My Sacred Garden

“A dream is a wish calling for its wings.” — Learning to Fly mixed media hand-crafted art journal

On Saturday, I took a four hour workshop with Dr. Minette Riordan, “The Sacred Garden: Spring Cleaning for Your Creative Spirit.”

My Sacred Garden Vision Map

The workshop was enriching, inspiring and very grounding. In our four hours spent writing and creating a circular ‘vision map’ of the Sacred Garden in our world right now, I discovered something really, really important to me.

One of the things Minette does in her workshop is ask really good questions. Like, really good.

Minette’s questions took me right into the core of what’s important to me and what I want to do in the world in this time in my life right now.

I am grateful.

Holding space for voices to find their unique song, beat and path underpins much of my creative expression.

Creating sacred and courageous space for all voices to be heard, honoured and celebrated is part of what I want to do more of in the world.

When the student is ready the teacher appears. When the student is truly ready… The teacher will Disappear.”

Tao Te Ching

That’s how I feel after spending four hours with Minette and the other women in the course. Listening to the conversation, the sharing, being part of the circle really helped me gain clarity.

I was ready. A guide appeared. Creating with her guidance I gained clarity and confidence in what I want to do next in this, the Third Act of my life.

So…. stay tuned! More about that later.

For now, I’m in the fluffing up of my wings, stretching the tendons and muscles, ensuring they are ready to stretch wide and lift me up stage of my Learning to Fly.

Happy Flying!

___________________________

Attitude and Actions No. 7 & 8

  1. Be brave.  Let courage draw you to the edge and passion lift you up
  2. Close your eyes, imagine the feeling of flight – repeat often

Where The Wild Things Fly

From the 2 page spread for No. 7 & 8 of 20 Attitudes and Actions to Help You Live the Life of Your Dreams.

7.       Let courage draw you to the edge and passion lift you up
8.       Close your eyes, imagine the feeling of flight – repeat often

Mother Nature is the most amazing partner. When we invite her to be our mentor, our guide, our co-creator of possibilities, miracles and magic happen all around.

Thanks to Mother Nature and a Bald Eagle yesterday, I played in the field of possibilities of my Learning to Fly list of Attitudes and Actions – and was rewarded with miracles, magic and a whole lot of laughter!

In my studio, I spent much of the afternoon into the evening working on the spread for No. 7 & 8 of my 20 Attitudes and Actions.

  1. Let courage draw you to the edge and passion lift you up
  2. Close your eyes, imagine the feeling of flight – repeat often

Just before taking Beaumont the Sheepadoodle for his late afternoon walk, I made a spaghetti sauce so dinner would be easy. C.C. is engrossed in the hockey season as the teams near making it to the Playoffs. Or not, as the case seems to be he tells me for the Flames, our hometown team.

I was engrossed in creativity. Both, working on items on my list as well as creating in my art journal.

Win/win when dinner is easy and relatively ‘mess-less’. I tell you all that because, it all plays into the miracles and magic of the evening. As we sat at the island eating and chatting, C.C. looked out the window and said, “There’s a Bald Eagle sitting in one of the trees.”

I was so excited, I immediately jumped up from the table, grabbed my phone and raced out onto the deck.

The eagle from our deck.

He was quite a ways away, and there were lots of branches blocking my view.

But I soooo wanted to catch him in his moment of taking flight.

So I waited. And waited. But he seemed quite content sitting on his branch. Have you ever tried to outwait a Bald Eagle? It ain’t easy.

Over dinner, I kept darting out onto the deck to see if I could capture him. After we’d tidied up, I went downstairs to my studio and decided, ‘what the heck’. If the eagle’s still there, I am going to outwait him.

Without bothering to put shoes or coat on, I dashed out the French doors of my studio, onto the back lawn and raced along the fence-line until I was relatively close to the eagle’s perch.

Did I mention we’ve had snow the last couple of days? While most of it is gone the backyard is either covered in snow or wet and soggy. I was wearing Birkenstocks. At least I had socks on! (I know. Such an elegant look. Right?)

Anyways. I waited. And waited some more. And then…. it happened….

You’ll have to watch the short (40sec) video of what happened to find out! It’s at the bottom of this post.

I know. Such a tease.

But I am so very grateful for Mother Nature’s gift of flight.

Absolutely divine!

Oh. And btw… The laughter part of the miracles and magic, that’s at the end of the video. you’ll see. 🙂 C.C. howled when I showed it to him. I hope you do too!

