Every morning I walk the same path.

Every morning I walk the same path from our home, to the river, to the park and back.

Every morning, I turn left at the end of our driveway, take the next three quick rights and then follow the path as it curves down to the left passing under the bridge to meander along the river’s edge to the park.

Every morning I walk the same path. Every morning is never the same.

Some mornings, the remains of an overnight snow cover the path.

Other mornings, yesterday’s melt has frozen overnight. I must watch out for icy patches as I walk.

Sometimes, the difference is in the sky. Some mornings, it is clear blue or dotted with a few fluffy white tendrils of vapour. Other mornings sheets of grey cover its expanse.

Some mornings, a squirrel will cross my path and Beaumont the Sheepadoodle will tug at the leash, eager to play chase.

Other mornings, a jogger will run past. And then another. One will nod their head and throw out a cheerful “Good morning” as they jog past.  Another will keep running by, eyes lowered or focused on some distant spot straight ahead.

Some mornings, like this morning, the Angel in a Canary Yellow Coat and I will cross paths. She will always greet me with some fact, like this morning’s where she told me she walks up and down the hill 15 times every morning. “It’s my 15,600 steps a day,” she said. “It’s what you have to do once you pass 65. 15,600 steps. You’ll see.” I do not tell her I am familiar with passing 65. Nor that the number is 10,000. I do not want to disrupt her stride.

Same path. Always different.

Unless I walk it with all my senses, all my body closed-off to the beauty and wonder all around me. On those mornings, the path is dull, my journey a monotony of numbered steps passing through my head as Beaumont tugs at the leash hurrying me along.

On those mornings, I miss the beauty of the trees standing in silent communion with the sky. I miss the geese floating on the river. The waves constantly coercing the ice that clings tightly to the shoreline to come flow with it, home, to the distant sea. The sunlight dancing on the water reminding me of the stories of the Fairy Dancers I used to make up for my daughters when they were young.

On those mornings, I cannot hear the quiet steady beating of my heart. The silken touch of the air caressing my cheeks. The way my body feels light and lithe as I walk.

Every morning I walk the same path.

Always, I have a choice in how I travel this path.

With mind and body closed off to the sights and sounds of morning awakening beneath Nature’s tender touch. Or, heart and body awakened to the beauty of the day, the rising of the sun, the caress of the wind, the breath of nature unfolding in the world around me connecting me within all of nature.

Every morning I walk the same path. Every morning is never the same.

____________________________

Yesterday, David Kanigan at Live & Learn shared a post and a poem that moved me. Earlier, when I’d been walking along the river, I’d been thinking of how I always take the same path and still it’s always different.

And then I read David’s post about walking the same route every morning and taking photographs for the past 291 days. His photos are beautiful. His words exquisite and the whisper of my path, my walk kept rippling out.

Thanks David for the inspiration to keep exploring the idea that the path is always the same but what I experience is always an invitation to step into the wonder and beauty and find my way home to my heart.

Do The Hard. You’re Worth It.

Well, that was fascinating!

There I was feeling frustrated and somewhat miffed, blaming the ‘Techie Witch’ for whisking away all my hard-fought-for edits only to discover… they weren’t missing!

It was user error. When I’d opened the file in my video editing software, I hadn’t condensed the video line enough to see all the components in one view.

Duh.

All I could do was throw my hands up into the air above my head and exclaim as Benjamin Zanders suggests in his wonderful TedTalk, The Transformative Power of Classical Music, “Aren’t I fascinating!”

And get back to editing.

Which is what I did.

Can I take a moment here to pat myself on the back? My friend Jane always tells me I need to acknowledge my accomplishments and not try to pass credit off to others. So… okay. Here I go… I did it and I’m really proud of myself.

I created a 17 minute video of creating one of the paintings for my #ShePersisted Series while filming myself in the act of creating.

I was scared.

I mean, it’s not like I start the process with a clear idea of where I’m going, what the end result will look like.

