If Only She Had Wings (a story)

Far away, at the edge of the land where it meets the sea, there lived a young woman who believed she could fly.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” the townspeople said when she stood at the edge of the cliff to test her belief. “Birds fly. Humans stay walking on the ground.”

The young woman did not believe that was the only way to be human. Every night before going to bed, she did push-ups and lifted weights to strengthen her wings.

And every night before falling asleep she whispered to the dream fairies, “Let my dreams be filled with flight.”

And every night the dream fairies flitted into her sleep, scattering visions of flying and soaring into her dreams.

And in the morning, she would awaken, repeat her exercises and go out to the edge of the cliff overlooking the ocean far below to test the strength of her wings.

One day, as the young woman stood at the edge of the cliff lifting her arms up and down like the seagulls high above, a little girl approached and asked, “Why are you standing here flapping your arms?”

The young woman, surprised that a child would even have to ask such a question, replied without stopping what she was doing. “Practising flying.”

The child watched for a few moments longer before saying, “Well that’s silly. Why don’t you just leap?”

The young woman stopped lifting her arms up and down. She gazed down at the little girl where she stood looking up at her. Sky blue eyes met sky blue eyes. Flaxen hair floated around her face just as hers floated in the morning breeze.

The child smiled up at her and the young woman felt all her fears of falling come crashing into her like the waves crashing against the cliffs below.

“What if I fall?” she asked the little girl.

“What if you don’t?” the little girl replied as she threw her arms wide and cast her body off the edge of the cliff.

The young woman watched, wide-eyed and breathless, as the child’s body floated gracefully on the air, catching the breeze and letting it carry her down to the surface of the waves before lifting her up and up and up to the top of the cliff.

In awe, the young woman watched the child land effortlessly back on the cliff beside her.

“See! It’s easy,” said the child.

And the young woman took a deep, deep breath and spread her arms wide.

And stopped.

“I don’t think I can,” she said as tears welled up in her eyes and rolled down her face.

And the child shrugged her shoulder and smiled and said, “That’s okay. One day, you will stop practicing and cast your doubts to the wind and follow me!”

And with that, the child leapt from the cliff and soared with the seagulls flying high.

Watching and wishing she could, the young woman slowly lowered her arms and turned away from the cliff. Shoulders hunched, feet dragging along the dusty trail, she began the long walk back to the village.

“It is not the townspeople who doubt,” she said to herself. “It’s me.”

And she stopped and repeated it to herself. “It’s not the townspeople who doubt. It’s me.”

And she kept repeating it and repeating it until realization dawned. “I’ve been hiding behind practising flying because I doubt I can actually do it!”

Full of the awareness of the power of her doubts to tie her to the ground, she stopped walking away from the edge, turned quickly around and began running towards the cliff. Arms spread wide, she screamed and laughed and yelled loud and fierce as she cast her body over the edge.

And as her feet left the ground, her wings unfurled and she began to fly.

And that’s where you’ll find her today. Far from the edge of fear, wings unfurled, soaring amidst her dreams and dancing in the lightness of being free from doubt.

The Unconscious Leader

When we lived in Metz, France, every day my father would drive the winding road leading down the hill from National Defence Headquarters into the city.

Fog was not uncommon.

One day, while carefully navigating the winding road in a pea soup fog, he missed a curve, drove off the road narrowly slipping between two plane trees until coming to rest in a farmer’s field.

Stuck. Yes. Damaged. No.

Until a woman rear-ended him. In the middle of the farmer’s field.

She’d been following his taillights. She trusted they would lead her into the city. Instead, they lead her into the back end of his car in the middle of a farmer’s field.

Fortunately, because of the dense fog, she too had been travelling very slowly. The damage was negligible. Though my father was a tad annoyed!

Once, while skiing through dense fog on the Zugspitze in Germany, the fog was so thick it was almost mandatory to stop after every curve to ensure you weren’t about to go over a cliff. As I took a sweeping curve in the trail, I stopped to check where I was at and a woman skied into me, knocking us both over. She’d been following my bright orange ski suit as her beacon down the mountainside.

