To live and let live.

Learning to Fly art journal 2 page spread – mixed media

It is back. This need to check the data every day. To scan news headlines for what’s happening now in a world that seems hellbent on conflict and destruction.

It was gone for awhile, this need. I wanted it to stay away. Yet here it is again. Unbidden. Uninvited. Unwanted.

So I shift my approach to dealing with its presence. Instead of searching for data and world events, I read articles on post-pandemic life. I seek advice on how to step out into the world, without being riddled with anxiety and guilt, once critical mass on vaccinations is reached and restrictions can be safely lifted.

And then, I dip into one of my social media feeds and feel discouragement rising like the third-wave surge of sickness and death. How will we ever arrive at a post-pandemic world when there are those who believe wearing a mask is a sign of weakness? That following restrictions is sheep-like behaviour destined to transform one into a lemming falling over a cliff?

I turn off my social media feeds. I step back from the edge of the abyss where I feel myself getting pulled into the undertow of a debate that feeds my anxiety and drives me deeper into the data as if somehow, somewhere, some number will help make sense of it all and send this virus packing and stop this ‘us versus them’ debate.

One of my aunts, who lives in southern India, has only been out of her apartment once in over a year. She is tired. Anxious. Frustrated. Worried. When she phones, I can feel her loneliness ringing in my ears with every word she rattles off in her rapid-fire French about how limited her life has become through these months and months of Covid. “But what can I do?” she asks without waiting for an answer from me. “To stay alive I must stay at home but I am so lonely.”

Her two remaining siblings live in France as do the majority of her nieces and nephews. She cannot travel to visit any of us nor can we travel to visit her. “I have a dream to come and visit you one more time in Canada before I go,” she tells me. I tell her I want her dream to come true.

And so, together, we wait for the world to right itself. For vaccination counts to surpass the 75% mark. For sickness and death counts to plummet.

Three weeks ago my youngest daughter and her partner became statistics in the Covid case count. They are two of the over 146.8 million of the reported cases as of yesterday’s count. Fortunately, while they said they’d never felt so sick, they did not succumb to the virus as my cousin Linda did in Paris last spring. They have recovered and stayed on the life side of the ledger. Linda is one of the over 3.1 million who did not.

And here’s the thing. They are not ‘cases’ or a number on an ever-increasing count. They are my loved ones. Just as the other 146.6 million reported cases were someone else’s loved ones.

Which is why I will do whatever it takes to keep my loved ones safe. I will get vaccinated. I will wear a mask. Keep my distance. Stay sequestered with my beloved whose lungs, should he become infected, might not be able to withstand the viruses onslaught. We have only received the first vaccination and while the risk and severity are lowered, they still exist. .

And sure, there are those who would call me a sheep. Who would rally against my precautions in the name of their rights.

I get it.

Masks can be annoying. Keeping away from human contact challenging and depressing. There are still many unknowns. Still too much uncertainty and question marks and confusion over so many unknowns. And the unknown and uncertainty breeds anxiety. It feeds fear.

But certain things remain known. Masks work. Keeping safe physical distance works. Being vaccinated is a better safeguard than not being vaccinated.

The virus will not go away on its own. But if it can’t find enough hosts to keep replicating itself, it will eventually lose its grip and fade out. (I know that’s not a scientific explanation but it makes sense to me.)

Just as doing the right thing, whether I like it or not, makes sense to me too. It’s for the sake of myself, my loved ones and for all of us.

And in my world, doing the right thing is never the wrong thing to do.

Which means, I must do the right thing for myself today. I must lovingly wean myself away from diving deep into statistics, into watching news feeds for world catastrophes and natural and manmade disasters, from scrolling social media feeds urging me to cherish my rights over the right to life of all humanity.

I cherish my right to life. I cherish the right to life of all human beings on this planet.

And so, I breathe and say a prayer for all humanity.

May we find a way to survive this latest surge without tearing our humanity apart.

May we find a way to honour one another, to show tolerance and grace in the face of adversity and differing views.

