Category Archives: The Seeker’s Journey

The Things I’ve Learned Along The Way

An exploration with watercolours — two colours only. Quinacridone Gold and Dioxane Purple +White +Black

Life is a journey that teaches us as we go.

Some lessons are worth repeating so that they can continue to enrich our lives every day. Some lessons… well, they’re best not to be repeated.

There are so many lessons that have informed and enriched my life. Here are some of my favourite go to’s.

  1. Walk in Gratitude

Gratitude is the gateway to a peaceful heart. It forms a foundation for joy, peace, contentment.

Be grateful for all things in your life, including the things you’ve encountered that leave you feeling bruised and weary. Their presence is a reminder that life isn’t all about sunrises that take your breath away and sunsets that close in magic. It’s also about dark and stormy nights that force you to stretch and bend and bow like a willow tree in the rain. When we bend and stretch we become more supple and strong.

Be grateful for the storms.

2. Let Forgiveness Soften Your Heart

Sometimes, we tell ourselves that holding onto anger will make us feel better. It’s not true.

Anger corrodes. It hardens our muscles and the heart is a muscle. Let forgiveness wash away the pain so that your body can move freely and your heart beat easily.

And that includes forgiving yourself. Always. We all make mistakes. We all do things we wish we hadn’t. Don’t lock yourself into a cage of anger. Open the gate to forgiveness and let the anger wash away. In its absence your heart will have more room for grace and love to buoy you up.

Forgive yourself for the harsh words you speak about yourself. Forgive yourself for your mistakes. Forgive yourself and let the anger wash away so that beauty can revive and restore you.

3. Seek Beauty

It doesn’t matter how dark the night or stormy the day, there is beauty in all things. Sometimes, we just have to change our perspective or find a safe harbour to weather the storm. In that safe harbour there is beauty. In that new way of looking at what ever you judge as having gone wrong, there is beauty to be found. Seek it.

And don’t forget to say thank you for the every day beauty of your life. Gratitude is a healing balm for your heart and soul. It makes a beautiful walk in the park out of every day and opens us up to seeing the world with fresh new eyes.

4. Be Curious

There is so much that is fascinating in this world around us.

Why is the sky blue?

Where does love go when it dies? Can it die?

Why do zebra’s have stripes and giraffes have spots?

Be curious. About everything. People. Animals. Nature. Things. Life.

5. Explore Your Inner World

Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Why did he say that? Where? Who wrote it into his speech? (remember – be curious)

What does that statement mean to you?

Examine it. Ask yourself, am I willing to take the voyage into my heart to discover new territory? To uncover old pains and hurts so that I can live my life freely in the wonder and beauty of today?

You are the person you spend the most time with. How ‘clean’ are your thoughts about you? How lovingly do you speak to yourself?

Give yourself the grace of loving yourself unconditionally and let your true light shine bright.

6. Give Grace

Grace is an ineffable and ephemeral attitude/disposition in life. Its presence creates space for wonder and awe, its light opens up your world to beauty and love.

Grace, as defined by some is ‘unwarranted mercy’.

Give yourself the grace of mercy. It is the ultimate form of self-compassion. Give it freely to yourself and all the world around you.

We are just mere humans. Taking this walk daily. Sometimes, we struggle. Sometimes, we don’t. Always, our inherent nature is todo our best.

In grace, our best is never judged as lacking. It is seen as being a reflection of who we are, where we are and how we are in the moment. And when our best pales in comparison to our judgements of where we need to be in this moment, use grace as your doorway to finding your self-compassion.

When we know better, we do better.

Let grace open you up to your better so that you can shine brightly for all the world to see the path around you is illuminated in Love.

We each need to shine brightly to create a better, brighter, kinder world.

Give grace. Love yourself for all you’re worth.

7. Love Always

There is no space for judgement, discrimination, condemnation, violence to grow when Love is present.

Love always. And in your choice to love always, trust that love always wins, even when the night is dark and long, even when the storm is fierce, even when the path is hidden in shadows, trust in Love and let love lead the way.

Namaste.

_____________________________

I created the watercolour painting above as part of a course I’m taking with Laura Horn (fabulous course!)

I am not a watercolour artist, (she said to herself) when she signed up for the course.

