The Circle of Life Carries On by Louise Gallagher “Help me! I’m falling,” called the leaf to the limb. The limb whispered back, “You must let go and let Mother Nature catch you.” “But it will be the end of me,” cried the leaf. “Hang on or let go, your life will end,” said the limb. “It is nature’s way..” Frightened, the leaf clung tighter to the limb as the autumn winds blew fierce. The limb shook, the leaf fell and nature had its way. Winter came followed by spring bursting with leaves unfolding. The circle of life carries on, unending.
There’s a meme going around social media sites asking readers something like, “If you remember playing outside until the street lights came on, or, If you remember running barefoot in the yard and drinking out of the garden hose, or squishing the orange dot into the margarine that came in a bag…. then you had a great childhood. (or something like that)
We baby-boomers, we like to tell our offspring, had it good. Freedom to play outside without fearing strangers. Freedom to go to the park on our own, play on death-defying carousel thingies with metal bars without fearing we’d puke (’cause that would be so cool anyway!) or chip a tooth on the wooden teeter-totter with the metal handlebar – which I did but nobody seemed phased by the blood running out of my mouth as I ran across the cement to the swings that had metal seats and rusted chains, determined I’d finally be able to pump so hard I went all the way around over the top.
Without a parent or other adult around, there was no one around to tell me to stop — and I definitely wasn’t going to listen to my five years-older-than-me-brother who’d jumped off the teeter-totter while I was midair and precipitated my hard-landing and chipped tooth.
We baby-boomers had it good.
I wonder sometimes, where were our parents? Why did they give us so much freedom?
I don’t believe it wasn’t because they didn’t care, or thought the world was a super-safe place to be. They’d just come through WW2. How could they think that? How could they believe there weren’t dangers out there?
What I’ve come to believe is that they were war-weary. Tired-out from deprivation and rationing, tired-out by fearing would they or their loved ones get through it at all. Tired-out by wondering would it ever end.
And when it did end, they wanted to believe there was nothing to fear and so… they let their offspring, we the baby-boomers, run free as if we had not a care in the world as they continued to do what they’d always done, take care of business.
Busy building families, rebuilding towns and cities, homes and lives, busy trying to bury the past beneath the memories of all they’d seen and lost, they didn’t have time to go to the park or watch our every move or schedule our every second.
They were in survival mode. Mental health, PTSD, Trauma-informed practices weren’t yet a thing. All they could do was keep surviving.
Covid has led me to this awareness.
As the world struggles to open up again and we learn to adjust to living with its presence amongst us like a memory that refuses to fade-away, I am feeling the angst of wanting to let go of caution and run like that childhood me as if I have not a care in the world.
I am feeling the desire to pretend there is nothing to fear but fear itself.
Fact is, there is a lot in this world to fear – but…
Fear. Worry. They change nothing and, have an innate ability to grow stronger the more I give into their stealthy presence.
Running barefoot in the grass, lying on my back in the prairie grasses at the top of a hill, arms and legs spread wide simply to feel the sun and earth bathe me in glorious warmth. Singing my heart out amidst the trees or standing outside the grocery store singing a made-up song into the phone to my granddaughter simply to hear her laugh and not caring who hears. Throwing and smashing eggs on the rocks beneath the bridge as a train goes rumbling overhead and screaming at the top of my lungs…. now those things do change everything.
Because, in those things I am reminded, I am alive.
And isn’t that a beautiful gift.
The river is flowing again. Fast. Free. Fluid. Spring melt ripens slowly.
The water level rises, centimetre by centimetre. Day by day. Where yesterday, the log-jammed up against one of the buttresses beneath the bridge was fully exposed, this morning, only ridges are available. Soon, as the snowmelt begins in earnest in the Rockies to the west, the water will submerge it and wash it away downstream.
For now, morning brings higher water levels. By dusk, the water will have receded a few centimeters. The cycle will continue day after day as I watch, sometimes with trepidation, its ever-increasing flow, wondering, how high will the waters come?
It is the gift and the angst of living on the Bow.