We don’t generally get such dense fog here on the eastern slopes of the Rockies, but occasionally, fog will roll in off the river valley and obscure the view.

Whenever it does, as it did earlier this week, I am reminded of that story my father loved to tell about the woman who crashed into him in the middle of a farmer’s field.

He was upset she hit his car.

She was upset he went off the road and stopped in the middle of a farmer’s field. She was trusting him to lead her to safety.

Just like the case of the woman who was following me down the mountain. I didn’t know she was following me. She didn’t know I was about to stop. Though she was grateful I did when she saw the cliff we both might have sailed over!

Sometimes on our life journies, we can be so focused on where we’re going, we forget to notice if there is anyone else on our path, or if someone else is trusting our ability to lead to get them to safety.

Sometimes, we can be following someone else’s path so intently, we forget to watch out for our own safety, relying on their discretion to keep us safe.

In both cases, it is the belief we are alone on our journey, and not responsible for anyone else’s safety, that gets us in trouble.

Like my father, intensely focused on navigating my own way down the mountain, I wasn’t thinking about anyone else. And, while that is an almost natural response to pea soup situations, had I thought to call out, just in case there was anyone else in the same predicament or had my father immediately put on his emergency flashers, perhaps the outcome might have been different.

‘Cause here’s the thing. We can be unconscious leaders.

But the way is so much safer for everyone when we travel consciously acknowledging we are not on this road of life alone.

____________________________

A man, toddler and dog who were rescued by a volunteer in a boat after being stranded by high water due to flooding walk on high ground in Abbotsford, B.C., on Nov. 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck – Source

I have been glued to the news about the horrific events unfolding in British Columbia. For those people caught between two landslides, for the people who spent days and nights in their cars or stuck in Hope, waiting for a way back to the lower mainland, for those who lost their farms and livelihoods, their homes and possessions, their everything, my heart is heavy.

I can not lead them out of the devastation they face. I can contribute to their recovery.

We all can.

If you have any amount you can contribute, please consider helping the efforts to lead people back to safety, so they can begin the arduous journey of rebuilding their lives, comforted by the knowledge, they are not alone.

This CTV story and this Daily Hive article list several organizations and agencies doing on-the-ground work that need our support.

Thank you.

______________________

A severed portion of BC’s Coquihalla Hwy5 at Juliet is seen in a BC Transportation photo on Nov 17, 2021

On the weekend I booked my flight for Vancouver and was already scheduled to be there December 8. It is stunning to realize that I cannot drive there right now — all roads are washed out. The first time since 1885 when the railroad was completed — the west coast has no eastern access via road or rail.

Love. Courage. Curiosity

Love. Courage. Curiosity
by Louise Gallagher

Trembling, she stood 
at the edge of darkness
her heart beating
an erratic tattoo
full of trepidation
that to enter
would be the end of light

“I am afraid,” she whispered
into the darkness
holding back from stepping forward
as she stood trapped in her fear
she would be consumed
by all she could not see
and all she did not know
about the darkness.

Be not afraid, whispered her heart,
I am always here, beating steady
holding you safe in the womb of love
that is eternally present in all of life.
I’m here too, said courage.
And so am I said, curiosity chimed in.
And the light grew brighter and said, 
I will never burn out
with Love as your constant companion.

Gratefully, she invited them to join her
as she moved forward from where she stood
at the edge of her fear
into the darkness.

Buoyed up by their presence
she flung her arms wide
and stepped boldly into the darkness
knowing her heart and courage and curiosity
would step fearlessly with her.

Bathed in the glow of their presence, 
her light grew brighter
and the darkness grew dimmer
and fear vanished in the light
of knowing, no matter where she was,
in darkness or in light,
she was always safe
when she walked faithfully in Love.

I took my own advice yesterday and spent time immersed in wonder and art playing for hours in my studio.

The painting above is what appeared.

I didn’t know where I was going, or what I wanted to do when I began. But I needn’t have worried. The muse always knows and when I am open to her whisperings, she flows with ease and grace, lightening even my darkest doubts.