May we all remember we do not have a guidebook on how to behave during a pandemic. That we are all struggling with the knowns and unknowns. We all feel the fear and anxiety. We all feel the constraints.

And may we all remember, we all want to live in our own way.

May we all live to tell the story of our survival.

Namaste.

_________________________

This post was inspired by an article in the New York Times shared by David Kanigan at Live and Learn. Thanks David!

What’s Your What?

It took me all week to figure out how I wanted to finish off the binding on my Sheltered Wonder Art Journal.

I’d finished binding in the 20 pages. I’d even created a little video of the completed journal. Except for the spine, I felt it had come out really well.

But that spine…

There were lots of alternatives on how I could finish it off… the hows were limitless!

The unfinished spine.

Yesterday, the answer came to me. Paint a panel to cover up the messy threads.

So I did. And though the colours were slightly different than the cover itself I knew I could make it work.

But, how to give it a ‘finished’ look when I wouldn’t be able to fold over the panel at the top and bottom edge? (The inside pages came right up to the edge leaving no room for me to fold the page over.)

Plus the threads made a lumpy surface. How to smooth it out?

What about ribbon? The voice of the muse whispered. You have that beautiful blue ribbon with that rolled edge. What if you lay it on top first?

“But that’s not how I planned on doing it,” I hissed back.

Calmly she urged me on. “Let go of the how, Louise. Focus on what you’re trying to create.”

What am I trying to create? A beautiful finished spine for my journal.

I got the ribbon. Tried it out. I liked the look. I glued it down.

And then… well, I was still kind of attached to ‘the how’ that I’d started with. I wanted to affix my painted panel — but when I tested it, it still looked untidy and ‘blah’.

I sat and contemplated ‘the what’ of my project. And that’s when inspiration struck.

In the bottom drawer of the supplies drawer that sits beside me at my work table, I have a collection of tags I’ve made – for a rainy day, or perhaps just this occassion.

I dug through the drawer and found one I’d made a long time ago after seeing something similar at a craft fair.

It was the perfect fit.

I made a few adjustments and glued it in place.

Perfect.

The finished spine.

And here’s the thing — The finished spine is much different than what I’d started out to create. Remember the painted panel? I never did use it!

The lesson? If I had stayed focused on ‘the how’ of what I was doing, I would not have been open to the possibilities that appeared as I worked on the spine.

It’s not the ‘how’ that makes a difference. It’s the ‘what’.

In this case… A finished spine that created a visually appealing finish to the book.

If I had stayed focused on the ‘how’ of finishing off the spine, I would have been disappointed simply because the how was all about doing it the way my mind told me was ‘the right way’.

As long as I stay focused on ‘the what’, the story will always be about creating better. Always. Because the ‘what’ is about listening to my heart. The heart knows. The ‘how’ is an intellectual exercise. The ‘what’ engages the heart in taking action to create better.

Because that’s the thing. Staying attached to my first idea of how I was going to finish the spine would have kept me stuck in seeing only one path to getting to my goal, a path that would have resulted in an ‘okay’ finished product.

By focussing on my ‘what’, by letting my heart lead the way, I created something I really like. Something that pleases me. Something that reflects what the journal is all about — an expression of all I’ve learned, experienced and grown through during these months of self-isolation.

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And… if you want to see the video of the finished product (minus the completed spine) I created of the journal I’ve included it below.

For a first attempt at using Photoshop Premiere video editing software, I’m pleased with what I created. 🙂 The how was easy — learn the software without pulling my hair out! 🙂

Everything I Create. I Am.

A quadriptych of bookmarks created on cast-off pieces of watercolour paper.

I wrote the following in response to a post David Kanigan of Live & Learn shared this morning. (Do go check it out — the quote and his photo are beautiful and provocative and peace-inducing. Click HERE)

“For the past month, I have been creating daily what I’ve called my Sheltered Wonder Art Journal. I wanted to explore what Covid brought beyond sickness and death, fear and loss.

Covid brought silence. Deep. Meaningful. Exquisite, and sometimes painful, silence. It brought the opportunity to walk at a quieter pace, to speak more slowly, to act more thoughtfully, to be present in this moment more completely. To be still within the silence and the noise.