Years ago, along with 99 Calgarians chosen for Peter von Tiesenhausen’s Passage’s exhibition celebrating the Bow River, I released a small wooden boat (slightly bigger than my hand), carved with a number and message on its side, and set it adrift into the rushing waters of the River. Each of the 100 boats contained information for whoever found it on how to share the story of the boat’s discovery online.
I do not know where my boat was found, or if it was. I know many were. Many weren’t.
Perhaps, like the log stuck against the abutment, my boat landed in the weeds upstream from where it was launched and became buried in the silt of spring flooding.
Perhaps, it became waterlogged and lies at the bottom of the river in some distant tributary.
Or perhaps, it floated and drifted, following the current all the way to Lake Winnipeg into the Nelson River and onward to the Hudson’s Bay.
I like to imagine it did. I like to imagine it sailed out of the Bay into the Arctic Ocean to become frozen in time under the Tundra of the far north.
Perhaps still, the patches of ice that stubbornly cling to the gravel bar further upstream will melt and somewhere on their journey, a current will find my boat, still and silent, waiting for its release in a marshland far to the east.
The river, like time, does not flow backward. My boat, like memory, fades.
The sun struggles to reach the ice clinging to the shore.
Somedays, I struggle against the flow, just as some days I struggle to release the angst of these past two years.
Somedays, I release myself to the flow, allowing worry and angst, fear and sorrow to abate into the River’s constant flow.
Ebbing and flowing. Flowing and Ebbing. Life moves on as time passes.
No matter if I struggle or release, the river is in constant motion, life abounds all around and I am carried by the flow.
Whether I struggle or release, Love is always flowing.
It is my choice to struggle or to breathe into its constant flow trusting that no matter where I go, or where I become stuck or end my journey Love will always carry me through.
This is a video of the boat launch — if you look closely you’ll see me passing by the camera… 🙂
It is called The Wolf Moon. The first full moon of January.
I almost missed it.
Not the moon, but my favourite ‘under the light of the full moon’ thing to do – stand amongst the trees, throw back my head, lift up my chin towards the sky and howl.
Wrapped up in thoughts of my beloved’s slow (to me) recovery from pneumonia that landed him in hospital for the first 10 days of the year, my daughter, son-in-love, and grandchildren’s bout with Covid and a project deadline looming at work, thoughts of howling were far from my mind on Tuesday morning.
And then, as Beaumont the Sheepadoodle and I walked in the woods along the river in the icy-cold, frost-riddled morning of the day after the Wolf Moon rising, I saw it. There it hung, high above, a giant punched-out pale orb of eery white and beige and creamy light yellow in the pale blue sky.
Oblivious to its presence above, Beau sniffed and snuffled his way through snow-laden deadfall and dry winter grasses, following the scent of some unseen forest creature.
I stood in the early morning light, closed my eyes and breathed in the magic of it all.
The moon watched. I breathed.
Howl, a voice within whispered.
Another voice parried back, “Don’t be ridiculous.”
“No, seriously. Howl!”
“No way. People will think I’m weird.”
“Louise, there’s no one here. The park is empty. Howl.”
I really wanted to. Howl that is. But that self-conscious, I don’t want o stand out or make a fool of myself can be a strong advocate for taking the road most travelled sometimes. Especially it seems if the road less travelled includes howling at the moon. “You’re beyond the age of howling,” it hissed. “Beyond the age of reason for that matter!”
I wanted to shout back, “That’s because I’ve entered the age of unreason!”
I remain silent. What if someone hears me?
I walked a bit further. The moon followed me.
The cacophony of voices arguing the pros and cons of howling were becoming more than just an irritant. They were a clamouring, writhing claimant of my morning zen in the woods walk.
What would a woman in the age of unreason do? The voice of spirit asked.
I smiled. I stopped walking, glanced up at the moon, took a deep breath, closed my eyes and let out a tiny, wee, quiet howl.
I opened my eyes, the world looked the same. Beau was still sniffling and snuffling in the woods. The trees were still standing in silent witness, birds sung in the trees, the river flowed on and the moon hung still in the pale blue sky above.
And the park was still empty of other humans.
I took another breath. Deeper this time. Fuller.
I leaned my head back, stretched out my neck, jutted out my chin, opened my mouth and howled.
Aywhooooooo! Aywhooooo! Awhyoooooooooooooo!