In fact, I purposefully don’t start that way as I prefer the whole creative process to be more organic, intuitive. An intimate dance with the muse where neither of us leads nor follows. We just flow in and out and all around and up and down ideas pouring out, paint spilling, mistakes becoming integral parts of the whole – where ever the process may lead us.

I do so love that space with the muse. It feels sacred. Honest. Real.

Though I was smiling in my final check-through of the video. I mention at least three times throughout the video how I find it hard to paint faces. And I do. The contours. Shadows. Nuances of painting a face are challenging — but it doesn’t mean I won’t do it.

In fact, just like creating this video was a challenge, painting faces is a challenge I continue to dive into so that I can expand my artistry and confidence.

There are many things in life we think of as ‘hard to do’. Hard to do is not an invitation to not do something. It’s an invitation to dive deeper into ‘the hard’ and find your rhythm, your stride, allowing your courage to open you up to new dimensions you never imagined.

I’m really proud of myself for creating this video. It was hard work. It was fun. It was rewarding.

And it expanded my video-creating abilities as well as my proficiency and confidence with the software and the medium. Big win/wins everywhere in all of that!

And here’s the other thing, last night when I finished, I asked C.C. if he’d watch it. He said yes, even after I told him it was 17 minutes long.

What was interesting was, inside me was this little voice hissing, “Don’t make him sit and watch it Louise. He’ll be so bored…”

I kept watching his face throughout his viewing and he never looked bored – though I did keep having to quiet the ‘don’t make him watch it’ voice.

And I wonder, where else in my life do I diminish my creations by underplaying how important it is to me that I share it with those who are important to me? Where else do I want to play small?

Great questions that make wonderful grist for the mill of deepening my knowing of what it means to live this one precious life with all the colours of the rainbow shimmering in the light of my presence.

And btw, when C.C. reached the end of the video he looked at me with eyes wide-open and said, “I am so proud of you. That is incredible.”

Insert happy heart dance. 🙂

Crash!

Background for No 72 #shepersisted series – acrylic inks, inks, acrylic paint, gesso

For the past two days, I have been working on the process video for No. 72 of my #shepersisted series.

One thing I’m careful to do is… save my work throughout the process.

One thing my computer didn’t actually do was… save all my work.

Not its fault actually… I discovered this after about 6 hours of work yesterday when it crashed and I discovered I’d lost the final hour of edits.

I couldn’t figure out why every clip I downloaded kept coming in garbled. The video file was getting too large for the limited memory available on my computer. Each download would take me about three tries to get it to import successfully. Include the fact that my phone automatically uploads long videos to the cloud to save space, requiring first the downloading of said video and then the editing because I filmed everything upside down (and no that was not intentional) and you can see why it was taking me so long to edit!

Anyway, the gift of ‘the crash’ is it gave me insight into the importance of emptying memory banks to clear up space for fresh ideas.

See, we humans like to hang onto things. A lot.

We harbour grudges. Disappointments. Regrets.

We roll past hurts over and over in our minds, picking off pieces and chewing on them with the verocity of a baby robin grabbing for a worm dangling out of its mother’s beak.

We act like emotional hoarders, stuffing feelings deep down into our psyches, layering more and more on top so that the ones below can’t get out.

Until… one day… we crash.

Oh, maybe it’s not cataclysmic. Maybe it doesn’t even make the Richter scale of emotional disturbance.

But for each of us, there is a breaking point.

I used to see it everyday when I worked in a homeless shelter. People entering with nothing except the emotional baggage they carried as if those angry, hurting thoughts and feelings could protect them from the painful past that led them to the shelter’s doors.

There was a man at the shelter once who was known for his anger. He was in some ways just one of many except I got to know him better than others because he used to come to the art project I’d started and jam with other musicians. When he was being ‘himself’ he was a loving, caring man. And then, a burst of anger would erupt up and out of his body and he turned into a whirling, crashing terror. A guy bent on self-destruction determined to take everything around him down too.

One day, faced with a possible jail term due to his latest outburst, he came into my office and cried, “Help! I don’t want to be an angry man.”

