Walking In Prayer

I found a wounded bird yesterday.

A girlfriend and I had met for a walk. I’d started at the off-leash so Beaumont wouldn’t feel too constrained walking for an hour on-leash. We headed east, along the path that winds its way along the river, my friend and I chatting and catching up. Beaumont walking beside us (between tugs on the leash). We walked about forty-five minutes in one direction before turning around to walk back to our starting point.

It was then that we spied the bird. Its tiny red and black feathered body lying in the middle of the sidewalk. Shivering. Barely breathing. Almost still.

We couldn’t leave her so I used one of Beau’s bags to gently pick her up and cradle her in my hands. I could feel her tiny heart beating fast. She was alive.

So we kept walking back to our cars in the hope that she was simply stunned by an encounter with another bird or perhaps a car.

As we walked, I kept breathing on her while my girlfriend held Beau’s leash.

As we walked, I whispered words of encouragement and hope over her tiny, inert body.

I pray for you wings to fly free. I pray for you blue sky days. And whether you body recovers and you flutter your wings or take your last breath dreaming of flight, know that you are held in hands full of Love.

Step. Breathe warm air onto her body. Step. Breathe warm air onto her body.

A walking prayer.

She still wasn’t moving by the time we got back to our cars so I tucked her gently onto the front passenger seat, ensured the seat warmer was on and Beau and I drove home.

At home, C.C. found a box for her. I lay my electric heating pad in the bottom, covered it with a towel and carefully removed the plastic bag I’d carried her in while I placed her on the warm bed we’d made.

As she settled into the nest she opened her eyes and looked at me. She wasn’t shivering any more. She just wasn’t moving very much.

I waited awhile to see if her strength returned. She moved around a bit but never tried to spread her wings.

As I’ve done in the past when I’ve found wounded wildlife, I called the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conversation (AWIC) for guidance. They rescue injured and orphaned wildlife throughout the province and provide professional care to support the rehabilitation and release of all rescued wildlife. During the day, they have volunteers who will come and pick up the animals, but, if there are no volunteers available, they have a network of vets in the city where you can take the animal for care until AIWC can pick it up in the morning.

Always, whenever I’ve called AWIC, the volunteer at the end of the line has been kind, helpful, caring.

Always, the experience has reminded me of the importance of taking care of one another.

Birdsong, watching the songbirds hop about in the bushes and trees in our backyard, spying them sitting on branches as I walk, always brings me joy. It’s as if the birds know we humans need their song and presence to lift our spirits.

We need to take care of the birds.

We found a wounded bird yesterday. I carried her in my hands and breathed warm air onto her almost weightless body,

She reminded me of how easy it is to take care of one another. How sharing a smile, a kind word, a gentle gesture eases the burden for those who have fallen along life’s paths.

I do not know if that bird will fly again or if she will gain her angel’s wings. I do know the songs she sang, the joy she brought into this world is a gift of nature that matters to our world.

Whether she takes to the skies again or gains her angel wings, I am grateful for our time together. She reminded me of the need to always walk gentle of heart, connected to nature.

Learning to live in harmony with nature is critical to the survival of our species. Living in harmony begins with taking care of one another.

We found a wounded bird yesterday. Her song was silent. Her wings still.

In our brief time together she reminded me of the need to care for one another. She reminded me that there is power in prayer.

And in that encounter, I am reminded of the constancy of my mother’s prayers. Tomorrow marks one year since my mother took her last breath. As I sit in the silence of the morning, as I walk in the woods, along the river, on busy city streets, I hear her whispered incantations showering me with care. They rustle in my heart like a sweet, gentle birdsong filling the air with Love.

It’s Sunday which means, it’s time for another Sunday’s with Beaumont conversation.

Today, Beau tries a little Latin with his it’s time to ‘carpet the day’ with fun attitude! Ok. It’s actually carpe diem but his Latin isn’t very good…

He does hope you come and join in the fun on his blog today! He’s hoping you click the link below and come play!

CLICK HERE

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.

May Every Child Know Love

Rain. Sleet. Fog. Snow. Blue skies. Darkness falling.

Roger’s Pass

It was all present on my drive home from Vancouver to Calgary on Wednesday. I had planned to drive through on Tuesday but a snowstorm derailed my plans and I got to spend an extra day with my grandchildren, daughter and son-in-love.