Fear of looking stupid. Of not doing something well. Of being awkward, ‘less than’, almost held me back from signing up.

I am so grateful I signed up. I’m still going through the first week of course material and I am learning so much about composition, colour theory, and staying out of judgement.

If I’d let my fear direct me, I wouldn’t have signed up.

I’m grateful I gave myself the grace of not being perfect and chose instead to love myself enough to experience and learn something new.

What about you? Are you willing to give yourself grace?

Just Like My Mother

“My Mother’s Hands” – 10th 2-page spread in the My Mother’s Prayers altered book art journal

When I was a child I was mesmerized by my mother’s hands. They floated and fluttered around her face as she spoke like angels wings floating gracefully through the air around her head.

Mesmerized by the beauty she created as she spoke, I practiced fluttering and flitting my hands with every word I spoke just so I too could have angels flying around me. And also, so that I could speak just like my mother.

I never did master the softness of her voice but to this day, my hands are as much a part of my speaking as my voice.

“Just Like You” 9th 2 page spread

Five months ago when I brought my mother’s prayer cards home to my studio, I had no idea what stories they would inspire.

Creating an altered book art journal with her prayer cards is a journey beyond the surface layers of grief and memory deep into soul-restoration.

Every day, when I sit down at my work table and open the journal, I am reminded of the power of creativity to restore and heal. And the power of prayer to create miracles.

My mother and I walked a delicate truce. She wanted peace. I wanted answers. For me to have answers, we had to talk about the things that upset her. I didn’t want to upset her and so I let go of searching for answers in the past and settled instead for peace in the present.

Walking on Eggshells

It worked. I no longer felt like ‘the bad daughter’ every time I spoke to her and prodded her with my endless questions and insistence we walk together with ‘the truth’. Instead, I could be the ‘good enough’ daughter she could tell her friends about because, as she liked to say, “I was doing good things in the world”.

In our delicate truce my mother felt like her prayers had been answered. She could let go of praying to God to help me be a better person and simply pray for good things to come to me in my life.

Between Heaven and Earth

There is truth in everything. Not every thing is true.

My mother’s prayers were a powerful force in our lives. The truth is, my mother prayed for everyone she knew, every night of her life. When I was younger, I used to scoff at her constant reminders that she would pray for me. Sometimes, before I remembered the value of kindness in the world, I’d tell her I didn’t want her prayers. She should keep them for herself.

She’d pray harder for me in those times, beseeching God to soften my heart.

As age began to take a toll on her mobility and strength, she spent more time in bed or sitting quietly in her wheelchair. Her prayers became a constant song in her life, filling the space around her head with whispered incantations for blessings from God to rain down on those she loved.

As the end neared, we prayed with our mother whenever we were with her. And when she fell into the deep sleep that would eventually lead her to her eternal light, we prayed together for her safe journey to the other side.

Sometimes, during the nights of her final week when I sat alone at her bedside, I’d say the Hail Mary over her sleeping body, just as I imagine she whispered it over my sleeping body long ago when I was a child.

One night, as I sat beside her bed reading while she slept, she opened her eyes, lifted one of her hands slowly off the covers and beckoned me to come in close. Crippled with arthritis, her hands no longer fluttered like angels’ wings dancing around her head. They moved slowly like a leaf drifting towards the ground on the final breath of an autumn breeze.

Leaning over the side of her bed, trying not to jostle her frail body, I dipped my head towards her mouth. Her hand fell to the blanket covering her body as she whispered softly into my ear, “I’ll pray for you.”

I smiled and looked into her eyes. I didn’t know if she could see me or simply feel my presence. Gently, I stroked her forehead and whispered back, “Thank you. I’ll pray for you too.”

This is Where I Stand

This book is my prayer for peace for my mother and me. Each page is filled with my handwork and, even though mostly invisible beneath layers of paint, each page contains one of my mother’s prayer cards.

It is created by my hands that float and flutter about my head when I speak, just like my mother’s hands once did.

The Mystical Raven

“Raven Musings” Mixed Media on 12″ x 12″ birch panel board.

I played yesterday. Seriously played.

No destination. No clear idea of what I was creating. Just paint. Me. Time to play. A few leaves I’d picked before the rain, a stencil I’d drawn and cut out of a raven, and my Gellipad for mono-printing and a leaf stamp I’d carved out of a piece of foam.

