Good for Nothing

Several years ago, I volunteered teaching personal development classes at an adult emergency homeless shelter where I worked. One of the processes I used was to invite attendees to think about someone in the world they admired, and then to name the things about that person they most admired. The person could be a famous ‘real-life’ or fictional figure, past or present. Or, someone in their life.

One day, a young man who had been staying at the shelter since being released from prison 6 months previously, shared how the only person he could think of who he admired was his grandfather. “He always treated me nice,” he said. Not like his mother whom, he said, constantly repeated to him what she’d said the day he was born. “This one’s born to be bad.”

At the age of 24, his six months at the shelter were the longest stretch of time since turning 18 that he had not spent in jail. He was determined to keep his stretch going. I want to prove her wrong, he told the class. I want to be a better man.

As part of the exercise, I invited the attendees to write a letter to themselves saying all the positive things they wanted/needed to hear this person they admired say to them. There was no expectation of sharing what they’d written, I told the class. Just that they write out what words they most wanted/needed to hear about how wonderful, kind, intelligent, amazing they were. No negativity, I told him. These are the words that celebrate you. That inspire and applaud you.

The class wrote their letters and when finished, the young man whose mother had predicated he’d turn out bad asked if he could read the letter out loud to everyone. When I asked the class if they wanted to hear it, they all said yes.

When the young man was finished reading his letter out loud, there were a lot of moist eyes in the room, including mine.

This poem is written in honour of that young man and his courageous assertion that he was not going to be his mother’s predictions. That he would do whatever it takes to break the cycle, both of her abuse and his history of getting into trouble. And, it’s written to honour the thousands upon thousands of men and women who enter a shelter’s doors, who like that young come, arrive carrying the burden of a lifetime of being told they are good for nothing, they do not belong, they are not loveable or worthy or wanted.

Words matter. Let us think about our words. Let us use our words to create a better world for everyone.

A Gift of Life
By Louise Gallagher

The first time she saw his face
wrinkled and wet
with the vestiges of its journey 
through the birth canal
visible upon his skin, 
she closed her eyes. Tight.
“You’ll be good for nothing,” she whispered
to her newborn son
as if she could divine his future
by the marks her body had imprinted
upon his skin
through a past
she could never face.
And everyday, as he grew
from toddler to teen to man
she reminded him of his future
adding the back of her hand
across his face, for good measure,
she told him with a laugh
as she lifted a grimy glass of gin
to her lips.

She taught him things no child
should ever learn
gave him a story
he did not deserve
of a desperate future 
where he would always be 
good for nothing.

It was a harsh and brutal story
 no man could carry
without defending himself
against a past
that had branded him at birth
and kept him living his 24 years
as good for nothing.

Twenty-four days out 
of his last incarceration
he declared, Enough.
Enough of living out a past
he’d been born into
and was always told was his
only path to becoming a man.
Enough of being the kind of man
everyone called good for nothing.

On that day
he took his life
into his own hands
but not before
willing his heart and lungs and other organs
to give life to another.
At least that way, he whispered with his final breath
I will be good for something.

When she heard the news
of his demise
his mother laughed 
and lifted her gin,
her fifth or was it sixth of that day,
Good riddance, she said
to the empty room in which she sat
on a threadbare couch
surrounded by discarded bottles
and dirty dishes.
I always said you’d be good for nothing.

And still, his heart beats on
a gift of life 
creating a world of something
better for someone.

The Trees Are Not Silent

The Trees Are Not Silent
by Louise Gallagher

The trees are not silent. 
They whisper the stories 
of the wind as it passes 
through their branches 
holding on to the tall 
tales and chronicles 
of life passing by 
as time writes its memories 
into its bark.  

The trees are not silent. 
They shelter birds 
and their nests hidden 
from preying eyes 
that would steal away 
new life reaching  
for food and 
stretching wings 
on outstretched limbs 
gathering courage to take flight.  

The trees are not silent. 
Their roots dig deep 
into the earth 
collecting the stories 
of those who crawl and scamper 
beneath the surface 
digging up the soil 
drawing its rich effluents 
up into their sturdy trunks 
etched with stories 
of who loves who 
and those who no longer do.  

The trees are not silent. 
They are our story gatherers 
Our memory keepers 
Our secret bearers 
Our wisdom holders 
Our connectors into the web 
of nature that binds us all  
to this tapestry of life.  