We got him enrolled in a program that helped him face his past and his demons. He took anger management. He learned to meditate. He worked, hard, on being ‘himself.’

When it came time to go to court to face the consequences of his past actions, he asked if I’d go with him. On the day of his appearance, I waited outside the doors while he stood in front of a judge. “I know I gotta face the consequences of my actions,” he said before going in. “But I sure hope the judge sees I’m a changed man.”

In his hands he held tightly to the certificates he’d received from the various courses he’d taken to create the change he wanted, knew he needed, to be the man he was beneath the anger and pain that hid his inner beauty.

When he came out of the courtroom, he was smiling. Almost dancing. His entire being infused with delight, relief, joy. He’d received a suspended sentence. Community service. No jail time.

I haven’t thought of that man in awhile. He moved on. Went back to the province he’d come from when he was running away from his past. Through the occasional email or phone call, I learned he’d reconnected with his kids. Had a good job. His own place. Was living life.

I like this person I’ve become, he told me in one of his calls.

He’d become a champion in his own life.

_______________________

The other day, Goff James shared a video and story on his blog of Ben E. King’s iconic hit, Stand by Me. In my comments, I shared the story of how musicians from the shelter where I used to work along with musicians from the community-at-large came together to create a recording of the song.

I hadn’t thought of that man in awhile. Until there he was, amidst all the other performers, sharing the music of his heart, creating change for all the world to know, when we stand together, anything is possible.

_______________________

This post is also part of Eugi’s Causerie – todays’ prompt is ‘Champion’

Your Weekly Prompt – Champion – February 18, 2021

balance in ventures 
breathes strength into champions 
heroes of today


Haiku written by Eugi

Go where the prompt leads you and publish a post on your own blog that responds to the prompt. It can be any variation of the prompt and/or image. Please keep it family friendly. Prompts close 7 days from the close of my post.

Anyone can participate — go on… try it… it’s fun!

Unfinished Business

For the past few weeks, a fellow artist and I have been engaged in a collaborative project. It’s undefined, in so far as there’s no overarching ‘piece’ we are creating that we can show as a ‘finished project’.

It’s more in keeping with who we are as artists. Curious. Intuitive. Flowing. Impulsive. Courageous.

We connected through an online art journalling community, Get Messy Art, created by Messian Fairy Artmother, Caylee, whose energy and sparkle permeate every page and activity on the site. My collaborator friend suggested I check it out. I’ve known this friend for awhile through another course we’ve both shared in, but I’ve never spent a lot of time with her one-on-one, but I love her art and energy and gave it a go. I’m loving it.

GetMessyArt, as described on the website is…

an online art journaling school that teaches you to cultivate your creativity. Without perfection. You’ll always be welcome in – messy mind, paint plops, charcoal smudges, ink-stained fingertips and all. Zero expectations. Zero pressure. All the fun.

Every month, Get Messy holds a “Season”. A one month exploration of a specific topic through art journaling prompts, video lessons and conversation.

January’s prompt was collaboration. When my artist friend contacted me to ask if I wanted to join forces, I knew I was ‘all in’. Creating with her was bound to be fun, fascinating and fabulous!

Our collaboration has not disappointed.

Part of the collaborative process is to determine your own project.

For my partner and I, we decided to pose a weekly question. We would each either write to the question or create a journal page to express it. We’d then send the other person whatever we’d created and they would then do the other half of the response using our contribution as the inspiration. For example, this week the writing comes first, art journal page second. Yesterday, we both shared what we’d written in response to the question, “What do I fear letting go of?” During the week, I will create an art journal page in response to what she wrote, and she to what I wrote.

It has been a fascinating journey. (I’m sharing the process as we both love how the guidelines we set up are both expanding our thinking/feeling – generating some wonderful conversations on our weekly zoom call – and our creative expressions. – And who knows! It might inspire you to try it with someone too!)