Two page spread in “My Mother’s Prayers” altered book art journal

My plan had been to create another two-page spread in the altered book art journal I’m working on with the prayer cards from my mother, “My Mother’s Prayers”.

The raven had other ideas.

When I’d originally worked on the backgrounds on the two birch panels I’ve used for the ravens, I’d intended to create complementary pieces.

My work table – mono-prints and the raven stencil

Ah that raven. He really can be a trickster.

I have always been fascinated by ravens. Years ago I wrote a story called The Shawl. The shawl resembled a raven’s wings. In the story, a woman donned it during pregnancy to protect her and her unborn child from evil spirits. Set in ancient times and the present, the raven became a powerful symbol of feminine energy. In the past, the shawl protected the present-day protagonist’s grandmothers’ grandmothers. In present day, the shawl appeared in dreams as the heroine of the story took on bureaucracy, breaking-through patriarchal and societal barriers to carve a path to a better, kinder world through her connection to nature, myth and the law.

That story was on my mind as I painted yesterday. I no longer have a copy of it but it remains threaded through memory, a potent reminder of the power of myth and life to awaken us to possibility.

Like the heroine in my story, I do not know why the raven is appearing in my artwork.

I do know, I cannot ignore him.

And so, I paint. And write. I stay unattached to the outcome and leave myself open to the wonder and awe of creation. In that space, I allow nature to divine my path as I journey into the mystery of the unknown. Embracing it all, embodied in the present, I allow the mystical appearance of the raven to awaken me to the unseen as it slowly, sinuously, gracefully pulls back the shawl to reveal the beauty that is shimmering in the shadows, waiting to be unveiled.

It promises to be a fascinating journey…

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.

There Is Only Love

The theme of the fourth lesson in Orly Avineri’s course, “Come Outside” is repetition.

This was a challenging one for me. So many thoughts, and my inherent desire to organize them, got muddled up in my staying present with the allowing of what was seeking to appear, to appear. Plus, a real-life story unfolding in all its beauty and wonder kept distracting me.

This morning, I awoke with a clearer sense of what the story of this page was. I am grateful for sleep and dreams and the muse’s constant flow.

As with my other pieces in this new art journal I’ve just begun, this page includes torn up bits of my mother’s prayer cards embedded within the pages as well as a prayer she used to recite in French (it was her first language).

The crosses are a reflection of the crosses we all carry with us in our life. They can burden us down, or free us. Like any burden, we can choose to struggle beneath their weight or live their gifts.

Crosses have recently been a dominant element in my creative flow – perhaps because since my mother’s passing on February 25th, I’ve been doing a lot of work on healing the broken places, and my relationship with my mother and the Catholicism of my childhood appears a great deal in those places.

For me, this piece is about the multi-faceted, complex colours, stories, textures, depth of life on earth and our separation from the whole.

When we let go of seeing our differences as a reason to fear and hate and hurt one another, we create space for our magnificence to shine. In its coruscating light, no matter how we present our beauty, wounds and wisdom, our natural human beauty shines through.

In that beautiful space, we know and live the truth — We are all one humanity, one human condition, one planet. We are all connected. All of the whole, with the whole, essential to the whole of life on earth.

In the beginning and the end, as is written at the bottom repetitively (and as I’ve come to resonate with even more deeply since my mother’s passing) – There is only Love.

__________________________

This will be my last regular posting for awhile. I’m taking a few weeks off from blogging to focus on other things.

I may intermittently be posting, but not on an everyday basis.

Enjoy this season of growth and change and beginnings and endings no matter where in the world you are!

Much Love. Many blessings. Bright light.

My Mother’s Prayers

My Mother’s Iris At The Altar – Mixed media on book page.

My mother prayed. A lot. No matter the time of day, situation, pressing need, she would pray.

After she passed away, my sisters and I sorted through her belongings and came across the leather pouch where she stored her many prayer cards.

None of us knew what to do with them so I took them, thinking I’d eventually use them in an art piece.

That time has come.

On Tuesday, I started a mixed media online course with Orly Avineri. Orly is my kind of creative force. Free-flowing. No ‘steps’. Just you, the muse, your intuition. And the courage to take risks.

