A man. A brick. A morning encounter.

It is 6:30am and Beaumont the Sheepadoodle and I are just on our way from our early morning walk. I turn the corner from the main avenue onto the street that leads to the cul de sac where we live when I see a man at the intersection further ahead, the one that leads into our little community along the river.

He crosses the street towards Beau and I, sees us, stops, stretches as if casually releasing a kink in his back and then turns left and slowly begins to walk along the avenue leading away from our cul de sac. He goes a few feet. Stops and begins to twist and turn his body as if stretching during a jog.

I am curious about his presence. He doesn’t look like a jogger. He looks dishevelled. Possibly under the influence. Suspicious.

I keep walking, turn into our cul de sac. The neighbour who lives at the corner, opens his front door. He is holding his cell phone in one hand as he calls out to me. “Get in here,” he says. And he waves his hand quickly, desperately trying to get my attention.

I stop and look at him. He waves again and repeats. “Get in here. Quickly.”

Beaumont and I walk into his house. His dog, a beautiful big brown lab, is locked behind a door. Barking.

Beau looks a bit bemused by it all. He sniffs and pulls towards the door from where he can hear the barking.

My neighbour says, “There’s a guy with a brick in his hand. I’m on the phone with police. I woke up to him pounding on my windows.”

Oh.

“The guy in the beige t-shirt and baggy sweatpants?” I ask.

And my neighbour keeps talking to the police while watching out his front window for the man.

“He walked away down the avenue,” I tell him. “Going east.”

He relays the information to the police.

Just then, the man in the beige t-shirt and baggy pants comes back into view, walking back towards our cul de sac.

“There’s nothing in his hands,” I tell my neighbour.

I watch him. His walk is unsteady. He steps into the middle of the intersection, bends down and scoops up the brick he’d been carrying before. He must have dropped it when he saw me walking up the street with Beau.

The man stands in the middle of the intersection. Undecided. He starts to walk further into the entrance to our cul de sac.

I go back outside. Beau goes with me.

“Excuse me,” I call out to the man. “Are you okay?”

He stops, looks at me where I stand on my neighbours front porch. He is standing in the middle of the road, about 30ft away.

“Are you?” he asks somewhat belligerently.

“I am,” I reply. “But I’m concerned about you. Are you okay?

He looks at me again. Kind of shrugs, shakes his shoulders. He starts to back away into the intersection.

“You might want to put the brick down,” I call out. “It scares people when they see someone walking around with a brick in their hand.”

He turns his back and begins to walk back along the avenue, away from me, brick in hand.

Because of construction on the main road, there is only parking on one side of the street along which he walks. I watch him toss the brick onto the street, away from the parked cars on the other side.

He turns to look back at me and gives me the not so nice high five finger before walking unsteadily away. I realize he’s probably not drunk. He is suffering from a condition that affects his ability to walk steadily.

I thank my neighbour for looking out for my safety and Beau and I walk home carrying the image of that man and his brick.

Was the brick to break in or to help him feel safe?

By his body language when I asked if he was okay, he was not accustomed to someone being concerned for his welfare.

He also didn’t like people watching him, suspiciously.

He was angry.

Belligerent.

Trying really hard to be scary.

More than anything he looked lost. Broken. Beaten down.

And my heart feels heavy.

See, that man with the brick. He was Indigenous. His black hair was tied in a pony tail that ran down his back all the way to his waist.

And yes, walking around a quiet neighbourhood with a brick in your hand, pounding on windows is not a good, nor legal, thing to do.

But, when I called out to him and asked if he was okay, he answered. When I suggested he put down the brick because it scared people, he did.

I don’t believe he was a bad man doing bad things. He was a desperate human being doing desperate things to ease his pain.

It doesn’t make what he was doing right. Pounding on windows is not a good thing to do. Nor is carrying a brick in your hand.

What is a good thing, however, is to see him through the lens of a human being, a man carrying a brick and a long history of pain and suffering that has brought him to this place where he walks around carrying a brick.

It doesn’t change that what he was doing was wrong. It does make me feel less afraid and more compassionate about his plight.

