Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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The Poet Boy Remembered

Remembrance Day. Lest we forget. Let us  not forget.

Their sacrifice. Their honour. Their duty to country. Their names.

Let us not forget.

My father went off to war when he was a boy. He went off and fought and came home and seldom spoke of those years again.

The following is the unedited version of a shorter Op-Ed I wrote that was published in the Calgary Herald several years ago. I share it here in memory of my father, and all the sons and daughters, boys and girls, men and women, who have gone off to war to never return. I share it here to remind me to never forget my father who was once a poet boy.

The Poet Boy

When the poet boy was sixteen, he lied about his age and ran off to war. It was a war he was too young to understand. Or know why he was fighting. When the guns were silenced and the victors and the vanquished carried off their dead and wounded, the poet boy was gone. In his stead, there stood a man. An angry man. A wounded man. The man who would become my father.

By the time of my arrival, the final note in a quartet of baby-boomer children, the poet boy was deeply buried beneath the burden of an unforgettable war and the dark moods that permeated my father’s being with the density of storm clouds blocking the sun. Occasionally, on a holiday or a walk in the woods, the sun would burst through and signs of the poet boy would seep out from beneath the burden of the past. Sometimes, like letters scrambled in a bowl of alphabet soup that momentarily made sense of a word drifting across the surface, images of the poet boy appeared in a note or a letter my father wrote me. For that one brief moment a light would be cast on what was lost and then suddenly, with the deftness of a croupier sweeping away the dice, the words would disappear as the angry man came sweeping back with the ferocity of winter rushing in from the north.

I spent my lifetime looking for the words that would make the poet boy appear, but time ran out when my father’s heart gave up its fierce beat to the silence of eternity. It was a massive coronary. My mother said he was angry when the pain hit him. Angry, but unafraid. She wasn’t allowed to call an ambulance. She wasn’t allowed to call a neighbor. He drove himself to the hospital and she sat helplessly beside him. As he crossed the threshold of the emergency room, he collapsed, never to awaken again. In his death, he was lost forever, leaving behind my anger for which I had no words.

On Remembrance Day, ten years after his death, I went in search of my father at the foot of the memorial to an unnamed soldier that stands in the middle of a city park. A trumpet played “Taps”. I stood at the edge of the crowd and fingered the felt of the bright red poppy I held between my thumb and fingers. It was a blustery day. A weak November sunshine peaked out from behind sullen grey clouds.  Bundled up against the cold, the crowd, young and old, silently approached the monument and placed their poppies on a ledge beneath the soldier’s feet.

I stood and watched and held back.

I wanted to understand the war. I wanted to find the father who might have been had the poet boy not run off to fight “the good war” as a commentator had called it earlier that morning on the radio. Where is the good in war, I wondered? I thought of soldiers falling, mother’s crying and anger never dying. I thought of the past, never resting, always remembered and I thought of my father, never forgotten. The poet boy who went to war and came home an angry man. In his anger, life became the battlefield upon which he fought to retain some sense of balance amidst the memories of a world gone mad.

Perhaps it is as George Orwell wrote in his novel, Nineteen Eighty-four:

“The very word ‘war’, therefore, has become misleading.  It would probably be accurate to say that by becoming continuous war has ceased to exist… War is Peace.”

For my father, anger became the peacetime of his world until his heart ran out of time and he lost all hope of finding the poetry within him.

There is still time for me.

On that cold November morning, I approach the monument. I stand at the bottom step and look at the bright red poppies lining the gun metal grey of the concrete base of the statue. Slowly, I take the first step up and then the second. I hesitate then reach forward and place my poppy amongst the blood red row lined up along the ledge.

I wait. I don’t want to leave. I want a sign. I want to know my father sees me.

I turn and watch a white-haired grandfather approach, his gloved right hand encasing the mitten covered hand of his granddaughter. Her bright curly locks tumble from around the edges of her white furry cap. Her pink overcoat is adorned with little white bunnies leaping along the bottom edge. She skips beside him, her smile wide, blue eyes bright.

They approach the monument, climb the few steps and stop beside me. The grandfather lets go of his granddaughter’s hand and steps forward to place his poppy on the ledge.  He stands for a moment, head bowed. The little girl turns to me, the poppy clasped between her pink mittens outstretched in front of her.

