Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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Where the wild things howl.

Photo by Anton Strogonoff on Unsplash

The howling of the coyotes wakes me up.

Beaumont the Sheepadoodle hears them too. He leaps up from the floor at the end of our bed where he has been sleeping. Races down the stairs to the patio doors. He stands. Barking, body tensed, eyes fixed at what he cannot see, somewhere out there on the top of the hill beyond.

It is 3am.

I try to calm him. To get him to stop barking. He wants to get out there.

I close the blinds.

Finally, the howling stops and Beaumont lies down by the glass doors. He does not want to come back upstairs.

And I am reminded, no matter how much concrete surrounds us, we are not far from the wild.

It is in our roots, our DNA, our genetic history.

We have seen a coyote a couple of times since moving into this place in December. I don’t know if it’s the same one, or a different one each time. We see him, or her, loping silently across the hillside in the early evening. We know there’s a den, somewhere at the top. We’ve heard their howling before. They are the wild things.

I wonder if they howl to entice unsuspecting prey into their space. Beaumont always wants to take off after the sound. He wants to investigate.

I don’t let him. I keep him on the leash now whenever I let him out.

He is not wild. Though I wonder if the howling awakens deeply-buried wild memories of life before domestication.

Deer live somewhere on the hillside too.

We see them often. Four or five. Every day they traverse the slope. Walking elegantly through the snow, scrubbing through the bushes and trees for fodder.

They too make Beaumont bark. Whenever we’re outside and they see us, they take off, their long legs leaping through the snow with ease. Beaumont strains at the leash, barking. Inevitably, one of the deer will stand at the edge of the trees, staring. Unmoved by Beaumont’s barks, he seems to be enticing him to play, ‘catch me if you can’.

In those moments, it takes all my strength to get Beaumont to quieten down, to not pull and strain at the leash.

The wild stirs within him, calling him to run after it. To be part of it.

We are not that far from the wild here. The city limits stretch further into the rolling hills at the edge of that liminal space where wild meets tamed and man keeps pushing the wild further and further away. Yet, still the wild things roam. They have adapted to the citylife. They have formed their trails from the wild spaces to cityscapes.

The howling of coyotes woke me at 3am.

I feel the wild calling me. Let go it calls. Come. Outside. Run. Barefoot in the night. Dance beneath the belly of the fullness of the pregnant moon. Throw your head back and howl in the pure delight of being alive.

I calm the urge and go back to bed.

Beaumont is on guard. He will keep the wild things at bay.

___________________________________________

The howling of wild things in the night reminded me of a song my brother used to play long ago on his record player when we were teenagers and not yet tamed by life.

Perhaps it is fitting I am reminded of my brother this first day of March. It was this month, 19 years ago, that his journey on this earth abruptly ended.

My brother loved music. He’d play a few bars of a song, stop it and ask me to “Name that Tune”. I wasn’t very good at that game. He’d laugh and tease me and play another song. “Wild,” he’d exclaim as some drum roll or guitar riff caught his fancy.

My brother was a wild thing. He loved life.

 


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It’s a girl! Birthday wishes to my youngest daughter.

liseanneWhen she was little we nicknamed her Ghee! because that was the sound she made when she was excited about something. The exclamation mark was important. Even as an infant it was obvious that her mode of travel through life would be to always put an exclamation mark after everything she did.

Yesterday, my youngest daughter turned 29. I couldn’t write my blog about her yesterday as I had forgotten to ask permission. She’s particular that way. Determined. Confident. Assured.

On Sunday night, six of us went for dinner to celebrate her big day and I sat and watched her and felt awe wash over me just as it had that day, 29 years ago, when she burst into the world with her delightful laughter and way of being and said, “I am here!”

It was cold on January 30th, 1988. Her father and I were just finishing off touches to her bedroom when my water broke, two weeks before my due date. There was a nurses’ strike happening, the temperature was sub-Arctic and I hadn’t quite finished doing all the things I wanted to get done before her arrival as Alexis’ little sister. I wanted to wait. At least until after the nurses’ strike. My doctor informed me waiting was not an option. Liseanne agreed. She arrived just after 3pm in the afternoon of the 30th. Two weeks early. 6lbs 1 oz. A perfect miracle of life.