I thought about staying until the weekend but the forecast was for more snow later in the week and into the weekend. Best to ‘carpe diem’ and slip through between the storm past and the storm forecast.

I left early – my goal, to reach home before darkness fell.

I just made it.

My heart is full. My heart arches with longing to once again hold these precious little one’s in my arms. To laugh with them. To read stories and make them up too! To sing silly songs and watch Blippi, my grandson’s favourite TV show, so that I can hear his laughter and watch him do his ‘excavator dance’.

And now I’m home. Separated by the miles and miles of land between us and the snow-capped mountains that edge the horizon, their serrated ridges a reminder of my grandson’s dinosaur inspired imitations when he gets out of the bath. Wrapped in his blue towel with the stuffed dinosaur head, he stomps around the house shaking his body from side-to-side and waving his arms as he roars. I pretend to be scared, cover my face and cry out, “Oh No! A dinosaur! I’m so scared!” And then, he laughs and giggles and we go through it all over again. And again. And again.

I remember the moment my daughters were born. I remember that feeling of pure all-encompassing love that descended upon me and enveloped me with its abiding presence. I remember feeling so overwhelmed with love that I felt like I’d never breathe deeply again. I remember holding them and never wanting to let go.

And then I did. Let go. I had no choice. To be their parent meant creating space for them to find their wings and learn how to fly.

And then, my grandson and now my granddaughter arrived and I feel those feelings of not wanting to let go and I know those feeling of being so deeply immersed in their presence the world outside fades and I feel enveloped in Love. Consumed. Captivated. Mesmerized. Entranced. Enchanted.

The difference is, this time I get to experience it all while witnessing my daughter transform into the kind of mother every child deserves. Loving. Kind. Patient. Imaginative. Creative. Caring. Funny. Playful. Permissive without being domineering. Disciplined without being controlling.

She is soft spoken even in the face of a tired child’s tantrum. She lovingly honours each child’s individual needs, creating space for their unique personalities to shine through. Even at three months old, she respects her daughter’s expressions, responding with loving-attention no matter the time of day or night. She creates a safe and courageous container of love for their children to shine and learn and grow and flourish.

The sadness of leaving is lightened by the memories of my time spent with them all and the knowing that, in Alexis and my son-in-love, these two precious beings have been gifted parents who will love fiercely and stand steadfast in their promise to love them forever and always.

What a beautiful gift of Love. For their children. Each other. The world.

May all children in this world know they are loved. They are safe. They are precious and unique.

Namaste.

Painting Through The Shudders

There is a world of curious ‘mishaps’ beneath this painting. A world of giving into the questions. Like, “Hmmmm…. if I do [this], I wonder what will happen?” Or, “I really like the way it looks now. I wonder what would happen if I let go of the need to ‘like it’?”

Letting go of the need to ‘like it’ is hard for me. I want my art to be pretty. To be pleasing to the eye. To not disturb.

And that’s why I art journal. To strengthen my ‘letting go’ muscles.

I like to create ‘pretty’.

This is the first monoprint – I really, really liked it.

Pretty doesn’t always serve me well. Pretty can mean I’m playing it safe. Playing it for affirmation. Playing it for the outcome – which will hopefully become something I can sell.

Art Journalling isn’t about creating work to sell. It’s about selling yourself on the idea that creating for the pure joy of creating is a form of meditation, revelation and restoration.

This page had a couple of iterations. The first one above, which I really, really liked. The one on the right, which I hesitated to share because it makes my creative nerves shudder. And then the final one which makes me smile.

The Shudders

The really, really liked one got buried beneath the shudders one because I was curious about what would happen if I painted botanicals on top.

The final piece, which is all about experimentation – and a lesson in letting go – is because I felt compelled to cover up the ‘shudders’.

The blue petals are created from the masking tape I used to block off the edges of the page in my art journal. Its patterns were made as I monoprinted on the paper.

When I pulled them off the page after the paint had dried, I didn’t immediately crumble them up and throw them into the wastebasket. The patterns that had developed as I monoprinted fascinated me so I carefully hung them from the edge of my worktable. I didn’t have any idea what I would use them for, or if I would use them for anything. They simply intrigued me so I decided to save them.

It wasn’t until I ended up with ‘the shudders’ on top of the original monoprinted background and thought, ‘Oh my. Now that’s not particularly pleasing,’ that I thought about using the saved blue masking tape.