Last week’s question from my partner in this project (we take turns posing them) seemed relatively simple – “What do you do with the unfinished business.” The unfinished business being those projects you start and never finish. For this one, we painted first. Wrote second.

As I began creating my journal page in response to the question, I was surprised by what came up.

Originally, I was on the negative side of ‘unfinished business’. That place where I bemoan all the projects lying around not yet completed – read… probably never will be….

Yeah. You know. Those projects.

But here’s the thing. While creating my journal spread in response to the question, I discovered the things in my life I do not want to finish. The things I hope I always carry as ‘unfinished business’.

Like Trust. I hope I always grow deeper in trusting my heart. In following its beat. In expressing its rhythms in all the colours of the rainbow.

And Dreams. May I never finish dreaming. May I always have a new dream percolating as I create substance in another. May I always keep embracing the power of dreams to awaken my heart.

And Hope. I hope I never give up on hope. For a cure for cancer. For creating better ways of living our human condition, together. For peace. For justice for all. For unburdening of hearts everywhere. For this Covid world of virtual connection to shift away from isolation into connection in the real world.

And Prayers. May I always keep pushing into my unfinished business around prayers so that I can fall deeper into the power of prayer to connect me to the divine essence of life and its spiritual nature to guide me and others in our darkest moments.

And Love. May I never be finished with exploring what it means to Love fiercely, completely, courageously — all of me and all of you.

Sure, there are projects and ideas that lay around unfinished. My laptop has a score of stories I’ve started only to be left to cool their words in a dusty file somewhere in that mystical land called the C drive.

But beating myself up for those things is where I want to finish… beating myself up.

Loving myself, trusting my heart, never giving up on hope for a better tomorrow. Those things I hope I never, ever finish learning, doing, becoming, being.

Namaste

_______________________________

About the artwork: Originally, this piece was a bunch of arrows pointing in every direction and a few words. I thought it was about challenging myself to leave it looking so unfinished… But, as I sank into the creative process, I allowed myself to simply ‘be present’. To let my intuition/inner knowing/curiosity guide me – and that’s where I started to divine the essence of the power of unfinished business in my life.

And that’s another thing I never want to be finished with — learning how to let go and allow whatever is appearing to appear so that I can be finished with the need for perfection.

See! That’s the magic of the creative process — as I wrote that last line, I thought of another thing I would like to be finished with — doubting myself… so that I’m never finished with deepening believing in myself!

Morning Dance on the River.

Light dances on the water where the river flows freely through an icy bordered channel. If I keep my eyes focused only on what appears to be the light dancing, it is as if the river is standing still.

I know it’s not.

Light on the river / Morning dance in the darkness / Love flows through it all.

It is the same in life. Sometimes, I think time is standing still, and then I notice a birthday flowing past, a memory drifting away into forgetfulness and I remember – nothing is static. Everything changes.

Life is energy and energy is not inert. It is constantly moving, shifting, changing, flowing. Like time. Always on the move. Like life. Always evolving.

It was at this time last year that my sisters and daughters and I began to gently move into the space where we knew the light in our mother’s/grandmother’s life was beginning to waver. That space where, at 97, she knew her time on this earth was drawing to an end.

It would be another 15 days before she drew in her final breath and released herself to eternity, but she knew. The one’s she had loved and lost in this life, and the God who had held her steady through every breath, were waiting, she said. She was ready to join them.

In those final days of my mother’s life, if I kept my eyes focused on each breath she took, it felt as though time was standing still. As if, her breaths would keep on going, even though her heart was growing more and more still.

It wasn’t that I wanted her to not go. It was that I wanted her to open her eyes and see that what she was leaving behind was a circle of love that she had woven together through every hardship, every sorrow, every moment of joy.

It was often hard for my mother to see the moment’s of joy. Tormented by depression most of her adult life, darkness often clouded her view of the beauty surrounding her.

I remember as a young girl wishing I could weave a bridge of words that would take us away from where my tormented mother stood in the kitchen in front of my siblings and me holding a knife to her breast and threatening to end it all. That bridge would take us away from the darkness into a land of constant sunshine.