And that is how she has rolled for 29 years.

Taking the world by storm. Ready or not. Here I come.

It is one of her many gifts. She doesn’t wait for the world to catch up. She leads the parade.

Inspiring. Thoughtful. Thought-provoking. Liseanne likes to challenge ideas, shake-up the status quo, see things through different perspectives.

And she likes to invite everyone into her creative way of seeing the world.

Once, when she was about eight, she really, really wanted a dog. When she asked me if we could get one, I told her I didn’t think so. I was a single-working parent of two young daughters. I didn’t want to have to care for an animal. A few days later, she asked me if we could get an elephant. Of course not, I laughed. An elephant’s too big. What about a giraffe? Same thing, I told her — plus the fact our roof wasn’t high enough to accommodate an animal that tall. She pretended to think about it some more and then asked if we could get a tiger. Tiger’s don’t do well in the city, I replied. Oh, she said. Do dogs? Of course, I casually responded. And they’re not too big or too tall for our house are they? No. They’re not. Good, she said. Then a dog is perfect.

It wasn’t until two weeks later when we were on our way to the SPCA to check out dogs that I realized I’d been outsmarted by my 8 year old daughter.

And when we came home with Bella, an 80lb shaggy black bear of a dog, I realized I’d been out-smarted again. I’d insisted that if we got a dog, it would be a small one.

Liseanne was right though. We needed that big shaggy girl in our lives. And so did their dad, she would later convince me.  Travelling back and forth between houses with the girls, Bella had become his best friend. She’ll only be a block away, mom, she told me when she asked if Bella could go live with their father. You’ve got us. He needs someone in the house with him. And so Bella, the dog she’d lobbied for so convincingly took up residence in their father’s house a block away.

Because it was the right thing to do and doing the right thing is at the heart of who Liseanne is. She cares about people, animals, everything. And beyond caring, she turns up. She takes action.

During the floods, she volunteered around the city helping to sweep out flooded basements, carry out sodden belongings of strangers. It didn’t matter. She was needed. She was there.

Liseanne is a successful young business woman now. She holds a responsible job. She sits on the board of a not for profit. She gives of her time, her talents and her treasures.

It’s who she is. It’s how she is in this world. Loving. Laughing. Living life her way.

And I am so blessed. She has gifted my life with grace and love. And when I really needed it, she gave me the forgiveness I so desperately needed and kept on loving me just the way I am.

Yesterday was my youngest daughter’s birthday. My life and the world are a better place because she’s in it.

 


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Beaumont the Wave Chaser

He is a wave hound. A chaser of the curve as it falls over onto itself racing towards the shore.

He follows the line of the water, running at full speed along the beach.

He does not bark. He does not zig nor zag. He runs like a bullet speeding through air, following the wave.

Beaumont loves the beach. He loves the ocean.

As always happens, no matter where we are or who we’re with, I am the first person up in the morning. It is my habit. My way of being.

I treasured those quiet mornings in Tofino. As the sun rose behind the trees lining the eastern horizon, the light advanced in long shimmering lines, reaching far into the western shores of the Island, pushing night’s blanket away from the shore. Beaumont and I would quietly leave our cabin at the edge of MacKenzie beach and walk in the early morning light, down the steps to the golden sand of Crystal Cove. I’d let him off his leash and he would race around me in circles, his mouth open in a great big huge grin, his body quivering in anticipation of the frolics to come, just on the other side of the rocks protruding from the sand. I’d throw his ball. He’d grab it and make a beeline for the first wave washing ashore.

And the fun began.

Ball in mouth, he races along the curve of the water, splashing and leaping in the waves. If there are others out in the early morning light, they inevitably stop and watch and smile.

Beaumont in the waves is a smile making machine.

He does not pay attention to humans, other dogs, birds. Nothing. He only has eyes for the waves, the water cascading over itself as it rushes to shore.

One woman couldn’t resist his antics. She waited patiently to grab just the perfect photo. She walked towards me, camera outstretched to show me. “I’m so excited I caught him leaping in the waters. His smile is contagious.” She showed me her photo and added. “I want a dog just like him!”