The first exercise includes an invitation to use whatever papers are on hand, affix them to a page and create.

My mind immediately leapt to my mother’s prayer cards. This would be a good home for them. Not just on the first page, but on every page I create in this art journal.

In this case, the journal is an old book I found in a box that I’m willing to release to the creative forces. It is part of a set of three I’ve had for years. Unique to this one is the way the inside pages are inserted. They are all upside down.

A book with upside-down pages seemed appropriate at this time. The world right now feels a little topsy-turvy. Like everything we once knew, relied on, took for granted is no longer so dependable. So known. So inevitable.

There are no mistakes.

Working on this art journal, “My Mother’s Prayers” is stirring up my thoughts and feelings and memories of my Catholic upbringing, my mother’s prayers and her unshakable faith and our relationships. It is giving me pause to look at it all through different glasses, angles, lenses, perspectives. Upside down included.

Yesterday, I completed my third 2-page spread in the book. As with the previous two, this spread also includes a couple of the cards from mom’s collection.

As I created the page using flowers from the garden that were at the end of their life-cycle, my mind swept back to childhood days when my sister and I would help mom with the flowers in church on Saturdays.

I go back to this memory a lot. As if somehwere in that sacred space I might somehow find the key to where my mother’s and my relationship went off the rails.

Because it was. For much of our life together, not a very well functioning relationship.

In one of Orly’s videos for the course, she talks about how it’s important to live within the gifts, not the trauma of the past.

There were many, many gifts that came through my relationship with my mother. It helped forge the backbone of who I am today and who I am as a mother, an artist, a woman, a human being.

In her final years, the tensions between us eased. In her passing, they fade away leaving behind only Love and memories of the sacred moments of grace we shared.

The gifts in those moments are what fill me up today. They give me peace, hope, faith, Love.

Perhaps, one of its gifts is also in the surrendering of any guilt I may be unknowingly carrying from the past.

And I smile as I write the word ‘guilt’.

How very ‘Catholic’ of me.

My middle sister and I used to joke a lot about our Catholic guilt. We were good at it. Doused in it as children, it felt only natural to carry it into our adult years.

It took me years, and lots of therapy, to realize guilt is not natural. Nor is it constructive.

It can however, be a powerful force for change.

To not carry guilt, I must clean up my messes. It isn’t about tidying up the past as much as honouring it so that I can let it go without feeling… guilty.

And so, I create.

A book of prayers. For my mother. For me. For my daughters. My soon to be born grand-daughter.

The Crosses We Bear – first 2-page spread in My Mother’s Prayer Cards Art Journal

A book of prayers that begins with the words I wrote on the very first 2-page spread. Words that surprised me even as I wrote them: “The crosses we carry through the centuries burden us with their blind faith in what to believe in the here and now. Their weighty presence strangles our breath as we struggle to free ourselves of the guilt and shame of a past we cannot change.

I cannot change the difficult times with my mother.

I can honour our past, all of it, and in the here and now, celebrate and cherish her beautiful thread in the tapestry of my life.

Being the mother she was, her spirit is praying for all of us now.

What a wonderful gift of life and death in an unending circle of Love that remains, as always, nourished by my mother’s prayers.

Just As My Mother Taught Me.

It is four months today since my mother took her last breath.

The Irises are blooming.

This is our third summer we have lived in this house. The first that the Irises have bloomed.

They were her flower. She carried their name. Iris.

Iris Marie Gallagher August 31, 1922 – February 25, 2020

And I smile. My mother is here. Around us. With us. Amongst us.

For a few weeks, she kept visiting me. Usually, while I was in the bath. That kind of bothered me so I kept pouring in extra bubbles to blur her view.

“I’m spirit, Louise. I can see through everything. Including you. Stop hiding.” She said this to me on one of her many visits over the past four months. Her laughter tinkled like cutlery and crystal amidst the chatter at a cocktail party.

I don’t remember my mother laughing like that in real life. I also know she never sat in a glittery, tight, figure revealing cocktail dress, martini glass in one black elbow-length gloved hand and cigarette in a long glossy ebony holder in the other.

“Who are you?” I asked the first time she appeared. I knew she was my mother. She had her face. Her voice. Her scent. But the rest?

“Louise. I’m spirit. I’m the mother of your dreams,” she replied, again with that tinkly, almost girlish laugh.