And then I laughed.
Deep, loud, belly shaking laughs.
I did it again.
Aywhooooooo! Aywhooooo! Awhyoooooooooooooo!
I looked around. Beaumont, raised his head from sniffing a particularly fascinating piece of deadfall, cocked it sideways, looked at me for a moment, lowered it again and went back to his investigations.
And the trees kept standing, the river flowed on, the birds sang and the moon gazed down from above.
And I laughed again, threw my arms out wide and began to dance in the icy-cold, frost-riddled morning of the day after the Wolf Moon rising,
Because deep within me, I want to live the truth of my affirmation to live bravely. Dare Boldly. And howling and dancing beneath a Wolf Moon on a crisp winter morning is exactly what a woman in the Age of Unreason does.
And then…. just as I sign off on this post, a song begins to play in the background. Normally, my morning writing music is without lyrics. For some, unknown, magical reason, one song with words has slipped into my playlist just as I’m about to press publish on this post.
This post is also in response to Eugi at Eugi’s Causerie where the prompt this week is “Affirmations”.
Do go visit – there’s lots of good reading theree and who knows… you might be inspired to respond too with your written gems!
I do not question the muse. Even when she arrives, as she did in the early morning hours, with words and ideas and images to play with.
No. I rise up and heed her calling, if only to clear my mind so I can fall asleep again.
I wrote the framework of this poem at 2:30 this morning and worked on it again when I arose (for real this time) at 6am.
I do not like to label my words, or put them in a box called… feminist, or militant, or any other constructs we use to name the ways of women and their allies that fall beyond the allowable places women have been allowed to inhabit. Those names are seeds that have been planted and cultivated throughout time by the pervasive nature of this patriarchal world we inhabit.
I prefer to write them out and give them space to be present. An expression of something deep within me seeking light, form, voice, substance. Something created to give me pause, to wonder, ponder, devour and hold up to the light to see through all that has appeared, all that is happening into the essence of all that I have divined, all that I have experienced, all that I have left unsaid that is calling to be said, now.
Recently, while on a Zoom call with a group of men and women, I felt compelled to draw attention to something that was being said between some of the men that caused me discomfort. Their conversation was rife with sexual innuendo. It felt totally inappropriate.
In the process of thinking about speaking up, I felt my heartbeat quicken, my throat constrict, my body tighten with fear.
“Why am I afraid to speak up when what is happening is not reflective of the best of our humanity?” I wondered.
I didn’t want to say anything, I wanted to pretend as I have done too often in the past, that ‘boys would be boys’ and what they were doing was harmless.
But it wasn’t harmless. Along with making others feel uncomfortable, it perpetuated the patriarchal concepts of allowing ‘boys to be boys’ because, “It’s a man’s world baby. You better get used to it.”
And so, still quivering inside, I took a deep breath and spoke up.
This poem rose up out of hundreds of such conversations and encounters I’ve endured, and too many women I know have also endured, without speaking up or drawing a line to say, No More.
PS. In speaking up, others spoke up too — and that felt empowering. One of the men immediately apologized and others wrote to thank me for drawing attention to something they too believe needs to change.
I am grateful. In speaking up, I am reminded, every voice matters and when we give voice to what needs to change, we create space for change to happen.
Far away, at the edge of the land where it meets the sea, there lived a young woman who believed she could fly.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” the townspeople said when she stood at the edge of the cliff to test her belief. “Birds fly. Humans stay walking on the ground.”
The young woman did not believe that was the only way to be human. Every night before going to bed, she did push-ups and lifted weights to strengthen her wings.
And every night before falling asleep she whispered to the dream fairies, “Let my dreams be filled with flight.”
And every night the dream fairies flitted into her sleep, scattering visions of flying and soaring into her dreams.
And in the morning, she would awaken, repeat her exercises and go out to the edge of the cliff overlooking the ocean far below to test the strength of her wings.
One day, as the young woman stood at the edge of the cliff lifting her arms up and down like the seagulls high above, a little girl approached and asked, “Why are you standing here flapping your arms?”
The young woman, surprised that a child would even have to ask such a question, replied without stopping what she was doing. “Practising flying.”