The trees are not silent. 
Listen deep. 
They have stories to tell.

Awoke – a poem for hope

Awoke

by Louise Gallagher



Unseen

stealthy
like a stream

invisible
to the world above

the earth
weakened
by its waters
flowing underground

permeating my thoughts
with dark forebodings

of what might be

if this tiny 
invisible

to the naked eye
microbe
found its way
under my skin.


This fear
invisible and stealthy

has stalked my thoughts
for a year now

clouding my senses
eating lustfully at my joy
and banishing those I love
from my presence.


It is waning
this fear
lulled to sleep
like sleeping beauty
pricking her finger 
on a needle
jabbed into my arm
protecting me 
from its presence.


It is waning

under the influence
of one jab
of hope
flowing
free
as if kissed

by a prince
awakening beauty
from the spell
that cast her asleep
for a hundred years.

Awoke
I walk 
buoyed up

by a powerful potion
casting
fear 
into the waters 
of life

flowing
free
of fearful thoughts
of what might be
if this tiny 
invisible
to the naked eye
microbe
found its way
under my skin.

Since getting my vaccination a couple of weeks ago, I have been thinking about this fear that has stalked my thoughts like an invisible intruder for the past year.

I can feel it easing, feel the lightness of being present without its presence shadowing my every thought… what if I get it? What if my beloved gets it? Will it be the end of us?

One jab of the needle changed all that.

Now, the knowledge that even if one of us gets it, the likelihood of death or hospitalization is greatly diminished has replaced the fear.

There is hope. There is possibility. There is life.

I am grateful for the thousands upon thousands of researchers, scientists, biologists, epidemiologists, doctors, nurses, lab technicians, pharmaceutical companies and everyone involved in making my ease of mind and breath possible.

Thank you.

Accidents Happen

On Monday, the wind blew fierce through the trees where Beaumont the Sheepadoodle and I walk.

It was scary.

As we walked, my body bent forward into the wind, I wondered… on days like today, does the wind blow so fierce because the trees want to dance with wild abandon?

Do they plead with the wind as it blows through their branches telling the stories it has gathered on its travels around the world?… “We’re tired of being rooted to the ground,” the trees wail. “Tired of just holding your stories in our branches. We want to live them. Feel them. Dance with them. Come, blow fierce and mighty through our branches. Let us bend and bow, swirl and sway as we devour every drop of wonder you carry in your mighty breath.”

And does the wind, heeding the calling of the trees’ desire to dance wild and free, rise up and howl in delight, as the trees throw all caution to the wind and dance with abandon in the ecstasy of the wind’s breath?

I decided not to throw caution to the wind and shortened our walk. The threat of being hit by a falling tree limb separating itself from the canopy of naked limbs dancing above was high. Prudence was the name of the game.

The next morning, as I got ready for our walk and closed the door of my bedroom closet, it hit me.

Literally. The door hit me in the forehead. It was propelled by our dresser mirror which, since moving into this house three years ago, had not been mounted to the two wooden bars that should/could/would have kept it in place.

We’d known the movers hadn’t reattached it. Didn’t seem like a big deal. It was relatively stable resting on the dresser. Until it wasn’t.

It’s a big mirror. The force of it hitting the door knocked me to the floor. It also resulted in a gash and lump on my forehead as well as a black eye.

Fortunately, I broke its fall. I’m sure my mother would have said (she was extremely superstitious) that breaking a mirror that size would have required more prayers than even she could have managed!

After two days of doing little, I feel a little more normal this morning – though I won’t be driving to Vancouver as planned to help my daughter and family.

This accident could have been easily prevented had the mirror been properly attached.

But then, many accidents can be prevented.

It’s just, sometimes, we don’t take care of the small things which, left to their own devices, can become big things.

Like a mirror falling on my head and giving me a black eye and a scar to remember it by.

Time to refocus, reassess, restore balance.

Time for a time out…. Perhaps, now that the wind has stopped, I’ll go lie in the winter dry grasses under the canopy of filigreed branches that stretch up towards the sky seeking the sun’s warmth.

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

I haven’t had the capacity to focus on writing the past couple of days.

However, as April is “National Poetry Month” and this month’s theme is ‘resilience’ I wanted to start the month off right with a poem – my intent is to write a poem a day for the month – I am not committing myself to it. I am allowing myself to simply be present within the intention – body, mind and spirit – allowing it to happen, or not.

