Let me dare to hear the wild within calling me to dance.
Let me dare to invite the wildness of my heart to set my spirit free to leap and cavort as I throw my arms up above my head in a joyful salutation to the sun and the moon and the stars.
Let me dare to spin and twirl beneath a cloudless sky of blue infinity laughing and exalting in the sheer delight of being alive.
Let me dare to paint the world with childlike wonder, casting doubt and self-consciousness aside as I spread my arms wide to capture all the colours of the rainbow dancing in the magic, wonder and beauty of this day.
Let me dare to seek miracles, to believe in love and let go of holding onto unforgiveness and regrets.
Let me dare to drain every juicy ounce of goodness from the day so that as night settles in and I lay my head upon my pillow, my soul is soaked in a river of joyful celebration infusing my dreams with sighs of contentment for this day well lived beyond the realms of my imagination.
Let me dare to forget about the steps as I leap into this dance of life with wild abandon.
I have often written about my awe of the muse’s ability to flow in and permeate my body causing my fingertips to ooze vowels and consonants that form words marching into sentences I never imagined could escape from my keyboard.
The manifesto above was just such an occurrence.
Unbidden, but most welcome, the muse arrived as I sat down at my desk in the quiet darkness of morning light not yet broken and began to write.
I knew I wanted to write about the latest She Dares art journal page I’d created — I just didn’t know what.
I needn’t have worried. The muse knew. All I had to do was get out of my head to let her flow freely through my body onto the page (in this case the computer screen but you know what I mean) and become a manifesto I didn’t know I needed/wanted/had to write out.
My wish, the one I dare to dream, is that this manifesto speaks to your heart. I dare to dream you too will rise up and twirl about in childlike wonder of all the magic, beauty and awe in your world.
Many years ago, after the man who had promised to love me ’til death do us part was arrested while trying to make the death part my reality, I came back to Calgary for a visit. It was my eldest daughter’s 18th birthday and I wanted to be here, no matter that he was out on parole. I needed to be here for her big day.
That particular evening, I had dropped my daughter and her friends off at a bar to celebrate and driven back to my girlfriend’s where I was staying. I parked on the far side of the townhouse complex where she lives and took a not-well-lit shortcut between two houses.
I remember my thoughts were full of the joy and happiness of being with my daughters and friends earlier. I wasn’t thinking about ‘him’ or the dark spaces through which I walked.
And then, one of ‘a woman’s worst fears’ materialized out of the darkness. A dark figure separated itself from the deep shadows of the bushes lining the path and called out to me.
My response was immediate. Visceral. I did not stop. I did not listen. I screamed and ran.
Fortunately for me at the time, my girlfriend seldom locked her front door. (she does now)
I threw the door open, slammed it shut behind me. Locked it, crouched down on the floor and began to sob.
My girlfriend came running. I screamed between sobbing breaths, “He’s out there!”
She knew immediately who the ‘he’ was. She dialed 911. Police came. Hawcs helpicopter. Dogs.
And all the while, my girlfriend held me as I sobbed, just as she’d done so many times throughout that 4 year 9 month relationship.
We’d hidden together in her powder room once while he pounded on the front door and then the deck door looking for me. She’d listened to my endless fears and worries, tried to coax me out of my inaction. Tried to encourage me to leave him. I kept going back after every beak-up until I came to believe he was all I deserved. His abuse was all I was worth.
And then, he was arrested and went to prison and I got the miracle of getting my life back.
I had no intention of letting it go. This time, when he jumped out of the bushes, I screamed and ran.
And still, all these years later, stories of women being abducted, of being murdered by strangers or those known to them, awaken those memories leaving me with no recourse but to write myself out, back into balance, back into the light.
To use my words to let others know, “You are not alone. You are not crazy. Abuse hurts. Abuse tears apart your peace of mind, your sense of self, your belief in your worthiness, your capacity to stop it.”
You cannot change an abuser. You are not that powerful. You can stop abuse in your life. You are that powerful. To stop it, you must run in the opposite direction and never look back.
All these years later, when I step out for my nightly walk with Beaumont, I still feel tiny fissures of anxiety, particularly when stories like Sarah Everard’s are in the news. Those tiny sparks of fear whisper (at least they no longer howl) at me to go back. Go back. Stay safe inside.
I will not let fear dictate my life.
I will not be held ransom to the past.
And so, I walk. In the dark. I used to walk up the hill along the tree-lined edge of our property and the ones beyond, until one night I happened upon a man sleeping in the bushes.
It wasn’t his fault he startled me. He was just looking for a place to rest, out of sight. But when Beaumont the Sheepdoodle caught whiff of a stranger in the dark, he barked and pulled at his leash and the man woke up.