It would be many years before I realized I was never powerful enough to break through the darkness. And, even longer before I learned that even though I could smile my way through even the darkest night of the soul, the darkness owned part of me too.

It was a therapist’s calm question of, “How long have you been depressed?” that created the first visible crack in the darkness for me. I was in my early 40s at the time.

“Me? Depressed? Never.”

I remember how she smiled, slightly, and asked, “What would you do differently if you were?”

It was a really tough question for me to even consider.

I knew how to walk alongside other’s in the darkness. I did not know how to walk alongside myself.

I feared sadness. I feared the depression that had consumed my mother throughout her life. Yet, to love my mother as she was, I had to learn to love her in the darkness. I had to learn to not be afraid of sadness, tears and emotions that did not come wrapped up in a smile.

Much has shifted since that therapist invited me to consider the shadow side of my constant smile. The icy grip I had on maintaining ‘my smile’ has eased as the warmth that comes with letting myself feel deeply, cry freely, live joyfully in darkness and in light, has helped me grow beyond my fear of the dark into loving all of it. All of me. And all of my mother.

And though my memory likes to play tricks on me sometimes, like the light dancing on the water, life keeps flowing with its beautiful truth shimmering in every moment. To see through darkness, we must open our eyes to the light. And, to truly feel and know lightness of being, we must honour the darkness that makes light so much brighter.

I watched the light dance on the water this morning. The river kept flowing. Time kept passing and always, Love moved freely through the darkness and the light holding me always in the circle of Love my mother’s hands wove together through every breath of her life.

When Love Is The Weaver

Forgiveness does not look backwards. It reaches forward continuously transforming pain into Love.

As she has taken to doing since she passed away last February 25th, my mother once again visited me while I was in the bath. Unlike in life, where her fear of opening doors to the past kept her burdened with sadness, she asked if we could talk about something she’d avoided speaking of all my life.

There are so many truths I could not face when I was your mother of ‘this-world-out-here’ she says. Life was so hard for me and facing those truths only made it feel harder. I was always afraid the truth would break me, she says. I was not as brave as you. I’m sorry.

It was the ‘I’m sorry’ that got me. In life, my mother never, ever apologized. Never.

It was not her way.

My mother’s way was to cling to the picture of being the perfect mother of her dreams. She wanted to give us the world, it’s just the world was so big and scary she had to hold onto the belief she was the perfect mother to keep her fears at bay. It was her fear that blinded her to the beauty of truth in all its sometimes painful manifestations.

To be the perfect mother, she had to hold tight to the belief that the troubles in our relationship were all my fault. I was too outspoken. Too challenging. Critical. Judgemental. Harsh. If there were issues, I created them. I was the one who needed to accept the blame and apologize.

And while I’m not saying I wasn’t all of those things, I also felt she owned some of the issues. I mean, it takes two to tango. Right?

Where my two-to-tango thinking got me in trouble was believing that if she would just once apologize, the past would be set straight, as would my life.

The only way to set the past straight is to let it go.

For me, letting go of the past comes through forgiveness.

I thought I’d done the work. I mean, how much therapy, self-development, journalling, channelling and whatever other process was out there could I throw at myself?

We cannot see what we do not know. I thought I’d done the work and then, my mother apologized and asked if I could forgive her for not protecting me as a child and I discovered a knot of pain, not even her apology could dissolve.

But then, it was never really about her apology. It was about my pain and my holding onto it in unforgiveness.

I cried. A lot. When I felt the knot inside my body. It was lodged somewhere in my esophagus. It hurt.

I want to, I told her. But the words are stuck.

Then practice, she said. Practice saying, I forgive you.

Even that hurt. But I know the wisdom of my mother’s words.

To be free of unforgiveness, I must practice. I forgive you.

This painting comes from my practice. It is a gift from my mother to me. And to my daughters and grandchildren and their children too.

