Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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Creating Joy in Mexico

Sunset.

A pink band of colour quietly stretches itself out across the horizon. The bright yellows of the day time sun soften into rose and purple as the day eases into night.

I am standing at the edge of the pool looking out at the ocean, breathing deeply into la magia del atardecer en Huatulco (the magic of sunset in Huatulco)

It is a phrase I have just learned from one of the staff here at Villas FaSol. They are all very helpful in providing me Spanish words and phrases. Patient. Kind.

It is the way of the people.

To help. To be patient. To laugh with you when you say or do something that does not quite make sense. To encourage you to try again. Slowly. Slowly. Lentamente. Lentamente.

Like the group that gathered around yesterday as I learned to make tortillas a manos on the outside wood burning stove at the school where I am spending my second morning learning to cook the food of the Huatulco area.

Martine, the gardener, has loaded up the wood into the body of the oven and set it alight. It is just right, he says.

I have rolled and pressed my first tortilla and to the encouraging calls of the group of five or six people who have gathered to watch, I am about to place my tortilla on the tray that covers the opening to the fire.

I carefully watch my teacher, Rosie, place hers with grace and ease. The tortilla lays flat and round on the surface.

I step up.

I am not sure if the sweat running down  my spine is from the heat of the day mixed with the heat of the oven beside which I am standing or the pressure of the crowd watching.

I place the tortilla on the grill. Quickly. I do not want to burn myself.

The crowd gasps. And laughs.

No. No. Rosie says. You cannot throw it down. She is laughing so hard she has trouble finding her words.

Gentle. Like you are laying a flower on a bed.

I have never laid a flower on a bed so I am not quite sure what that is like. But I get the picture. I am too quick. Too… Americano, she tells me.

Lentamente. Lentamente.  “No flip. Lay flat. Like this.” And she demonstrates. Her hand flows along the surface of the pan, her knuckles skimming the surface but not touching it. “You must be careful not to burn your fingers,” she cautions me.

One of the spectators, an older man with a toothy smile and weathered face, demonstrates too. In rapid Spanish he tells me to (what sounds like, “assissez. Assissez.” I repeat his words though I do not really know what he is saying. We are both laughing and smiling. I hold my hand the way he demonstrates and move it in concert with his. Si! Si! he says.

I get another tortilla ready to cook.

As I approach the oven, the crowd moves closer. I watch Rosie lay another tortilla on the grill. I see my mistake. I have held the tortilla in the flat of my hand and tried to flip it onto the grill.

I step closer. Now I know the sweat is in response to the pressure of getting it right!

Success!  I lay the tortilla in a perfect round circle on the grill! The crowd cheers. Rosie gives me a high five. The man with the toothie grin motions for me to do it again.

I spent the morning learning how to cook Tortillas, Tacos al Pastor, Mole Rojo and Salsa Verde yesterday.

It was pure delight.

And when I returned to Villas FaSol, I lay in the welcoming waters of the ocean and let the waves wash over my body. I looked up at the sun and gave thanks to the sky above for the divine beauty of this place and the people who make it so special.

I did not know I was lost. Yet here, I feel like I am finding myself again. Finding the source of my peace of mind. My joy.

At one point yesterday, Javier, one of the young students in the class asked me, “Why you do this?”

“I love to cook,” I told him. “And I love to learn. When I go home, I can share with my family and friends what I have learned and bring a little bit of the magic of this place home to them.” (Okay. So it wasn’t quite so straightforward an answer as we both had to navigate the language gap and find the words to express what I was trying to say. But that is the gist of it!)

Over a beautiful dinner at L’Eschalote last night, C.C. and I spoke of what brings purpose to our lives. What gives us joy.

I love to create, I told him. When I am creating, I feel content. Whole. Complete. I do not do it for the ‘finished product’. I do it because the process of being immersed in the doing fills my heart with joy.

When I create, I let go of expectations and surrender to that place where I am one with being present in whatever I am doing, creating that which is flowing through me, calling out to be created.

I made tortillas yesterday on a wood fire stove. They were not perfect but they created a perfect place for me to practice being present to the beauty and wonder all around me. There was no space for judging my process or what I made. There was only joy that I was willing to let go of expectations to immerse myself in the joy of being open to learning and creating.

In the process, I was reminded of the truth of what brings me joy. The act of creating.