Every morning I walked the beach with Beaumont and was reminded of how easy it is to be in the moment, to be present to joy and share smiles with strangers.

Lesson from a Dog: Chase waves. Smile lots. Life is an adventure.


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Grief wears thin with time’s passing. An ode to my brother.

He loved music.

He loved to play a song and stop it after a few bars and ask, “Name that tune!” And, before you could even get the answer out, he’d be onto the next one. It was a game he always won because he controlled the music. He knew all the songs.

My brother passed away on St. Patrick’s Day, 19 years ago today.

It sounds like a long time when written that way. 19 years.

Grief wears thin with time’s passing. But the missing doesn’t fade. Especially on this day. The day of wearing of the green when my brother would celebrate all things Irish in honour of our dad whose Irish roots ran deep.

My brother didn’t look very Irish. He was dark and handsome. More Arabian prince than Irish duke. But he had the Irish way. One minute dark and brooding. The next smiles and laughter as if the blue sky was a gift that he could bestow upon everyone with just his smile. Like a bright sunny day, my brother could win over any heart. Young or old. Male or female.

I was reminded of my brother this morning as I watched a video of two men having an Irish dance off this morning. I laughed.

They made me think of my brother. He died long before Facebook became ‘a thing’. I can only imagine his feed. It would be filled with inspirational videos and quotes. Things to make every heart smile and every mind open.

My brother would have loved to watch the two men in their dance, but he would never have joined in. George could not dance. He had no rhythm. None at all.

We used to tease him about it. My sisters and I. We’d stand still and move one foot in semi-time to the beat of the music. We’d put our hands on our hips and randomly fling out one arm, not in time to the beat, bob our heads spasmodically and laugh and say, “Look George! I’m dancing like you!”

And my brother would laugh with us and parody himself dancing just like us making fun of him. Because despite his lack of rhythm, he loved a good joke and his laughter was always a song of joy.

Which was about the only song he could sing in tune. He had no rhythm and I swear, he was tone death too.

Midnight mass was always a killer. Especially as we got older and the Revillon my mother insisted we revel in before midnight mass also included my brother and dad imbibing in copious amounts of Irish whiskey. We’d go to the church and stand in the back (my brother was notoriously late for everything) and George would insist on singing at the top of his lungs. “God doesn’t care if I can’t carry a tune,” he’d tell me laughingly. “He just likes to hear the sound of my voice singing!” And he’d belt out another note as my sister Anne and I would attempt to drown out his singing with what we considered to be our more harmonious sounds.

As a kid he tried to play every instrument under the sun. But the lack of rhythm thing always got him. Especially when he was learning the drums. It was painful. We begged him to please stop. To make it end. But he persisted. I’m not sure if he actually liked playing the drums or just enjoyed the tormenting of his sisters more. I have a feeling it was the latter.

He was one boy amongst three girls. Second in birth-order. First in-line of sight. Or at least, that’s what I always jokingly told him. The sun rises and sets on the son, I’d say and he would smile knowingly and carry on with whatever mischievous misdeed he’d concocted that inevitably came back to roost on me. I knew better than to compete with his position in the sun. I knew better than to try to set the record straight. The only nickname he ever carried at home was ‘Music man.’ Mine was ‘The Brat’. No contest. It was always my fault when things went wrong.

And they often did with George’s escapades. He loved to play tricks but he wasn’t very adept at scheming. And he could not keep a straight face, no matter how hard he tried. Which always made it difficult when he tried to play a joke on someone. Inevitably, before the punchline was ever reached, he’d break into laughter and tell the recipient what was going on.

I think he knew that his jokes and tricks were never that funny.

But it didn’t matter. His enthusiasm for the execution of a joke, and his desire to bring everyone in on the joke long before the game was up, won over the hearts and minds of everyone who came within his sphere of influence.

And his sphere was great.

That’s the thing of being like the sun. You touch everyone with your warmth.

My brother and his wife Ros, passed away on this day 19 years ago.

Grief wears thin with time’s passing. And still, they are missed.

 

********************

This is the video that made me smile in memory of my brother this morning.