The child watched for a few moments longer before saying, “Well that’s silly. Why don’t you just leap?”
The young woman stopped lifting her arms up and down. She gazed down at the little girl where she stood looking up at her. Sky blue eyes met sky blue eyes. Flaxen hair floated around her face just as hers floated in the morning breeze.
The child smiled up at her and the young woman felt all her fears of falling come crashing into her like the waves crashing against the cliffs below.
“What if I fall?” she asked the little girl.
“What if you don’t?” the little girl replied as she threw her arms wide and cast her body off the edge of the cliff.
The young woman watched, wide-eyed and breathless, as the child’s body floated gracefully on the air, catching the breeze and letting it carry her down to the surface of the waves before lifting her up and up and up to the top of the cliff.
In awe, the young woman watched the child land effortlessly back on the cliff beside her.
“See! It’s easy,” said the child.
And the young woman took a deep, deep breath and spread her arms wide.
“I don’t think I can,” she said as tears welled up in her eyes and rolled down her face.
And the child shrugged her shoulder and smiled and said, “That’s okay. One day, you will stop practicing and cast your doubts to the wind and follow me!”
And with that, the child leapt from the cliff and soared with the seagulls flying high.
Watching and wishing she could, the young woman slowly lowered her arms and turned away from the cliff. Shoulders hunched, feet dragging along the dusty trail, she began the long walk back to the village.
“It is not the townspeople who doubt,” she said to herself. “It’s me.”
And she stopped and repeated it to herself. “It’s not the townspeople who doubt. It’s me.”
And she kept repeating it and repeating it until realization dawned. “I’ve been hiding behind practising flying because I doubt I can actually do it!”
Full of the awareness of the power of her doubts to tie her to the ground, she stopped walking away from the edge, turned quickly around and began running towards the cliff. Arms spread wide, she screamed and laughed and yelled loud and fierce as she cast her body over the edge.
And as her feet left the ground, her wings unfurled and she began to fly.
And that’s where you’ll find her today. Far from the edge of fear, wings unfurled, soaring amidst her dreams and dancing in the lightness of being free from doubt.
The leaves whisper amidst the trees branches reaching out towards the sun. “Lean further! Lean further! You’ve got to lean further to reach the sun!”
And the branches push out and away from their trunks, their arms reaching further and further into the space beyond where they must compete with their brethren to gather sunlight.
And the trunks pull back, rooting themselves deeper and deeper into the ground they know so well. Desperately they fight against gravity, trying to keep their branches from reaching too far. “Too far is dangerous,” they tell the branches. “Lean too far and you will break.”
It is the dance of nature. A never-ending ballet of leaves yearning for light and branches pulling against their roots as they reach for the sun.
It is the dance of life.
Our dreams call us to lean out, further, away from our comfort zones, out beyond the realm of where we tell ourselves we will be safe, into the space beyond all we know, all we believe to be true.
Rooted in our fears, we ground ourselves in the belief to risk change is to lose control of all we know, all we believe to be true.
We cannot change when we stand in the same spot, rooted in our fears.
To change, we must uproot our fears and let courage draw us out of our comfort zones into the vast universe of possibility beyond all we know, all we believe to be true.
Every morning, Beaumont the Sheepadoodle and I pass through the copse of trees in the picture above.
I haven’t noticed before how far they lean out. I have focused instead on the taller trees surrounding them.
This morning, I noticed their stance and the muse bid me to awaken.
Yesterday, after writing out my fears of imperfection and my frustrations with where I was at in my creative journey, I headed into my studio, clear of mind, fresh of spirit, grounded in my body’s wisdom and knowing.
I had fun.
Sure, there were those moments where I wondered… hmmm….. where is this going? But each of those moments appeared as curiosity-filled elements of the bigger moments of pure joy in the art of being present and embodied in this moment, right now.
Did I mention… I had fun? ‘Cause I did!
And here’s the thing… I realized, as I was layering and wiping off, layering and wiping off, (I use a lot of baby-wipes in my art-making — you’re welcome Pampers) the ‘imperfections’ are integral to my art-making. They are part of who I am. A part I want to celebrate, embrace and allow to shine.
