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.
Category Archives: it’s all about family and friends
Awhile ago, at a Christmas cocktail party, a fellow artist and I were speaking about art-making and the things we’ve learned through both writing and art-making.
Like me, she’s written a blog for several years but recently quit as she wasn’t ‘getting anything out of it’, she said.
I thought about her response and my own experience of blog writing and suddenly, like fireworks lighting up the sky on New Year’s eve, felt this crystal clear thought burst into brilliant light within my mind. “Writing a blog every day has taught me to always trust in the process,” I said. “And making art has taught me to always keep going. To not give into self-doubt or criticism. To trust that if I’m not happy with it, it’s because it’s not done with me yet.”
The Memory Bowls I created for both my sisters this Christmas were an opportunity to lean into what art-making has taught me.
As I layered paper and medium and then painted the bowls gold I kept hearing the voice in my head hissing, “This is ridiculous. It’s going to be a disaster. Quit while you’re ahead.”
I’d never made a ‘memory bowl’ before and was making up the process as I went along. I wanted to give in. To heed that hissing voice but, the muse kept whispering back, “Push through. Keep going.”
I don’t think it’s wise to ignore the muse, so that’s what I did. I kept going, layering and painting and collaging in pieces of memory to create two bowls that tell the story of our parent’s lives.
My middle sister told me she’s going to keep it in her bedroom for her jewelry. My eldest sister wants to put it on a stand for show.
Regardless of how they display or use the bowls, I am grateful for the reminder that, while in life we can’t see what tomorrow may bring, or what will happen next, when we remain committed to the journey, when we stay the course and keep pushing through, we create space for magic, wonder, awe and beauty to appear.
As 2022 slips away and a new year bursts open upon the horizon, magic, mystery and wonder shimmer in the darkness of the unkown the future holds.
There will be trials and tribulations. There will be trauma and grief. And in the midst of it all, no matter how dark the night, or rough the road, magic, wonder, mystery, possibility and above all, LOVE, will also be present. In the midst of darkness, love whispers, “keep going”. In the depths of despair, hope chants, “keep going” and in the dimness of day becoming night, possibility calls out, “keep going”.
2022 art-making taught me to ‘keep going’. What is a lesson you learned in 2022?
I wish you all a beautiful and loving New Year.
These are some photos and a video of one of the memory bowls I made.
From Me to You. Thank You.
I awoke this morning with gratitude filling my heart as I thought of all the beautiful comments and love I received yesterday.
It is hard to describe how your words and support fill my heart, lessening fear and worry and lighting up my day.
And so… I wrote this for all of you.
From Me to You Louise Gallagher If I have but one prayer let it be, Thank You. Thank you for the sunrises and settings, the clear skies and grey days. Thank you for the moments that fill my heart with joy and the ones that push it to breaking open wide to all the beauty that surrounds me. Thank you for the easy roads and rough trails. Thank you for the calm waters and stormy seas. Thank you for the love and laughter, the pain, the sorrow and tears. Thank you for all of it for all of it is held within the sacred nature of this wondrous life full of unfathomable mysteries and inexplicable tragedies, ripe with breath-taking moments of awe and back-breaking moments of grief. Thank you for all of it for all of it is a gift and within all of it Love beats its steady tattoo calling me to rise up and dance and sing and twirl about and shout out loud, I am grateful for each breath, each moment of this life and all who walk alongside me and make the hard places softer and the easy times more thrilling and the worries and dark times lighter and the joys and laughter brighter. Thank you.
Happy 70 Annie!
Three years ago, she had open heart surgery to replace a valve that had been replaced 15 years previously and was wearing out.
Six weeks after the surgery, she was back in hospital for a month with a life-threatening infection. Every day while in hospital, she’d grab her ‘dolly’ that fed her a constant stream of antibiotics and walk the hospital corridor to ensure she reached her 10,000 steps a day goal.
On Tuesday, last week, to celebrate and mark her 70th birthday today, she walked 70,000 steps. It took 11 hours but she did not stop until she reached and surpassed her goal by a couple of hundred steps, And as she walked along the coastal road of Gabriola Island where she and her husband have lived for the past five years, people greeted her and cheered her on. I imagine some of them even said, “There’s that crazy Annie! Walking. Walking. Walking.” While secretly, they wished they had her verve, her commitment, her energy and her smile.
My sister Anne turns 70 today.
The age is not remarkable. She wears it effortlessly, making it appear much younger than its years.
She, however, is. Remarkable.
