Alive in Love By Louise Gallagher These are the faces of love flowing between hearts beating wild the song that never ends in the key of life running full with the joy of being alive in this moment where small hands touch my tender heart breaking open. These are the glorious moments that fill my world overflowing with the exquisite nature of one tiny raindrop plump with an entire world of beauty reflected in its perfect orb suspended in life’s unfathomable mysteries holding me tenderly in this moment where the only place to be is alive in Love.
6:30 am. I am sitting at Gate 54 waiting for my flight. Which doesn’t depart for two hours. And already, the airport is busy. The waiting area getting crowded.
The drive was fast. Security even faster. The line at Starbucks the only thing with a wait.
I sip my latte and watch and listen to the people all around. The wheels of someone’s rollie suitcase thrums as it rolls along the tile floor, its reveraberations rattling like a train chugging along the tracks. Its owner is walking quickly. I imagine his eyes focused on the Starbucks sign just ahead. In his intent to grab his first coffee of the day he is oblivious to his surroundings. Or perhaps, his flight is boarding and he is rushing to get to his gate.
He’s gone. Rolls out of my mind like a cloud passing-by on a sunshiney day.
Airports fascinate me. That opening sequence from Love Actually, of people joyfully, some tearfully, greeting one another at the International arrivals gate one of my favourite all-time scenes.
Smiles. Laughter. Tears. Music to stir the heart.
There is no music at the airport. No ambient tunes or annoying elevator music being piped in to fill the space, keep things calm. .
I haven’t noticed this before. Even though I pass through this terminal many times a year. I haven’t noticed that there is no music playing at the airport.
People are the music. The sounds of voices, suitcases rolling along the tile floor, voices in many languages chatting. A child laughing. Another crying. A man on his phone. Talking loud in a language I do not understand. I wonder if he thinks he is alone. Not at the airport but in his language here at a terminal filled with many voices, in many tongues, speaking languages from far and away. I wonder if speaking in his native tonue gives him a sense of security, of believing no one can understand so why bother to try to soften his voice? Or perhaps, he just always speaks in a loud voice and never worries about anyone else’s comfort?
I wonder how many hopes and dreams, disappointments and regrets those around me carry. I wonder if they are going to something with great anticipation, or dread. I wonder who will meet them at the end of their journey, and who will not. Will they come through the exit doors, search the crowd only to realize. ‘They’ did not come. What then? What happens next.
Lives interesecting, paths crossing, people travelling in different directions. Some towards. Some away from. Some, not sure where they’re going or what or who will greet them at the end of the line.
when I arrive in Vancouver, I shall wait for my suitcase, (hoping it turns up while keeping hold of the confidence it will), suitcase in hand, I’ll walk the length of the terminal, take the elevator to the third floor and board the Canada Line to downtown.
My daughter and grand-daughter will be waiting for me at the end of the line. We’ll greet each other with hugs and smiles. My heart will feel full and overflowing with joy and love and happiness and anticipation of the celebrations to come.
It is my grandsons 5th birthday.
I am so excited to spend it with him. Excited and grateful to have the gift of time to be part of his life, to watch him grow and mature as he steps into his future confident that the past, the present and the future is full of LOVE. That no matter what happens, no matter what wrong roads or right, no matter what tumbles he may take, what pitfalls he may navigate, he was, is and always will be part of this family circle that begins in endless, enduring exquisite LOVE.
I sit at Gate 54 waiting and know, no matter where I am, or where I go, LOVE is always with me.
I love to cook and entertain. Fortunately, my beloved enjoys entertaining almost as much as I do and finds my desire to ‘create beauty’ umm… amusing/admirable/adorable… Yeah. That’s it.
Anyway, I do love to create a beautiful experience for everyone who comes to our home. To have the table look as good as I hope the food tastes.
This is why I spend a lot (read that – an inordinate amount) of time creating placecards for each guest and a unique look for the table-setting along with a menu that is inspiring and intriguing, as well as appetizing and fulfilling.
It pleases my creative heart and soothes my yearning to create beauty in the world.
I tell you this because I believe the world needs more beauty.
I believe that the only way to offset the ugly out there, is to create beauty, in here.