I did however, want to honour the wind and trees and their dance…

Wild, the wind blows fierce
Naked limbs dance in delight
Birds seek safe harbor.

And…. this post is also a response to the weekly prompt posted at Eugi’s Causerie.

The prompt is to use the word ‘canopy’ in any of its forms, in a post.

To read more, and to participate — please do check out the blog — it is full of delightfully delicious words and images and ideas to set your mind a wandering and your spirits soaring.

Exposed

Yesterday, I followed through on my commitment to work on Steps 9 and 10 of my 20 Attitudes and Actions to help you live the life of your dreams.

It worked.

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! 🙂

Counting Stars (a story)

Counting Stars      
A whimsical tale by Louise Gallagher 

Once upon a time there was a little boy who dreamt of one day flying amongst the stars.

Every night he would climb out his bedroom window and crawl up onto the roof of the house he shared with his mother and father in a small town where it was said, “coal mining was the destiny written on the stars of all how lived there”.

While the world slept below him, the little boy would lie on his back and gaze up into the nighttime sky, counting all the stars and memorizing their positions. His dreams were filled with thoughts of leaving the coal dust behind and one day flying to the moon, of soaring amongst the celestial beauty above.

One night, his mother came to his room and found him missing from his bed. Not knowing he was on the roof, she became frantic. She screamed and called out for her husband. They looked all over the house and in the yard and couldn’t find their son.

They called the police. They called their neighbours. A search party was organized.

Meanwhile, the little boy lay on the roof, lost in wonder, gazing at the stars above. He didn’t hear their frantic calls. Didn’t know that they were searching for him. He knew only that he was safe amongst the wonder of the nighttime sky dreaming of one day building a spaceship and flying beyond his wildest imaginings of life here on earth into the vastness of the universe.

As he always did after an hour of counting stars, the little boy climbed quietly back down from the roof into his bedroom. But this night, he found his mother sitting on his bed, clutching his teddy bear.

Tears streamed down her face. Her body shook with sobs.

The little boy saw his mother and did not understand why she was crying. He ran to her, touched her arm and asked, “Mummy, what’s wrong?”

The mother, stunned to hear her son’s voice, opened her eyes and saw him standing before her. Relief washed over her. He was safe. She grabbed him and clung to him tightly. As she held him in her arms, she called out to her husband who was downstairs talking to the police. “He’s here. He’s here!” she cried out.

Everyone raced up the stairs. The little boy heard the pounding of their footsteps, felt the tremor of the floor as they entered the room.

His father burst through the door first, strode over to him and angrily demanded, “Where were you? Don’t you know you frightened your mother to death?”

The little boy was confused. Who were all these people? Why were the police there? Why were they all standing in front of him, arms crossed against their chests?

In a tiny voice he replied, “I was on the roof.” He hesitated and then whispered tentatively. “Counting stars.”

His father was angry. “You’re a bad boy,” he yelled. “How dare you cause such terror in our hearts. You will never go on the roof again.”

The little boy stood his ground. “I’m going to be an astronaut. I’m going to fly amongst the stars.”

The father shouted back. “Quit your foolish dreaming. You can’t eat stardust. You will be a coal miner, just like me. Just like my father before me.”

And so, a dream was lost. The father put bars on the boy’s window. The boy put his dream of one day being an astronaut away.

Years passed. The little boy became a man. He worked in the coalmine. Just like his father. He had a wife. A little cottage and a family of his own. A son and a daughter.

Like his father, he was stern. Distant. Uncompromising. Like his father, he loved his wife and children but never told them. When asked if he had dreams, he would reply, “Dreaming doesn’t put food on the table. Dreams are as impossible as flying amongst the stars. You can’t eat stardust.”

They were happy, in a strict kind of way. There was food on the table, clothes on their backs and a roof over their heads. No one spoke of love. No one spoke of the stars above or their dreams. No one dared dream. Dreams, like stardust, don’t feed hungry bellies.

One night, the father walked past his son’s room on his way to bed. Out of the corner of his eye, through the open door, he saw the tiny figure of his son about to step out the bedroom window. Fearful that his son might be hurt, he raced across the room and grabbed his son just as he was about to slip over the sill and onto the roof.

“What are you doing?” he bellowed as he pulled his son back into the safety of the room.