“But you’re so different. You’re smoking!”

“It’s not like smoking is going to kill me,” she said and then, she threw back her head, blew smoke up into the skylight above her and laughed. Loud. Deep. Sexy.

Sexy? Oh no. Not my mother. She was beautiful. Exotic. Mysterious. Never sexy. As a girl I didn’t think she even knew how to spell s-e-x, which was always said in a whisper making my sister and I giggle at mom’s descriptions when she tried to teach us her version of the art of being a woman. If we had questions her favourite response was, “Go ask the school nurse.”

We never did. Ask the nurse. We mostly just muddled our way through it. My eldest sister taking me to buy my first bra. My first box of Kotex pads. My grad dress.

Girlfriends were the source of all things boy related and as to boys… Well, as long as you kept your legs crossed you couldn’t get in trouble. At least, that’s what my mother told me.

Which was why this mother, the one who insisted on visiting while I was in the bath and drinking martinis and smoking was so surprising to see.

“What happened to you when you crossed over, mom?” I asked her one day while she sat on the closed toilet seat lid painting her nails a bright red that she never would have been caught dead in if she was alive.

“Real life put so many restrictions on me,” she replied. “It was such a heavy load I always felt like I was suffocating. Now, I’m light as air and can delight in being all of me. And with you, that means being the mother you always dreamt I’d be. You did say you wanted a martini drinking, high heel wearing, cocktail dress swishing kind of mother didn’t you?”

Oh dear. My mother read my blog “Is This Grief” from the other side. She knows what I wrote.

But then, she always said she did. Know what I was up to. And it wasn’t always good, she liked to remind me.

Softly she whispers into my thoughts. “Louise. I know you did your best. I know you wanted to be a good daughter. It’s just the pain and the secrets between us were greater than our ability to see eachother as co-creators of our life together, not as adversaries.”

See what I mean? This is not the mother I remember. My mother never used words like co-creator and she definitely didn’t acknowledge that their was pain we shared. I mean, I was the one who inflicted the pain on her. Right?

Wrong.

At least that’s what she told me during her bathtime visits. To acknowledge ours was a challenging relationship from the get-go and to apologize for her role in it all. (Now that’s something my mother never, ever did in real life. Apologize to me.)

“You know Louise,” she said one day during one of her ‘from-the-other-side’ visits. “What if it wasn’t about my being the mother you wanted. What if it was all about my being the mother you needed to become the woman you are today?”

That one stopped me. Still does. Kind of makes me cry too.

What if it’s true? What if my mother was the perfect mother for me? Just the way she was.

And I breathe.

My mother hasn’t visited me in the bath lately. Last time she was here she told me she had other relationships to tend.

“Relationships are like a garden,” she told me. “You water and weed and tend them with loving care, and beauty will grow. Ignore them, let the weeds overrun the seeds of possibility, and everything will wither away.”

And then she said the words I’ve yearned to hear. The words she used to say all the time. The words I often dismissed and miss so much now. “I’ll light a candle for you and say a prayer.”

She took one final sip of her martini and did that thing only spirits can do. She threw her glass over her shoulder without breaking a shard and said,” My words will always be a prayer of Love for you, Louise. Nothing will ever change that. Especially death with all its deep and mysterious beauty stretching out into eternity.”

And then she, like her martini glass, disappeared into the deep mystery of eternity.

My mother is gone from this physical plane. But she is here. Showing herself in elegant blue wonder in my garden.

She is a candle burning bright in the mystery of life.

I too have lit a candle this morning.

My daughter asked me to light it. To say a prayer for her and my soon-to-be born grand-daughter.

And so I do.

Just as my mother taught me.

Namaste.

.

How To Surrender Fear

When we began self-isolation, I stopped walking the path along the river to get to the off-leash park near our home. Instead, I drove the five minutes it takes to get there, telling myself there were too many bicyclists and too many people on the path.

I was scared of the very air I breathed.

A couple of weeks ago, I started walking it again.

My fear still lingers. Joy of walking, being in the open air, of the tranquility of the walk keeps calming fear into quiet surrender.

My walking to the park again came about by accident.

One morning a couple of weeks ago, I’d driven over. Walked for an hour and then, when Beau and I returned to the car, I discovered I’d lost both my phone and keys.