This time, I didn’t have to run. He stood up, gathered his backpack and took off. Fast.
I started walking in the other direction after that. Out our driveway, down the hill towards the avenue where Beaumont and I walk along the well-lit road. When we come to the pedestrian bridge I hesitate. There are huge planters on the bridge. Great places to hide between the pools of light cast by the streetlamps along the walkway.
I hesitate and then I take a breath and keep on going. I will defy the darkness. I will defy my fears and maybe, one day, I’ll be able to walk that path without its company.
Until then, I persist and keep walking with Beaumont by my side. He looks like a big fluffy marshmallow, but he’s got a wild bark.
I like that. It makes me feel safe.
Full disclosure: I have not been as keen to walk at night lately. Without my realizing it, fear had overridden my desire to defy the dark.
In writing it out, I see what fear has done.
Beaumont and I will be walking after dark, tonight.
The original quote for this page read, “They said, don’t be so aggressive. It’s a real turn-off. She said, I’m not here to turn you off or on. I’m here to wake you up.”
I debated. A lot. About leaving it as it was. Because… well you know… would people think I was being too aggressive?
And there’s the catch. Someone will always have something to say if we speak our minds. Speak out. Stand up. Get heard. Get seen. Do what we want. Go where we want to go. Ask for what we want. Demand our rights. Fight for justice.
If we act sexually. Act demurely. Dress provocatively Dress plainly. Wear make-up. Wear no make-up. Colour our hair. Don’t colour our hair. Speak loudly. Speak softly. Laugh uproariously. Don’t laugh enough. Sit with our legs crossed. Sit with our legs open. Stand with our chest thrust out to (so they say) ‘show ’em what we’ve got’. Stand with our shoulders hunched to hide what we’ve got. Put on weight. Lose weight.
Want to be a doctor. Want to be a nurse. Sit at the boardroom table. Sit behind the reception desk. Be an outside-the-home working mom. Be a stay-at-home working mom (because no matter how you cut it, women are always working wherever they are). Put our children in day-care. Have a nanny. Use the TV as a nanny while we try to clean up the messes all around us.
Sure, we’ve got options. But those options always come at a price. And that price is based on whether or not we ‘fit’ into a man’s world and how men will see us in their world.
It’s not their world.
It’s our world too.
A friend sent me an article from the BBC this morning about two sisters who have begun a campaign to stop catcalling on the streets of their city.
Let’s be clear. Their campaign is not to stop women fromcatcalling men. It’s to stop men believing it is their right to harass women as they walk down the street. Sit on buses. Subways. Theatres. Stand in hotel lobbies waiting for friends (which happened to me once. A man decided I must be looking for someone to pay me to have sex with them because I was standing alone in a hotel lobby waiting for a friend for a drink. (I almost added how I was dressed which goes to show how insidious the thought patterns are. How I was dressed doesn’t matter.) He came up, stood beside me, flashed some money at me and asked if I wanted to go have a good time with him. I (politely – my mother always told me to be polite) informed him I was waiting for a friend. He kept persisting. Eventually, I told him to get lost. He informed me I didn’t have to be rude about it. Excuse me? You are trying to solicit me against my wishes to have paid-for-sex with you and I’m being rude?)
When I told my friend, who was a male, what had happened he laughed and said, “Maybe you should just take it as a compliment.” I didn’t throw my drink at him but I did set him straight. It wasn’t about paid-for-sex. It’s about my right to stand where I want, how I want without being accosted by strangers who believe it is their right to say whatever they want about my body and what I do with it.
Anyway, where was I?
Right. The article my friend sent me. (Thank you IM for inspiring me again!)
The fact that this behaviour continues is not a shock because historically, women have been blamed for men’s bad behaviour. Women have been forced to adapt their ways to avoid unwanted sexual advancements.
What is shocking is the fact that so few men are waking up and telling one another, “We Must Change.”
To those men who have. Kudos to you. But dare I say it or will you think me too aggressive? It’s about time.
To those who still believe Boys will be Boys – Change your belief system. Hold yourselves accountable.
Boys learn from men. When men think it’s okay to catcall a woman/girl walking down the street or to pass by and stick their hand out the window of the car they’re riding in and slap the derriere of a woman walking along the sidewalk (as happened to my eldest sister) then boys will continue to believe it’s not their fault. They’re not accountable because ‘she’ shouldn’t dress that way or walk down that street alone because… That’s just askin’ for ‘it’.
It’s the ‘it’ that needs to change.
The ‘it’ of believing your words don’t have impact. Your acts don’t make a difference.