The little boy, not used to being held in his father’s arms, burrowed into his chest, snuggled his head against his shoulder and whispered, “Counting stars.”

The father stood still. He felt his son’s heart beating against his chest. Felt the softness of his arms around his neck. With his son in his arms, he looked out the bedroom window to the darkness of night. Stars glittered in the sky above. The world slept below.

“Counting stars.” he whispered. And then he repeated it. “Counting stars.”

The little boy nodded his head. “I do it every night,” he said proudly. “One day I’m going to be an astronaut. I’m going to build a spaceship and fly to the moon!”

“No you’re not,” the father began and stopped. As he reached out to close the window, he caught a glimpse of himself holding his son in the reflection of the glass. His eyes misted up at the sight of the tiny figure held in his massive arms.

As his father held him close to the open window, the boy squirmed in his arms and leaned his body out the window and pointed up towards the star-studded sky. “Look dad!” he exclaimed. “A comet.”

The father looked up into the stars above as a streak of light soared across the ink black sky. He closed his eyes and took a breath. When he opened them, he looked down into his son’s eyes and saw the starry wonder of his dream reflected back at him.

His heart softened. He smiled. And pushed the window open. “I don’t want you to get hurt son. It’s okay to go on the roof at night as long as you promise to take me with you.”

The boy’s blue eyes opened wide. “Really?” he asked in a tiny whisper. “You’ll go with me?”

Holding his son safely in his arms, the father stepped through the window onto the roof.

“When I was a little boy, I used to climb out my bedroom window so I could count stars,” he said. He looked up into the night sky. “I forgot how many stars there are,” he whispered clutching his son tightly in his arms. “Can you tell me how many you’ve counted?”

The boy pointed up and started to count. “Two thousand and twenty-three. Two thousand and twenty-four. Two….” and his father’s voice joined in. “thousand and twenty-five…”

Together, father and son lay on their backs on the roof gazing up at the blanket of night spread out above them.

And the stars shone brighter than they had ever shone before.

_______________________________

Mark, of Musings and Other Writings, and a frequent commenter here on my blog (not to mention the person who inspired me to start blogging way back in March 2007) is celebrating the first day of his 19th year of continuous, daily blogging today.

In responding to his post this morning, I went back to my first blog, Recover Your Joy, to see what day in 2007 I’d actually begun. (It was March 10, which means I’m in my 14th year of being ‘a blogger’). As I was scrolling through the 1,677 posts, I came across a story I wrote around this time in 2009 (March 23rd to be exact).

Last night, just before bed, C.C. and I stood outside staring up at the night sky. It was strewn with stars hanging around a crescent moon. And then, this morning, as I was scrolling through the 1,677 posts, I came across a story I wrote around this time in 2009 (March 23rd to be exact) about a little boy who counted stars who became a man who had forgotten how, until his little son taught him.

It seemed like a sign… so I’m sharing it here today.

Have a beautiful, grace-filled weekend, and I hope you take time to count stars. I know I will.

Breaking Rules

The day she discovered her wings is the day her dreams took flight. 11 x 14″ mixed media on canvas board

There is a painting hanging in our bedroom that I created several years ago, in our old home, in my old studio.

And still, it speaks to me.

Of breaking free. Breaking out. Breaking up the constraints I arbitrarily place on myself about what makes good art, good poetry, good writing.

Things like, ‘The Rule of Thirds”. Never use black. Always use a good reference to paint from. The rule of ‘don’t end a sentence with a preposition’. Don’t begin a sentence with ‘because’, ‘and’, ‘but’.

They are just rules.

And rules are made to be broken. Right?

Yesterday, as I walked along the river with Beaumont the Sheepadoodle and felt the warm ‘it’s almost spring’ sunshine on my face and watched chunks of ice float down the river and listened to birds twittering in the trees as Beau chased after the ball and I navigated the almost clear of ice pathway, my mind was full of thoughts of the painting I was working on and its message that was not yet clear.

And suddenly, like the sun breaking through a cloud, a thought skipped into view and landed with a resounding plop on my heart. “The day she discovered her wings is the day her dreams took flight.”

Yes! That’s what the painting’s about, my happy heart sang as it did a dance of gratitude for the muse’s tending of my creative expression.

When I returned to my studio and put the final touches on the painting, I wrote the quote along the lefthand side.

Done.