And so, I say a prayer for that man. I pray for him relief and comfort from the burdens he carries. And, I pray for him a safer, kinder road forward.

And I pray for me, and all my neighbours, the same.

_____________________________

There is an addendum to this story.

When I returned from the garden centre later this morning, the man with the brick was standing at the entrance to our cul de sac with another man and the woman who does her 15,000 steps every day walking the hill.

He had frightened her earlier by throwing the brick close to her feet and had come back in the hopes of finding his bike, which got lost sometime last night, and…
to apologize.

I stopped to speak with the trio where they stood at our entrance and he asked me, “Did you see me?” Did you see my bike?”

I talked with you, I told him and went on to tell him of our exchange.

“I am so sorry for scaring you,” he said. “I could have hurt you.”

I don’t believe you would have, I told him. I don’t believe that is your heart.

He also wanted to apologize to my neighbour at the corner but he was out, so I promised to relay his message.

“I don’t remember much,” he said. “I was so drunk. I must have passed out in the woods along the river and when I came to, my bike was gone and I was all messed up.”

And then he said, “If you ever see me drunk walking around here, promise you’ll tell me to go home.”

And I replied, “I will.”

It took great courage for him to come back and apologize. Great courage and heart.

Prayers Are Not Enough

I sit at my desk this morning, listening to the Robins calling to each other, the sweet twittering of their babies in the nest tucked in the beams beneath our deck a melodious accompaniment to this gorgeous day.

The leaves of the trees shimmer and dance against the peacock blue of the sky above. The yellow wings of a Finch flitter through the greenery. They are passing through on their migratory route north. Their song adding a sweetness to the morning symphony.

And I listen and watch and let the beauty sink in and still my heart is heavy. My spirit uneasy.

I am grateful the media continue to report on the discovery of the remains of 215 children discovered under the soil of the former Kamloops Residential School.

I am grateful the story has not been brushed over, buried like so much of the truth of what happened in those dark days of our history.

And I feel sad. Confused. Angry.

Where is the Catholic Church?

Where is the Pope’s voice of care, concern and above all, admission and accountability?

The Bishops are offering up prayers.

Prayers are not enough.

_______________________________

In 2009, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission requested funding of $1.5 million from the Federal Government to assist them in searching for what they knew to be true. There were many bodies of children buried beneath the soils of the network of approximately 140 Residential Schools that were in operation, run by churches of many denominations, across Canada from the 1880s until the final school closed in 1996.

Their request was denied.

In 2018, despite the urging of Prime Minister Trudeau along with survivors and families of the children, Pope Francis refused to provide an apology for the wrong-doings of the Catholic Church.

Today, the Pontiff remains silent on the discovery of 215 children’s bodies buried in unmarked graves on the site of a school run by his Church.

The Government of Canada has not yet offered to fund further investigations using the same technology to help find the bodies of lost children on the sites of other Residential Schools.

Let us not let their silence be a reflection of the truth. Let us raise our voices. Let us demand action.

____________________________________

Where Is The Church?

Two-hundred and fifteen
bodies 
two-hundred and fifteen
children’s lives
lost
to a system 
that did not
care
for the innocents
and treated their souls
as fodder for their own redemption.

Two hundred-and fifteen
children’s lives
buried
while they stood by
and watched
silent
as priests and nuns
Bishops and Cardinals
hid
the evidence
of their disgrace
beneath the soil
of the lands
that once belonged
to the people
whose souls
they professed to be saving.

Two hundred and fifteen
buried
while the Church remains
silent
unrepentant
uncaring.

Where are you?
Your prayers
are empty
when your voices
remain silent
to the truth
of your transgressions.

Where are your coffers
open
to support the hands
digging
for truth
for the bodies
who must be found
to bring comfort
solace
closure
to the families
who suffered so much
at your hands
holding high the cross
with which you hammered
your faith
into their bodies and minds 
to erase their culture
their traditions
their spirits
out.

Where is this church
that promised to love
all God’s children
standing
in the truth
of all that they did
to harm
these innocents?

Oh God,
how can your people
find comfort
how can they find their missing children
when your emissaries on earth
stand silent
in the soil
bleeding
dark 
with the blood
of all that was done
in your name
to steal the lives
and futures
of your children?