I am grateful.

 

 

 

 


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Adventures in cooking and eating

I cooked yesterday.

A la Mexican.

I should have realized at first that when the course started at 8am, it really means 8:30. When Rosie, the instructor arrived I was still the only student in the room. “What would you like to cook?” she asked me in her delightful Mexican accent. “Mexican or traditional to the Oxaca (Wu-ha-ca) area?” It is the state in which Huatulco lies.

“From the area,” I promptly replied.

Guillermo, the owner of Villas FaSol where we are staying, organized the class for me. I was going to take a course from an American woman named ‘Jane’.

“You do not come to Mexico to learn how to cook traditional foods from a gringo,” he laughed.

Quickly, he got on his phone and called Rosie. She teaches at a vocational school which teaches youth practical skills to find work in the tourist sector. Rosie agreed to let me sit in on a couple of her classes. Yesterday was the first day of the 8 day course she offers at Cecate.

It was a morning of pure delight.

Once we determined what to cook, we set off to the town centre with one of the other students who arrived shortly after Rosie to buy the groceries.

While the Chederaui offers up big supermarket style grocery shopping, food shopping is an experience when you visit the markets. In tiny narrow shops lit mostly by the sun streaming in through the open front, you wander through baskets laden with ripe vegetables and fruits. If you don’t see what you are looking for, you ask the tiny woman behind the counter tucked in the back and she darts further into the recesses to move boxes aside to dig out that which you want. At the butcher shop, men wearing floor length aprons stand at stainless steel counters finely shaving meat from giant slabs. Long lengths of chorizo sausage and other meats hang from a bar above the counter. You tell the proprietor how many sausage you want and he cuts down your request from the string.

There is traffic. Noise. Heat. And the staccato like firing of Spanish everywhere. People call out “Ola!” to Rosie every where we go. She calls back but we keep moving. In every store she is greeted with warmth and familiarity. She explains who I am and they smile at the gringo. That would be me. I smile back. My Spanish is very limited but a smile is universal, and I have the stamp of approval from Rosie.

Back at the school, we unload our purchases and begin.

First we must clean, Rosie tells the two young high school students who are in the course. Sink. Counters. Dishes. Everything is cleaned, though I smile as I see them place the cleaned dishes in a rack that sits on the floor by the sink. Through the open windows, Martine, the gardener at the school, chats, asking me words in English and sharing its Spanish equivalent. Sometimes, he steps into the classroom to write it on the whiteboard. I print the English word for him.

To cook, you must feel both the food and the joy, says Rosie, her smile big and wide. She translates for me, the both of us sharing words to piece our sentences together like a patchwork quilt of English and Spanish creating a mosaic of communication.

I smile. I am feeling the joy.

We make Salsa Verde. Tlayudas – a specialty of the region. Guacamole. When we are done, the four of us sit at the table and share the bounty of what we have created. Martine brings in a bag of bug like looking creatures. Rosie adds some of the contents to the Botana Oaxaquena (Huatulco Snack) that we’ve created. Chilpulin!  They all dig in. I look. I think. I wonder if I can do it.

They are bugs. Grasshoppers to be exact.

“Just don’t eat the legs,” they tell me.

I take a breath.

I pick up one of the crispy delicacies.

I pull off the tiny legs and bite in.

My kitchen mates smile and clap.

A beautiful sunset in paradise

It is all part of the experience. And what is life without experiences that make your heart feel full and overflowing?

Today, I will spend the morning with Rosie and the two young boys making Mole Negro and another Huatulco speciality, Tacos al Pastor.

What a fabulous adventure!

 

 

 

 

Cecate asked me


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Under the Mexican sun, I unwind.

I am here. Unravelling. Unwinding. Standing at the edge where the sun kisses the sand and the sea laps at my toes urging me to let go. Slow down. Release.

I am disentangling. Slowly disengaging from shoulds and musts and have to’s. Stripping away the need of measuring each passing moment against a list of things to get done. Finished. Accomplished.

I am here.

Now.

Falling. Effortlessly. Out of time’s grip into nothing but time to be. Present.

Here.

Now.

I am here.

_______________________________

We spent the day unwinding yesterday.