 


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Family: what we cherish most

In the silence there is only possibility. In possibility there is hope. In hope there is possibility.

These thoughts drifted in and through my mind this morning as I sat in meditation, letting my body sink into the silence. The silence, and its companion stillness, feed my soul’s yearning for me to know peacefulness, harmony, oneness.

Some mornings, the silence evades me. “Time is passing,” my critter whispers. “You don’t have time for meditation.”

“But if she has time for writing, why doesn’t she have time for meditation?” my voice of reason counters.

The critter laughs. Throws back his head and bays at the invisible moon it cannot see hanging somewhere in the darkness outside my office window.  “Don’t be ridiculous. There’s only so much time and writing is more important than her taking time to get still so she can drift off into la la land.”

I sit between the two, feeling stranded, lost, almost hopeless. I want to heed my voice of reason. She knows what’s best for me. But the critter has a point. There is only so much time before I have to get ready to go to work.

Which voice will I heed?

This morning, I heeded my voice of reason. I took ten minutes for meditation before starting to write. Which, given that this post is now about my experience of trying to avoid what I know is good for me, shows how much the silence informs my writing.

I wasn’t going to write any of this when first I sat down at my desk earlier this morning. The beginning of this post was going to be, “I had only 15 more cards to paint when a text from my stepson arrived on my phone, ‘You’re in. Ticket at the door under 36?'”

36? performs at Festival Hall

36? performs at Festival Hall

36? is the name of my stepson’s band. Dubbed Calgary’s ‘band to watch’ for 2015 by several media outlets, 36? was playing a concert last night as part of CBC Radio 1’s Sunday music program, The Key of A. The performers had been provided two tickets each. He’d given one to his dad and the other to his girlfriend. We’d tried to purchase tickets but online sales said they were sold out.

Fact is, they weren’t. When TC, my stepson arrived at the theatre, he scored me one.

I had only 15 more cards to paint. It was 8:22. The show started at 8. I was in painting clothes and immersed in my process. I had 70 cards to paint and was almost done. I needed to get them done. I like crossing things off my list of “Things to get done to be ready for the wedding.” It would be 9 by the time I got there…

To stay home or to go?

Both critter and the voice of reason agreed on this one, GO!

55 Thank you cards done. 15 more to go.

55 Thank you cards done. 15 more to go.

For the critter, the win came from not letting me finish something I’d set out to do several hours earlier. The cards are to accompany the ‘party favours’ we’ve ordered for the wedding. I could have left them blank but they look so sweet and springlike with the flowers all painted up. I was actually smiling as I painted them!

And then, I thought about the conversation we’d had earlier in the day when my dear friend Kerry Parsons came over to talk with us about the wedding ceremony and our vows. Yours is a story of hope, she said. Of possibility. Of love always winning.

She’s right. Even after broken hearts and shattered dreams. Even after I do’s cast out into fate with the intention of  falling into love forever, only to fall apart long before forever came, we are courageous enough to turn up for each other and say, I do. I do believe in Love. I do believe in marriage. I do believe in giving love a chance because in the end, what matters most, is love. And our love is all about our families. It’s all about C.C. and I, not just as two people joining together into a single matrimonial unit but as two families coming together as one.

The voice of reason was right. I can paint anytime. I can’t be with C.C. and listen to his son, our son, perform at Festival Hall anytime. I can’t sit beside him every night of the week and hold his hand and watch his face beaming with pride as he watches his son leap and dance and sing and play his guitar and pound on his keyboard as he throws his whole being into his performance.

I can’t do that anytime. I must take the time to do it when I can.

And I can only do that when I choose to put aside what I’m doing and focus on being with the one I love, so that together we can celebrate what we cherish most; our family.

 

 

 

 


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Go ahead…Click

The View Through My Window This Morning

The View Through My Window This Morning

I got blown away this morning by one short paragraph. Imagine, all it took to stop my heart, deepen my breathing and open my senses wide open to the truth were a string of vowels and consonants strung together to create a vision of wisdom for my soul to feast on.