Is your Church missing too?
Is its faith lost
beneath the dark soils
of its past
that cannot be erased
and must never be forgotten.

Flags are Lowered. We Must Raise Our Voices.

Brandon, Manitoba Residential School — where 50 unmarked graves of students were found in 2018

When the boy became a man, he carried with him his past. Troubled. Painful. A heavy burden he could not put down even though it did not sit comfortably on his back.

As time moved on, and the burden grew heavier, he searched for ways to soothe the memories that would not lay quietly in the past.

He drank. He gambled. He took illegal drugs.

And still the memories haunted him.

He was a little boy. The day was sunny. The skies clear. A truck arrives. There are children sitting on the benches lining its flatbread. Some are crying. Some are laughing. Some are silent.

There is a man in a uniform. He clenches a piece of paper in a tight fist and reaches out with the other to grab his hand. His mother pulls him back. She is crying.

He’s never seen her cry. Never heard her yell.

The man in the uniform is stronger. Louder. By now, the boy is crying too.

His tears and his mother’s anguished cries cannot change the course of history.

He is bundled up into the back of the truck, thrust between two older boys as the truck pulls away from the only home he’d ever known.

When I meet the boy who is now the man, he is a client at the homeless shelter where I worked.

He is in his 50s. A big man. Good looking with dark, laughing eyes, high cheekbones, a barrel chest. Strong looking. He wears a white cowboy hat. His legs are bowed from years of riding a horse.

“I had a ranch,” he tells me. “Me and my boys worked the land.”

The memories worked him harder until he could no longer carry their burden and fell beneath the weight of the bottle that never left his side.

“I want them back,” he says. “Not the memories. My boys.”

He tells his story in front of a class of 11 other men living at the shelter. They are all taking a course to gain their certificates to work on industrial jobsites and in the oil patch. Part of the month long course includes a segment on self-awareness which I volunteer to teach once a week.

One of the questions I ask in the course is for each person to name someone they admire. They can be a historical or fictional person. Someone they know. Someone they’ve read about in the news. A friend. A family member.

The boy who became the man answers, “My grandfather.”

What is it about your grandfather you admire most? I ask.

“He was a proud man. A good example. He had a loud laugh that rose up from his belly and made it giggle like a bowl full of jello.”

It is when he says the word, ‘jello’, that I see the flicker of memory cross his face. It is as fleeting as a streak of sunlight in a heavily clouded sky.

His mother fed him jello when he had his tonsils out as a boy. Before the man in the uniform came and tore him away from her arms.

There was no jello at the Residential School. No laughter. No bellyful of anything but hunger and fear.

He is working hard to be a better man, this boy who is now the man. He is working hard to build a path back to his boys.

“I want to be a man they can be proud of,” he says. And then he adds, proudly. “I’ve been sober three months.”

It is not easy claiming and holding on to sobriety in a homeless shelter. Chaos. Despair. Depression. Addiction. Overdoses. Suicide. They are everywhere. They permeate the air like mist from a waterfall, clouding minds and dampening spirits.

He was determined to beat the odds. To find his way back home. To reunite with his boys. His mother had died while he was still at the school. “Her heart was broken. She lost all six of her kids to that place. I was the last to go. She never saw any of us again.”

He wanted to be sober so he could see his boys again before he died. He never got the chance.

Three months after the course ended, he was felled by a heart attack and his life was gone.

And still, these many years later, I remember him. The boy who became a man who lost his way beneath the weight of the shame of a past he could never forget. It was not his shame. It belonged to those who gave a boy memories he should never have had to carry.

He never made it back to his boys.. But in those final months of his life, he was the kind of man he always wanted to be. A man his sons would be proud of.

_______________________________

I share this story today in honour of all the boys who became men and all the girls who became women and carried with them the scars of Residential School.

I share it to honour the mothers and fathers who lost their children, never to see them again.

And I share it to remind us all that our silence, inaction, denial, blindness… they are all contributors to the trauma and racism, the denial of rights, the dismantling of culture and family structures experienced by Indigenous peoples.

We do not need Indigenous peoples to tell us again and again what happened. We must stop retraumatizing the victims by expecting them to teach us what ‘went wrong’.