As children, we played and fought together. When one of us had done something ‘wrong’, we’d bribe the other to not tell our parents by passing back and forth one of our favourite toys. I often had two bride dolls. She often possessed two Teddy Bears.
In our teens, we were close. We still fought but nothing could break us apart.
Anne was the quiet one. I was the boisterous, more adventurous one. She wrote poetry. I wrote scary stories. I skied and ran and taught swimming while she read books and wrote more poetry and quietly went about making sure everyone around her was comfortable, well-cared for, and not in need of anything vital.
Two and a half years my senior, I have always acted as the older sister. Even as kids I liked to play the protector. And the boss. In our games of make-believe, I always set the scene, dictated which roles she played and generally took charge.
Anne always followed my lead, gently, quietly, without acrimony. But, cross her… well, let’s just say I learned quickly that her sense of right and wrong is very strong, laser sharp and accurate. I couldn’t get away with anything that crossed that line. And I’m grateful. She kept me out of buckets of trouble, and was always there for me when I hit a rough spot, or took a wrong turn, or went for an experience bigger than I could handle alone.
I also knew that no matter what, she would have my back. It’s who she is. There for whomever needs her. Willing to pitch in to do what is needed. Always in her quiet, unassuming, gentle way.
For the past week I have been putting together a video for her birthday – it’s been a labour of love and memory and appreciation. As friends sent in video clips and messages I was blessed with hearing about my sister through their many voices.
What an amazing gift.
Their words and messages shone a light on who I know my sister to be but didn’t always know the world could see… Kind. Thoughtful. Indefatigable. Determined. A good friend. A generous neighbour. A loyal co-worker. A beautiful, shining human being. A caretaker of the weak. A custodian of flora and fauna. A lover of chocolate. A smile that never burns out. And a heart that never quits loving nor beating fiercely with her love of life, laughter and nature.
I am so very grateful that Annie, as our father always called her, is my sister. So grateful that there is not one day of my life that she has not been in it.
Happy Birthday Annie.
You are one of a kind and the world is so much better because you make it so. Every day. In every way.
It Is. Enough.
This morning, when I visited David Kanigan’s blog before coming here to write, the sight of his photos married to the quote he shared brought tears to my eyes. (to experience the quote with the photos click HERE – you won’t be disappointed)
The quote that stirred my emotions (though to be honest, it was his photos of clouds drifting in a rose-drenched morning sky that got me first) was Keep Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change, by Maggi Smith.
David offers up this quote from the book,
Remember when you would have been over-the-moon thrilled to have just a fraction of your life as it is now? Look around you: it is enough. KEEP MOVING
And the tears wash over me as I write a response…
I want to rail against the notion, that if I look around me, I will see it is enough.
I want to cry out in strident opposition, No. It Is Not Enough.
And then I smile (wistfully and a bit sheepishly perhaps) as I remember, whether I think it is enough or not, what is around me right now is all there is. It is what is.
I do as Maggie Smith suggests. I look around me.
The house sleeps in the quiet of the darkness before dawn. The white Christmas lights that I spent an afternoon festooning along the glass railings of the deck, in an effort to bring me into the Christmas spirit, glow softly like candles in the dark. Inside, on my desk, the light of a candle flickers on the photo taken at my mother’s 95th birthday two years ago. I am with my 2 sisters, my 2 daughters, my then 6-month-old grandson and my mother.
4 generations that now live on in 3.
It wasn’t a Covid loss. My mother’s passing in February was just time having had its fill of her life.
And perhaps that is where the tears come from. Not only will my mother not be amongst us this Christmas, we will all be in our separate houses. Alone.
And my heart aches in the reality of what is.
I want to say, it’s not enough.
And must breathe into the reality — It is what it is.
We are all facing that reality – a global experience of loss, change, aloneness, separateness.
Perhaps, out of all of this, what will truly be known is how we are all connected. How we need one another. How it is our relationships that make our life rich and beautiful and oh so vibrant.
Perhaps, when Covid has had its way and we are on our way to healing these months of sequestered solitude, we will find ourselves together again and in that togetherness, will let go of the squabbles and differences that keep us apart.
Perhaps, when we are together again, we will celebrate our human condition in all its billions of unique expressions and let the gazillion things that we tell ourselves about why we must maintain our separateness, go.
Perhaps, we will relate through our magnificence and not our mediocrity.
Perhaps, we will all remember that we are all on this one earth, this one giant ball spinning its way around the sun year after year, together. That it is not our differences that separate us, but our thoughts and ideas and notions of what is right and wrong, possible and impossible, mine and yours.