We made no plans. Had no agenda. We sat by the pool and read and swam and read some more. Late in the afternoon, as the sun’s shadows began to lengthen, I took the trail up and over the hillside next to the hotel, down through the forest to the beach beside us. I sat on the rocks and listened to the waves crashing, the turkey vultures keening above as they dipped and swooped and I breathed deeply. In. Out. In. Out. Like the tide. Like the sea. In. Out. In. Out.

And as the sun set and hunger called, we took a taxi to a restaurant in Tanglunde just a few kilometres from Villas FaSol, where we climbed the stairs to Restaurant Vienu and sat on the deck and ate mussels and sipped ice cold wine under an onyx sky littered with stars dancing in the night.

When we returned to FaSol, Guillermo, the owner and his lovely wife, Roscio met us with big hugs and a birthday cake for me. We sat on the patio late into the night, the surf crashing below and shared stories of our travels, our families, our lives.

Today, I am off to take a cooking class on traditional foods from the area.

C.C. may go golfing. Or not. He may decide to rest some more by the pool.  There is no agenda. No need to do anything except enjoy the beauty and wonder of the world around us.

I am here.

Unwinding.

Life is good.


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A woman of a certain age.

From where I sit…

There is no end to paradise.

There is no end to the beauty and mystery of Mexico.

After a day of travel, we arrived last night in Huatulco. Jordan, son of the Villas FaSol Manager, Gerrado, met us at the airport, his smile and hugs welcoming, to transport us to the resort.

Tucked into the shoreline in the Bahia Conejos just south of Hautulco, Villas FaSol is the perfect, ‘home away from home’. White washed domed roofs á la Mediterranean stand tall, etched against cloudless blue skies in a lush tropical garden. Below, the surf ebbs and flows into the bay, splashing up against rock strewn shoreline and a tiny, perfectly groomed, sandy beach.

The air has already heated up to day time highs, its full force softened by a gentle breeze that rustles through the palm trees and caressing my skin as it passes by reminding me of a story I wrote long ago for my daughters. it was called The WindStory Tree. In that story, the wind circled the globe collecting stories which it brought to a tall tree, a proud tree, a tree of many branches that stood in the middle of the prairies where a boy and girl lived within its sheltering branches listening to the stories of the wind.

The breeze here is like that. Carrying stories, tempting my mind to stop thinking so I can hear the beat of my heart calling me to dance, to laugh, to sing out loud and dive beneath the waters in the Bahia Conejos in search of octopus and lobster like the young men I can see from the deck where I sit in the shade watching the waters ebb in and out, in and out.

This is definitely paradise continued. No end in sight.

Our two daughters are back home safely in Canada. I feel the lack of their presence, the missing of my YaYa time in the early hours of the day.

And I smile as my heart remembers. In paradise there is no lack. No need to miss someone. In paradise there is only a joyful heart full of gratitude for the time spent together, building memories, building stories to tell the next time we see each other, or as they say in Mexico, hasta que nos encontremos de nuevo mi corazón está lleno de recuerdos tuyos”. ” (Until we meet again my heart is full of memories of you”)  Okay. I don’t really know if they say that in Spanish but it sounds pretty and I like it because it’s true. My heart is full of beautiful memories of time spent with those I love.

C.C. and I have no plans today. No expectations. Aside from grabbing a taxi into the town centre to walk around old Huatulco, lunch on a patio, we shall rest and relax savouring time together under the Mexican sun as I explore this new era into which I officially am subscribed as of yesterday when my years on earth added up to becoming a ‘senior’.

I don’t know what my 65’s and beyond will bring though C.C. and I chatted this morning over a beautiful breakfast on the deck about ‘the future’. I do know that whatever time brings me, I am blessed with family and friends, good health and work that continues to inspire me.

But, as I asked him this morning, I wonder what awaits if I choose to explore a different path?

Bedmates — looks and smells beautifully

It is the gift of this age I am embracing. There are no limits to what I can do when I let go of thinking of myself as a ‘woman of a certain age’ and step instead into the full power of being a woman of this amazing age where I am the dreamer and the dream-maker, the story-teller and the story-maker, the creator and the creative, the writer of my own journey.

Lived in Love, there is no other journey to take, no other place to be than where I am right now, not asking Mary Oliver’s question, “What will you do with this one wild and precious life” but living it wildly to my heart’s content.

Namaste.

 

 

 


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Do you tell stories that paint you as the victim?