And that’s what my creative practice, both writing and visual art-making, teaches me every day.
To allow the artist within free and fearless expression, I must:
- Be curious
- Witness and embrace my fears
- Dive in and open up to vulnerability
- Seek imperfection
- Be present and revel in the moment
- Cherish, nurture and honour my process
- Let go of my ‘judgements’
- Celebrate all I am, beauty and the beast, yin and yang, light and dark
Thank you everyone for your wonderful and loving feedback to my angst yesterday.
What I heard you say rings true and deep within me: We gotta love the imperfections because there’s no such thing as perfect.
Years ago, when I was thinking of signing up for a painting course at a studio I often go to, the owner approached me and suggested I might think twice about attending that particular course. “It’s realism,” she said. “You’re going to end up frustrated as is the instructor. You’ll drive her so crazy with your need to redefine reality to your sensibilities, she’ll ask you to leave.”
I had to laugh.
She was so right.
I don’t ‘do’ realism. At least, not in my art-making.
I love the unexpected. The rough. The blurry. The ‘impression’ and imprecision of suggesting there’s a hammer without having to hit someone on the head with it. How they use that hammer, how they hold it, see it – that’s up to them. Not me.
Me. I’ll be the one in front of her easel, apron over her linen dress because she couldn’t be bothered to change, and because, isn’t it wonderful to wear your ‘Sunday best’ when doing something you love?
Ultimately, that’s what my art is all about. Self-expression for the pure joy of it. Arting-it-out for the love of being present in the moment of creation, that moment when my heart sings and dances in concert with the world in and all around me.
Oh…. and… this painting was inspired by Mother Nature. Yesterday, when I stepped into my studio I noticed that one of the robin chicks had stepped out of the nest and was standing on its edge.
It sat there all day, not quite ready to fly, but definitely testing the temperature of the air, the strength of its wings as it savoured the possibility of flight.
(It’s a bit blurry as I don’t want to get to close and scare her.)
Every time I sit at my studio table, stare at a blank canvas or page in an art journal, I feel the dark, dank tendrils of fear slithering up my spine. They scurry throughout the dendrites of my brain, plump with their insidiously sour whisperings about why I must stop. Now. Before I prove my worst fear true: I am inadequate to the task.
And every time I put paint brush to canvas or word to print or complete any task I set out to do fearing I can’t, I beat back fear.
Painting has taught me, I must feel the fear. See. it. Acknowledge it even. And then, I must transform it through taking action.
It doesn’t matter if the action leads to a ‘masterpiece’. What matters is, I stepped into the fray, faced my fears and forged on.
Creativity is the art of facing fear down with action. Action that takes you into the very territory fear is trying to keep you out of. Your fear of facing your magnificence, your beautiful self expression of your soul’s calling to be witness to all of life. Your fear of moving beyond your comfort zone. Of facing your fears, and the world. Your way. Wild and Free.
Perhaps, that’s what makes one person dive into their creativity while another will insist they don’t have any – the willingness to face fear again and again and again and still keep going.
Perhaps, it is our definition of ‘creativity’ that needs to expand so that we can all see how inherently creative it is to be human.
I have a friend who constantly says she is not creative, even though she is a marvelous cook, seamstress, friend. One of the things she does that always strikes me as an expression of her creative nature is to make beautiful meals for friends in moments of distress. She artfully packages each meal up with flowers and a beautifully penned note of support and delivers them to her friends in need. Yet, when I point out this is another viewpoint of creative expression, she brushes off my assertions with a, “That’s not very creative. It’s just what friends do.”
“Don’t you worry about intruding on their grief or pain?” I ask. (I have a fear of intruding when people are in moments of distress.)
“Sometimes,” she replies. “But I also know how much comfort someone feels when a friend turns up at their door with a gift of food and flowers when the last thing they can think about is what to make for dinner. So I do it anyway.”
See. Facing fear with action to create beauty, comfort, and ease in the world around you.
Yesterday, a friend picked up one of my paintings he’d purchased. One of his comments touched me deeply. “I love your art,” he said. “It’s so peaceful.” (Thank you BC)
I have never thought of my work as ‘peaceful’. Yet, when he said it, I felt the peace that consumes me when I face my fear of the blank canvas and lay down swathes of color and texture. Perhaps, that is what my friend sees and feels – the peace and joy within me, expressing itself outward onto the canvas.