Flight of the Bald Eagle.

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! 🙂

Strong back. Soft front.

©2021 Louise Gallagher
Mixed media on canvas paper – 7 x 10″

The Sunday after the 2016 election my daughter, Alexis, and I attended Jazz Vespers at St. Andrews-Wesley United Church in Vancouver.

We needed to do something… hopeful.

The results of the US election had stunned us. Taken us by surprise and lead us down a dark alley towards a sea of confusion.

Jazz Vespers was the antidote to our despair.

I still remember the words of Rev. Gary Pattison who led the service. “Jesus Christ loves Donald Trump,” he said. “I’m glad he does because I’m not there. Yet.”

Four years later I wonder if Gary got there.

I didn’t.

I feel compassion for the child who never knew love. I pray for a miracle to heal the man. But love him?

I take a breath.

I do not write of politics. I do not write of religion or the economy or issues that consume weeks of headline news. I write of our human condition. Because, no matter the political, religious or economic times, it is we, the humans of this world, who create the climate for goodness, or darkness, to prevail.

Which is whyI am not writing about the man. I am writing of my response to how I felt yesterday as I sat and watched the inauguration of Joseph Biden as the 46th President of the United States of America. Our neighbours. Our closest ally. Our partners along the longest undefended border in the world.

I didn’t watch the inauguration on the same date in 2017.

I couldn’t.

I was far from Rev. Pattison’s kind of love and far from being able to do what a professor in a social justice course I took long ago said was necessary to change the world. “Until you love the Hitler in you,” he said, “you cannot love all humanity.”

I so want to be that person. The one who can love the human condition without falling into measuring someone’s worth as lacking because I am standing on my self-righteous pulpit judging their humanity and deeming it unworthy of redemption.

We are all worthy of redemption. And I wonder, is redemption the miracle that transforms blindness to sight, deafness to hearing and heartlessness to giving a damn?

And I hear the sinister whisper of my self-righteousness crawling across my skin. It is vile, that whisper. It would have me believe that it is The Man who makes the country. The Man who determines the heart of its people. The Man who is everything.

On that November day in 2016, when Rev. Pattison gave his homily at Jazz Vespers he stated, clearly and unequivocally, “We must stand with strong backs and soft fronts.”

For the past four years, I struggled to stand with a soft and open heart while keeping my back strong so that I could stand up for what was right and just without tearing down those who stood against me. Just as I struggled to believe there was hope in the darkness, a light at the end of the tunnel.

For the past four years, I have lost heart.

Yesterday, I was reminded that the sun is not gone because clouds cover the sky nor does my heart stop beating while I’m sleeping nor when I’m afraid.

Yesterday, I felt the delicate embers of hope begin to burn in my heart again. The embers that had begun to glow when Mr. Biden was declared President Elect last November.

Yesterday, I felt myself exhale and breathe in deeply.

Neither Trump nor Biden are my President.

But as a citizen of this world, as a neighbour to America, I look at what is called the self-evident truths of their declaration of independence as a beacon of hope in a sometimes dark and messy world. And while their path to equality and freedom has been fraught with missteps and peril, the intent to get there, the commitment to do the hard things was always part of what I believed was possible. Because, I believed America would do the right thing, even when it was hard.

For the past four years I have doubted. I have faltered.

I have hope again.

Yesterday, I watched the inauguration of Joseph Biden as the 46th President of the United States of America and Kamala Harris as Vice-President.

I cried. I smiled. I cheered. I bowed my head and prayed.

Today, I stand strong of back, soft of front. Today, I believe all things are possible.

As to loving Donald Trump. I leave that up to God.

How to start again.

Recently, Lisa Winkler, a beautiful human being, writer and author of the Lisa K Winkler blog, wrote to ask me if I had any ideas on how to get started again after taking a long hiatus from blogging. “How do you do it?” she asked – blog everyday.

Habit. Mostly.

Though in March 2007 when I first began my daily blog thanks to the encouragement of fellow writer and friend, Mark Kolke of Musings and other writings, it took a lot of discipline and commitment to set the habit in place.

Even when I only take a couple of weeks off, as I tend to do in the summer, I struggle to find my way back into my routine.