Unforgiveness blocks the beauty from shining bright in the tapestry of our lives. Unforgiveness hinders free passage of the love that weaves us into our family story, the love that forever weaves its way through time, even after our last breath has been tied off on the giant loom of our story.

It is Love that weaves all the colours of the rainbow into the tapestry of life flowing into the story of generations to come. And it is forgiveness that is its warp and weft, muting the pain and sorrow. Tears and fears. Sadness and hurts. Transforming them into Love.

My mother came to visit me. She asked for my forgiveness. Not for me, she said. It’s for you. You must say the words so you can weave an even more beautiful story of your life today that will inspire generations to come.

She was right, this mother of my dreams. There is much beauty in letting go. Especially when threads of forgiveness are woven into the tapestry of your life with Love as the weaver of your story.

Love Pours In

Thoughts from my meditation on the question of Love — it is the theme this week of the year long Contemplative Listening and Writing course I began earlier this month.

Holding onto nothing, I become all that I am.

With every exhale, Love rushes into the spaces left behind where once I held onto everything.

Holding onto nothing, Love is all there is.

Holding onto nothing, Love pours in.

_______

Love Pours In

©2021  Louise Gallagher

I forget
where breath begins
and hold onto nothing
but my last breath
fearing there will never be
another to fill
the void.

Letting go
life rushes in and fills
the space
with nothing
more than
my last breath
moving into
the next.

In the ebb
of life’s
constant flow
holding on
fills the void
and I become
each breath
letting go.

And Love pours in.

I wrote this poem several years ago. I was reminded of it this morning when I started to share a painting I created on the weekend and realized, I needed to speak of Love.

I wanted to hold onto what I had intended. I had to let go.

And as it always does. That’s where love found me. That’s where love poured into the spaces created in letting go.

If I Could…

Mixed media – 7 x 10″ on mixed media paper. (Collage, stamps, inks, acrylic paint and love)
 
 
 If I Could Give You My Heart
 ©2021 Louise Gallagher
  
 If I could 
 I would give you my words
 plump and full of
 promises
 dancing in the ecstasy
 of never having to leave
 you 
 without words
  
 If I could 
 I would paint you the sunrise
 bold and fiery
 colours streaking across the sky
 full of morning delight
 threaded with gold
 melting like butter
 upon a piece of warm buttered toast
  
 If I could 
 I would sing you a song of sunset
 full of sun-bathed mountains
 stretched out across the horizon
 like a dragon 
 sleeping
 at the edge of the world
 where sky tumbles into the sea
 and the moon rises high
 and pulls the night up into a sky
 full of stars falling like snow
 melting your dreams awake
  
 If I could
 give you my heart
 would you listen
 deep
 to the beat of its silence
 echoing throughout the vastness 
 of time wooing your fear
 of falling
 asleep
 like a lullaby
 spun into a cradle of love
 that can never break
  
 If I could 
 give you my heart
 would you listen
 deep? 

Yesterday, I entered my studio without any clear idea of what I wanted/needed to create or without having heard what the muse was whispering into creation.

I opened my art journal to a blank page. Threw down some colour and text and lines. And took a breath.

A deep one.

I closed my eyes, let my conscious mind sink down, down, into the crucible of my belly, into the font of where creativity rises up to inspire, cajole, exhort me into being wildly, joyfully present to all that is present where ever I’m at.

And that’s when I felt the murmurings.

Of words. Of song. Of flowers and trees and birds and life flowing.

I started to draw and paint and when I was finished, she appeared.

I told C.C. “She’s my Frida Kahlo meets Marie Antoinette.” He laughed and asked, “Where’s the cake?”

“Her cake is the words she spins into stories the flowers breathe in,” I replied. (I might even have been a little flippant. But the muse didn’t care…)

And thus, the words appeared… Her words grew into the stories flowers told to chase away grey skies and cloudy days.

_________

This morning, when I sat down at my desk, I didn’t know what I was going to write.