And the muse kept dancing.

After dinner, I finished tidying up my studio, came back upstairs, chatted with my beloved for awhile and took my journal and self to bed.

And the muse kept dancing.

The painting may have been ‘done’ but its creative expression wasn’t.

There’s no rule about writing a poem to go with a painting? Right?

Oh well. If there is, I’ve broken it more times than I can count! I like that breaking of rules.

She Was Born To Fly
by Louise Gallagher

She wandered through her days
like a leaf tossed by the wind
aimless, directionless, weightless
her heart aching
and her feet leaden
tethered 
to some invisible thread
of memory
caught
in the veil
of yesterdays
lying 
in the darkness
of believing
she did not know
how to fly.

It’s not true.
You are born to fly,
a voice deep within
whispered
in those moments
when her attention
grew weary
of the world beyond
the pale
of all she could not see
in the here and now
leaving her exposed
to the exquisite mystery
of her life.

She didn’t believe it
the idea of flight seemed too
impossible
the mystery too deep.
She had feet,
not wings
she whispered back,
closing the door on chance
as she turned back into certainty.

But then, one day when
she least expected it
she felt the urging
to stretch 
beyond the realm
of her imagination
and on that day
she discovered
her wings
hiding 
beneath the layers of life
hammering at her
to stay tethered
to threads of memory
keeping her tied
to life’s heavy toll.

It was that day
she discovered she was born
to fly
and her dreams 
were too.

What Tears May Come

“What Tears May Come” – mixed media on canvas paper – 11 x 14″

“Sometimes, the only way to experience the journey fully

is to learn what the journey has to teach you.”

Lately, I feel like I’ve been swimming in a sea of Hope. Angst. Curiosity. Confusion. Sorrow… An alphabet soup of emotions that flow full of these times when my beloved and I wait to receive our first vaccination in 10 days mixed with the wonderment of what that could mean… How will things change? Will they change? Will I be different? Will the world feel safe?

I have learned a lot, grown a lot, experienced a lot throughout this past year of sequestered solitude. All of it is, as Ram Dass called it, “grist for the mill”.

Over the past two days, awash in that sea of alphabet emotions, I worked on the painting above. I had actually started it many months ago and set it aside – or at least the background part which had a heart on it which I really liked but wasn’t sure if I wanted to do more with it.

The background was in a pile I keep for those moments when I want to explore but have no clear starting point or idea of what I want to do. When I pulled it out, I set it beside an alcohol ink background that was waiting to be cut up and made into bookmarks.

“Ha! Why not sew flowers on the alcohol ink background, cut them up and collage them onto the other background?” a voice inside whispered. I’m not sure if it was the muse or the critter testing my resolve to let go of thinking some pieces I’d created were ‘precious’ or the inner voice of wisdom urging me to just be present in the process.

And then the voice said, “And while you’re at it, why not cut the heart out of the original background so you can affix it over the flowers?”

Whoever it was, I decided to heed them. I cut out the heart (Ouch. That was not easy!) I pulled out my sewing machine and got to work sewing flower shapes onto the Yupo paper (it’s a synthetic paper used with alcohol inks).

I liked the look of the flowers and began affixing them to the background with a gel medium.

And that’s when the yucky-messy ‘oh no what have I done’ happened.

See. Alcohol ink is not permanent unless you spray it with a fixative. I hadn’t done that. Suddenly the colours and patterns I’d liked so much began to bleed and blend and fade and mix and just get kind of all yucky. Okay. A lot yucky.

I wanted to throw the whole thing out but I’m also very stubborn.

So I kept digging in.

Two days later the piece is a testament to so much of what the past year has taught me.

Stay present in the process. Be here now. Be patient. Be curious. Be persistent. Let go of expectations. Let go of perfection. Don’t give up. Dive in. Keep going.

Teachings from the studio during a global pandemic

And then….

When I opened my laptop to work on the quote, I also stumbled across a poem I’d started awhile ago that I’d set aside. (Does anyone else have umpteen WORD documents left opened on their computer? Hmmm… I do and it’s always a lovely surprise to discover what I’ve started and not finished – okay so maybe ‘lovely’ isn’t the word but I’m going with it)

Anyway, I wrote the quote onto the painting and then started working on the poem that also represents so much of what this past year has taught me.

Don’t give up.

Dive in.

Keep going.