And perhaps, in discovering how much we need one another, in realizing how connected we are, we will find the courage, strength and compassion to invite everyone into our hearts so that no matter where in the world we are, no matter how fragile or fabulous our human condition or how tiny or large our square footage, we will remember, We Are One.
And perhaps, in that oneness, we will know, once and for all, that we do not own this earth we call our home. We are its inhabitants, its guests and above all its guardians.
For what I do to the earth, I do to you.
Let me only do Love with all my heart, all my being, all my magnificence shining on yours.
And so it shall be.
And so it is. Enough.
The Heart Never Forgets
The Heart Never Forgets
by Louise Gallagher
There was a time,
when your words and the things you did made me laugh
a time when your smile felt gentle on my heart
like warm spring rain after a harsh winter.
And then there are those times
when your words pierced my skin
slicing as sharp as a dagger to an apple’s core
leaving my heart exposed to the harsh cold winds of your anger.
There was a time.
Those times are all gone now
ended when your life careened, out of control
like a bullet racing steadily towards its target
on the road to forever gone.
I would take them all back
the good times and the bad
the laughter and the fights
I would take them all back to have you here again.
But there is no going back on death
No rewinding of time to get back those long-ago days.
There is only this time, flowing ever onward, relentlessly
carrying me towards the day when I too shall be, forever gone.
There will come a time when I will meet you there
on the road to forever gone. And when we meet, you will smile
and the past will be forgotten and our hearts will remember only
that which the heart never forgets, Love.
Perhaps it is that my brother loved to have a big fuss made about his birthday, at least until he started seeing signs of what he didn’t want to see, getting older.
Or perhaps it is that his passing was St. Patrick’s Day and I am wary of mixing laughter and good-times with the day he entered the realm of the ‘forever gone’.
Or perhaps, it is that his death along with the death of his wife, Ros who died in the same crash, was such a trauma-filled time, a time of grief and anger, of broken hearts leading to a broken family circle.
Whatever the reason, it is always on the day of his birth that his memory is strongest. A day I was not there for because, as I always liked to remind him, he was much older than me.
It is hard to imagine my brother at 72, which he would have been today. His memories are frozen in time, his face captured in photographs that ended on that day in March when time stopped moving forward for him, and we began the journey of learning to move on without him.
It was just before his 49th birthday. My sisters and I used to joke that George wouldn’t have enjoyed his 50th. It was too clear a delineation between younger days and older ones to come. He would not have liked the reminders that would have tumbled in on waves of love and laughter from his family and many, many friends. But we would all have loved the opportunity to get back at him for the countless pranks and jokes he had played on all of us.
It would have been my brother’s 72nd birthday today.
He is forever gone, as is the past. Today, my heart only remembers him with that which the heart never forgets, Love.
Ring In The New Year!
The New Year has begun. Gratitude rises. Love expands.
After several delightful days in Vancouver with my daughter, son-in-love and grandson (he is AMAZING!), we arrived on Gabriola Island to spend New Years Eve with my sister and her husband. This morning, we are preparing to leave for Tofino. The forecast is rain (after my beloved finishes watching the Canada/Czech World Juniors Hockey Game that is! 🙂 ). My outlook is sunny.
Storms on the west coast. Moody. Dramatic. Captivating.
Walking the beach. Smelling the salt stung air. Hearing the waves crash.
My kind of magic.
Yesterday was a bright blue sky day. The sun danced on the ocean. The mountains glistened in the distance and my heart sang a song of joy.
My sister and I did the Gabriola Polar Bear Swim (it was my second, her third) — or as one woman at the beach called it — the Dunk and Dash.
Yup. That was me. I ran in. Dunked. Ran out.
It was worth it! To begin the year with a dip in the Pacific Ocean, chilly waters and all.
I am looking forward to Tofino. Looking forward to quiet time to reflect on the amazingness of the year past, to fill my memory bucket with gratitude for all that transpired, all I received, all I experienced. And, to open my heart to all that is possible in this year to come when I let go of worry and fear of what the future may hold and flow with grace into being present in this moment of Love unfolding.
It has been a grand end of a year and the beginning of the next.
It is a time to celebrate. To reflect. To give thanks and to share the Love that flows as effortlessly as the sea, in and out and all around.
Happy New Year to all!
Happy Canada Day!
This is a repost of last year’s poem I wrote for Canada Day.
Happy Canada Day to all of us who have the privilege of calling Canada our home.
Where the wild things howl.
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.
It’s a girl! Birthday wishes to my youngest daughter.
When 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.