ideal studio space in which to paint and draw, write and contemplate, create and grow.

Yahoo!  I may not be out kicking up my heels, dancing to a two-step, but I shall be dancing with the muse as I unpack and explore what happens next in my studio space.

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And…. I created a video of C.C. and my stay on Gabriola. It was a delightful time!

Island Life. Slow and easy does it.

The View From Where I Sit

Island life is a slow, easy pace. The biggest decision of my morning here at my sister and brother-in-law’s on Gabriola Island is whether to have coffee on the north deck or the south.

Decisions. Decisions.

This morning, I added one more decision. To take the seaplane from Silva Bay to the south terminal in Vancouver, (20 minutes + half hour transit) or, two ferries (4+ hours).

Seaplane won. Simple. Direct. And bonus. I get to spend the day exploring the beaches of Gabriola before returning to Vancouver.

This trip is unplanned insofar as my schedule is determined by my daughter’s needs for childcare as she settles into a new job and juggles work, family, and a nanny 3 days a week.

Tomorrow, Thurlow, my grandson, and I will spend the day together.

Colour me excited!

It is the most precious part of this trip. To spend time with him without adult supervision (I’m hoping my daughter doesn’t read this as she might get a little perturbed by my suggestion that time with my grandson is all about being a child at heart!) 🙂

Before I left for Gabriola on Monday, my grandson and I walked to the park at the end of their street for playtime. Apparently, an hour walk was a bit longer than my daughter anticipated. When my phone rang and I answered, she advised me I needed to get back.

But he’s not ready to leave yet, I told her.

She suggested I pick him up and carry him home.

I don’t think he’ll be happy about that, I replied.

I didn’t pick him up but we did manage to wander home in time to meet the nanny.

It is perhaps one of the greatest joys of being a YiaYa. Not feeling the pressure and responsibility of time, schedules and disciplined structure. It’s why I like my name ‘YiaYa’.  There are no-no’s where my grandson is concerned!

And on this trip, there is no need to create a schedule — other than to coincide with what works for friends and family whom I may be visiting. C.C. is looking at flying out for a week to visit friends on Vancouver Island. He’ll fly home and I’ll continue on my journey. Or he’ll drive back with me.

That’s the plan. And that’s the beauty of the plan. There’s lots of room for change!

Namaste.

 

 

 

 

The Sacred Nature of Waves

From my journal yesterday:

I sat by the ocean and wept for the joy and beauty of being alive in this moment right now. My tears flowed into the sea and the sacred embraced me and this ordinary experience of being human opened my heart to the awesome beauty of our shared humanity.

We are all capable of greatness. We are all part of the light and darkness of being human.

Where we walk, how we walk is our choice. Let us step lightly on this sacred planet.

I leave this paradise of Gabriola Island tomorrow to return to Vancouver where I will spend a week with my grandson, daughter and son-in-love. And then… the script is not completely written. I shall take the ferry to Vancouver Island. Visit friends. Wander the island.

Unscripted. Unmapped. Unwritten.

Such a joyful, beautiful time to refresh, relax and rejuvenate.

I am so blessed.

The Bucket List

A morning visitor

I am sitting in bed at my sister’s home on Gabriola Island. The view is stunning. The morning fresh and dewy. A deer walks past the window. And then a racoon. A squirrel bounces up a treetrunk. An eagle soars overhead.

Morning rush hour has arrived.

Two years ago, my sister and her husband moved to their island home on Gabriola. It is their own personal paradise, their home filled with treasures, a reflection of their eclectic lives.

I arrived yesterday afternoon via float plane. One of my favourite ways to travel. It feels so in the moment, so close to the sky and the sea. So personal.

Ryan, the pilot, has been flying for Gulf Island Seaplanes for 13 years. There’s not a day when he hates his job, he told me. Sure, there are days when he doesn’t want to get out of bed, but once up and at work, he’s reminded of how fortunate he is to do what he does, and live where he lives.

The Islanders

Like my sister and her husband, living on Gabriola Island is a dream come true for him. A bucket list kind of thing.

It’s a relatively new term, ‘bucket list’, coined by screenwriter, Justin Zackham for his 2007 movie of the same name.  He had a list of things he wanted to do before he ‘kicked the bucket’. Having a hit movie was one of them.

While visiting with my daughter and her family in Vancouver she asked me what was on my bucket list. It’s not something I think about a lot, I told her, the list of things I want to do or see before I die. Mostly, I want to live my life fully each day, experiencing life’s juicy moments with uncensored joy.