Have you ever had an encounter with someone and throughout it all, found yourself listening more to the voice in your head telling you stories about what’s really going on rather than really listening to their words as spoken?

If you’re human, it’s inevitable.

We all do it.

Create stories in our heads about ‘the other’ even though the story isn’t based on ‘the now’ of who you’re interacting with or what’s really going on.

Let me give you an example.

If there’s one thing my beloved does that is almost always guaranteed to get my ire, it’s not call when he says he will. Now, I know my beloved. He is trustworthy. Honest. Kind. He’s also a single-minded extrovert who loves to be social. When out with others, whether a meeting or socially, he becomes so engrossed in whatever is happening he totally forgets the time and my need to be reassured he’s okay. (which isn’t necessarily healthy btw).

His single-mindedness is a fabulous trait when you’re the one with him. Not so great when you’re me, sitting at home, waiting for his call.

But here’s the thing. I know all of this about him. I know he’s not off doing nefarious deeds yet still my mind can go into overdrive, making up stories about how he is soooo inconsiderate, soooo thoughtless and, if I’m not carefully monitoring my thoughts and reining them in, how he can’t be trusted.

Even though none of that is true. The critter inside my head wants me to believe it is.

If I haven’t had a good talking with myself, when C.C. gets home, it isn’t pretty. I’m fussed and angry because my story-making has convinced me he’s wrong. I’m right.

Now, calling people when we say we will is a good thing to do. But my ire isn’t based on the here and now of who C.C. is and what I know to be true about him (he does get super-engrossed in where he’s at).

My story-making is based on past experience. It’s based on a time when I couldn’t trust someone. When they constantly lied about where they were, what they were doing, even to the point they lied about who they were doing it with and who they really were.

Because of that experience I have a fear-based belief inside me that says something like, “All men can’t be trusted.”

Not true. But if I’m not being conscious, if I’m giving in to my fears, that belief becomes the lens through which I see my beloved.

Now, I’ve spent a great deal of time and energy getting clean on that belief. I’ve delved into its roots and lovingly pulled them out to expose the fertile soil of possibility buried beneath them to the sunshine of my truth, “I am a trusting woman”. I am capable of making conscious choices to believe in myself, my capacity to discern and my ability to take care of myself. I am able to trust the trustworthy and recognize the difference between burying my head in the sand and standing tall in the light of Love.

Yet still, there are moments when I give into the darkness of the past and find myself making up stories that do not serve me well, nor C.C. Still, I am guilty of falling back into self-defeating behaviours that undermine the love and trust upon which we’ve built our relationship.

Getting clean on my story-telling means asking myself two really simple questions — and answering them honestly.

Is what I’m telling myself creating ‘we’ or is it setting us up with ‘me the victim/he the wrong-doer’?

And…

Is what I’m telling myself about him (or anyone else) an excuse for me to avoid facing something I’d rather not deal with in myself?

.See, when we’re telling stories about ‘the other’, we’re generally avoiding getting clean with the real story about ‘what’s up with me in all of that?’.

When I’m looking at C.C. (or anyone else) as the cause of my dis-orderly thinking, I’m not being present in the here and now with my thoughts, words, actions. When I paint myself as the victim, I create a world of discord and disorder.

And yes, before you jump on the obvious, it is a good idea for someone to call when they say they will.

Not calling however, is not a criminal offence that needs to be dealt with through harsh words and accusations, especially when ‘the offender’ isn’t doing it maliciously.

Bottom-line, my words and actions aren’t about ‘the other’. They’re about me. Everyone is responsible for dealing with they’re own stuff. When I’m dealing with mine by making someone else ‘the problem’, I’ve got the problem.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

I’m reading Judith E. Glaser’s fascinating book, Conversational Intelligence – How great leaders build trust and get extraordinary results. It’s what inspired my thinking about the stories I tell myself when I want to play the victim.

.

 

 


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The hero in you and me.

November 16 & 17

It was a day for heroes to share their stories. It was a day for heroes to share their light.

Yesterday, we held the second annual Circles of Hope. Over 100 people gathered to talk about why everyone needs a hero. And, why each of us needs to tap into the hero within to create a world where heroic deeds become everyday.

There were so many moments that stood out for me throughout the day.

Steve Wrigglesworth, Principle of CD Gunn Elementary school who say they ask children when they enter the school, “are you hungry?”, “are you tired?”  and then, they address those issues first before expecting a child to learn their A,B,C’s.