I closed my eyes, took in a breath and watched it sink with my conscious mind floating on air down, down, down into the crucible of my belly. The busy places in my heart grew still. The stuck places melted… and that’s when I felt the murmurings.

Of words dancing and sunrises melting and hearts listening deeply and breaking open to love.

And the words guided my heart into creative expression.

Namaste

Who Do You See?

What Do You See?
  ©2021 Louise Gallagher 

In every image I see

 something of me reflected.

In every image
 there is a reflection I must see.

Sometimes, I want to avoid
 looking at the reflection I see.

Sometimes, I want to see
 only what I want to see reflected.

Always, I must open my heart to see
 what is being reflected back to me.

It is hard sometimes, to look at ourselves in the mirror with our eyes wide-open and say, loud and clear so our heart can hear, “I Love You.”

Try it.

Right now.

Go stand in front of a mirror, look yourself in the eyes, deep into your eyes, take a deep breath and clearly state (keep your eyes open and looking into your heart) “I Love You.”

And, if it’s hard, if you hesitate or want to shut your eyes, or cry or shake your head from side-to-side in disbelief, ask yourself, “What is so unloveable about me?”

And, if the answer comes easy, if you have a list of ready-to-speak reasons why not loving yourself makes perfect sense, start there. Start in that painful, awkward, uneasy place where unself-love resides. Start right there to love those broken, ugly, untouchable places where you tell yourself you do not deserve Love.

We all deserve Love.

We all deserve to love ourselves. Many of us have not been taught it’s important. Or many of us have been taught it’s selfish or conceited. But, if we don’t love ourselves, how will we teach our children to love themselves enough to do the loving things? To treat their life, all life, as precious? To treat themselves and others with dignity and respect?

And, if we cannot love ourselves enough to speak the words today, how will we speak to ourselves in the tough times? In the times when we need tender loving care to get through the rough spots on our road? Or when life hits us with one of its curveballs and we just want to curl up into a ball and turn the world off? How will we take care of our heart, and the hearts of everyone we love, if we are beating ourselves up with Unlove?

Years ago, when my mother was around 85 and living in an assisted living centre, my then-teenage daughters and I went to visit her one evening. As she shared some of her life-story with us one of my daughters asked her, “Do you love yourself Nana?”

Mum blinked her eyes. Fluttered her hands around her face as she always did when she was nervous or uncomfortable and replied with something like, “What a silly question.”

My daughter did not back down. “Do you?”

Mum breathed out. Kept laughing nervously.

At this point both my daughters knew what was necessary.

The pushed her wheelchair to the full-length mirror in her entryway. They said, “Try it. Look at yourself and say, “I Love You.”

My mother was taken aback. She giggled and replied. “Oh no. No. I can’t do that.”

The girls were adamant. “Of course you can.” And each of them demonstrated how ‘easy’ it was to do and say.

“You do it too, mum,” they called out to me.

So, following in my daughters footsteps, I demonstrated ‘the how’ to my 85-year-old mother.

Still she hesitated. With encouragement, she finally looked at herself in the mirror and said, “I Love You.”

And then, she fluttered her hands around her face and exclaimed, “Oooh La La!”

It was such a sweet, tender moment, and at the same time, poignant and sad.

To be 85 and never to have told yourself, “I Love you.”

My mother was not, is not, alone in her silence.

We are a world of human beings who have never learned to say those words to ourselves.

Have you? Ever told yourself how much you love yourself?

When you stand in front of the mirror, who do you see reflected back?

A woman or man of integrity, humility, honour, beauty, strength, courage, passion, dignity, truth, wisdom, compassion, caring….

Or do you just not look? At yourself? Deep into yourself?

Do you just brush your teeth and hair and put your make-up on (and maybe notice with dismay a new wrinkle or two) or shave and avoid looking deep into your eyes?

Whatever you do in front of that mirror, that’s what you do in the world. So, if you want to change the world, start by changing how you look at yourself in the mirror and what you say to yourself.

Start by practicing, “I Love You.”

You’ll be amazed by what happens.