“Can you lift me up?” she asks me.

“Of course,” I reply.

I pick her up, facing her towards the statue.

Carefully she places the poppy in the empty spot beside her grandfather’s.

I place her gently back on the ground.

She flashes me a toothy grin and skips away to join her grandfather where he waits at the foot of the monument. She grabs his hand.

“Do you think your daddy will know which one is mine?” she asks.

The grandfather laughs as he leads her back into the gathered throng.

“I’m sure he will,” he replies.

I watch the little girl skip away with her grandfather. The wind gently stirs the poppies lining the ledge. I feel them ripple through my memories of a poet boy who once stood his ground and fell beneath the weight of war.

My father is gone from this world. The dreams he had, the promises of his youth were forever lost on the bloody tide of war that swept the poet boy away.  In his passing, he left behind a love of words born upon the essays and letters he wrote me throughout the years. Words of encouragement. Of admonishment. Words that inspired me. Humored me. Guided me. Touched me. Words that will never fade away.

I stand at the base of the monument and look up at the soldier mounted on its pedestal.  Perhaps he was once a poet boy hurrying off to war to become a man. Perhaps he too came back from war an angry man fearful of letting the memories die lest the gift of his life be forgotten.

I turn away and leave my poppy lying at his feet. I don’t know if my father will know which is mine. I don’t know if poppies grow where he has gone. But standing at the feet of the Unknown Soldier, the wind whispering through the poppies circling him in a blood red river, I feel the roots of the poet boy stir within me. He planted the seed that became my life.

Long ago my father went off to war and became a man. His poetry was silenced but still the poppies blow, row on row. They mark the place where poet boys went off to war and never came home again.

The war is over. In loving memory of my father and those who fought beside him, I let go of anger. It is time for me to make peace.

 

 

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Where’s the Love?

Black Eyed Peas did a new version of Where’s the Love?

I saw it on FB this morning — it’s powerful, provocative and, I sigh. If only we could listen. If only we would open our ears, our eyes, our hearts, our minds, we wouldn’t have to ask, Where’s the Love?

We’d be it.

Challenge is, to each of us, every 7 billion plus humans who inhabit this planet, our experience of Love is not the same thing.

And as I write that, I can hear my brother-in-law saying, “Don’t forget the animals. You can’t leave them out of a discussion about Love.”

See what I mean? Love is… whoever we are. However we are in this world.

We see Love through our perspectives, our worldview, our priorities, passions, beliefs, experiences.

I remember Thelma Box, the creator of Choices Seminars, saying once that she’d read an article on child abuse and in it, the author stated that for someone who abuses their own child, it is an expression of their love for that child. Not because that act is what Love Is. But rather, because in their mind, that is how they learned to express, get, show… Love.

Years ago, I was in the midst of a relationship that was killing me and finally found the strength to go to the police. The Detective I spoke with said as I was walking out the door, “You know, this isn’t love. Love doesn’t hurt that much.”

Intellectually, I knew he was right.

Spiritually, emotionally, I didn’t believe him.

In that relationship ‘love’ had become so warped by the abuse I was living within, I believed the pain made Love real — I also believed I didn’t deserve Love anyway, so the pain was better than nothing.

Love is…

Everything and all.

Love doesn’t have to change.

We do.

And that’s the challenge.  Love is IN everything we do because Love is all around. It’s just, we get trapped in the darkness of our expression of the pain within, so captured by our need to create the world the way we want to see it, we forget, there are 7 billion plus expressions of Love on this earth.

Where is the Love?

Love is in the father hitting his child. The mother doing drugs on the corner, leaving her children alone.

Love is in the tender touch. The gentle look. The loving words.

Love is in the soldier raping a woman because he holds the gun and she is just a spoils of war.

Love is in the soldier putting down his gun to carry a puppy out of a bombed out building.

Love is in all these things.

There is no question about where Love is.

The question is, What will you do for Love? Where are you in Love?

Are you hiding behind your pain, denying Love access by stomping on hearts, killing your own dreams?

Are you pushing your anger out into the world to keep from caving into despair?

Are you staying locked in your room, surrounded by loneliness because you are too afraid of getting hurt by venturing into the world?