Which meant, I had to dive in and pull another monoprint of the page and start reworking it. (The white striated background)

And here’s the thing.

How we do one thing is how we do all things.

I was afraid of ruining the monoprint I really liked and hesitated to do anything else to it. But, I also knew my hesitation was fear-based and wanted to confront my fear – which I am very familiar with.

It’s all about that ‘precious thing’ syndrome. Holding onto things because I deem them precious, or because I don’t know what I might do with them and don’t want to let them go because I fear I’ll be limiting my options later.

Like the blue masking tape. I didn’t have a really good reason to hold onto it other than that it intrigued me. Sure, finding a use for it was a bonus but if I step back and reflect on things I’ve held onto because of the fear of letting go was high, I’d find a wealth of material for personal exploration of my ‘fear of letting go’ syndrome.

Like right now. I fear letting this blog post go because I’m not sure I’ve really explored it adequately.

But, I also know this is a lifelong exploration for me. This post doesn’t have to be perfect or beautiful, or even witty.

In fact, it doesn’t need to be anything other than a reflection of where I’m at right now and how I’m navigating these spaces.

The biggest ‘fear’ to overcome right now, is my fear of showing ‘my ugly’.

And the ‘shudder painting’ is all about ‘my ugly’.

I don’t like it. I want to ignore it. I want to pretend it didn’t happen.

Life, like art, doesn’t work that way. ‘The ugly’ is as vital to a rich and beautiful life as the pretty.

Finding value in ‘the ugly’ enriches my life. It creats vibrant, unexpected gifts that keep expanding possibility into sacred knowing of the essence of who I am when I let go of being anything and anyone other than who and how I am in this moment right now.

Real. Vulnerable. Embodied in the present moment. Breathing into the joy held within the darkness and the light. The joy and the sorrow. The beauty and the ugly. The known and the unknown.

Namaste

Nature Will Always Have Its Way

Autumn leaves turn green to gold to rust. A bluebell clings to summer’s embrace.

The calendar turns another page. Memory clings to falling beauty.

The seasons turn. The sun rises and sets and rises again. The river flows and freezes and flows again, a fluid stream of time flowing freely through memory’s frozen banks.

The end becomes the beginning of spring becoming the end again and again.

And through it all, beauty ripples in seasonal glory unblemished by memories of clinging vines locked in winter’s icy kisses.

Seasons turn.

Life moves forward with time, never back.

Nature will always have its way.

Mystery. Magic. Musings.

Eco-dyed 100% cotton

I love to experiment, to explore, to experience the mystery of what is possible when I let the ‘what ifs’ of attempting new things be my guide.

What if I add this rusty old nail to a vat of plants in water? What if I include it in a piece of cloth I’m rolling up that has been decorated with leaves?

What if...

I have been exploring the amazing world of eco-dyeing.

According to one website I checked out, eco-dyeing is, “…a contemporary application of the traditions of natural dyeing. In eco printing or dyeing, plants are enclosed in textiles or paper, bundled by winding over rods or stacked in layers and then steamed or immersed in hot water to extract the pigments and produce a print made with plant dyes.” (Source)

For me, it’s a whole lot of possibility steamed up in a pot of mystery and magic giving rise to retrospective musings of what I’ve learned, experienced, witnessed, observed…

Did I also mention its messy? It’s that too. But so much fun the mess becomes inconsequential.

Jar of cloths ready for the sun

I started the process of dyeing these cloths earlier in the week. I laid out my plants and ephemera on the cotton, rolled and tied them up, placed them in a jar to soak in a mixture of iron water and then, put them into the sun.

Sun-dyed only.

The cloth to the left was sun-dyed only. The other two were sun dyed and steamed on the stove for a couple of hours. The only reason the first cloth wasn’t steamed is that I was curious (and impatient) to see how the process went and unrolled it when I brought the jar inside. That’s when I decided steaming was the next step.

Sun-dyed and steam-bathed

And that’s the beauty of any creative process. It puts a spotlight on the traits we possess that can sometimes trip us up.

Take my impatience for example. My beloved likes to tease me by calling my impatience ‘legendary’. I didn’t think of myself as impatient until I reflected on what ‘inspired’ me to unravel the whole role of the first cloth to check it out. If I’d tested it by unrolling just a smidgen of a corner, I’d have seen it needed steaming for a darker imprint.