What Tears May Come
©2021 Louise Gallagher

There are moments when
the tears I fear
to shed
wallow in the spaces
behind all that I cannot see
in the world beyond my front door
as I sit feeling
trapped
inside
eyes closed
to hold back
the tears
I dare not release
for fear they will flow like the river
never ending.

In those moments
I must swallow
hard
the lump
of fear
jammed up against
the worry
pounding at the roots
of my angst
squaring off
against
thoughts threatening
to riot
amidst the litany
of all that has happened
all that has gone on
all that is lost and discarded
and missing
in these days
of being cut off
from the way things were
before,
before the pandemic
rolled in
and declared its presence
known
on the other side
of front doors
slammed shut
against its entry.

In those moments
I must remind myself
that one year is but a moment
in time’s great expanse
spanning all of life
with its threads of wonder
and awe and beauty
unfolding
whether I sit behind
closed doors
or walk the forest paths
alone
along the river
waiting for the time
when it is safe
to open the front door
and let go of fear.

Perhaps, as the river flows
and the seasons change
and this tiny microbe loses
its power over hearts
and lungs
my tears will flow free
falling
without fear
of never ending.

International Women’s Day #FeministRecovery

Today is International Women’s Day.

I welcome the day when we don’t need a day to remind all humanity of our right to equality, equal rights, equal pay, equal justice, not just women but every human on this planet regardless of race, gender, socio/economic status.

I welcome the day when glass ceilings do not need to be broken. Glass ceilings don’t exist.

I welcome the day when girls’ bodies are not mutilated, when education is not denied, when child-marriages are decried and girls are not afraid to speak their minds and pursue their dreams.

I welcome the day when females of all ages can walk the streets without the curse of catcalls polluting the air around them. When a late-night walk alone is not accompanied by the fear of rape because some men believe it is their right to do what they want, how they want, when they want with the female body.

And I welcome the day when the feminine body is no longer used as a weapon of war. A weapon called rape; a tool strategically deployed to destroy entire cultures, to enforce social control, to terrorize women and children whose only crime was to be trapped by advancing forces of conflict as they tried to flee the battleground of wars killing the very children women gave birth to.

And I welcome the day when the things women do to give life, support life, nurture life and safeguard the future of families, communities and all of humanity are not cast off as secondary to ‘men’s work’. A day when ‘women’s work’ is no longer denigrated but recognized and celebrated as necessary and as vital as breathing for every single human on this planet.

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A few years ago, my eldest daughter and I had a conversation about women’s issues after she was cat-called as she walked down the street.

So much of that behaviour, I told her, stems from an ancient belief codified in histories written by men. A collective history that deems men worthier than women. Even the Bible begins with God as a male deity sitting at the head of the all-male Holy Trinity of The Father, The Son and (in my childhood lingo of the Catholic church) The Holy Ghost. Where was the Mother of God? Wouldn’t She have had an integral role to play in the formation of life?

That idea of being worthier than woman impregnates much of our collective consciousness around women’s rights and the right, which some men believe they possess, to treat women as objects.

And while, in speaking with my daughter, I didn’t actually say, I blame ‘the church’, my feminist soul struggles to understand how 60,000 people (mostly women) could be burned at the stake in the name of God or that in the Catholic church, women continue to be deemed unworthy of direct communion with God through the priesthood. Yet, in the US, even though Olympia Brown became the first woman to be ordained, with national approval, as a minister in 1863, around the world today, women continue to fight for the right to be deemed ‘priest-worthy’ in many denominations.

And I wonder… Which part of women’s history does the Catholic Church celebrate? The one where women were burned at the stake? Where they are still not able to break through the papal decree sheltering men on God’s side of the confessional booth keeping women on their knees before God their father? The one where the virgin womb is still a prerequisite of the marriage bed and where millions of women and girls are denied the right to contraception? Or the one where, as long as women stay in their place, the church will allow them to be celebrated as equal members of all God’s children?

Sure, we’ve come a long way, baby, but there is still so far to go to ensure every human being on this planet is treated as precious as the miracle of life that gives us life through a woman’s womb, whether virgin or not.

Until then, I shall stand with all my sisters, and those brothers who stand with us, as we call out in one voice for equality, justice, dignity and respect for every life on this planet we call our home.

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I wrote the poem below after that conversation in 2016 with my daughter. I share it again today. There is still so far to go.