Are you using your love as a weapon, as a means to get what you want, control who you can, create a world of mass destruction?

Or, are you willing to give into Love to create a world of peace, within and all around you?

Where is the Love?

It’s in you. Live it. Now.


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A Cry for Peace

img_9765I cried yesterday. I sat on the ridge overlooking the river and tears spilled gently over my eyelids kissing my cheeks as softly as dew clinging to a leaf in early morning light.

I cried for the children who will go hungry tonight. For the boys who will hoist guns as long as their bodies and kill in the name of a peace they have never known. And for the little girls whose childhood’s are lost to faceless men who believe the only way to know love is to rape it from another.

I cried for mothers who weep at the gravesites of their loved ones lost to war and famine and disease and for the father’s who desperately want to teach their sons to grow into men, and do not know the way to quiet the fear within their hearts that their sons too shall never find their way to peace.

I cried for this world, this planet upon which we each rely for our existence, this planet we take for granted and treat with such disdain.

And I cried for humanity, our humanity, our human kind lost beneath our history of destroying one another in the name of God, Allah, Yaweh, Satnam, All Powerful, Vishnu, and 70 x 70 names I do not know but hear whispered upon the cries of millions of others dying to defend their right to worship at the altar of their choosing.

These were needed tears. Gentle. Cleansing. Healing. They were the words my heart could not speak out loud.

IMG_5846And when the tears were shed, when they had run their course, compassion flowed freely like the river winding its way through the valley bottom below, each passing drop changing the course of the one before.

And in their passing, I was left alone upon the hillside, sitting in the sun, cherishing the beauty of the day, savouring the gentle autumn breeze caressing my skin, the sound of the grasses whispering, the geese honking their plaintive lament as they journeyed south.

There is darkness in this world.

And there is light.

It is in the darkness the light shines brightest.

Yet, I want not to see the darkness. I want not to know its thrall, to feel its drag pulling me under. I want to steer clear of the darkness and still I know, it is only through acknowledging its presence that I will be free to shine my light fearlessly. It is only through letting go of fear of its nature I will be free to stand fearlessly in mine.

IMG_5851I cannot rid this planet of war and pain and sickness and hunger. I cannot heal the children of the world. I cannot silence the guns.

I can create beauty in my world. I can create peace around me by letting go of my fear that to witness the darkness is to let go of the light.

It is when I hold onto light for fear it will go out that darkness takes hold.

I cried yesterday. And I will cry again today. And in my tears, I find myself flowing in Love and compassion, holding onto nothing but the whole truth of who I am and all that is possible when I let go of fearing I cannot change the world.

If not me, who? If not now, when?

We are each capable of changing our worlds, of creating peace where there is discord, healing where there is pain. We are each capable of putting down our guns and holding out our arms in love, peace and forgiveness.

If not us, who? If not now, when?

(This is a repost of September 22, 2014 – Thanks FB Memories. It is as important to remember today as it was when I wrote it then.)


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Dear Prime Minister Trudeau: In the name of peace.

IMG_9144
On Saturday evening, I was invited to address the crowd gathered at Civic Plaza to commemorate the devastation that rained down on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, 71 years ago. It was an evening to share our fears and hopes for nuclear disarmament, for peace on earth, for a future free of the fear of nuclear devastation.

It rained, hard, and still the people stood and listened and watched and when the moment was right, set their lanterns onto the surface of the reflecting pool and let them float into the night.

There were moments where I wanted to cry. To scream out, Stop this! Stop this suicide wish we have with our planet. We are killing ourselves and the world as we know it. Stop it.

A nuclear disaster is a real and present danger. It continues to grow in the darkness of our desire to not acknowledge it. It continues to fester in our silent voices refusing to call out for disarmament. To not stand up and demand we free ourselves from relying on war to make peace.

While Canada does not possess nuclear weapons, we have a long history of colluding with our super-power IMG_9133neighbours in fighting for the right to arm our military with weapons of mass destruction. In the name of national security we tell the Commissions and Tribunal’s when they gather to negotiate, “Our neighbours need them to deter other not so rational nations from using their weapons of mass destruction against them.” And so, in the shadow of our big brother, we do not insist they disarm. Instead, we tell ourselves the world is safer when we stand together with the nuclear super-powers and don’t make them back down from their continued demand to keep their arms and stay in the game of improving upon their prowess as creators of mass destruction.