My blog-friend Val Boyko shares a quote and photo from Zen philosopher Thich Nhat Hanh on her blog this morning entitled, That Particular Moment

The quote she shares begins with, “When something upsets you, when something happens that is not to your liking in your family or your community, you want to change it right away.”  What Thich Nhat Hanh writes afterwards is so simple, so elegant so filled with loving kindness putting it into practice cannot help but create a better world for all.

Go ahead…. Click.

Photographer and a new blog find for me, Mary Hone, shares beautiful photographs of the journey she and her artist husband, Al Hone, are taking on backroads of America with their dog and fifth wheeler on her blog, Tales from the Backroad. On Tuesday, Mary asked for help with votes in a competition she’s entered at Fine Art America. It’s a simple and elegant way to make a difference today simply by clicking on the title above each of Mary’s photos and voting (you need a FB account). You’ll make a difference today and give a feast to your eyes and all your senses.

Go ahead… Click.

Yvonne, at The Presents of Presence, is a breast cancer survivor and a woman of deep faith and beauty. In Wasting a Mind Away, she writes with loving kindness about caring for her Aunt Mable whose mind has been devastated by loss and disease.

Go ahead… Click.

Mark Kolke, the man who originally inspired me to begin blogging 8 years ago, has a blog today on a decision coming down from the Supreme Court of Canada today on Assisted Suicide. A touchy, divisive and important conversation is being held right now on our Eastern slopes to decide, do we or don’t we allow those who are standing helplessly by while loved ones struggle to breathe, ease their pain and suffering. Mark’s post, There Will Be Change, is worth the read. Let’s hope those who make the law of our land agree.

Go ahead… Click.

Have a wonderful Friday!


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Birthday gratitude and other things

I had a beautiful birthday.

I worked from home, finished off an article I’ve been procrastinating on, sent it off to the editor and it is done.

A sigh of relief, of gratitude for getting it done, of satisfaction for a task completed, moves joyfully through my body.

That’s the thing about things that sit on ‘the pile’ waiting to get done. They don’t actually go away until I transform the energy I waste avoiding them, into the action of doing them.

Avoidance strengthens fear.

Avoidance not only adds to stress levels, it also creates a chemical reaction that, with every time we avoid a particular thing, sends tiny little messages to the brain that says, “See! Avoiding it actually felt good. Let’s get better at avoiding it so we keep getting that tiny fissure of relief in the immediacy of our avoidance!”

In actual fact, while that tiny fissure of relief is  momentary, it can create giant waves of discord when activated too often.

Those waves of discord are created from the worry, shame, fear, excuses, blame… whatever emotions we encounter when avoiding doing something we know is good for us, or we need to do, or we have to do because…

In the case of the article I finished editing yesterday, it was a commitment made in the summer to a magazine for an article on the challenges of housing formerly homeless individuals in community. My former boss had asked if I would do it, and it seemed like a good idea at the time.

And it was. It’s just, between the original draft and the final, there have been many revisions, and many other items, (not to mention excuses) that got in the path of completing the article.

Yesterday, I worked from home and got it done. It is gone. Off my desk. Finished. Final.

And while the fissure of relief from avoiding it repeatedly was kind of intoxicating in a sick and cyclical way, the relief from having it finished, never to be thought of again, never to be shoved aside or discounted or procrastinated over, is even greater!

Once done, I had time to review a document I need to work on this week — and the benefit is, I can work on it without thoughts of what I ‘should’ be finishing clouding my thinking.

It is easy to convince ourselves that not doing what needs doing is okay – at least until tomorrow.

Challenge is, tomorrow will arrive and the not doing will begin to take up more and more of our mindspace as we spend more and more time rationalizing why we’re avoiding doing what is there to do.

If avoidance strengthens fear, doing it creates peace.

And I like peace of mind and heart. I like the peace of knowing that I am right with my world and all is right within me.

I finished a task yesterday I’ve been putting off for awhile. Now that it’s done, I wonder what I was putting off for so long. Perhaps it truly was just the addiction to those tiny fissures of relief that were getting in the way of my seeing how easy it was to strengthen what I want more of in my life, just by doing what I feared!

Namaste.

And thank you for the Birthday wishes!  It was a grand day.

 

Thank you 1