The ‘it’ of believing when you catcall a stranger’s daughter or sister or niece or cousin or mother, it’s just ‘fun’ or boys being boys. No harm done.
There is harm being done. And if ‘it’ can happen to a stranger’s daughter or sister or cousin or niece or mother, ‘it’ is happening to the women you love in your life too.
Call me aggressive. Call me rude.
But do not call me names while I walk down the streets where I have the same rights as you to pass by unmolested by your words telling me what you know I want.
You don’t know what I want but I’m willing to tell you.
I hadn’t planned on a #ShePersisted painting when I entered my studio. I’m working on a collaborative project with another artist and yesterday, my goal was to complete our current section of the project.
And then, the muse whispered and I listened and #RainbowWoman was born. No. 66 in the series.
It started with the background. I had some excess black paint on my GelliPad (a rubber pad used for monoprinting). It looked too inviting to waste so I randomly imprinted some leaves onto it and took a print.
The black and white leaves looked inviting, so I kept going.
“Between black and white there is a rainbow of colour,” the muse whispered.
Earlier, I’d found a cocktail napkin in a drawer. Its flowers were bright and colourful. Perfect for the painting.
I separated the layers of the napkin, cut out some of the flowers and collaged them to the black and white background.
And that’s when the real magic happened.
The muse kept whispering. Kept flowing,
And I kept listening and flowing with her. That’s when #66 of the #ShePersisted series whispered, “Bring me into being.”
And so, with the muse as my co-conspirator, I danced with creative abandon she she came into being.
That’s the thing about creativity. It isn’t that its just for the ‘few’. It’s for and in all of us. Creativity is in constant flow-state. All of life is a creative dance with nature. How we express our knowing of it, our awareness and expression of its delights is as colourful as a rainbow full of possibilities.
Whether or not there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow doesn’t change the rainbow’s beauty.
Creative expression isn’t about the beauty of the output either. It’s about diving into the pot of life’s colourful possibilities bubbling up, seeking expression.
When we stop judging whether we’re creative, or not, and allow ourselves to express ourselves in our own unique voice, nothing can dim the beauty of our creative expressions – not even our self-criticisms.
The world is filled with black and white. You can say you’re creative, or not. It doesn’t really matter whether you accept you’re creative, or not. Fact is, the world is filled with over 7 billion unique expressions of life. We are each a creative expression in action. Each a creative force of nature. Living this one beautiful, precious life awakened to our inherent creativity frees us to express ourselves in all the colours of the rainbow and, it allows us to seek answers, solutions ways of solving big and small problems beyond the black and white of what other’s see as the limits of possibility.
Because, in between the black and white, there are a rainbow of colours waiting to be explored.
Beaumont the Sheepadoodle and I are walking back from the river.
He is not great on-leash. Some might say he’s awful. (Sorry Beau. It’s true.)
He tugs and pulls, especially if we’re on our way to the park. On the way home is not as bad. Unless he sees a squirrel. Or another dog. Or a leaf blowing in the wind. Or a butterfly. Or… you get the picture.
Anyway. We’re walking home and he’s pulling and I want him to pay attention. To me.
I stop about 10 feet from the crosswalk at Bowness Road. The deal is, when I stop, he has to stop and sit and then make eye contact with me before we move on.
He does the stop and sit well. The eye contact. Well, let’s just say he can take his time getting there. Like lots of time.
This particular day I’m into what feels like minute gazillion of waiting and he’s still looking around refusing to make eye contact when a voice behind me says, “Excuse me ma’am?”
Startled, I turn my head and see a young boy, about 12 years old, on a bike. He’s stopped on the road beside me and is looking at me with concern.
My mind immediately jumps to, ‘I wonder if he’s lost’ when he says, “Do you need help crossing the street ma’am?”
I almost burst out laughing but manage to control myself and reply (sweetly, I promise), “Oh. Thank you so much. That’s so kind of you. But no, I’m just waiting for my dog to pay attention to me before we cross.”
The young boy nods his head (I’m not sure he believed that I didn’t need help) but with an “Oh. Okay,” he gets back on his bike and rides off.
I didn’t wait for Beau to make eye contact. I pressed the crosswalk light and we crossed.
I had something to prove.
Footnote: This happened shortly after I read one of those memes on FB about how what’s wrong with the younger generation today is they respect no one because parents/teachers can no longer use corporal punishment.
My father used to give me the strap when I was young, the writer said, and I’m okay.
I disagree on two counts.
You’re not okay if you think having your butt or hands strapped as a child didn’t hurt you.
And the second count, as this young boy so beautifully showed, there’s nothing wrong with the younger generation (other than perhaps their eyesight).
