Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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The Cloak of Worry (A Fairy-tale)

Once there was a little girl who loved to dance. She danced so much her mother feared she’d never find her feet on the ground and if she never had her feet on the ground she’d never be able to take care of herself when she grew old. So she took the little girl’s shoes to the shoemaker and asked him to line them with lead.

Convinced it was the right thing to do, she put the shoes on her daughter and made her promise she would never take them off. “If you remove the shoes your feet will fall off and you will fall down, never to get up again.”

And so the little girl who loved to dance learned to walk with heavy step.

But still she loved to sing and laugh no matter where she went. Her mother feared her daughter’s voice, which sounded like birdsong, would keep her from ever taking life seriously and if she didn’t take life seriously, how would she ever watch out for trouble?

And so, she made her daughter a cloak of thorns and knit it together with threads of worry. “You must always wear this cloak,” she told her daughter. “If you dare to take it off, your skin will grow brittle and hard and fall off and your body will fall down, never to get up again.”

And so the little girl who loved to laugh and sing forgot the power of her own voice beneath the weight of the cloak as she took each step. She was careful to always look out for trouble.

One day, when the little girl had become an old woman and no longer needed lead lined shoes to keep her feet firmly planted on the ground, or a cloak of thorns with worries sewn into every stitch to keep her taking life seriously, went into the forest to gather firewood for her hearth. As she carefully picked up wood to place into her basket, she saw a child dancing and heard her singing amongst the trees.

The sound of the child’s voice that sounded like birdsong, the sight of her spinning and twirling about set her heart racing so fast she had to sit down in a hollow at the bottom of a tree to catch her breath. But, before she sat down, she had to check the ground for spiders, and sweep away all the dirt and place a cloth upon the earth to keep her clothes from getting dirty. Worried that a wild animal would come and attack her, she sharpened one of the pieces of wood in her basket into a spear and placed her back firmly into the tree trunk where she sat.

But still it wasn’t enough.

She was worried that an animal might sneak up from behind her, or a storm would blow in and knock down the tree beneath which she sat.

“Oh this life is such serious business,” she sighed as she moved her body deeper into the open space at the bottom of the tree trunk. “It is wise to keep your feet firmly planted on the ground at all times. It is right to always look out for trouble.”

And as she sighed and kept shifting her eyes around, making sure she was safe from attack, she forgot all about the little girl laughing and dancing in the woods.

And the animals never paid her any attention. They didn’t see her tucked into the tree’s trunk and they were busy anyway. They were doing what animals do in the woods and did not have time for an old woman sitting in a tree, glaring out at the world, fearful of every noise.

And the little girl never saw the old woman sitting in the tree trunk either. She was too busy dancing and singing to her heart’s content as she continued on her way through the forest.

Slowly, over time, the old woman fell asleep to dream of a dancing girl with a voice like birdsong who long ago danced in the woods and sang to her heart’s content.

And as she dreamed, the seasons turned and the leaves fell and snow blanketed the earth and her heart grew still until only the sighs of the wind could be heard whispering through the leaves.

She sits there still today, tucked inside the tree, her body entwined in the ivy that spun its way around her like a cloak of thorns knit together by worries.

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

I originally posted this story in 2016. This story wrote itself from a dream. It has many meanings for me. I’m curious to know what it means for you?

Please, do share your thoughts.

Namaste.


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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.

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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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Jail Break!

comfort-zone-break-out-copy

It was a simple statement made at a retirement party for a dear friend.

We had each been asked to state our wishes for the man retiring. One woman said, “I wish for you the courage to do something new. To try new things, things you’ve never thought of doing or things you’ve always dreamt of doing but never did.”

What a perfect wish. For any time of life.

Why wait for retirement?

It is easy to get trapped into believing there is one way and one way only to live your life. It’s easy to tell yourself that there are limited options in what you can or can’t do, can or can’t change.

Over time, we become accustomed to living our life ‘this way’. We become comfortable in the known and venture less and less beyond the corridors of our comfort zone. Eventually, our comfort zone gets narrower and narrower until the ruts become walls of regret, disappointments, fears, disbeliefs and limitations. Stepping out, over, around, beyond those walls is important — no matter your age you’re never too old to break out of the jail of your self-imprisonment!

This Christmas, a friend and I are launching a project to tell the stories of those whose lives once included homelessness. We will be filming Season’s Greetings from people who once walked the streets, slept rough or in shelter beds, and who are now living in their own homes. The vision, to connect heart to heart via the wishes and stories people share, to family and friends far away.

I used to do this every Christmas when I worked at a homeless shelter. We’d invite clients, staff and volunteers to film a Christmas greeting and put the greetings online at the shelters website. The difference this time is we will be visiting people in their homes. Sharing their greetings from a place many people never imagined they would ever find themselves again — at home.

Our vision is that through these stories/greetings we will expand our understanding of what it means to have a home, a place, an address.

Stay tuned for more as we develop ‘the idea’ for The Gift Project into something concrete, something meaningful, something we believe will open all of us up to the conversation of our human condition. The conversation around belonging.

Starting this project is a stretch. A step beyond the comfort of celebrating Christmas the way I always do. I’m not doing it as part of an ‘agency’. I’m doing it as part of a team that wants to make a difference by contributing to our human story.

I’m excited. We have a film crew and a film production company on board to edit the videos. The website is under development. The possibilities are expanding.

What about you?

What’s exciting you to step beyond the walls of your comfort zone into expanding your understanding of what it means to live your life on purpose?