About the process:

The background in this piece is very layered and complex.

Layers of sprayed on inks covered by stenciled on gesso and pastels, shapes, textures and patterns as well as collaged on images printed onto rice paper.

One of the challenges I set for myself in this piece was to create it without the use of a paintbrush.

So that’s what I did.

About the poem:

This morning, when I sat down to write the poem began to form as if floating in from the velvety darkness all around.

I love to sit at my desk in the morning, looking out at the river, my latte steaming by my right hand, the only light the halo of my desk lamp and the candle I burn in the mornings as I write.

Perhaps it was the combination of the image and the atmosphere around me, but, I wasn’t expecting a poem to write itself out.

I had other ideas.

I’m grateful courage and curiosity opened my heart and mind to being present to the mystery of creative expression.

Namaste.

Small Significances

Small significances can make big change happen.

What are small significances? I learned this term when I was coaching in the Choices program, working with trainees on developing their Purpose Statement for life.

A small significance is that small thing you do, like taking a neighbour dinner when you learn of a hardship they’re facing, because, to you, it’s what you do naturally. You’re thoughtful about the need. You don’t think about the doing, or not doing. You just do it.

Or, picking up garbage you see lying on the pathway as you walk. Yes. people shouldn’t leave garbage lying about, but that doesn’t mean you leave it for someone else to pick up. You do it because it’s what you do.

Small significances can also apply to our habits.

Like the one I’ve developed over the course of Covid’s presence of zoning out most evenings on some trivial, inconsequential Netflix or Prime drama. Watching endless hours of flickering images on my screen, headphones popped into my ears.

This habit… (ok. addiction) is not conducive to creating the grace and ease I want in my life. It affects everything. From my joy, sleep, physical fitness and mind alertness. It also keeps me out of my studio and, now that 22 hours of my week are consumed with work, I want to reclaim those endless run-on evenings of doing not much other than vegging out.

One small significance i can do to make big-time difference is to unplug my headset, turn-off my screen and commit to spending time in my studio.

And that’s why I’m choosing to be vulnerable here in talking about my unhealthy habit (addiction) – because going public is good for my soul, and my commitment to change.

After months and months of automatically turning on the screen every evening, logging into one of the three entertainment providers we have subscribed to, it has become rote. A thoughtless, mindless and enervating practice that serves me up a dopamine laden pleasure reward that fools me into believing I’m enjoying this… when seriously, I’m not thinking about enjoying it or not. I’m really just dialing in for my fix.

And here’s the thing. The more I do it the ‘want’ to do it transforms into ‘the need’.

And what I really need in my life is enriching, heart-engaging, soul-dancing, mind-expanding experiences.

Not hours of sitting watching a flickering screen.

To achieve my desired state, I’ve begun to take small, significant steps away from the screen.

The first wasn’t designed as a ‘breaking-free of my addiction’ plan but to my surprise, it has become a gateway to it.

I’ve started reading books on Kindle. And, while there’s probably no scientific data to back up my findings, for me, it has opened up the process of change. Why? Because I think my amygdala is saying… oh look! We’re watching a screen. All’s good. Let’s feed her some dopamine.

See. I think the brain doesn’t know the difference between flickering images and words passing before my eyes. It just knows there’s a blue light entering its dendrite connected neuron pathways, feeding it what its come to expect — hours in front of a screen.

Something I’ve observed in the process is that I struggle to remember what I’ve read — that didn’t used to happen and while I could just say it’s age related, the fact is, I think it has more to do with my brain becoming lazy after watching so much mindless chatter. In the getting glued to the screen, I’ve unconsciously (and perhaps somewhat consciously) turned off my memory neurons — there’s no sense in remembering what I just watched. It’s all trivial and if I want… I can always go back and watch again – and it will be like a brand new show all over again! 🙂

So, while shifting to reading on my Kindle app might feel like it’s just a baby step – it is a step and I am grabbing on and riding this stepping stone into an ocean of possibility.