The current presidential campaigns do not leave me feeling that safe living in the shadow of the US. I don’t feel so confident that some of the 1500 nuclear warheads they have on call will not be used indiscriminately under the misguided belief they will teach someone on the other side of the globe a lesson.

IMG_9139Fact is, there are over 15,550 nuclear warheads co-existing with us on this planet today. When the recent coup took place in Turkey, there was great concern over the safety of the airport. It is believed by many that the US has nuclear weapons stored there.

We think we are safe from the fallout. We are not.

It would only take 100 of today’s warheads, which are 20 times more powerful than the two dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, to create a cloud so dense it would block the sun for years. In the nuclear winter that would ensue, all plant life on earth would die. And so would much of life.

So this is my fervent plea, to Prime Minister Trudeau, to Premier Notley, to Mayor Nenshi who as a signatory to Mayor’s for Peace is calling for the total abolition of nuclear weapons by 2020. IMG_9151

Let’s Do It!  Let us disarm, disengage, disconnect the weapons of mass destruction and decide now to take the path to peace.

Please.

Let us choose peace.

Namaste.

In peace and the hope for a nuclear weapon free world.

 

To read the full text of my speech, please click 2016 Lantern Festival


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How do we build a kinder society?

How do we build a kinder society?

An interesting question. The answer is complicated. The answer is simple.

Be kind.

But on the complicated side there’s all this stuff around violence and wars and guns and bombs and violence again and more bombs and more killings and more guns going off in the hands of children who do not know anything other than to follow the ones who tell them to kill in the name of a god who is weeping at the sight of our inhumanity to one another. A god who cries in vain at the wars we fight in the name of righteousness, in the name of freedom. A god who closes its eyes in despair at our insistence that we feed our children drugs so they do not feel or know or recognize the horror of what we are forcing them to do.

In the name of God, when will we stop?

We, the humans of this world, have a long history of doing the wrong thing.

We have a history of stealing land, your land, my land. We have a history filled with genocide, colonialism, capitalism, oligarchies and monarchies, dictatorships and abuse of power and misanthropy and all kinds of power struggles that have left people feeling under foot, trodden down and disadvantaged.

This the history of our world. Centuries of it. Thousands of years to perfect the art of taking power, holding power, creating dynasties to hold onto power because power is everything we need to be in control. Power is the altar at which we supplicate ourselves to the gods of lording it all over the masses.

Because, there is always us.

The masses. The individuals who make up this swarming sea of humanity. The ones upon whom the yoke of servitude to a ‘greater cause’, a faith, a church have driven into the folds of conformity to a belief that holds us fast. A belief that dictates our way is the right way, which automatically makes your way wrong, so don’t bother to tell me how your way can be better. There is no way, no room, no space for dissension.

Ah yes, we are the one’s we have been waiting for. We are the one’s who yearn for a kinder society, who pray for peace while holding onto our belief that there is no way for peace until we have our way with the world.

How do you build a kinder world?

One act at a time. One decision. One step. One gesture after another that stops violence, war, anger, fear from growing. One word after another that flows away from hatred into acceptance of one another as human beings, each of us worthy of dignity, kindness, generosity of spirit and Love.

You build a kinder world by becoming and being and giving only your best. by choosing to step away from calling people names. By choosing to stop repeating words of anger, hatred, disgust about people whose only crime is to be different than you.

You build a kinder world by no longer buying into the belief that to have it all means someone else has to have nothing, or is nothing more than a piece of flesh here on earth only because gravity won’t let them go.

You build a kinder world by moving into compassion. By seeing through eyes of love into the hearts of those around you knowing, their hearts, their blood, their bodies were created in the same way yours and mine were created. Through the miracle of life on earth.

We are all part of this mystery. All part of the miracle. We are all human beings. You. Me. Them. Us.

Building a kinder world begins right now, right here, when each of us decides to do the kindest thing possible to make peace possible on this planet we share. Love one another as if we belong to one another. Because we do.

 

 

 


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Brussels: I send you Love. Always.

I know it is not good news even before I see the contents of the posts.