That said, I like the juxtaposition of the heavily printed versus lightly printed piece of fabric.

Sun-dyed and steam bathed

Now, here’s the big question – what will I do with these pieces?

I don’t know is the honest answer. The answer to make me look a little less unstructured is, “I can use them as journal covers. I can collage them into a page. I’m sure there’s other things I can do too!”

And that is where the fun comes in.

I don’t know what I want to do with the fabrics. I do know I love the mystery and the science of eco-dyeing. I love the experience of learning something new and the way it challenges me to keep learning more.

So… I’ll keep experimenting with it just for the fun of the exploration.

And that is one of the lessons this foray into eco-dyeing has really put into the spotlight for me.

It isn’t about the ‘why’ or the outcome. It’s all about the journey. About how much joy, laughter, curiosity, inner-knowing and a wealth of other aspects of creative expression that naturally arise from the exploration of what I know, and what I don’t know about myself and the world around me.

And, as I am learning as I explore this new medium, what I don’t know is greater than what I think I know. What a wonderful mystery to explore!

A Prayer for Present Me

Watercolour and acrylic inks on watercolour paper – 9 x 12″

I didn’t know I was still carrying energy around a long-ago event until my daughter told me about my grandson waking up inconsolable with a fever.

Ah yes. I remember those feelings. That sense of helplessness. Of worry and fear grappling for dominance in my mind.

She was three months old. Thanksgiving. She’d been fussy for a couple of days. I asked Wanda, our next door neighbour who was a pediatric nurse, for help. What do you think? Should I take her to a doctor?

She’s just teething, Wanda asserted.

I wanted to believe her but the next day when she would not stop crying, (Alexis never cried as an infant) I insisted we take her into the Children’s hospital emergency room. We were on our way to my then in-laws for Thanksgiving dinner. Dinner can wait, I told my then husband. This is more important.

I remember when they took her from my arms and placed her on a cold steel examining table.

I remember when they put a tiny IV needle into her scalp.

I remember holding her and trying to soothe her and all the while she is mewling and I am forcing myself not to cry because I need to be calm for her.

She was admitted to hospital that day. An infection. A spiking temperature.

She was there a week.

I only went home to shower and change my clothes.

I could not leave her alone no matter how kind and caring the nurses and doctors.

I could not leave her alone.

I had forgotten about those moments and days 34 years ago until I heard about my grandson. He is okay. Whatever was ailing him passed through and he is once again his sunny self.

I am grateful.

That he has weathered this storm, whatever its source and that I can breathe again through memory, letting time wash away the traces of those moments and days long ago when I felt so helpless, so incompetent and like such a failure as a mother.

How could I not have known when first she started to cry that it was something serious?

How could I not have immediately whisked her off to the doctor?

And I smile.

I remember.

I never wanted to be ‘one of those mothers’ who was constantly dragging their child to a doctor imagining the worst.

I wanted to assume the best. To be calm, collected, thoughtful in everything I did.

Years later, when Alexis was about 12, she’d break her foot climbing the doorframe to the kitchen (I know. It was a thing to do.) Not wanting to foster her assertions that something was seriously wrong after having listened so many times to her cries that a fall had resulted in a break which ended up with unnecessary x-rays, I put ice on her foot and told her if it was still hurting in the morning, we’d get it checked out.

Sure enough, this time, the break was real.

And again, I wondered, how could I not have known? How could I be such an incompetent mother?

I’m smiling as I write that. I think being a mother has taught me more about acceptance of my limitations and fears as well as made me aware of my blind-spots and ego’s need for reassurance than anything else I’ve ever done in my life.

Being a mother humbled me. It still does.

And being a YiaYa has given me the gift of remembering those places where old fears still linger, where charred spots in my psyche can still burn.

And I say a prayer of gratitude. And I say a prayer of hope. And I say a prayer of remembering what it means to be human.

We do our best and our best is all we can do.

Namaste.

___________________________________________________-

As part of the course I’m taking online with Orly Avineri, the invitation was to take one image and repeat it 3 times in a journal page.

This page in my altered book journal, My Mother’s Prayers, is called, A Prayer for My Inner Child — it became 3 prayers, one for my inner child, my present me and my future me. My mother always lit candles for her children, particularly when something was going on in our lives. I’m pretty sure, 34 years ago she burnt a candle and prayed for Alexis every day.