Love in a bucket seat

Yes, it would be lovely to see the Taj Mahal. The Great Wall of China, but even more, it would be good to know I have lived fully. Shared love. Spread kindness. Savoured each moment.

Where I do it is not as important to me as how I live and with whom.

And that’s where my bucket list lives. Not in places or things to do but in the heart. My heart.

And when my heart is full of time spent with those I love, my bucket list is full.

Namaste.

 

 

33 years and I’m so in love.

Alexis aged 2ish

I remember the first time I heard my daughter cry. She was still in the womb. The doctor had just cut me open to bring her into the world and she cried before they could lift her out of the protective cocoon of my body.

I remember the feeling of my heart leaping out of my body, of wanting to still her cries, of wanting to hold her forever, to never let her go, to always keep her safe.

And I remember how helpless I felt in that same moment when I realized I couldn’t stop her cries, couldn’t keep her within my body forever. That this was the challenge I would face for the rest of her life, to love her and to let her go.

I remember thinking that my job as her mother wasn’t to stop her from growing but to create safe places for her to experience life, in all its complexities, ups, downs and sticky places too.

I remember realizing that life is its own journey and that the greatest gift I could give her would be the confidence to navigate hers independent of the lifeline of the umbilical cord that had connected us for those 9 magical months I held her safe within my womb.

And I remember the pain of having to acknowledge I was not all powerful over her life, and couldn’t, shouldn’t, mustn’t be.

I remember when I realized that even though she was separate from my body she would always have my heart, always be a part of me. That I was forever changed because of her presence in this world. A presence that was made possible because of the mystery and magic of this evolutionary process called birthing life.

That moment of hearing her cry inside the womb was 33 years ago this Wednesday. I heard her cry at 10:38pm. And, ever since that moment, I have experienced the incredible joy and fear of being her mother.

Joy because she is so miraculous, so magical, so incredibly unique and special and wondrous.

Fear because I cannot protect her from all harm. Cannot prevent the world from invading her life in ways I cannot conceive of, in ways that will challenge her, stretch her, break her, and ultimately strengthen her.

My eldest daughter turns 33 this week. In the 12,037 days that she will have been on this earth come June 19th, there is not a moment that I have not given her my heart, given her my love or wanted only love, safety and joy for her.

And while I know that I have always wanted only those things for her, I also know I have been the cause of pain, confusion, fear, anxiety, loss, separation in her life.

It is all part of life. Part of being a parent. Part of giving birth to a miraculous being of light and love; to want only the best for her, and to have my humanness be the cause of her pain.

Alexis turns 33 this week. I am so blessed to call her my daughter. To witness her journey from infant to child to teen to young woman to mother.

Becoming a mother was more than just bringing a child into this world. It has been the most excruciatingly beautiful journey I have ever had the privilege of experiencing. It has been a journey of unprecedented joy, of incredible love, of finding myself beyond the realm of who I thought I was as I became what I never imagined I could ever be, a mother and a grandmother.

I am so blessed.

The Poet Boy Remembered

Remembrance Day. Lest we forget. Let us  not forget.

Their sacrifice. Their honour. Their duty to country. Their names.

Let us not forget.

My father went off to war when he was a boy. He went off and fought and came home and seldom spoke of those years again.

The following is the unedited version of a shorter Op-Ed I wrote that was published in the Calgary Herald several years ago. I share it here in memory of my father, and all the sons and daughters, boys and girls, men and women, who have gone off to war to never return. I share it here to remind me to never forget my father who was once a poet boy.  I repost this today lest we forget.

The Poet Boy

by: Louise Gallagher

When the poet boy was sixteen, he lied about his age and ran off to war. It was a war he was too young to understand. Or know why he was fighting. When the guns were silenced and the victors and the vanquished carried off their dead and wounded, the poet boy was gone. In his stead, there stood a man. An angry man. A wounded man. The man who would become my father.

By the time of my arrival, the final note in a quartet of baby-boomer children, the poet boy was deeply buried beneath the burden of an unforgettable war and the dark moods that permeated my father’s being with the density of storm clouds blocking the sun. Occasionally, on a holiday or a walk in the woods, the sun would burst through and signs of the poet boy would seep out from beneath the burden of the past. Sometimes, like letters scrambled in a bowl of alphabet soup that momentarily made sense of a word drifting across the surface, images of the poet boy appeared in a note or a letter my father wrote me. For that one brief moment a light would be cast on what was lost and then suddenly, with the deftness of a croupier sweeping away the dice, the words would disappear as the angry man came sweeping back with the ferocity of winter rushing in from the north.