We know what went wrong. We did.

We must now set things right by telling our government and leaders to do the right things. We must demand changes to government legislation, policy and practices so the unalienable rights of Indigenous peoples to self-government, according to their own laws and traditions, are recognized and implemented.

Flags are lowered. We must raise our voices. Now.

Does God Weep

There are moments when the exquisite beauty of this world catches me unaware stealing my breath away like a sunrise washing over my body falling into the deep abiding silence of awe consuming me as I stand witness to darkness turning into light.

And still, standing amidst those moments there is the ineffable darkness of man’s inexplicable nature, of cruelty and cowardice, of rabid words and violence that pierce my heart, breaking it into shattered shards of despair, blocking the light with its litany of sins perpetrated by man upon the innocent.

This morning and yesterday darkness collided with light. Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc. The site of a residential school where the remains of 215 children were found buried and left, unmarked, as those in power erased their names. They were never forgotten by their people who have carried the stories and faced the denial of those who knew the truth. 215 lives x generations to come of pain and suffering, loss and unacknowledged grief and trauma. A history denied by those who perpetrated it. A history still lived by those who have carried the burden of all that was done to save them, in the name of god.

I have few words. Only a poem that has fallen out of the darkness.

Does God Weep?
by Louise Gallagher

does god weep
beneath the weight
of the horrors done
in his name?

does he cry out
in despair
as his people do
at the truth of 215
lives
buried
beneath the soil
in the worship of his name?

I do not know this god 
the one for whom so many innocents died
and so many lives were destroyed
because his name could not be tarnished
by the likes of them
until the likes of them
looked more like us.

I do not know how
he carries the burden
of all that was done
for him
when what was done
for him
was done to his children
those precious gifts of life
full of promise
of untold stories that lay buried
through the generations
in unmarked graves
hiding the truth
of what was done 
in his name
a truth that was always known
by those who walked the lands
of Tkemlups te Secwepemc
.

Did god nor man
not see the truth
of those innocent lives
stolen
and discarded
like left over wine at the altar?

I do not know if god weeps
but I do
weep
for the inexplicable darkness
of our human nature
blocking out the light
killing off our humanity
until all that is left
is a forensic accounting
too late

too late
to save the lives
of those left behind
of those who followed
the mothers and fathers
the sisters and brothers
the grandmothers and grandfathers
aunts and uncles and cousins 
too many
who have fallen beneath the burden
of all that was lost and done
in the name of god.

Her Heartprints Live On Forever

Written on the homepage of the Heartprints KIDS for a Cause website are the words:

  As we walk along in life, we leave footprints,
  As we touch, we leave fingerprints and handprints,
  As we touch hearts, we will leave heartprints.

Throughout her life, Bev Boyden touched many lives and left many heartprints. Yesterday, I received a message from her beautiful daughter, Tamara letting me know that sometime during the early morning hours of May 9th, Bev’s heart gave its last beat. Her heartprints remain. Indelible. Enduring. Forever imprinted on my heart and the heart of the many lives she impacted with her gentle manner, her soft voice, her loving heart and her giving nature.

I first met Bev in 2006 when she walked into my office at the adult emergency homeless shelter where I worked. She and her daughter, Tamara Van Staden, had called me a few days before to set up the appointment. Tamara, then 11-years-old, was doing a ‘Pay-It-Forward’ project in her Grade 5 Class and had heard about the artshow we were holding just before Christmas. Tamara wanted to sell her handmade jewelry at the show.

I don’t think I will ever forget the image of Tamara and her mom sitting behind their table, laughing and chatting together as they strung beads onto wires, or knit and crocheted the many items they made to raise funds for homeless shelters in Calgary. Over the years, Heartprints: KIDS for a Cause, the not-for-profit Tamara started when she was 12, has raised over $15,000 for homeless-serving agencies. One bead, one stitch, one heartbeat at a time.

And woven into every piece they created is the love and care Bev wove into her life and the life of her daughter.

Bev was an incredible mom. It was the thing she was most proud of in her life, she once told me. Being a mother to Tamara gave her joy, laughter, purpose. It sparked her creative juices, it made her want to be the best human being she could possibly be.