It doesn’t mean I’m ignoring the ugly in the world. It’s hard to ignore when newsfeeds are full of graphic accountings of humanity’s ability to destroy one another and the planet we depend upon for our very breath.
But there is little I can do about the bigger world beyond my own sphere of influence. And so, I do my best to ensure my sphere (some might call it a bubble) is as devoid of conflict, strife and hard edges as it can be.
That also doesn’t mean I cannot be prone to being edgie at times or behaving badly. It does mean that when I do miss a step or fall down in my behaviour, I do my best to get accountable and take responsibility for my missteps by cleaning up my act whenever I can.
And sometimes (read that most times) cleaning up my acting out requires I come back into integrity with my own self, inside me.
It means getting authentic inside so that who I am in the world is aligned with who I want to be in every aspect of my life.
When I used to coach at Choices, I remember every Sunday evening at the end of the five-day training, I’d think about how I am in ‘the room’ and ask myself, “Is how I am in the world outside this room aligned with how I am in this room?”
Often, I’d find gaps in my behaviour, in how I was presenting myself out there that were not aligned.
See, in a sacred space like the Choices room where hearts are broken open to the power of love and possibility (Discovery Seminars now that Choices no longer operates in Alberta) it is easy to be authentic. Not only is the room a safe space, it is a brave space – a space where no matter your human condition, you know without equivocation, you are loved, lovable, Love in action.
In the big world out there, it doesn’t always feel safe, and being brave can feel not only scary but dangerous.
How do you stand up to a bully when that bully has a gun?
How do you speak truth when truth-speaking could cost you your life or your family’s freedom?
And how do you create beauty when everything and everyone around you feels shrouded in the darkness of anger, fear and hopelessness?
I don’t have answers for the world ‘out there’. I do, however, now that what I create in here will ripple onward, out into the world in ways I can’t imagine.
And for that ripple to be filled with beauty, wonder and awe, I must release droplets of beauty, wonder and awe into the world around me with everything I do.
We live in times that feel unprecedentedly uncertain, at times confusing, at times nullifying and frightening.
I don’t know if what I feel today is worse than what my parents and their cohorts felt during WW2, or when I was a child and the Bay of Pigs was unfolding and we children were practicing hiding under our desks at school in case of an atom bomb going off. But, what I do know is, like my mother who wanted only to create beauty and peace in her world, I am doing my best to walk in her footsteps and do the same.
It is only the steps I am taking that can fill in the gaps between fear, hopelessness and possibility.
Sometimes, knowing I am imbuing each of my steps with beauty is all I need to bring myself back into integrity.
PS. It was my youngest daughter’s 35th birthday yesterday. To celebrate her, we held a dinner on Sunday night for family and friends. These are some of the photos. (thank you @ChristieeJames for the photos!)
And PPS. I used to avoid making cakes. I’m learning to love it! She wanted a “sprinkle cake’ – read that – Confetti Cake. I loved how it turned out!
Joyfully, we gathered around the Christmas tree. We hung decorations. Teased one another. Laughed and shared memories of Christmases past and hopes and dreams of Christmases to come.
This morning, I walked into the living room, switched on the tree lights, made myself my seasonal eggnog latte indulgence, sat at my desk, and watched early morning traffic cross the bridge. It is sparse at this early hour. Car lights moving west to east, crossing over the river that flows in an indolent stream of shimmering waters growing ever slower as Arctic air swoops down to envelope us in its icy maw.
Baby it’s cold outside.
Inside, my world is wrapped in the scents and scenes of Christmas á la 2022.
Like pocketbooks all over the country, my yearning to decorate the house is thinner this year. Perhaps the austerities of the pandemic have invaded my senses.
The big [;astoc tubs full of boughs and decorations lay unopened. Some of them didn’t even make it up from the storage room downstairs.
The tree stands tall in all her glittering light, festooned with glass balls and ornaments, delicate butterflies and feathered friends.
I wonder if this simple yet beautiful display is enough.
If maybe this year, it’s time to pare down the excess of Christmases past and cull the bountiful stash of Christmas ornaments I’ve accumulated over the years.
Perhaps, in keeping with the austerity these inflationary times seem to naturally have ignited in so many, it’s time to declutter Christmas.