And in the meantime, I shall continue to turn up here and hold myself accountable. You’re welcome to check-in anytime and ask me how I’m doing — I’d love to have you as my accountability buddy!

And in the meantime, I’m employing my new ‘neural pathway chant’ to help me stay on track, building stepping stone after stepping stone to my desired state. And that chant is…”I deserve to feel alive and free! Oh yes I do.”

Namaste.

.

The Wild Places of Your Heart

The Wild Places
by Louise Gallagher

Some may call it a wilderness
a vast
unexplored terrain
thick with brambles
and vines

interwoven

into a thick impenetrable net
of lost dreams and disappointments

of life’s hurts and wounds, scars and scares

holding you back
from breathing freely

in the light
of each new dawn

breaking free of night.



Some may call it a wilderness

I call it my heart
a wild and mystical place
where vast
unexplored terrain

rich with open spaces

yearning to be discovered
with dreams calling to be awoken

call me to cast off

life’s hurts and wounds and disappointments

to jettison the scary stories

I tell myself
of how I will never
do enough

deserve better

be worthy.


In this wild place
of my heart
beating
wild and free
untethered to the stories
I tell myself

about how I will never be

enough
I am enough
I am all I ever dreamed of
I have all I ever hoped for
I am 
all of me
worthy of living
with the wilds of my heart

breaking and breathing, breaking and breathing 
free.

The She Dares Boldly Manifesto

The She Dares Boldly Manifesto

Let me dare to hear the wild within calling me to dance.

Let me dare to invite the wildness of my heart to set my spirit free to leap and cavort as I throw my arms up above my head in a joyful salutation to the sun and the moon and the stars.

Let me dare to spin and twirl beneath a cloudless sky of blue infinity laughing and exalting in the sheer delight of being alive.

Let me dare to paint the world with childlike wonder, casting doubt and self-consciousness aside as I spread my arms wide to capture all the colours of the rainbow dancing in the magic, wonder and beauty of this day.

Let me dare to seek miracles, to believe in love and let go of holding onto unforgiveness and regrets.

Let me dare to drain every juicy ounce of goodness from the day so that as night settles in and I lay my head upon my pillow, my soul is soaked in a river of joyful celebration infusing my dreams with sighs of contentment for this day well lived beyond the realms of my imagination.

Let me dare to forget about the steps as I leap into this dance of life with wild abandon.

_____________________________________

I have often written about my awe of the muse’s ability to flow in and permeate my body causing my fingertips to ooze vowels and consonants that form words marching into sentences I never imagined could escape from my keyboard.

The manifesto above was just such an occurrence.

Unbidden, but most welcome, the muse arrived as I sat down at my desk in the quiet darkness of morning light not yet broken and began to write.

I knew I wanted to write about the latest She Dares art journal page I’d created — I just didn’t know what.

I needn’t have worried. The muse knew. All I had to do was get out of my head to let her flow freely through my body onto the page (in this case the computer screen but you know what I mean) and become a manifesto I didn’t know I needed/wanted/had to write out.

My wish, the one I dare to dream, is that this manifesto speaks to your heart. I dare to dream you too will rise up and twirl about in childlike wonder of all the magic, beauty and awe in your world.

I dare to hope you dance.

The Path

Every morning I follow the path to the park, Beaumont the Sheepadoodle in the lead, eager to reach the area where he can run off leash.

For the past two weeks I have been taking a different path. We walk up the hill to the escarpment and walk along the ridge overlooking the Bow River winding its way through the valley bottom below.

The fall colours have been breath-taking.

Golds and rust and bright yellows compete with the still green leaves clinging to the last vestiges of summer.

Every morning I follow the path knowing eventually, it will lead me home again.

There is comfort in that knowing. Comfort in its familiarity and predictability.

This morning, Beaumont and I chose to walk the path along the river, forgoing the steep uphill climb to the escarpment.

Winding our way through the woods, listening to the dry, fallen leaves crunch beneath our feet and the water lazily babble its way to the east, the muse drifted in and settled in for a visit like a good friend coming for tea.