There are two ways that work best for me —

One is the first imperative — and that is I meditate before I write. I will often carry a question into my meditation — like, ‘what am I grateful for this morning?’ or ‘what is on my heart?’ I also often awake with an ‘idea’ in my head. I have learned not to push it away but to invite it to simmer and percolate so that when I sit down at my keyboard, it is willing to become visible through my writing.

The other is to write to a photo I took of the world around me or a piece of art I’ve created.

I write first thing in the morning so I don’t get distracted by my day. My photos are mostly taken on my walks with Beaumont the Sheepadoodle so they are nearly always about nature.

And then…. on those mornings where no thoughts arise as I sit down to write, I begin with the sentence… I have no idea what I’m going to write about today.

From there I just write whatever pops into my head about ‘having no idea what I’m going to write about’ until… as it inevitably does, the words morph into something from my heart. And then, when I’m done, I go back and delete the first few sentences/paragraphs – the one’s about not knowing what I’m going to write about. 🙂

Sometimes, when I’m stuck, I’ll simply write about what I’m seeing. As an example, when I was responding to Lisa’s email, I wrote what I was seeing outside my window in front of my desk and right beside me:

Right now, there is a chickadee hopping around on the bare branches of the bush outside my window. I watch his joyful hops and feel my heart skip joyfully in harmony with his antics. The sky is grey. Beaumont lies at my feet, every so often nudging my knee with his head as if to say, “It’s time to get going.” I keep waiting for it to get brighter outside but I think it’s a losing battle. The sky is overcast, December grey. It’s time for me to go for my walk.

In 2007, when I first decided to get into the habit of daily blogging, I wrote a Commitment Letter to myself and posted it by my computer as a reminder and prompt for my writing.

I commit to writing a post a day.
I commit to being okay with writing 'bad'.
I commit to not letting judgement of the worthiness of my words stand in my way. 
I commit to being present to the page and whatever unfolds.

And then… I just let myself ‘write bad’ to get to ‘the good’ without fearing my inner critics yammerings.

In the beginning, I probably spent as much time editing as I did writing the first draft of my posts. Over the years, editing has faded by the wayside. As I became more trusting of ‘free-fall writing” – which is how I tend to write on my blog, I became more trusting of the ‘wise inner knowing’ within my heart and body – not my head. It means, inviting the critic (that critical voice of doubt and worry who sits on my left shoulder) to take a nap. This is why I avoid editing as I write – Editing invites both ‘the critic’ and my thinking brain into my process, interfering with ‘the flow’.

Writing everyday has become part of my life. It centers me, calms me and opens me up to the wonder and awe of the world around and within me, and, it connects me to the world ‘out there’. To you who visit and spend time with me here or on my social media feeds.

Writing every day is my contribution to creating better in the world around me, because, my commitment to myself is that, no matter what is going on, when I sit down to write, I must find the value in the darkness and share the light, the beauty and wonder and possibility I see.

By sharing light, I raise my own spirits. It helps me fee like I am living my life purpose “to touch hearts, open minds and set spirits free to dance in a world of love, joy and harmony.”

Thank you for being part of my purpose and for making my world so joyful and bright. Thank you for sharing this journey with me.

Namaste.

________________________________________________________________________

On another note, I was invited to participate in an online holiday auction “A Fresh Start – Gifts for the Holiday Season presented by Fiera Capital” on behalf of Fresh Start Recovery Centre. Fresh Start has been helping people impacted by the disease of addiction to recover and reuniting families for 28 years.

The invitation reads, “Your gift creates impact! Life is the most precious gift you can give … the next is hope. You give hope for a second life to someone struggling with addiction, to a mother worried about her son, to a child getting a father back, to spouses reuniting or a grandmother reconnecting with an absent grandchild. These are gifts you make possible. Consider giving these gifts of hope and healed lives.” 

If you are looking for a beautiful, unique gift that also does good in the world and can help change lives, please check out the A Fresh Start Auction for Holiday Season Gifts presented by Fiera Capital. Click HERE to go to the website.

(I had trouble getting my submission together so it won’t be on the site until later today. The painting above is one of the three I submitted)

The auction ends at 8pm on Thursday, Dec 17th.

March Woman – Transformation in Action

March Woman – 2021 #ShePersisted Calendar (click on photo to purchase yours!)

There is much in this world I do not accept.

War. Famine. Poverty. Injustice. Discrimination to name a few, including economic and social policies that leave some feeling they are ‘less than’ while others believe they have a right to consider themselves ‘greater than’ because of an inherent bias in what they consider to be their privileged status.