And she was. A beautiful, magnificent human being.

Over the years, Bev and I formed a friendship through our shared passion for making a difference in the world, especially our daughters’ worlds, and our desire to heal and grow and expand our understanding of ourselves and how we are in this world so that we could share the best of who we are with the world around us.

She did it well.

The sharing of herself. The caring. The loving. The creating. The being.

She poured it into Tamara. Her fur-babies. Her garden. Her friends. Her community. Her world.

No matter where she was, the world was, and will always be, a better place because of Bev.

Dearest Bev, your heart has stopped. Your heartprints live on. In my heart and the hearts of all those you touched with your kindness, grace and love.

There are so many ways I am grateful for you in my life. Our paths crossed by coincidence. They stayed connected through choice. One of the many things I so admired about you is how, when I told you about Choices, you put it on your bucket list and in 2015 you made it come true. I was in awe of your commitment and dedication to your personal growth so that you could be a better mother, friend, human being. Your willingness to trust me with your beautiful heart touched me deeply.

________________________

Yesterday, after receiving the news from Tamara, I asked how I could support her. She asked me to write something for her mother.

I said down and wrote the following letter. And though I can’t deliver it in person, I believe Bev can read it, feel it, sense it.

Dear friend, I am struggling for words to tell you how much I appreciated you in my life and what a difference you made in my heart.

And, as I read back through our messages, I am reminded of what a difference you made in our community. Like the time you convinced your Charity Committee at work to take on fulfilling the needs of CWES that also included the Women’s Centre because you accidentally phoned them (thinking you were calling CWES) to ask for their needs list.

I loved how you were so excited to be able to deliver what both organizations needed. You thought your mistake was the best thing ever because you were helping even more women. As you wrote in your message telling me about the event, “…after hearing what they were in desperate need of (shampoo/ conditioner, lotion and baby care items), I could not ignore that calling! So the CWES got all their pillows replaced and will get all the other items requested … 3 baby monitors, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, baby care items. The Women’s Centre will receive all the items they said they were in desperate need of. Feeling very satisfied as it was over a year ago that I presented the idea to our firm Charity Committee to do a fundraiser to collect items for personal care and to accomplish that around Valentine’s Day.”

That’s who you were Bev. Determined. Committed. Always there to help out. Always willing to do what ever was needed to make a difference. To do one thing every day to make the world a better place.

I will miss you my friend. I will miss our lunches, though this past year they were impossible to have. I will miss your lovely gratitude messages on FB and your commitment to keeping your Choices FB page full of inspiring messages and most of all, I will miss learning more of your journey as you fulfilled on your big bucket list item this year by stepping out of your comfort zone to seek new, exciting opportunities for employment. I was so excited that you were off on another adventure.

Much love, hugs and beans as you journey to the other side and beyond,

Louise

__________________________________

In 2013, Bev wrote a guest blog HERE on de-cluttering. It is a lovely view into her heart. I am so grateful to have memories of Bev to carry with me always.

Where The Wild Things Grow

When I was a little girl I loved to create. Anything and everything.

Stories. Paper dolls. Houses for all my paper dolls. Clothes for my dolls. I loved, Paint by numbers. Drawing. Painting. Card tricks. Building things. Exploring things. Creating things.

I was creative by nature.

Up until my teens, I loved to draw. Faces mostly. I created my own magazines. Books. Plays.

And then. The 3 C’s hit.

Comparison. Criticism. Confusion.

I was not as good as… the really talented kids in school who everyone said would grow up to be artists. I never showed anyone my work so no one knew I loved to paint and draw. I was pretty sure my family would make fun of me anyway, so I quit painting and drawing.

I couldn’t sing like the one’s who played guitar in the band I belonged to. My brother made sure I knew I wasn’t very good. So I quit the band.

I didn’t get the lead in a school play (I did get a major role but it didn’t matter. I was pretty sure my family wouldn’t come to see me anyway, and if they did, they’d make fun of me). I quit auditioning.