It was a lengthy search. Beaumont was delighted of the extra time at the park as well as the imperative of walking home along the path to get C.C.s’ phone so I could go back and search and ring and listen for it ringing. With Beaumont’s assistance, of course.

Eventually, my phone and keys were found. By a fellow dog walker.

When I saw the man on the trail in the woods ahead of me, I called out and asked if he’d seen my phone. He held it out towards me, smiled and said, “It’s been ringing and I keep answering but there’s no one there.”

Sheepishly I explained what I’d done. – held it away from me so I could hear it ringing. I never thought someone would be answering, I told him.

We both laughed. I thanked him profusely (I really wanted to hug him but I couldn’t) and we went our separate ways.

The next morning I began walking to the park again.

All because the day before my lost phone and keys forced me to walk along the path and face my fear.

There are still bicyclists on the path. And other pedestrians. But I no longer view them as ‘the enemy’. Like me, they are enjoying the park. The fresh air. The river flowing.

Like me, they do not want to contact Covid, so we keep our safe distance and when bicycles approach, I step off the path to give them room.

No matter the path, fear is an awkward companion.

Fear limits our thinking, sending our thoughts in spinning circles of anguished contortions filled with dire predictions of dark and gloomy possibilities.

Fear sucks the life and breath out of our bodies.

When self-isolation first began, my fear was reasonable. Not enough was known about the virus. Being cautious, taking precautions was imperative.

I still take precautions. I’m careful about who I see. Where I go and when I’m out and about, I wear my mask. (Thanks to my friend Wendy C I have several stylish options in mask wear!)

The difference is, I have faced my fear and embraced it, thanked it for doing its best to keep me safe, and let it know that it is no longer in charge of my thoughts and actions.

I am.

And in my being in charge, I lovingly embrace my fear and acknowledge its presence while also acknowledging that compassion, light, joy, love are also present. Together, they cast a brilliant light that shines brightest when I breathe deeply into my fear and surrender it to Love.

Covid is still to be feared. Fear no longer needs to control my life.

It is my choice.

To choose Love over fear.

And when I forget, I breathe and once again walk the path back to the light so that I can begin again to choose Love over fear. Always.

The Stories Untold Awaken

Nine years ago, I wrote a blog called, “In search of my father” on my original blog, Recover Your Joy.

In it, I told the story of travelling a thousand kilometres from Calgary, to a tiny town tucked into the prairies of Southeast Saskatchewan. Gravelbourg.

Gravelbourg is the town my father first lived in when he came to Canada as a young boy.

While I was there, I wandered the streets my father walked when he was a boy. I visited the cathedral in which he served as an altar boy at mass. I visited the Bishop’s home where he and other boys who attended Collège Mathieu, the boarding school where he was sent as a young boy, sometimes visited with the Bishop who oversaw the district when the Cathédrale de Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption was the seat of the diocese.

And I toured the almost deserted town of Mazenod, a few kilometres away. I went there because I discovered, via the school records, that my father’s father gave an address in Mazenod as his permanent address while my father was at school in Gravelbourg.

We never knew that, about our grandfather being close by while dad was at school. His story was always that he was sent, alone, to the school and only occasionally saw his Uncle Pat, who lived in Regina many kilometres away, on school holidays.

So many secrets. So many mysteries in the life of my father that will never be resolved.

He had no brothers or sisters. Though there was a half-sister in England who died many years ago. Even there my father’s penchant for secrets prevailed. The presence of an aunt on my father’s side of the family was never fully known by my sisters and brother.

Dad never talked about her. Until one day, he received a letter through veterans affairs. Inside that envelope was a letter from his sister.

My eldest sister called me when she found out. “So. What do you think about dad’s sister?” she asked.

“What sister?” I replied. “Dad doesn’t have a sister. He’s an only child.”

“Not anymore,” my sister said.

I promptly called my father to inquire.

“Her name is Phyllis,” he said.

“Why didn’t you ever tell us about her?” I asked.

“It didn’t seem relevant,” my father replied tersely.

For the next two years, my father and Phyllis corresponded via mail and telephone, both refusing to go see the other, though they both stated they wanted to meet again. Dad’s rationale was always that as she was the one looking for him, she needed to come to him.