Three posts pop up the minute I open my email. They each contain the same word. Brussels.

I read the headlines. I read the stories. I search for more. I want to make sense of this senselessness.

My heart sinks. There is no sense to terror.

I want to cry. To scream out. To yell at someone to STOP IT! Just STOP IT.

And I know it is of no use.

Terror does not hear the voice of reason.

Terror only hears the voices of fear. Of Anger. Of Terror.

34 dead thus far in the bombings in Brussels.

And my heart is heavy.

When will we stop? When will we learn? When will we begin again to travel freely in this world without fear of one another.

And I wonder, Was it ever that way?

Was there ever a time in humankind’s history that we did not resort to violence? That we did not kill one another?

Was there ever a time of peace?

I go in search of data to make sense of my unease.

It is sobering. Over 10,000 people killed this year in conflicts around the globe.

The data does not help me feel better about the state of our world. Of the 196 countries that make up our world Global Conflict Tracker lists 26 countries engaged in conflicts (that impact the U.S.) significant enough to cause concern about the stability of the region, the country, the people’s ability to feel safe within their own border.

Please note: Global Conflict Tracker lists the countries in order of significance to the interests of the U.S.

7 conflicts of ‘critical impact on U.S. Interests’.
10 of ‘Significant impact on U.S. Interests’.
9 of ‘Limited Impact on U.S. Interests’.

This morning, the battle spilt out from beyond the boundaries of rational thought into the streets of Brussels. Its impact can be felt around the world.

I do not know how to make ‘them’ stop. Who are the ‘them’?

And then I remember. They are we and we are them. We are one human condition. One planet. One world. It is not ‘them’ versus us. It is our world that is decimated by these bombs and conflicts. Our world that is torn apart.

The loss of the lives killed in this latest attack will be felt around the globe.

They are touching me now.

And my heart is heavy.

I do not have an answer. I do not have words to ease the pain of the families and loved ones and friends left behind to mourn this sudden and inexplicable death of those they love.

I have no words.

And so, I do the only thing I know that I can do to make a difference.

I turn my back on war. I turn my back on the bloodshed and the chaos, and deepen my commitment to walk this day in Love and Peace. To walk each moment with a soft heart, voice, mind.

I cannot change the course of the 26 conflicts listed on Global Conflict Tracker’s site.

I can only ensure that what I do today does not contribute to war, to conflict, to anger, to fear.

And so, I chose love over fear. Always.

I am sorry Brussels for your pain. I am sorry for the terror that has erupted in your city. Your hearts. Your minds.

I send you Love. Always.

 

 


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There is no perfect way to Love. 

 

Beaumont: Every moment is the perfect moment to rest.

 One of Leonard Cohen’s most immortal chorus’ from his song Anthem is, 

“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”

So often, we search for the perfect moment, the perfect setting, perfect everything before taking action in our lives.

There is no perfect anything that will create peace or joy or contentment or love.

Peace, joy, contentment, love, all matters of the heart, are not found in our search for perfection, they are found right where we stand, right where we are at, as we are.

They are found in our acceptance, our allowing, our being who we are in the moment of noticing that this moment, right now, is filled with potent possibility. This moment right now is the one that counts because this is the moment we have to take action, make a difference, make a decision to choose love over war, peace over discord, joy over sadness.

We seek perfection yet, it lives right now, in every moment, full of the delicate grace that comes when we sink into the stillness within and stop our mind’s constant striving for the more perfect moment, person, job, situation, idea. The more prefect time to be happy, content, joyful, loving, peaceful…

When we shine our light on what is and see what is present in its many facets, we find ourselves filling up on the beauty, wonder and awe of everything.

When we breathe deeply into the cracks in our heart, the broken places and the worn down edges of our dreams, the light shines through, showing us, all is not lost. It is all still present in all its perfect imperfections, cracks and all.

There is no perfect moment to love, or dance, or laugh or spin about in joy. There is only now. Perfectly illuminated by the light shining through the cracks we couldn’t see when our eyes were closed in the darkness of beliving, now was not the right time to let go of the things that hurt, the things we cannot change.

As Cohen wrote, “there is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

In every crack there is the possibility of light shining through, as long as we open our eyes and choose to let the light in through Love.