And Tap, who courageous shared her own story of reconciliation and the pride she now feels in embracing her Indigenous woman-self.

Dr. Allan Donsky had everyone riveted with her stories of how the brain works and why values and beliefs, and becoming our true hero within is so important. Quoting Joesph Campbell and Carl Jung, he gave everyone inspiration to do what we must to become heroes. “We don’t find ourselves,” he said. “We create ourselves.”

Sarah Austen, CEO of the Sheldon Kennedy Children’s Advocacy Centre became the hero of pretty well everyone in the room. We must stay open-hearted to the suffering of the children, she said because “we must look after each other’s children.”

And the day continued with inspiring words and vulnerable moments that left each of us feeling connected, like this is where we belong.

and when it was over, we sat in a circle and drummed thanks to Julien and his amazing Circles of Rhythm who once again joined in our circle to create space for our hearts to beat as one.

It was a day well-spent. a day to learn and grow and gain understanding and wisdom. As Garrett Smith, Activist and Founder of Camp Mohkhinstsis said, “Racism means we don’t understand. It means we just don’t know eachother yet.”

Over 100 people got to know the heroes in our midst yesterday. They got to see the hero within themselves.

One of the performers yesterday was a Connie Jakab and Movement with a Message. Their powerful hip-hop and story-telling created a sense of community, connectedness and awakening.

they have a performance in Calgary, Rewritten, November 16, 17.  If you’re in the city, you won’t want to miss this powerful troupe and their incredible story-telling that touches hearts and awakens minds to possibility and our capacity to be heroes.


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The time to get things done is now.

We had a date day yesterday. Breakfast in bed. Walk with Beaumont and then…We were on a mission (or I guess I should say, I was on a mission and C.C. decided he’d better join in if he wanted marital harmony to prevail!).

Since moving into our new home in March of this year, our bedroom has waited for us to focus on making it more livable and aesthetically pleasing. There were wicker baskets with books, a desk piled with papers and other knickknacks sitting in a box in the corner.

It was not a pleasing space. And I like pleasing spaces.

C.C. and I are challenged sometimes on what we think makes sense in a space. We go back and forth until I finally get to a place where “I can’t take it anymore. We’ve got to do something.”

Yesterday, that ‘do something’ included a trip to Ikea. An hour later, three boxes of wood and parts loaded into the back of my vehicle and we were set to tackle getting books and ‘stuff’ out of boxes and off the floor.

I have long thought that putting Ikea furniture together is also a relationship building test. Can you or can’t you get all the pieces in the right places and not have an argument? What happens when one person doesn’t intuitively know right from left and puts the left piece on the right? Will the other partner lose their cool? Will one person say not so nice things when the other drops a shelf on their foot or will they realize it was an accident and forgive easily?

Fortunately, C.C. and I passed the test with nary an awkward moment or unfortunate word!

After a few missteps with the first of three bookcases we bought, the other two went together lickety-split.

In total, the whole building process took 2.5 hours.

The decluttering and organizing and putting away… many more.

But by 8pm, I was done.

And now, I feel much better.

I think that’s the thing about getting a job done that’s been staring you in the face for awhile. Once it’s over you wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. Because in the aftermath of completion, the satisfaction of having done something that has been causing fissures of unease for awhile, is significant. And with ‘a job well done’, there’s more peace of mind. Or as C.C. likes to say, “More time for Louise to think up other chores for us to do!”  🙂

Not really… but… we do have to do something with the TV room downstairs. And then… there’s my studio. We’re still waiting for our contractor to have time to come back and begin the build-out process.

Oh, and there’s the garage.

We got a job done this weekend that was waiting for us to complete.

It’s one of several jobs that needed doing around our home, but at least this one’s off the list. We also got the eaves-troughs cleaned out of all the autumn leaves – we didn’t do that one ourselves but C.C. did organize for Darwin, our handyman, to come and get it done!  Another task checked off the list.

Now to figure out a way to convince C.C. it’s time to tackle the rest of the list.

Wish me luck.

While working together on getting tasks done doesn’t test our relationship, my desire to ‘get it done now’ sometimes collides with C.C.’s desire to take his time getting things done. For some reason my suggestion he’s procrastinating and putting it off until tomorrow doesn’t create harmony in our relationship. Go figure!