Don’t get me wrong. There were creative things I did my mother and father found acceptable. I was the best gift wrapper in the house and would spend hours wrapping all the Christmas gifts. I did make all the posters for my eldest sister’s run for School Queen (or whatever it was she was running for) complete with pithy quotes – Beatniks were a big thing back then and I remember painting a picture of a Beatnik on poster board with some ‘clever’ saying like, “Get with the beat! Vote_______!”

But the list of things I told myself I couldn’t do as well as… (fill in the blanks ____________) went on and on.

I didn’t sew as well as my eldest sister. I didn’t write poetry as poetically as my middle sister. And I couldn’t be a boy like my brother, which was pretty well all believed my parents wanted me to be.

My inner critic, who constantly compared me to the feats and abilities of others, confused me. I didn’t dare tell people the things I loved to do. I was so scared they’d find my efforts wanting, less than, not as good as… someone else’s.

In my twenties, I secretly took up writing poetry again. I painted, but never told anyone. I started a novel and kept it to myself.

In my thirties, amidst my friends, I was known as the one who cooked and created, who skied fast and ran faster. I had a cooking show on TV. Nothing big. Just a 10 minute segment of an ‘about town’ show, but I loved it. I catered parties for friends. A girlfriend and I started a cooking school. My dinners for backcountry hiking and ski trips were legendary.

At 35, I published my first feature length story in a Sunday magazine. I wrote a novel and sent it out. Once. And then I let it sit and gather dust.

In my 40s I wrote a screen play that was optioned. A novel I never sent out and was published many more times in magazines and radio. And still, the 3C’s slithered through my psyche telling me to stop.

And then, at 45, I picked up a paintbrush and fell in love with painting.

Recently, I read a woman’s account of her creative journey through life and decided it was a great opportunity to get clear on my own.

See, when I write it out chronologically, what really becomes clear is the fact that ‘being a creative’ is part of my DNA. Ultimately, it isn’t about the things I’ve done or created or what others thought of what I did or created. Just as it was never about my talent.

It was always about my lack of belief in myself, my voice, my message.

Yesterday, as I created another page in my “Learning to Fly” art journal, I did something I’ve never done before. I ripped out a page.

The ripped out page — the gift is, I can still create with it by collaging it into another page and letting its wildness speak out!

Now, my excuse is, I’d been working on the opposite page for several hours. It was a total experiment. layer upon layers of gel medium and alcohol inks and markers and acrylic paint and more gel medium and inks and markers and paint. By the time I sat back and said, “This pleases me,” I was tired and not really listening to my heart.

Which means, I wasn’t present. Not being present meant I was susceptible to heeding the critics whining insistence I get the facing page done and over with. When it got to the stage of “UGH!” I totally forgot I get to that stage in pretty well everything I paint. So when the 3C’s invaded and the critter hissed, “Tear it out!” I did.

And that’s the moral of this story. Being present is a constant breathing into and with your entire being. It’s about sinking deep into your creative essence and connecting to your heart, the wild places within you and the world all around you so that the wild things can grow and flourish and flow.

Yesterday, I was reminded how easy it is to forget to breathe into the wild places and set them free. To cherish and nurture my creative expression and to not judge it, or myself, wanting.

I am grateful. It was a wild and fierce awakening. A powerful reminder to let the wild things grow, especially my dreams.

Namaste

The Story of Your Dreams

"You carried the story of your dreams with you when you came into this world. They were written on your heart in the world beyond this place where miracles are birthed in the magic that is real and the mystical that is always present. You carried your dreams with you into life and all that matters now is you become the story of your dreams unfolding."

I wrote the quote above in freefall writing yesterday. It was my first time back in the studio since Monday. Before the fall.

It has a certain poetic drama, doesn’t it? Before the fall.

Like Adam and Eve leaving the Garden of Eden. Or the Roman Empire before it fell apart.

Coining it to describe the mirror that fell on my head is me taking great poetic license and an exaggeration. It is obviously not of the same significance but, everything is relative. A small thing in the big picture can be a big thing in our own experience.

Yet, so often we attempt to minimize our experiences. To devalue their impact.