These are the lessons from these times I want to embrace. To carry with me. To hold as true to living a rich, fulfilled and compassionate life that does not seek its purpose in getting more out of life, but discovers it in giving more to enrich life on this planet we call home through everything I do. Everything I create. Everything I am.

David, a master of words, condensed my response into two powerful sentences:

Everything I create. I am.

Yesterday, I had intended to take a rest day from the studio. And then, as she does, the muse floated in on a wave of joy enticing me to create ‘something’. “If everything you are is what you create, then what are you creating with your today Louise?” – I’m pretty sure she would have asked that if she’d read David’s response to my comment.

What am I creating?

Everything I create is an expression of my essence. My creative core. My joy. My love. My curiosity. And, my fears and sadnesses. My worries and confusions.

What I create is a reflection of all of me. I cannot separate one from the other. Everything I create. I am.

Not just in the studio, or the kitchen, but everywhere in my life.

Everything I create. I am.

When I let anger become my voice through words that hurt, I am those words. I am that anger.

When I allow fear to raise my arms against another, or turn my back on their suffering, I am that raised arm. I am that suffering. I am that fear.

And when I embrace life in all its beautiful nature and imbue everything in my world with Love of all life on this planet earth, I am that Love in all its beautiful nature.

Everything I create. I am.

I can chose to create from a place of anger, fear, worry. Or, I can choose to allow Love to be my inspiration. My muse. My spark.

Whatever I create. It is a reflection of all that I am.

Everything I create. I am.

I am sitting within the beauty and invitation of those words. Allowing them to slowly float down out of my conscious awareness deep into my belly to become my entire body attuned to their resonance.

Everything I create. I am.

Namaste

Looking Forward…

Looking forward, there is only love – inside back page of Sheltered Wonder Art Journal

I completed the back inside page of my Sheltered Wonder Art Journal yesterday.

I played and experimented and let it be what it is without fussing over my thoughts of – “Oh no, I could have…”. “I wished I’d…”. “Why didn’t I…”

Like the river, I flow forward. There is no going back to the moment that just passed.

Looking forward, there is only Love.

One discovery I carry with me out of the journey of creating this page, and ultimately the journal, is the one where I choose to recognize my power to choose. Love. Always.

When I see this moment as a portal into the next, Love invites me to cross-over, leaving all my fears, worries, insecurities, doubts, behind. Being human, I struggle to let them go and so, they cloud the present moment leading to the next. They obscure the Love that is the wholeness of everything.

“What if…,” the wise woman within asks me, “what if you choose to trust?”

Seriously? Trust that I’ll be okay without my fears, worries, insecurities, doubts… Trust that Love is enough? That I am enough?

Is Love enough to embody all my human stuff?

And I smile.

And breathe.

Creating this journal has been a labour of Love. It has held me under its thrall for the past month, inviting me to let go of my self-criticisms and worries and doubts to fall, effortlessly and with grace, into the wonder and magic of the creative process (which is Life).

It has taught me to trust in the process. To trust in Life.

If life is the process of moving from one moment to the next, when I choose to see it is Love that invites me to let go of this moment to step into the next, then I must trust that is enough. That I am enough. Or, as in this case, this page is enough.

In an ideal world we would all choose to cross from one love-imbued moment into the next, leaving our fears, our worries, our insecurities, our doubts that cloud the present moment and all the Love it contains, behind.

What if… we chose to do just that? Every moment of every day? To carry only Love? And trust, Love is Enough.

Namaste

_____________________________

About the Page:

I intentionally printed the profile facing outward from the page (my first attempt she was facing inward. I thought, “That works.” The muse had a stronger vision. I reprinted her so that when she was affixed to the page, she was facing outwards) — She is (I am) looking forward, directly at Love.

As I wanted to play with some sewing and ribbon in the journal, (to symbolize ‘threading it all together’) I drew and cut out the profile and then monoprinted it onto cloth that I affixed with ribbon and glued it at the top, onto the page.