A Prayer for My Inner Child
May you always feel safe in my arms of Love, free to run with abandon in the garden of dreams blossoming in my heart. May you never fear that I will desert you or put you at risk. May you know peace within me.
A Prayer for My Present Self
May courage be my constant companion, drawing me deeper and deeper into the great mystery of life where I am bound in sacred partnership within the luminous present opening my heart to Love always.
A Prayer for My Future Self
May you feel deeply and passionately connected to the exquisite nature and intimacy of the whole dancing fearlessly in the ephemeral nature of the embodied present. May you dance with life, falling forever into Love.
And so it was.
And so it is.
And so it will be.
Forever and Always.

Ivy – God’s Gift

Ivy Portia – born Friday, June 26th

Between chattering and playing with a two-year-old and helping my daughter and son-in-love as they adjust to life with a newborn, I enter into a moment of quiet.

My grandson has gone off with his dad for an adventure. Ivy, my granddaughter, is sleeping skin-to-skin on her mother’s chest as her mother tries to rest too.

“The midwife says you should try to get a minimum of an hour a day of skin-to-skin contact with a newborn,” my daughter tells me.

I smile and breathe into the wisdom of midwifery and skin-to-skin contact.

My granddaughter Ivy was born on Friday, June 26th. On Sunday, I drove the 1,000 kilometres to the coast to be with my daughter and her family for a couple of weeks. In these days of Covid, flying feels too risky.

I feel so incredibly blessed. So grateful to be here. To be with them as they navigate this new territory. As my daughter exclaimed on Monday afternoon, looking at her husband and son who surrounded her and the infant Ivy on their bed, “We’ve got two children! We’re a family of four!”

I smiled at both the surprise in her voice and the delight.

Along with fidelity and faithfulness, Ivy means, “God’s Gift.”

Ivy is a gift. Ivy, my granddaughter, is named after my grandmother. My two aunts, one in her late 80s the other in her early 90s are both ‘over the moon’ with gratitude and delight.

Auntie Eveline phones early in the morning from France to express her pleasure. Aunti Maggie phones from Pondicherry, India where she lives. It is the same city where she and my mother and their 8 siblings were born and raised.

“Thank you so much for bringing our mother back to us,” Auntie Maggie says. “Thank you for giving her our mother’s name.”

“We didn’t choose the name,” Alexis, my eldest daughter says. “Ivy did. Before she was born.”

Alexis was very connected to my mother and her Euro-Asian lineage. She always asked her for stories of her past. To share with her tales of long ago days in Pondicherry, a place my mother called her ‘Shangri-la.”

It is as if those stories are imprinted within the DNA of this tiny infant. As if, India, the land of sacred cows wandering crooked streets and incense wafting in smoky tendrils into the sky and monks chanting and moonlight shimmering over the Ganges and waves of the Indian Ocean crashing into the shores of Pondicherry, has come alive with her birth.

I am, like my aunts, over the moon. Delighted. Ecstatic.

Big heart. Big brother.

And my grandson comes in, looks deeply into my eyes, turns and looks into his mother’s and looks back at me. “You have mama’s eyes,” he says and my heart flutters as gracefully as a butterfly drifting on a warm ocean breeze redolent of frangipani and sandalwood and the smell of spicy curry wafting up from a street vendor’s stall.

I breathe and say a prayer of gratitude for this moment. For these days of holding a tiny infant in my arms and feeling the threads of history weaving their magic through time and space.

I give thanks for the laughter of a two-year-old who delights in YiaYa’s French Toast (said with an over-indulgent French accent) and who insists the meat on his plate is not le poulet as YiaYa tries to tell him. It is chicken. And who then smiles so beguilingly my heart flutters again and I am lifted off on a flight of fancy, spinning tales of race cars spinning their tires and pandas who like to spin tales like the Walrus of Lewis Carroll‘s lore and talk of many things…

Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
      Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot — and whether pigs have wings.

I breathe and give thanks for the strong, resilient women who are my ancestors, the story-tellers and story-makers and story-keepers of this web of love that is our family circle. Flung wide across this globe, we are connected in a circle spun as tight as ivy weaving a lush green blanket of leaves along the path of history meandering its way through time, leading me to this moment where I sit and hold my infant granddaughter and am surrounded by love.

These are the days my friends. These are the days.

Namaste.