I sit at my desk and watch the river slowly shifting-shape from flow to frozen shape. The reflection of the Christmas tree lights shimmer in the window in front of me. Darkness holds the night still.
Long before Christianity appeared along the human journey, people gathered around evergreen trees to celebrate Solstice. For our ancestors, the evergreen and its constant colour, needs and scent, represented the promise of longer, warmer days to come.
In our gathering last night, we decorated the tree connected through time to this ancient symbol of the light regaining its strength over the dark.
In our gathering, our laughter, our shared history and love, we wove the magic of time and this season together into a beautiful tapestry full of the promise of Love. Hope. Peace and Joy.
Ah yes. This is Christmas.
Last night, as my beloved and I lay in bed reading, he suddenly asked, “Do you know what day tomorrow is?”
“Monday?” I glibly replied.
“Our anniversary,” he clarified with a laugh.
Well my goodness! Seriously?
Neither of us had noted the date.
For C.C., it’s partially because of being immersed in pulling together financing on a business deal. He gets consumed.
For me… well recent events have taken up a great deal of my mindspace. I just hadn’t realized how much until C.C. reminded me of the significance of this date.
As many who read here regularly know, C.C. was in hospital with pneumonia for 10 days at the beginning of the year.
His recovery has been slowed by the presence of COPD in his lungs which makes his breathing laboured. My thoughts have been consumed with making sure COVID doesn’t impede his recovery.
And then, a month ago, while I was in Vancouver, he fell and fractured three ribs. “They’re only bruised,” he told me. “No need to come home. I’ll be fine.”
Fortunately, my youngest daughter was able to care for Beaumont as he tried to heal and my sister Jackie kept him supplied with food while I was away! It wasn’t until two days before my return that he went for an X-ray and discovered his ribs weren’t bruised but fractured — no wonder moving was almost impossible. All of which has made his breathing even more laboured.
Colour me worried, ’cause I am.
Worried he’ll catch COVID. Worried his breathing will not improve. Worried…
Add the passing of my dear friend Andrew and I’m hoping you get the picture… my mind is not a calm and clear view of distant horizons and shimmering seas of peaceful waters capable of holding thoughts of health and well-being and death and living alongside dates of note.
The fact is… I have been feeling overwhelmed by it all. Not just these recent events but the whole landscape of this world where war and disease and climate events march in seemingly unending waves of turbulent thoughts engulfing my peace of mind.
It’s time to find my centre, my middle ground as Val Boyko calls it. It’s time to breathe into the chaos and worry to remind myself of that which is always present, always the answer… LOVE
Tolstoy wrote, “Love is life. All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love. Everything is, everything exists, only because I love. Everything is united by it alone. Love is God, and to die means that I, a particle of love, shall return to the general and eternal source.”
On this, our 7th Wedding Anniversary, I choose to consciously release worry and fear, sadness and sorrow, to celebrate all that makes my life so rich and vibrant, all that creates such beautiful meaning and joy in everyday.
Our love. Our commitment. Our union. Our marriage.
I can’t change the course of war or disease. I am not powerful enough to cure or heal all the woes of the world.
What I have the power to do is to ensure my own world is filled with all that creates better in this world. Beauty. Art. Joy. Compassion. LOVE.
Today, I celebrate US as I surrender all fear and fall with grace into the eternal source of it all… LOVE.
l’chaim! to LIFE!
It is his laughter I shall always remember.
It rolled up out of his belly frothing with mirth too big for one body to contain. It spilled out like waves crashing against a rocky shoreline, splashing everyone in close proximity with its insistence we give up all resistance and join in the frivolity at hand.
It is his laughter I shall always remember and his loving friendship I shall carry with me forever.
My friend Andrew Z took his last breath on Friday evening. And, just as he did in life, he surprised us with how he did it.
Andrew was not a quiet man. A larger-than-life character, in business he was a tough negotiator, a fair boss, a brilliant strategist and visionary. Revered by many he lead, he commanded his domain with deft hands and an uncompromising demand for excellence from everyone who sat around him at the board room table. He knew what he wanted and went after making it happen, with gusto. He loved the chase he once told me and dreamt of building a billion-dollar company before he retired.