Under the fabric, within the whiteness of the profile, a page with the title of all the blog posts I’ve written about each page is affixed, just visible through the profile.

As I only affixed the cloth at the top, it can be lifted to reveal the page.

For me, this symbolizes how we can intellectually understand that Love is the Answer, but until we lift the veil of our human condition to face and honour our doubts and worries and concerns, as well as our lack of trust, we cannot ‘see’ how we have the choice to simply choose Love, again and again and again.

Until we are lovingly willing to peer into the mysteries of life and embrace our own mystery and wonder, and trust that we are enough, we will carry our doubts and worries through time.

Letting go is essential.

And letting go only happens when we trust Love will greet us at the doorway and welcome us in, again and always. In Love, we will be enough.

And yeah. That’s easier said than done!

The Bird of Time

In the final days of my mother’s life, I carried with me a book that was one of my father’s favourites – Edward Fitzgerald’s “The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam”.

On those nights when I sat in the dark alone with her as she slept, I would read to her the poetry my father once read aloud.

“Come, fill the Cup, and in the fire of Spring

Your Winter-garment of Repentance fling:

The Bird of Time has but a little way to flutter

and the Bird is on the Wing.

Yesterday, as I began work on the final 2-page spread of my Sheltered Wonder art journal, the Bird of Time flew onto the page, reminding me that “Time is fleeting. Savour every moment and then, with a loving heart, let every moment go and flow with grace into the next.”

This moment in which I sit typing, watching the river flow deep and fast as spring runoff swells its waters, it is the only moment I have in which to be present within the beauty and the mystery of life and death.

Three months ago, as I sat in the dark of night in my mother’s room, reading to her, singing, holding her hand or sitting silently within the stillness of her breathing, the Bird of Time was fluttering its wings calling her home to where she yearned to go – back to her family, back into the arms of my father, her beloved Louis, back to the God who had never forsaken her.

This morning, I sit writing and the Bird of Time is on the Wing, calling me, just as the Egyptian goddess did on an earlier page, to ‘Awaken and Dare’.

There is much brokenness in this world of ours. Much despair. Anger. Fear. Death. Turmoil. Angst. Inequality. Injustice. Prejudice. Racism. Apathy. Confusion. Silence. Condemnation.

And always, in the brokenness, there is the wholeness of life. There is Love.

Yesterday, as I walked in the forest with Beaumont the Sheepadoodle and watched him run and chase the ball and stop to sniff grass and dandelions in full bloom, I was reminded of just how precious this moment is. And how filled with miracles life can be.

This turmoil that Covid has brought, the death of one man under the knee of another that has erupted in cries for justice, change and equality, perhaps they are the carriers of the miracle we have needed to force us to stop chasing after dreams of more wealth and power and to become present in the beauty of this life we embody of planet earth, our shared home.

Perhaps, they are bidding us to dare to examine our human condition and awaken to its priceless beauty, a beauty that affects each of us the same, yet different.

Every human being has skin covering a skeleton made up of bones upon which arteries and veins, organs and muscles rely. The inner workings of our human condition are the same for each of us. It is just the outer manifestation of the miracle of our life that is different for all 7.5+ bilion of us.

And, just as my mother’s passing was not the ending of my life but the beginning of a new phase, the miracle that Covid brings and the miracle that has erupted with George Floyd’s death is not a symptom of the dying off of our humanity. It is our awakening.

What we do in this moment, right now, matters. It matters how we respond, how we step forward, how we find healing, how we give and find and receive forgiveness. How we share grace.

It all matters, just as the lives of those who have died under Covid’s insidious presence matter. Just as Black Lives Matter.

It is the miracle of these times. They are not calling us to rise up and state, ‘my life matters more’. They are urging us to claim that other lives matter equally as much. And to do something about the matter.

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In My Garden

All the colours of the rainbow – Sheltered Wonder Art Journal – pgs 34-35

A yellow wildflower does not say to a blue flower growing beside it, “You don’t belong here. Go grow somewhere else.”

It grows alongside of whatever colour is next to it to create a beautiful rainbow coloured field of wonder.