Years ago, when I was spending a lot of time in groups of women healing from experiences of the really painful ‘love (that was actually abuse) gone wrong’ kind, women would often say when someone recounted their story, “I know what you’re going through. Of course, my story isn’t as bad as yours…”

The fact is, every story we tell has value – it isn’t good or bad — it is of value to our experience. And when we tell it in a way that opens doors and windows to our heart, we release ourselves to create a new story. Diminishing our own story limits how wide the doors and windows of our heart can open.

For me, a bump on the head that slows me down is a big thing. It’s a call to wake up and pay attention to my body. To ‘get into my body’, not ‘out of my head and into my body’ but to be all of it, head and body. It is one unit, one being, one ‘thing’. There is no separation. no dividing line that says, “This is your head job. This is your body’s work.” It is all one.

And here’s the thing for me. When my body is hurting, I like to power through by pasting a smile on my face and ‘carrying on’ as if nothing is amiss. I let my mind override whatever my body is feeling as if my mind is in charge.

It’s not.

The body and mind are all and one of the same unit. They are all of me and I need all of me to be present, working as a wholistic being on creating substance to my dreams — the one’s that were written on my heart (and in every strand of my DNA) before I was born.

So… This time, I’m taking a different tack. I’m taking care of all of me, first.

See! It’s never too late to do things differently.

Which is also why I headed into the studio yesterday afternoon – it was R ‘n R.

There is something that happens when I sit down at my worktable and get present to the unknown, the invisible, the muse’s urgings I let appear what is calling itself into being.

In those moments, I know there is no separation between mind and body, heart and soul. I am all present. All in harmony.

And that’s exactly what happened yesterday.

I opened my “Learning to Fly” art journal and found myself exactly where I was, as I was. Present in the flow of all that is when I stop trying to compartmentalize my body from my head and acting as if my body’s trying to play a con job on my mind.

When I get present, my dreams get real.

Our Silence Matters

Years ago, when a man I’d been involved with, stalked me and my then-teenage daughters feared what might happen if he ever caught me walking alone at night, we took a self-protection course together.

“You can’t control what others will do but you can ‘safety harden’ yourself and your perimeter so that you have some control of what you do if the worst happens,” the former police sergeant teaching the course told us.

Safety hardening our perimeter included cutting down bushes around the house where someone might hide. Putting motion detector lights all around the house. Installing an alarm system and meeting with the watch command at our community police station so they would know if one of us called, they needed to respond. Right now.

One day I mentioned to the instructor how ridiculous I felt when I left the house, got into my car and immediately locked the doors. It feels so weak, I told him. Like I’m living in fear.

He told me it was just good practice. You live in the inner city of a large city. There are bad people all around. You need to protect yourself.

At the time, I didn’t question his advice. It was true. The man stalking me had already once jumped out of the bushes and tried to stop me as I took a shortcut to a girlfriend’s house.

I knew he was right. But still, the idea that I had to do the work to stop him from attacking me, grated.

It’s like when we ask/wonder, when a woman is murdered by a partner who had a history of violence, “Why didn’t she leave?”

Given that a reported 19,000 women and children are turned away from shelters every night in Candaa, shouldn’t we be asking, “Where will she go?”

And, “Why does he think it’s his right to beat her?” “Why does he believe he has the right to take her life?” “Why does he think violence against women is acceptable?” “Why do we blame the victim?”

On Tuesday, 8 women were tragically murdered by one man in Atlanta. He has a sex addiction he told police. He thought killing those women would help him.

And while this tragedy also puts a spotlight on anti Asian-racism, it is also a story not told about violence against sex-workers. Sex workers experience violence in the workplace at significantly higher levels than others. One review of systemic violence against sex workers states that often police don’t register these offences because of the circumstances under which the violence occurred and the workers don’t report them because of historical abuse by police. This means, on a global basis, there is little research on the issue, and thus, few demands that something be done to protect sex workers.

On March 3rd of this year, in London, England, a 33-year old woman disappeared while walking home. Her remains were recently discovered in woods 50 kilometres from where she had been walking. A police officer is arrested and charged with murder. A spotlight shines on stranger violence against women. Demonstrations follow. More arrests. Calls for investigations of police use of force. Sarah Everard has become the spark that ignited a public outcry against stranger violence against women. She was young. blond and white.