I spent my lifetime looking for the words that would make the poet boy appear, but time ran out when my father’s heart gave up its fierce beat to the silence of eternity. It was a massive coronary. My mother said he was angry when the pain hit him. Angry, but unafraid. She wasn’t allowed to call an ambulance. She wasn’t allowed to call a neighbor. He drove himself to the hospital and she sat helplessly beside him. As he crossed the threshold of the emergency room, he collapsed, never to awaken again. In his death, he was lost forever, leaving behind my anger for which I had no words.

On Remembrance Day, ten years after his death, I went in search of my father at the foot of the memorial to an unnamed soldier that stands in the middle of a city park. A trumpet played “Taps”. I stood at the edge of the crowd and fingered the felt of the bright red poppy I held between my thumb and fingers. It was a blustery day. A weak November sunshine peaked out from behind sullen grey clouds.  Bundled up against the cold, the crowd, young and old, silently approached the monument and placed their poppies on a ledge beneath the soldier’s feet.

I stood and watched and held back.

I wanted to understand the war. I wanted to find the father who might have been had the poet boy not run off to fight “the good war” as a commentator had called it earlier that morning on the radio. Where is the good in war, I wondered? I thought of soldiers falling, mother’s crying and anger never dying. I thought of the past, never resting, always remembered and I thought of my father, never forgotten. The poet boy who went to war and came home an angry man. In his anger, life became the battlefield upon which he fought to retain some sense of balance amidst the memories of a world gone mad.

Perhaps it is as George Orwell wrote in his novel, Nineteen Eighty-four:

“The very word ‘war’, therefore, has become misleading.  It would probably be accurate to say that by becoming continuous war has ceased to exist… War is Peace.”

For my father, anger became the peacetime of his world until his heart ran out of time and he lost all hope of finding the poetry within him.

There is still time for me.

On that cold November morning, I approach the monument. I stand at the bottom step and look at the bright red poppies lining the gun metal grey of the concrete base of the statue. Slowly, I take the first step up and then the second. I hesitate then reach forward and place my poppy amongst the blood red row lined up along the ledge.

I wait. I don’t want to leave. I want a sign. I want to know my father sees me.

I turn and watch a white-haired grandfather approach, his gloved right hand encasing the mitten covered hand of his granddaughter. Her bright curly locks tumble from around the edges of her white furry cap. Her pink overcoat is adorned with little white bunnies leaping along the bottom edge. She skips beside him, her smile wide, blue eyes bright.

They approach the monument, climb the few steps and stop beside me. The grandfather lets go of his granddaughter’s hand and steps forward to place his poppy on the ledge.  He stands for a moment, head bowed. The little girl turns to me, the poppy clasped between her pink mittens outstretched in front of her.

“Can you lift me up?” she asks me.

“Of course,” I reply.

I pick her up, facing her towards the statue.

Carefully she places the poppy in the empty spot beside her grandfather’s.

I place her gently back on the ground.

She flashes me a toothy grin and skips away to join her grandfather where he waits at the foot of the monument. She grabs his hand.

“Do you think your daddy will know which one is mine?” she asks.

The grandfather laughs as he leads her back into the gathered throng.

“I’m sure he will,” he replies.

I watch the little girl skip away with her grandfather. The wind gently stirs the poppies lining the ledge. I feel them ripple through my memories of a poet boy who once stood his ground and fell beneath the weight of war.

My father is gone from this world. The dreams he had, the promises of his youth were forever lost on the bloody tide of war that swept the poet boy away.  In his passing, he left behind a love of words born upon the essays and letters he wrote me throughout the years. Words of encouragement. Of admonishment. Words that inspired me. Humored me. Guided me. Touched me. Words that will never fade away.

I stand at the base of the monument and look up at the soldier mounted on its pedestal.  Perhaps he was once a poet boy hurrying off to war to become a man. Perhaps he too came back from war an angry man fearful of letting the memories die lest the gift of his life be forgotten.

I turn away and leave my poppy lying at his feet. I don’t know if my father will know which is mine. I don’t know if poppies grow where he has gone. But standing at the feet of the Unknown Soldier, the wind whispering through the poppies circling him in a blood red river, I feel the roots of the poet boy stir within me. He planted the seed that became my life.

Long ago my father went off to war and became a man. His poetry was silenced but still the poppies blow, row on row. They mark the place where poet boys went off to war and never came home again.

The war is over. In loving memory of my father and those who fought beside him, I let go of anger. It is time for me to make peace.