And PS — if it’s too hard to say the words, get a crayon that writes on glass and start by writing it out and reading it to yourself every day until you’re ready to claim the truth.

Sometimes, self-love starts with baby-steps…

______________________

About the artwork:

I am fascinated with carving stamps. I created the botanical on the left by first imprinting it with vaseline on the page (the vaseline acts as a resist to the paint) and then using the same stamp to print it on the right with black ink.

The little botanical is also a stamp I carved.

The background is watercolour and acrylic inks – the ‘mesh’ is created by using drywall tape as a stencil and dabbing paint through it.

Mixed media 8 x 10″ on canvas paper

The words were put in place in Photoshop (not physically printed on the page)

UNFURL

“Unfurl”. My word for 2021.

un·furl
/ˌənˈfərl/

Learn to pronounce

verb
past tense: unfurled; past participle: unfurled
make or become spread out from a rolled or folded state, especially in order to be open to the wind.
"a man was unfurling a sail"

It arrived quietly on a gentle wave full of self-compassion flowing with possibility, desire, anticipation.

Yes. My heart said. I see you. I feel you. I know you. You mean something to me.

It felt hopeful. Full of spreading wings and dreams unfolding on flights of fancy as I leapt into unknown skies and dove into creative seas yet to be explored.

“Let your sparkle out.” was the tagline that appeared to go with my word.

I sprinkled gold and silver glitter dust onto the still wet canvas.

It was fun. Expressive. Concrete with dollops of whimsy.

I wanted my painting to represent the unfurling of unlimited creative expression, freedom from self-criticism and fear of ‘looking ridiculous’. I wanted it to be a statement of my fearless pursuit of living embodied in the present moment, passionate, alive, unlimited.

And then Washington happened and I felt the weightiness and the precision of that word cut deep into my body.

Can you unfurl compassion amidst the fear, the horror, the confusion you feel watching these events, the word seemed to be asking as I poured paint onto the canvas.

Can you hold those who dissent in the same space as those who are in accord with your truth?

I had to stop and breathe into that one.

Could I?

Could I let go of seeing the perpetrators of yesterday’s events through the lens of right and wrong and hold all who participated in the same space of compassion as those who were tormented by their assault?

I didn’t want to.

And a tiny voice from deep within my belly rose up and whispered into my heart, “It would take a miracle.”

And that’s when truth shimmered like the sparkling dust on my painting.

Perhaps, yesterday’s events were the miracle.

Yes. What happened was horrific. And for one woman and those who know and love her, tragically final. Her death could have been avoided. The events of yesterday could have been redirected.

But it wasn’t. And they weren’t.

It is impossible to change the events that lead to yesterday.

It is possible to change what happens next.

Violence does not create harmony. It does not open the door to peaceful coexistence.

But, in the horror of all that transpired yesterday, there were those who have stayed silent who spoke up. There were those who had acquiesced to the subversion of due process through their sitting on the sidelines, who stood up and held themselves accountable.

Can I see the miracle in that?

I am struggling to be in this space of compassion. To simply hold myself accountable to breathing without my mind tearing into words of condemnation of all those would tear apart a country I love as my neighbour.

I struggle yet know, to be a voice of calm, to be a space of compassion, anger, criticism, calling people names, deriding their politics does not create the more of what I want to have in the world.

It does not create peace. Harmony. Joy. Dignity. Equality. Love.

And so, I allow myself to unfurl in compassion.

I breathe into the miracle that appeared within the words of those who had once stridently spoken out against due process as they stood down and held up their hand in accord.

I breathe into the miracle of unity that appeared within the discord.

And with each breath, compassion unfurls and my heart opens up.

I do not believe violence is the answer. Meeting violence with violence isn’t either.

I believe we, the people of this planet we all call our home, have the power to find answers that celebrate and nurture and promote our humanity. We have the power to bring light to the darkness, and peace to every heart.

And I believe, it starts with a miracle.

And so, I hold onto the miracle and let my heart unfurl in the possibility of more.

Namaste.