When he’d succeeded (which he always did) and the time came to let go, he did not go into retirement easily. He sat on many boards, sharing his knowledge and wisdom freely.
We often talked about how challenging he found retirement. And, while he admired me for my work and volunteerism, he knew himself well enough to know not-for-profit boards and volunteering were not for him. Though, when Christmas dinners came around and I insisted our guests first go serve dinner at a homeless shelter, he did not balk. And, when I organized Thanksgiving dinners at a building that housed formerly homeless veterans, he and his beautiful wife, Ula, were the first to join me in making it happen.
Along with his laughter and unwavering friendship, I shall miss sitting around the dinner table diving into conversations about everything from China to the MIddle East, Canadian politics and Indigenous issues and what he considered the ineptness of certain governments to take care of business first.
Andrew read voraciously. He consumed news like a fire consuming oxygen and had a discriminating mind that could drill down into salient facts revealing perspectives I would never have seen without his insight. And, though throughout our over 40 years of friendship I failed to convince him to use “Indigenous Peoples’ and not ‘Indians’, as Andrew read more about Indigenous history and colonialism in Canada, he shifted from asserting ‘it’s a business problem that could be fixed with good management’ to acknowledging that as we ‘the white man’ were the architects of the intergenerational trauma and poverty, racism and discrimination that has destroyed Indigenous culture, lives and well-being, we did not have the answers, nor the right, to dictate the future of Indigenous peoples.
Andrew was my friend. Warm-hearted, generous, loving. I always knew I could lean on him, call on him when times were tough and count on him when times called for a celebration.
Once, when I had ended a relationship I knew needed ending but felt the pain of loss deeply, he called to invite me for dinner. When I walked into their home, Andrew wrapped his arms around me and said, “You can always come here Louise where you know you are loved.”
And, after five years of an abusive relationship, Andrew and Ula stood by my side, helping me stand up again, always supporting me and surrounding me, and my daughters, with their love.
My dear friend Andrew took his last breath on Friday evening. I had spent the day supporting their friend Mark in organizing around-the-clock nursing and palliative care and a hospital bed and all the things that needed to happen for Andrew to have his wish after Covid pneumonia had taken its toll – to die at home.
Mark had promised he would not let him be taken back to hospital and worked feverishly to ensure it didn’t happen.
And then, when the arrangements were all in place and the first nurse due to arrive for the overnight shift, Andrew surprised us all by slipping quietly away while Ula and their son sat in the kitchen quietly chatting and he lay in the living room on his own.
And while I so wish I could have been there to hold his hand as he slipped over, I know this is exactly how Andrew would have wanted it.
No lingering death. No waiting. No tears. No fussing over him.
In an article on death and dying I read on my flight back from Vancouver on Wednesday night, the author suggested something we should all consider, “What will the world look like without me in it?” Imagine it and find peace with your imaginings.
Andrew, my world without you in it has a big hole. To find peace within that void I imagine only Love filling the space you left behind because Love is all there is left to hold onto in your passing.
Thank you my friend for your constant love and care. Thank you for the laughter, the joy, the meals, the times we shared in Barbados and Mexico and the times spent at your beautiful home here and on Barry’s Bay.
Thank you for always being there for me and my daughters. Thank you for loving us all so fiercely and for always letting us know how much you cared.
Thank you for being you. You taught me how to be myself no matter what. And no matter what, I shall always love you.
The wind howls. Beaumont the Sheepadoodle paces nervously. I wrap his ‘thunder-blanket’ jacket around his body, he goes back to bed with his dad.
The morning is quiet. Except for the howling wind. Seeds sleep deep beneath the still-frozen ground, dreaming of blossoms yet to flourish. Winter is not yet done.
34 years ago plus a day, my youngest daughter was one day old.
A friend and I were reminiscing about Liseanne’s arrival the other day. It was not the way I wanted it to be. I wanted to be awake and couldn’t be. My water had broken earlier in the morning of the 29th. I didn’t want to say anything. The nurses were on strike and I was scheduled for a C-Section in two weeks. I wanted to wait until the strike was over so I could have an epidural.
When I finally called my gynecologist’s office, he told me nature never waits. “Get thee to the hospital!”