Words and images, thoughts and ideas scampered through my mind like dry leaves being lifted and scattered by an autumn breeze.

Sometimes I followed their drift. Sometimes I simply nodded in recognition of their presence and let them drift out of my mind’s eye.

Always, I knew they were leading me home. To my heart. My hearth.

I walked the path I haven’t taken in awhile this morning.

I walked with the knowing, the path lead me where it always does. Into beauty, wonder and awe.

Namaste

Ready for the Fall

I took the photo above on my walk this morning with Beaumont the Sheepadoodle.

An autumn breeze teases the leaves with its whispering incantations to “Let go! Let go”

And Mother Earth whispers, “I am here. I shall always catch you.”

and the leaves cling until tired, they can hold on no longer.

Leaves crackled beneath my feet. The river flowed in lazy consort with gravity’s pulling it along towards a distant unseen sea.

And Beaumont scampered through the fall-dry grasses and my heart felt light and easy.

I hope you are having a wonderful day in where ever you are on Mother Earth.

_____________________________________

and… Beaumont has a lot to say today about my She Dares Boldly calendar (he thinks I should do one called Beaumont Dares Boldly! — Do come join him and please…. help me talk some sense into him! 🙂 What About Me?

Beyond All We Know.

The leaves whisper amidst the trees branches reaching out towards the sun. “Lean further! Lean further! You’ve got to lean further to reach the sun!”

And the branches push out and away from their trunks, their arms reaching further and further into the space beyond where they must compete with their brethren to gather sunlight.

And the trunks pull back, rooting themselves deeper and deeper into the ground they know so well. Desperately they fight against gravity, trying to keep their branches from reaching too far. “Too far is dangerous,” they tell the branches. “Lean too far and you will break.”

It is the dance of nature. A never-ending ballet of leaves yearning for light and branches pulling against their roots as they reach for the sun.

It is the dance of life.

Our dreams call us to lean out, further, away from our comfort zones, out beyond the realm of where we tell ourselves we will be safe, into the space beyond all we know, all we believe to be true.

Rooted in our fears, we ground ourselves in the belief to risk change is to lose control of all we know, all we believe to be true.

We cannot change when we stand in the same spot, rooted in our fears.

To change, we must uproot our fears and let courage draw us out of our comfort zones into the vast universe of possibility beyond all we know, all we believe to be true.

_____________________________________________

Every morning, Beaumont the Sheepadoodle and I pass through the copse of trees in the picture above.

I haven’t noticed before how far they lean out. I have focused instead on the taller trees surrounding them.

This morning, I noticed their stance and the muse bid me to awaken.

.Namaste

I Will Always Catch You

When she was just a little girl, her father taught her to climb stairs and boulders and playground monkey bars and ladders.

She would stand at the top, hold out her arms and cry out with delight, “Catch me Daddy! Catch me!”

And her father would stand below, arms stretched out towards her and say, “I will always catch you.”

As time passed and she grew older, the climbs became more difficult, but she was never afraid of falling. She always knew her father would be standing below, arms outstretched towards her saying, as he always did, “I will always catch you.”

Time passed, life flowed onwards and with its constant movement, she too moved away to start her own life far from her father. They still talked on the phone and always on her birthday, she would come to visit to walk to the park where she had learned to climb and fly, safe in the knowledge her father would always catch her.

Seasons changed, years passed and as she grew older so too did her father. Slowly, with the passing of time, he was no longer able to always be there to catch her when she fell, but she always knew that if she did, he would help her get back up. It was his promise.

“I can’t always catch you when you fall,” he told her when first she moved away from home. “But I promise, I will always be there to help you get back up.”

One day, after his daughter called to say she could not make it home to celebrate her birthday with him as she had to travel to a city far away, he walked to the park where every birthday when she was a little girl, she’d climbed the slide and stood at the top and stretched out her arms towards him and called out, “Catch me daddy! Catch me!”,

On this day many years later, he sat on a bench in the shade of a mighty oak tree and watched a little girl with flaxen hair and sparkling blue eyes climb up the stairs to the top of the slide. A short distance away, too far to catch her if she fell, her father stood unaware, his head turned down, reading something on the phone he held in his hands.