It is we humans who deem some flowers weeds, some worthy of growing in our gardens, some not.

Yesterday, I planted. I am a pot grower — no — not marijuana but plants in pots. It is important to me that our walkway and deck be colourful, a welcome respite, an oasis. A place of calm. A warm greeting to all.

Yet, no matter how many pots I plant, my heart does not feel calm this morning. I am troubled. Saddened. Fearful.

I read the news. Watched the video of the events leading up to the man in the White House’s walk to St. John’s church and the aftermath and I cried.

I have not watched the video of George Floyd’s final 10 minutes of life. I can’t.

I don’t want to watch a man die. I want to watch him live. I want to watch all of us live, together, in harmony. Without fear.

And in my desire for more peace, more harmony, more togetherness, I find myself wondering what am I doing to affect it? What am I contributing?

I wasn’t going to come to the page this morning. I wasn’t going to write. It seemed so trivial, so inconsequential in the big picture.

Which is when I realized that this is my contribution to the harmony, the wholeness, the gift of life.

And so, I am here. Confused. Fearful. Sorrowful. Loving. Caring. Concerned. And wild at heart.

And in my wildness, I bring all my rainbow colours to the table and feast on life in all its contradictions, complexities, chaos and glory.

A man died with the knee of another man on his neck. It was wrong. It was deplorable. It was heart-breaking.

But this, this time of unrest, of protests and demonstrations… this time is powerful and potent. This is a time when every colour under the sun is standing united against those who would keep us separated by the colour of our skin and the pews upon which we kneel and the politics of their power.

This time is potent and I will not fall beneath the distress of believing their power is greater.

I will, as so many are doing in the world today, rise up and speak up from my place under the sun, the same sun that shines down on each of us no matter where in the world we are.

Under my sun, I will paint wildflowers growing freely, a riotous garden celebrating every colour under the sun.

Because in my garden, there is only room for loving kindness to grow and beauty to behold and life to nurture and cherish in all its chaos becoming harmony, in all its complexity evolving and revolving with life.

Namaste

Awaken And Dare

Her voice comes to me in a dream.

“You are dreaming,” she says. “Awaken and dare.”

Dare what? I wonder.

“When you awaken, there will be no need to ask.” she replies and vanishes from my sleeping mind.

…Only to return the next day as I unconsciously paint her into being as an ancient Egyptian goddess exhorting me to awaken.

Where did you come from, I wonder. What message do you carry?

I go in search of answers — because heck, good questions evoke curiosity. And not feeding my curiosity with searching for answers leaves my head brain way too full of pesky questions roaming around looking for places to upset my peace of mind.

I start with “What does seeing an ancient Egyptian goddess in my dream mean?

Dr. Google has many answers. One source states:

“A dream featuring Egypt is believed to represent the potential for change in your life.”

The wise woman within whispers lovingly, “To change the world around you, you must first create change within.”

Yesterday, I read a post by a writer I respect talking about his white privilege. He wrote that he was willing to revoke it in favour of simply being human.

It is not that easy.

My privilege is intricately entwined with how I live my life. How I think. What I do. Where I go. How I am in the world. It is embedded in everything that made me, me.

Privilege is not a thought. It is not a feeling. It is not a choice. It is integral to my life. I cannot discard it or erase it. Being born a white female, ancient, culturally codified privilege of what it means to be white in this world were invoked as my birthright.

My parents worked hard to instill in all four of their children the belief that we are all created equal. We are all deserving of being treated fairly, with kindness, compassion, honesty, respect. And we must always do our utmost to uphold those values and principles.

I do my best, everyday, to live by what my parents taught me about human worth.

And still, I cannot revoke my privilege. Nor can I say that my privilege didn’t help me on my journey. Just because I wasn’t racist, or I didn’t discriminate against others doesn’t mean I don’t use my privilege to my advantage. I naturally do. It is visibly part of me. Unfortunately, what is often to my advantage can create disadvantage for others when they do not have the same access or right to what I have.