There was a thought she might be able to come into the world naturally, but it wasn’t to be. Twenty-four hours later, she came into this world while I slept, a silent partner to the miracle of her arrival.
It would be several hours later before I held her. I’ve never wanted to let her go since.
Perhaps it’s because of her arrival into a world of strangers, Liseanne has never been afraid. Of anyone or anything. Nor has she ever backed down from speaking truth, protecting the underdog, fighting for justice for those who need help finding their voice. Taking care of all creatures with her beautiful, caring heart wide-open.
Liseanne is Funny, Fair and Fabulous. She treats everyone with dignity and respect, always lending a hand to a friend, or stranger, in need.
And through it all, she lightens even the darkest day with her love, light and laughter.
I’d like to think everything good about her she got from me, but that would be pure hubris and just not true.
Throughout her life she has been surrounded by loving family and friends. And, throughout her life, she has excelled at keeping the bonds of love tightly woven together so that no one feels outside her circle, no one feels alone.
My youngest daughter is 34-years-old plus a day today and the strands of love that bind our hearts together, grow always stronger.
And, as she would say, ’cause she is also very, very witty and quick to insert a pointed quip (ok sarcastic offering) when she thinks I’m getting too mushy… “You slept through my coming into this world and missed my first birthday because you were off skiing down a mountainside at some remote backcountry lodge, it’s okay, I’ll forgive you. Some day.”
Actually, she would tell you she’d never say something like that. Too many words. Her wit is short and sweet – and her forgiveness is never in question.
It’s who she is. Loving. Caring. And so very accepting of all my human (and motherly) flaws.
Though… she does still like to remind me about missing her first birthday! (In my defense, we were to have gotten out of the backcountry lodge the day before her birthday but a blizzard blew in and the helicopter that was to come and retrieve us was grounded for two days!)
I am so very grateful to have the joy of celebrating all her birthdays since.
Liseanne is 34 + a day today. And as she has done every day since coming into this world on her own terms, she makes this world a better, more loving place, in her own fabulous and unique way.
Happy Birthday + a day Liseanne!
Oh dear… I just realized… she probably will think I didn’t post about her on her birthday because… well I posted Beaumont’s blog instead.
Sigh, I can hear her now… “Yup. Knew it. You love Beaumont best.” 🙂
LOL. And I reply, “You taught me well. Do the unexpected. Life’s more fun that way!
I love it when I open my laptop on a Monday morning and discover somewhere between getting ready for a dinner party and my early morning scribblings, my keyboard shows remnants of last nights culinary endeavours.
In this case, a couple of drops of herb-infused olive oil and a basil leaf from the Phyllo Tomato pie I made as a first course lay in a solidified puddle at the edge of my mouse pad.
I keep my laptop on the counter when I’m cooking. Long ago, with the advent of online recipes, I mostly stopped using hardcopy. I still love to browse through a lusciously designed cookbook full of artfully lit photographs and mouth-watering recipes. But online is so much more convenient.
I do think though that I may want to keep my laptop a little further away from the action. Though their four-legged brethren might enjoy a basil leaf soaked in garlic, rosemary and thyme-infused olive oil, I don’t think it’s good for mouse-pad’s digestive track.
Covid has changed so much.
B.C. (before covid), holding a dinner party was an almost every-weekend event in our home. We both love to entertain and I love to set a beautiful table.
With Covid’s arrival it’s become a much rare and momentous occasion, along with a lot of deliberations about the pros and cons and who’s.
After C.C.’s bout in hospital, a slow recovery and the fact connection is good for his soul, as well as health, we decided to hold a small gathering with two other special couples.
While the enjoyment of setting the table, planning the menu and cooking the meal remains the same, we no longer view a potential guest list through the lens of how many couples should we invite? 4? 6? And we don’t deliberate as much about ‘will this be a good mix of people?’. Now, our deliberations focus on other considerations like, “How big is their bubble?” “Are they vaccinated?”
Even the menu takes Covid into consideration. Shared plates have gone the way of a virus-free world and I’ve had to increase my supply of appetizer plates, small forks and knives (not all that big a hardship. I LUV pretty dishes!) so that everyone gets their own fork and cutting knife for the charcuterie.