The old man, who had once reached out his arms towards his daughter and said, “I will always catch you,” watched in dismay as the little girl stood at the top of the slide and called out to her father, “Catch me daddy! Catch me!”. Her father didn’t hear her.

The old man stood up from the bench and slowly began to shuffle, as fast as his arthritic legs would let him, towards the child who still stood at the top of the slide, arms outstretched calling to her father, “Catch me daddy! Catch me!”

“Hey!” the old man called out to the father standing with his head bent towards his phone. “Hey! Watch out! She’s going to fall!”

The father, hearing the old man’s voice, looked up and saw the old man, his arms waving wildly around his face pointing towards his daughter where she stood at the top of the slide, calling to him, “Catch me Daddy! Catch me!”

In one seamless move, he tucked his phone into his jacket pocket, took three strides towards the slide and reached his arms out towards his daughter. “I will always catch you,” he said as the tiny bundle of her body catapulted itself down the slide into his waiting arms.

The old man stopped and watched the two pair of arms unite. The child laughed in delight as her father picked her up, held her above his head and spun her about just as he had once spun his daughter so long ago.

The father carefully put his daughter on the ground the thee two moved off towards the swings, the little girl holding his hand and she said in her sing-song voice, “I want to swing as high as the sky!” And the father placed her on the stretch of rubber seating and began to push her. The child laughed and called out. “Higher! Higher! I want to touch the sky” And the father pushed her higher and higher until she let go of the swings chains and called out, “Catch me Daddy! Catch me!”

And he did.

Slowly, the old man turned away and began walking back towards his home. His heart felt heavy with the longing for a child’s arms outstretched towards him and his reaching back.

Lost in memory he didn’t notice he’d reached the main road and stepped off the sidewalk without stopping to check for traffic.

Suddenly, a pair of hands reached out and grabbed his shoulders, pulling him back to safety just as a city bus went whizzing by.

Startled, he lost his footing and almost fell to the ground, but the same hands gently caught him and broke his fall. He took a shaky breath, turned his face up to thank his would be savior where they knelt beside him as he sat on the ground.

“Are you okay?” a voice he recognized asked. He turned his face and his eyes opened wide as he peered into the deep blue eyes of his daughter kneeling beside him.

“How is this possible?” he asked breathlessly. “You said you were going to a city far away.”

And his daughter smiled and said, “I wanted to surprise you.”

The old man reached out with a shaky hand to take hers and said, “I’m so glad you were here to catch me.”

And his daughter smiled again and said, “You need to pay more attention dad to where you’re going. That bus almost hit you. I can’t always be here to catch you.”

And her father nodded his head, his white hair moving around his face like feathers floating in the air.

Slowly he began to stand and asked, “Will you help me get back up?”

And she reached one hand under his elbow and said, “Of course.” And as she helped him get to his feet she said, “I can’t always be here to catch you when you fall, but I will always help you get back up.”

______________________________________

Yesterday, a dear friend, Max, called. We haven’t spoken in a long time, but it was as if time had not passed.

In our conversation, he shared many stories of the people who have helped him on his journey. “I have an idea,” he said. “What do you think about writing a poem called, “I Will Always Catch You.”

Several years ago, Max wrote music to a poem I’d written and recorded called, “Dare“. (You can read about it and listen to the recording, HERE)

I loved the idea of writing a poem to his title — it fits so well to something I used to tell my daughters when, as young adults, they set off to make their way in the world. “I can’t always be there to stop your fall,” I told them. “Sometimes, it’s best I don’t. But know, that no matter where or how hard you fall, I will always be there to help you get back up.”

This morning, as Beau and I walked in the cool September air of an autumnal day, Max’s idea kept percolating through my mind. When I came home, I sat down at my desk and the story above appeared.

Thank you Max. It’s not ‘a poem’… YET – like the river, life takes its own course weaving its stories in mysterious and mystical ways.