The last time they’d seen each other was when dad was shipped off to boarding school from London, England and his mother left his father to live with another man. A man she’d been having an affair with for many years. Apparently, Phyllis was actually his daughter and so, she went with her mother to live in a new home while dad sailed across the Atlantic to take up residence in a new country.

Aunt Phyllis died before she and dad navigated the distance, the years and the pain between them.

My father passed away a few years later and carried the stories of his youth he’d never shared with him.

And still, sometimes in dreams and quiet moments, my father’s voice enters and whispers quietly in my heart. “You are a poet child,” he whispers. “Woven together of the warp and weft of stories threaded through your timeline shivering in harmony with the voices of the story whisperers of the past. Be brave. Give voice to the stories calling out to be told.”

This morning, I went in search of the posts I’d written about my father long ago. Thank you Bernie for your question! Aside from having to ignore the typos, I read the stories with fresh eyes and a heartful of gratitude and Love.

Listen. The muse whispers. The stories untold are awakening.

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In order of appearance, here are the stories — and btw — if you have never been to Gravelbourg it is a beautiful town set in the vast wild prairies. The cathedral alone is worth the visit!

In Search of My Father

Journey

Father Maillard’s Ode to Joy (This one has lots of photos of the town and the cathedral)

Love Will Always Find You

Lost and Found

Lost in the darkness of my fear
there was no hope for me,
I could not see the light
beckoning me to surrender
and fall fearlessly into Love.

All hope is gone, I cried
and Hope whispered back softly,
its breath gentle as a lover
kissing my eyelids awake. Come,
Hope promised, there is light
beyond the darkness
and joy beyond the sorrow
and Love beyond the fear.

Trusting in nothing but hoping it was true,
I opened my eyes.

And there was Hope waiting to greet me
with arms full of possibility and a heart full of Love.

And so I fell into Hope’s embrace
and that’s where Love finds me still. Always and forever.

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I saw an acronym for H.O.P.E. the other day. Hold. On. Pain. Ends.

My mind immediately thought, Love doesn’t. End. Love Endures. Love Captivates. Love Overcomes.

Hope is a gateway to Love. Hope holds onto truth in darkness, light in fear, possibility in despair – even when we feel like all hope is lost. Hope is holding on to us.

Thoughts of hope drifted into my mind this morning as I read the quote by Fenton Johnson that David Kanigan shares on his blog, Live & Learn.

I remember a time when I felt like all hope was lost. Hope of ever getting my life back. Of ever getting free of an abusive relationship. Of ever walking in the sunshine and feeling its warmth against my skin without feeling the fear stalking my every step. Of ever seeing my daughters again. Of ever being free to Love fearlessly.

And then, one beautiful May morning, there was hope. Shimmering in the sunlight. Beckoning me from the shadows. Encouraging me to step away from the darkness into the light. To choose Love.

I have been choosing Love ever since that morning 17 years ago when I had given up on hope and fallen into the darkness.

I have chosen Love in my despair. Love in my fear. Love in my every day.

It is one of the most inspiring aspects of life I experienced working in the homeless serving sector for so many years. No matter how dark, or grim, or chaotic life was for those experiencing the harshness and pain of homelessness, every morning people woke up, rose out of their makeshift beds in large rooms filled with others sleeping in the same space, breathing the same air, and they felt HOPE. They had survived another night of homelessness and could take another step today.

There was always hope.

I remember a couple who wanted to get married at the shelter. One day, the soon to be bride came to me and said, “Tell me I’m doing the right thing.”

I told them I couldn’t tell them that. It wasn’t my place. What I could tell them was, “Love prevails. Always. It doesn’t care about titles or the number of degrees or recognition you’ve gained or the colour of your skin or your address. Love prevails. It will find you no matter who you are or where you are.”

And it does.

Find us where ever we are.

For always, no matter what is going on, or where we are, or how we are, Love is always there. In everything. Always and forever. Love. Is. Everywhere.

And always, in everything we do. Everything we say. In every way we step into this day, hopeful. Scared. Sad. However we step, we can, and must, choose Love.

Because, while pain and storms and turmoil will end, Love prevails. It has no ending, nor beginning.

Love just is. Love.

Always and forever.

_____________________

Thank you David for the inspiration this morning.