Even the welcoming at the door has changed. When guests arrive they most still come baring a bottle of wine or a gift for the house. They also step through the door with the declaration, “We took the test! Negative!”
And hugs? Even with a negative test I’m hesitant.
Perhaps that is the greatest change of all… the constant, worry-riddled inner mind chatter of… “Is it safe?”
And yes, we could forgo all form of entertaining, but somehow, that feels like Covid has won.
Life comes with risks. It’s all in how we measure both the risk and our tolerance along with our need for social connection.
And being with good friends. Laughing and telling stories on one another, sharing a meal around a candlelit table — ah yes. These are the happenings that make life so rich and memories so deep.
We were six for dinner last night. Old friends. Family.
We laughed and giggled. We teased one another as only those who share long histories together do. Some of the stories told were probably repeats from dinner’s past.
And it didn’t matter.
We were gathered around a table savouring the connections we crave so much.
Take that you miserable virus! You may have forced us to change a lot of things in our lives, but the one thing you will never change is the joy we feel when we are all connected.
About the artwork
I also spent time in the studio this weekend working on another piece for my #SheDaresBoldly series.
Waaaay too much fun!
And the quote…. may we all never compromise our truth!
Gathering by Louise Gallagher Gathering, the circle draws us near candlelight flickering on precious faces held so dear sharing stories of our days laughing and teasing one another as only those whose stories have been woven through the warp and weft of this family tapestry can because we know there is no distance too far that cannot be bridged by two hearts beating together and weaving stories full of memory and love of life shared within the circle. As we thread our stories together, laughter, memories and love rises and we raise a glass in silent honouring of all the hearts who lost their beat in those days, not yet past but slowly now, slipping away, when we could not gather with family and friends because only the distance between us could keep us safe. We are gathering now drawing near stretching our arms around one another, curving into bodies touching, heart to heart and savouring these times where we can feel them beat in time as we gather and share laughter, love and memories of times past and loved ones lost and feeling grateful for those who made it through to be here now, gathering, the circle drawing us near, holding us safe from where so many have gone leaving behind only memories to light the empty spaces left behind.
Thanksgiving Weekend, 2021.
Our second Thanksgiving under the thrall of Covid.
I am grateful for our health.
Our second socially distanced dinner.
I am grateful for our food.
Our second Thanksgiving without gathering family and friends around a crowded table, laughing, sharing, connecting.
I am grateful for the knowing no matter how far the distance between us, we are always connected.
I am grateful for the love.
The sense of belonging I feel because of the people in my life who make it so rich and beautiful.
I am grateful.
Yesterday, I shut down my computer after my third Zoom meeting of the day and decided to create.
I took Beaumont the Sheepadoodle for an early evening walk along the river, (darkness comes early here above the 49th parallel) and when I came home, sat and chatted about our days with C.C. who was just finishing off a Zoom meeting.
Dusk was settling in as I went downstairs to my studio, which has also become my at-home office now that I am working with a client on advocacy and social engagement, and decided to create.
We are able to have a couple of family members for dinner on Sunday, and I know friends who would normally be at our table, are also doing the same, so I decided t start working on nametags for the table.
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and let my ‘unsuredness’ be my guide.
“Go outside and gather some branches and leaves,” the muse whispered.
And so I did.
“How about mono-printing?” she teased.
And so I did.
I pulled out my mono-printing pad (a gelli plate), laid down a layer of paint, pressed some branches onto its wet surface, lay a sheet of mixed media paper on top and rubbed all over the back, trying to get the paint lifted while leaving white space wherever the leaves lay on the pad.
And then, as C.C. rattled around in the kitchen making dinner, I dove in.
Colour me delighted. Paint me at peace. Splatter me with joy.
And here’s the thing. This morning, looking at the one at the top of this post, I see where imprinting one of my hand-carved leaf stamps onto the bottom of each and painting it white will really add value to the others.
I have a couple of zoom meetings today and some documents to go through and then…
Well… You know where you’ll find me!
I am grateful.
For this day. For the beauty outside my window where I sit typing. The sun is bathing the sky with rosy hues, the river flows deep in silent communion with nature’s beauty and the golden leaves of autumn hang still in morning’s light.
I am grateful for it all.
Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!