It also means, that I can’t hold up all the work I’ve done for vulnerable people, the work I’ve done to create spaces for social justice and change to happen, as a testament as to how I am not racist. My work is a reflection of my belief in humanity, our human condition and connection. It is not about my being or not being racist. The fact is, that work was made easier because of my privilege. Everything I’ve done in my life has been made easier because I was born with the skin colour I have that lets me pass through life with relative ease.

Even in my darkest times, my privilege gave me an advantage. I was believed by the police when I finally spoke up. I gained access to supports I needed without jumping through additional hoops of having to verify my worthiness to those supports. Often, those who are racialized or ‘otherized’ must jump through hoops simply because they are forced to prove their worth first, before gaining access to what they need.

And so, this morning, heeding the call to DARE, I wrote to the individual whose comments about revoking his privilege caused me unease. ” I can’t change the colour of my skin and I fear that suggesting I am willing to revoke my privilege, to those who have experienced the indignities and inhumanity that comes with the different colour of their skin or circumstances in life, could risk minimizing their trauma, pain and reality.”

I wouldn’t have done that in the past.

I would have read the words they wrote, felt the unease, shrugged my shoulders and moved on.

Now I dare.

It is time we all dare to challenge one another. Sure, we’ll sometimes get things wrong. We’ll mess up. But, messing up is part of growth.

Doing nothing. Not challenging ourselves and one another will continue to mess up the lives of more, and ultimately, the world and all of humanity will pay the price for the mess we’ve created with our silence.

Namaste.

The Raven and The Wild Rose

The Raven and The Wild Rose — mixed media on water colour paper. Pgs 32 – 33 – Sheltered Wonder Art Journal

Raven appeared in my Sheltered Wonder Art Journal yesterday. He symbolizes transformation, and carries truth.

I hold many ideas and beliefs as ‘truth’. They create a framework for my life upon which my values and principles hang. Core to my beliefs is unwavering, redemptive, transformative Love.

Love is my weapon of choice. It is the only weapon I can safely deploy to keep my world spinning calmly, and to ensure I do not cause harm in the world around me.

Right now, standing in Love staves off the hopelessness, fear and sorrow that keeps riding in on waves of news articles touting the latest outbreaks, death tolls, and now, riots.

The world feels like it is spinning wildly off its axis. Like the cork that was stopping centuries-old anger and rage over social inequities, racism, prejudice and privilege of the few limiting the possibilities of the many, has been pulled out.

Rage, fury, anger, pain and trauma are gushing out of humanity’s collective consciousness. Unleashed from the genie’s bottle that has been held tightly in white man’s hands, human beings of every colour are spilling out into the streets demanding change, demanding they be seen, heard, taken note of – not as dehumanized symbols of an archaic and suffocating colonial structure that elevates man on the colour of his skin, but as fully actualized, worthy human beings.

When we measure another’s worth based on the colour of their skin or the depth of their pockets or the degrees on their walls or the power of their positions, we are setting those who were not born ‘the same’ to live in the shadows of our excesses. We are harming all humanity.

We are all culpable. I am culpable. For my sister’s pain, my brother’s anguish. I am culpable for my neighbour’s poverty, my dark-skinned brothers and sisters struggles and the struggles of those who identify differently than me and must fight for the right to be who they are. I am culpable.

Not because I actively do things to discriminate against others or cause anyone pain. No. My culpability comes from my inaction. My lack of giving voice to gather allies together who will help dismantle archaic systems that keep those who have not in their place, so that those of us who have can continue to live our privileged lives without having to unsettle the status quo.

The Raven appeared in my painting yesterday. He carries a message of transformation. Of truth.

The truth is, this world of ours, this planet that sustains us, nourishes us, keeps us alive is a better place to live for some than for many others.

I am one of the ‘some’. One of the sum total of humanity whose skin colour gives me natural and unquestioned access to what I need to create a beautiful life. A life that is free of fearing for my life when I walk down the street or get stopped by police or enter a hospital emergency room seeking to be treated like I matter.

I have never questioned whether or not I matter.