And there is much in this world that I feel I have no power to change or affect.

Yet, when I take care of my own world, when I create better in the emotional, physical and spiritual environment around me, my world changes. And, while it is easy to say, those changes are infinitesimal in the big picture, the ripple effect of millions of small changes can create transformation of a grand scale.

We are all one humanity. One people on this one planet called earth. We are all connected. Through the air we breathe. To the trees and the sky and the water and the animals and the flora. We are all connected.

What we do to eachother and to our planet matters.

But how can I change what others do?

In the simplest of forms, I can’t. I am not that powerful. Nor is it my ‘job’ to change another.

What I do have the power to do is inspire change in the world around me by ensuring how I am, what I do, say, create, share creates better for everyone in the world around me. Holding space for better, my ripple becomes a constant ebbing outward of peace, harmony, joy, Love.

In that rippling effect, the things that annoy me abate, the feelings that keep me playing small diminish and the fear of making waves or being different washes away.

In their place, transformation within my world happens. And if there are millions upon millions of us transforming our own worlds, our collective ripple can become a tsunami of hope, possibility, change leading to transformation on a grand scale.

And never has that been truer than today.

Yes, Covid 19 is running amuck. Yes, there is political, economical and environmental strife everywhere.

And everywhere, there are human beings doing their best, giving their all to create lasting change that will, and must, transform our world for the better.

The March #ShePersisted Woman is a reminder to no longer accept you don’t have the power to change. To never give up on believing transformation is possible.

It is.

We just need to keep doing small things with great heart that change our worlds so that ripple by ripple by ripple the entire planet is transformed through each of us creating a better world for everyone and everything on earth.

Namaste.

Always Believe in the Magic

When I was in my teens, we lived in a village in southern Germany not far from the Rhine River.

On Sundays, my father and I would take Bijou, our black standard poodle, for a walk along the eastern bank that lined the river and soak in the beauty of life all around us.

Barges floated slowly along the waterway laden (I liked to imagine) with tea from China and silks from India and spaces from mysterious far off lands.

Sometimes, I’d see someone on the deck of a barge and I’d wave and they’d wave back.

Sometimes, a small pleasure craft would float past and I’d watch the people gathered on its deck laughing and eating and drinking beer and I’d wonder, “Where did they come from? Where are they going?”

And I’d make up stories about their lives and tell my father and he would harrumph and say, in his gruff, matter-of-fact way, “They’re just out for a Sunday cruise.”

And then, he’d stop and point out a ball of mistletoe growing high up in the bare limbs of a tree and quote a line of poetry that made my senses tingle with the delight of the words. Or he’d bend down and show me the beauty of a fallen leaf lying on our path and he’d tell me to always look for beauty. Always. And I’d know, like me, he believed in the magic.

Those days of walking the banks of the Rhine, of watching barges float by and stopping at a Gasthaus on the way home for a lunch of Weinerschnitzel and frites and hearing my father laugh and call out “Prosit!” to a stranger at the next table have drifted lazily into the past like the mists floating along the river this morning.

Yet, on mornings like this, when fog envelops the river and the trees stand barren and tall along its banks, I remember those days and say a quiet prayer of gratitude to my father.

He was a mysterious figure to me. A man of mercurial moods and sudden tempers that could blow in as fast as a summer storm.

He held many secrets. Yet, some days, walking along the riverbanks, a tiny fragment of his story would reveal itself in his words and I would feel like I was bathing in a ray of sunshine streaking through the clouds that hid the blue sky above.

It was in those moments I knew magic was everywhere because my father believed in magic. He believed in pots of gold at the end of every rainbow and genies sleeping in brass teapots waiting to be awakened just by the right touch and a whispered incantation of a magical word.

He believed I could do anything if I set my mind to it.

He believed in me.

Namaste

Nature Will Always Have Its Way

Autumn leaves turn green to gold to rust. A bluebell clings to summer’s embrace.

The calendar turns another page. Memory clings to falling beauty.

The seasons turn. The sun rises and sets and rises again. The river flows and freezes and flows again, a fluid stream of time flowing freely through memory’s frozen banks.

The end becomes the beginning of spring becoming the end again and again.

And through it all, beauty ripples in seasonal glory unblemished by memories of clinging vines locked in winter’s icy kisses.

Seasons turn.

Life moves forward with time, never back.

Nature will always have its way.