Hers is a story about violence against women that has rallied the voices of millions of women to stand up and demand “We take back the night”. It is also a story about the untold stories of millions of women worldwide whose stories never inspired a mass outpouring of demands the violence stop. Their stories did not make headlines. They did not fit into the paradigm of what we see as unacceptable violence against women because, most often, their skin was not white or they were engaged in high-risk activities that put them in the line of being targeted by male perpetrators of violence. Like the sex-trade.

Few (I would hope all) would disagree. Gender violence is unacceptable.

Our silence is also unacceptable.

Violence against women and non-binary individuals, no matter race or occupation or the relationship between perpetrator and victim is more than just a story of violence. It is a story about our mores and values. Our humanity.

Focussing on just high-profile cases diminishes the lives of those who historically have never had a voice nor the opportunity, and often right, to defend themselves. To stand up for themselves. To have their stories known.

We are contributing to the belief, some lives matter more than others.

Black lives matter.

Asian lives matter.

Indigenous lives matter.

Every life cut short by violence matters.

Let’s start hearing all the stories that matter so that together, we can create a world where no one fears dying beneath violent hands.

Because, I still wonder, years later, when I asked for police support at my local police station when I feared the man who was stalking me, were they so attentive because there was an inherent yet silent bias at play that none of us saw? Because I presented as an attractive woman with white skin, an impressive title on my business card and no history of interactions with the law, were they predisposed to believe me and come to my aid the night I did call? Because they did come that night. Fast. I wonder how it might have been different if I looked different?

________________________________

These are the moments – #ShePersisted – No 77

There are moments when the mundane feels so heavy, the woes so full of dark clouds gathering and the worries so close in, that I forget I have room to breathe. To move. To do. To be. To change.

In those close-in to the darkness moments, it’s easy to forget that I am part of something bigger than just these woes and worries illuminating my flaws with their 1,000 watt klieg-worthy glaring light. Or their words spewing out from TV newscasters mouths or plumping up Twitter threads full of bile or just cluttering up my day with their insistence I pay attention to all that is wrong with me and the world today. 

In those moments of forgetting all the room around me for other things to take up the space of woe and worry, I will tell myself, there’s nothing I can do. I am too flawed. Too tired. Too lost to change anything.

It is in those moments I must remind myself that I can breathe. Not just your everyday, ordinary take a gulp of air and keep on going kind of breath, but a deep, sinking into my toes, filling me from the bottoms up kind of breath that soothes and replenishes, nurtures and reminds me to Stop-Breathe-Listen-See-Feel-Be-Here-Now-I am the Breath of Life – kind of breath.

In that breath where I find myself breathing in the exquisite beauty of all there is Here-Now -in that breath empty of the flotsam of life swimming around in a sea of news and forgettable TV shows I watch only because I’ve forgotten I’m part of something so much bigger, so much greater, so much more mysterious, magical and mystical than this everyday life I tell myself is my burden I gotta keep trudging through, on and on and on, I am reminded – life is a gift. A beautiful, exquisite, priceless gift. Mysterious, magical, mystical, 4th of July fireworks exploding, rollercoaster-fast heart-pounding fierce, breathless kind of gift wrapped up in the miracle of life.

In that breath I am reminded, I Am Alive.

What a beautiful gift. To be alive. To be. Here. Now.

These are the moments to savour.

These are the moments to remember. To grab onto and never let go. To remind myself, I have power over me. I have power in me. I have power. To change. To get accountable. To not be ‘my flaws’ but to see my flaws as part of my beautiful, exquisite human magnificence.

And in those moments I get to choose.

To make excuses for how I am or celebrate who I am, right now, in all my human contradictions, complexities, curves and straight lines adding up to one amazing being who has the power to stand up, speak up, and take action to create change that matters. Change that could just save my own life from being my excuse for not living it truly, madly, deeply in love with all I am and all I do and all I have in this moment, right now.

These are the moments to live. Always.

And to remember to Breathe.

Breathe it all in

and Begin Again.

Breath by life-giving breath to stop making excuses for myself and start living fully accountable for this life that is so precious, so divinely orchestrated, so…. mine.