Too many of my brothers and sisters have been forced to ask themselves, “Do I matter?” They are the ‘many others’. The ones who have been deemed unequal to the arbitrary equation of worth set by white man’s structures. Structures that have been put in place to keep them playing a game of snakes and ladders where the ladders are blocked by the snakes pushing them back down. It is a game designed specifically so that they cannot win.

Raven is asking me to see the truth – My skin colour does not make me colour blind. It just makes me blind to the truth of the experiences of millions upon millions x millions of my brothers and sisters.

The Wild Rose which in mythology symbolizes Love and devotion is asking me to open the eyes of my heart so that I can see how my inaction hurts me and you and all humanity. My silence keeps others on the bottom rungs while I keep climbing up the ladder.

A Raven wandered into my painting yesterday.

I am grateful for his presence. He has illuminated a truth I have not been able to see.

I am not helpless.

I have the power to inspire action to address the effects of racism, discrimination, abuse, intolerance. Social constructs that are perpetuated by my silence.

The colour of my skin matters. Not because it’s white, (though that is unfortunately what makes it matter more in this world where racism and a culture of white supremacy that is unconsciously ingrained in each of us (and sometimes consciously) dominates) No. It matters because it comes with privilege.

It is that privilege that I must employ to influence others to stand united in calling out for change that will ensure those who are struggling on the bottom rungs of the very systems that give me privilege, can rise up to experience their colour, their ‘otherness’ without fearing it will matter so much to me and those like me, it will cost them their life.

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And So I Pray

In every life, a little rain must fall so flowers can grow and hearts can learn to weather the storms and break open in Love. Pgs 28 – 29. Sheltered Wonder art journal

When I started this Sheltered Wonder art journal project, I wrote out the Wonder Rules to guide me. The reason for the journal is clear – to identify, acknowledge and celebrate the things I’ve learned, experienced, grown through, been challenged by and challenged during the sequestered solitude of Covid.

There have been so many moments where fear rose up, threatening to consume my peace of mind. It was through spending time in nature and in my studio that I was able to grapple with my fear so that I could find my calm even in its presence.

There have also been moments that absolutely took my breath away. Moments where the beauty of the world around me outweighed the sorrow and grief.

And, there have been moments where I felt like I was drowning in sorrow and grief. It has been here, in my studio, creating and writing, that I have found comfort, insight, healing, grace.

In this bubble in which I live, life flows as effortlessly as the river outside my window.

I struggle some days to align my world with what is going on in the world around me. And right now, that means how do I Share Grace, the fifth Wonder Rule, with my neighbours to the south where violence and death tolls continue to mount as the unrest boils over and Covid ravages lives daily.

There is little I can do in the physical world to change the course of events outside my own sphere of influence.

There is lots I can do in the metaphysical world, and also in this ‘cyber world’ where we meet up and share and learn and grow.

And that is, to practice every minute of every day, the art of sharing grace.

The issues that are impacting our US neighbours are deep and profound. Sitting here, north of the 49th parallel, it can tempting to sit in judgement. To cast aspersions upon those in leadership roles, those in power and control, those breaking the laws, those upholding them.

Grace means, I don’t do that. I cannot share darkness. I must share only light.

Light comes in many forms. For me, to add value (which is part of the fourth Wonder Rule – Find Value ) – my light must come in the form of my prayers. I must use my prayers to override any commentary I might want to make so that it is only my prayers that ripple out into the world for peace, understanding, compassion and healing for my neighbours to the south and all the world.

Just as the girl in the painting is carrying a bouquet of flowers to the tree surrounded by a field of wildflowers, I can only add my prayers to the millions of prayers going out to our US neighbours and to the world.

And so, I pray. In rain and sun, under grey skies or blue, I pray.

And I send my prayers out to the sky, the trees, the air, to the river of love flowing to those whose hearts are breaking, those whose lives are ending, those who are carrying burdens that feel too heavy and are falling under the weight. Those who are fighting for and against the turmoil of these times.

Those who are standing in confusion, fear, worry, sadness, sorrow, grief. Those crying in the darkness of their grief, those crying out for mercy, those calling out for the violence to stop, those calling out for change to happen now.