The great Russian abstract painter, Vassily Kandinsky said, “Color is a power which directly influences the soul.”
I paint with color. It is an expression of my soul. It soothes my mind, my body, my being present.
It calms my fears and, even though I hadn’t realized it before, it stirs my courage awake. Awakened, I beat back fear. Not with angry words and protestations against its presence. But with the most loving, kind thing I can do for myself. Get creating.
And while I often don’t know where I’m going with a painting until I get there, the fastest route to get beyond my fear to find out where I’m going, is to let the colors lead my body into self-expression.
So thank you BC. Not just for your friendship and support of my work, but for your words. They touched me deeply and bring me great joy. And have given me a window into my own self-expression I hadn’t opened before. Much gratitude.
Once I’d printed out the two lists, I had to laugh at myself.
The ‘I can’t list’ – pretty well all lives in my head. The blocks and hurdles imaginary things I tell myself which, through repetition or simply remaining unchallenged, have become limiting beliefs that do not serve me well. And definitely don’t do much towards helping me live the life of my dreams!
And isn’t that what we all want? To live a life where we feel inspired, passionate, engaged. A life that reflects our desires, whatever they are, for love, friendship, comfort, and yes, success.
I realized as I was working on my Can’t and Can lists that defining what ‘success’ looks like to me at this certain age of my life is different than what it looked like at 30, 40, 50. I haven’t spent as much time considering the question, “What does a ‘successful’ life look like to me now that I’m no longer ‘out there in the workforce’ but here, spending time writing, painting, creating. Am I creating ‘things’ or am I creating a life worth living?”
It was a great question to carry with me as I wandered the forest and trails of the park Beaumont the Sheepadoodle and I walk in every morning.
I walked through the forest along the river and looked up into the naked branches of the trees, listened to the birds, a woodpecker hammering, chickadees calling and the wind. Always the wind.
I stopped and took photos. Noticed broken bark and branches. Touched crenellated trunks and scarred limbs. And was reminded of how life is often a journey that leaves us scarred and scared but also beautifully weathered, worn and wise.
When I came home, I played Rod Stewart’s hit, Scarred and Scared. Stewart was one of my dad’s and my brother’s favourites way back when. Before they left this world a year a half apart. Before we had to learn how to fill in the spaces of their missing with memories and stories of their lives interwoven with ours. In the past. Always in the past.
And then… the poem below wrote itself out as I meditated on life and the joy of my many circles. From art circle creatrixes to writing circle poetresses and family circles and friendship rings and everyone in between. We have all weathered life through days and months and years, words and poetry and actions and colours splashed against the tapestries of our lives coming into full bloom and then, softly, lovingly, gently beginning to fade.
I do not know about ‘the fading years’, as I heard the latter years of life called once. I love the visual imagery of it. The softness and gentleness.
But I don’t know if I want to fade or go out in a great big burst of colour!
And that’s the beauty of life. I don’t have to know. I simply have to live. Every moment. Every colour. Every word and action, every sight and sound the way I want to live them. Now. Fully. Completely. Wholly. In this moment.
Until there are no more moments, no more sights or sounds or even breaths to live.
Perhaps it was the melancholy of the trees, the quiet of the forest, the reading through a course I created several years ago and spent a good part of the day updating that pulled me into the lure of time. Its gathering. Its weaving. It’s meandering course through life. Its unravelling. It’s gathering. It’s weaving….
Whatever the impetus, I am grateful.
NOTE: The course I created and updated is called, “Right Your Heart Out”. It is currently available for free download on my website – I would be incredibly appreciative if you took it for a test run and gave me what feedback you can — feedback is the only way to make it better!
To learn more about this 21 day/lesson course click here – Right Your Heart Out
To dive in without learning more, to just ‘go for it’ click HERE for immediate download.
And… working on updating this course was my diving into Step 12 of the 20 Attitudes and Actions.
Here’s the deal – a marker on my path is having someone download the course… Don’t you want to be a marker of my path forward? I get to surprise myself with a reward if you are! 🙂