Do You Believe In Yourself?

“Softly, her dreams took flight on the wings of hope that believing in herself was all she needed to make her dreams come true. And they did.” – Altered Book Journal. “My Mother’s Prayers” two-page spread.

We all have dreams. Big ones. Little ones. Quiet ones. Loud, audacious ones. Dreams of living lives of wonder. Dreams of great adventure. Dreams of discovering far off lands, of creating stories of greatness in our lives.

Sometimes, our dreams come true. Sometimes, we let them go because life happens.

We fall. We face a wall we cannot climb. We trip over a rock that sends us flat on our back.

In our pain and fear of getting hurt, in our concern others will laugh at us or judge us for our failures, we lock away our dreams and continue on our journey taking the safer path, the road more travelled.

We do okay. We create a ‘good enough life’. It’s just not the life we once dreamed of. But that’s okay, we say. Dreaming is for children. We’re “all grown up now”. We have responsibilities. Success. Things. Secure inside the comfort zone of the life we’ve created, we forget about our dreams and carry on living our good enough life.

And then, one day, if we’re lucky, something happens to remind us of our dreams. Tentatively. Hopefully. We unlock the cage inside our heart where we tucked away our dreams long ago and peer inside.

That’s where the magic happens. That’s where our dreams peer back at us and ask, “Are you ready to come alive?”

It’s a big question because if we say yes, the next question we must ask ourselves as we peer into our hearts and gaze at the sleeping beauty of our dreams unlived is, “Am I willing to believe in myself?”

_________________

As with all the pages in this altered book art journal, embedded within the page is one of my mother’s prayer cards. Also included are a photo of my mother and father hidden behind the smaller bird in the cage.

I hadn’t intended to hide them. Initially, I was going to transfer their images to the page with a technique that requires you to rub off the photo backing so that only the ink from the image remains affixed to the canvas. I started the process with the prayer card only to discover, while that technique works well on a canvas, on a book page the vigorous rubbing off required to remove the backing paper can tear the page of the book.

Ooops.

I wanted to quit. To give up. To tear out the page and begin again.

And that’s when this page became something entirely diferent than what I started to create.

Isn’t that what happens to our dreams sometimes?

We start out all excited and open to the journey until we encounter an obstacle or something goes drastically wrong. Feeling dejected, or embarrassed or possibly hopeless, we pack away our dreams and continue on our journey. It’s a little less bright. A little less promising, but it’s okay. It’s a good life and we should be grateful for all we have.

We tell ourselves, “We didn’t really like that dream anyway,” or some such conjured up story that will hide our disappointment. We’re living well so we ignore the ache in our hearts and the yearning in our minds to fly higher.

Until one day, something happens and we remember our dreams. We remember we are brave, courageous, worthy. We remember we are dreamers.

In that sacred, rarefied air of possibility, we take a step outside the confines of our comfort zone and take a deep breath.

We stretch our arms wide.

We close our eyes.

We dare.

To dream.

To believe in ourselves.

To set our dreams free.

An Ode To Summer Solstice

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, the days have begun their journey back towards the darkness.

The long lazy days of summer beckon. Blossoms burst forth and grain fields grow plenty. The days begin to give up their light to the dark. Imperceptibly. Moment by moment. The lengthening of shadows begins.

On a far and distant horizon, cool days of autumn slumber, oblivious to the promised heat of summer yet to come. Beyond the promise of autumn days coruscating in the golden light of falling leaves, winter sleeps, its dreams full of frosty days and snow-covered nights sparkling under the light of a full moon rising.

And the world continues to spin.

And life continues to unfold in all its mystery, magic and wonder.

May the Solstice be with you.

______________________

Confession: The word ‘coruscate’ appeared in an article I was reading this morning.

Coruscate? Hmmm…

Curiosity slipped in. What does that mean? So did my father’s voice. “Go look it up.”

It was his way. Growing up, whenever I’d ask, “What does that mean?” he’d reply, “Go look it up.”

And so, I did.

And just as a child when he’d make me use my latest ‘coruscated’ addition to my vocabulary in a sentence, I followed my father’s voice into the mystery of discovery, and used it a sentence in my blog today.

Thanks Dad!

(And don’t tell him… but just in case you too, like me, do not know its meaning, I gave you a hint. — or you can go look it up, HERE.)

I think it might just be my favourite new word. It’s so yummy and juicy on the tongue.

It sparkles!