I pray and in my prayers grace finds me and hope embraces me. Hope for our neighbours to the south. For the world still struggling to come out from under the yoke of Covid. Those still struggling to come to grips with the loss of those they love, the life they had, the life they knew as normal. Those praying for peace. For change. For relief. For life.

I pray and send my prayers and my Love out into the world. It is the only way I can Share Grace.

May we all know peace. May we all know Love. May we all find the courage to heal what separates and divides us. May we all embrace our differences and celebrate our humanity as one people, one world, one human race.

And so I pray.

Namaste.

The Quiet Whispers

Listen to the quiet whispers of your heart. They are your heartsong yearning to be set free. Sheltered Wonder Art Journal – pages 26 – 27

In my 40s I decided to join my then teenage daughter in painting.

It changed my life. It also gave me a valuable lesson in How to Hear the Quiet Whispers of Your Heart.

Don’t believe everything you tell yourself about yourself.

When I started painting, I had spent most of my life telling myself I had no artistic talent. I thought it was true.

Committing myself to exploring my painterly ways in my 40s taught me that I was not always right. That in fact, the things I tell myself about myself are often based on my fears, not my heartfelt desire to live a true and authentic life. And, often, when I say, “I can’t do that” what I’m really saying is I’m afraid of looking stupid. I’m afraid of failing. I’m afraid it won’t be perfect.

Which brings me to the second thing I learned about How to Hear the Whispers of Your Heart.

Get rid of ‘Can’t’.

Can’t is an easy way to let yourself off the hook of turning up for yourself in your life where ever you are, however you are, even in your fear.

If you’ve never done something before and you catch yourself saying, “I can’t do that”, challenge yourself. Allow yourself the grace of doing it imperfectly.

When I said, “I have no artistic ability” I was really just giving myself a soft landing and an excuse not to try something new. Sure, when I look back on some of my earlier pieces I can see how little I knew about colour, composition, light, depth – everything. But, if I’d never picked up that brush, I’d have missed out on the immense pleasure I’ve experienced over the years of creating art that speaks to and from my heart.

In the process, I’ve learned lots about colour, composition… and I’ve strengthened my creative voice and found incredible joy rising up from within the depths of my being.

I still sometimes catch myself saying, “I can’t…” That’s when I must listen for my heart’s whispers by reframing the ‘can’t into an invitation… “I have never tried that before. I wonder what will happen when I do?”

Which of course, brings me to the most important thing I’ve learned as ‘a creative’.

Listen for your heart’s whispers.

Your heart knows best. It is wise. It is loving.

The heart speaks in loving whispers, not angry shouts. Sometimes, you have to listen really deeply for the whispers because the fear that lives at the base of your skull shouts so loud it can be confused as ‘the truth’. In fear’s strident nature, it can become a habit to allow fear to drown out your heart’s quiet truth.

The way to tell the difference between heart truth and fear posing as truth is to ask yourself, “Does this voice hurt me or inspire me?”

If you hear angry, loud messages that are telling you you’re not going to make it, you’re not good enough, you’re stupid or anything negative and hurtful, it’s important to acknowledge that it is fear having its way with your real truth – you are worthy. You are good enough. You are magnificent, brilliant, a shining light.

In those moments when you realize the shouting within is becoming the ‘truth’ you’re accepting as yours – Stop. Breathe. Listen. Deeply. And ask yourself ‘Wonder Questions’… “I wonder what is really true here?” “I wonder what will happen if I just… step here, do this, experiment with this idea, stop listening to ‘can’t’…

Develop the practice of allowing the ‘shouts’ within to become an invitation to get still and listen for the quiet whispers of your heart.

Remember — The heart speaks in loving whispers, not angry shouts. Listen for its whispers.

Years ago, I did something I didn’t believe I could. I started to paint. My life is so much richer, vibrant, loving because I risked turning ‘can’t’ into possibility.

What about you? Are there ‘can’ts’ in your life yearning to be transformed?

Listen to the quiet whispers of your heart.

Namaste.