Worry and being present cannot inhabit the same space. Worry is about future events. It focuses on obsessive thoughts of events that may or may not happen. Being present is exactly that – you are here in the now, free of worry, experiencing this moment.
Worry feeds your head brain with the illusion only it will keep you safe from the worst of what you think might happen.
The heart knows best how to stay present in the moment. The body becomes embodied in the present when your heart beats freely without fear clouding your senses and muddying up your peace of mind.
Listen to your heart. Let it run wild. Let it leap over obstacles. Dive deep into unknown waters. Soar high into cloudy skies and limitless blue possibilities.
When you heart runs wild worry falls away, fear subsides and life flows freely.
Let your heart run wild.
Since Covid became a ‘real’ thing in our world, my beloved and I have practiced self-isolation. Always there has been a niggling worry at the back of my mind about what if…?
What if he gets infected? What if he doesn’t survive? What if…
I tell myself, that’s just worry Louise about future events over which you have no control. Breathe and be in the moment. Breathe into your heart, let it run wild with delight in this moment where you are both well and healthy and savouring this secluded time together. Let worry go.
Worry responds, “Go ahead. Try. But you’re gonna fail. I’m stronger than your heart. Remember. I live in your brain. I know everything.”
“Oh no you don’t,” the wisdom that breathes deeply within my belly responds, coursing with energy up through my body, into the far extremities of my arms, my hands, my fingertips that feel the air moving all around me. With effortless grace, the energy flows down into my legs, my ankles, my feet, connecting and grounding me to the earth.
“The heart sends more messages to you every moment of every day than you send to it, my belly informs my brain. “You think your way through life. The heart feels its way into and through every moment. It flows with life-giving blood that nourishes my organs, my cells, my skin. It breathes life into the essence of my being alive.”
My heart knows life, intimately.
My brain only knows what it thinks life is. It cannot feel it. Experience it. Taste it. It takes the whole body – head included — nourished by the heart’s blood-pounding ways, to do that.
The heart feels everything. The body joins it in communion with all of nature. The brain says, “Let me think about that.”
The heart and body respond, “Come, run wild with us through life’s forests. Come, swim with us in its seas of plenty. Let your thoughts rest within the delight of this moment right now. Let worry go.”
I breathe and heed the call of the wild.
My worry serves no purpose than to pull me away from the exquisite nature of this moment right now.
“The purpose of self-isolation is to stem the worry, Louise,” my heart whispers lovingly. “It’s the right thing to do for both of you. It isn’t about divining the future, it’s about building safe, courageous space to live confidently in this moment right now knowing, deep within all your being, that in this moment right now, you are alive within the precious, holy, sacred gift of life.”
In these exceptional times, as in all times, every breath counts. Every breath is precious. Anything that disrupts the flow has the potential to ignite my worry – if I let it.
Breathing deeply into the beauty of this moment, I let my worry drift away upon the river of life that sustains me.
As I type this morning, I am listening to Ludovico Einaudi’s recording of 12 Songs From Home. The album notes state, “… at the height of Italy’s lockdown, Ludovico Einaudi waited until his family had gone to bed before taking out his iPhone to record himself at the piano. 12 Songs from Home is the result — an intimate record of a solitary artist, performing pieces from his most acclaimed solo albums.”
To my ears, and heart, the music he shares feels like the river that flows outside my window. Liquid. Velvety. Flowing. Deep and joyful. Soft. Sensuous. Soulful.
Yesterday, when I entered the studio to create a spread for my Sheltered Wonder journal, I put on Coldplay’s Everyday Lifealbum and danced to Arabesque. It wasn’t a ‘dance by numbered steps’ kind of dance. It was more chaotic, free-flowing, arms moving anywhere they wanted to go, body following, sometimes leading. It felt like liquid movement that stirred my senses awakening my connection to the muse’s flow and the art of creating.
Fact is, the muse is always flowing. It’s just sometimes I am deaf to her entreaties to create from the depths of my being present in this moment, right now.
Which is why I begin every creative session in my studio with a dance. Moving my body breaks down the barriers I’ve created in my head to keep me separate from the muse’s exhortations that I let go, set sail, dance free.
My original intention was to go consecutively through the 5 Wonder Rules at the front of the Shelter Wonder art journal I’m creating as a reflection of this time in self-isolation. (Be Curious. Stay Open. Seek Beauty. Find Value. Share Grace.)
I created a two-page spread for Be Curious on the weekend and was intending to work on Stay Open yesterday. And while the image and words that appeared could be a visual guide for, Stay Open, my heart knows this page was created with Seek Beauty at the root of its conception.
And so, I let go of creating in the order my mind says makes sense, and fall into the grace of the rhythm of the muse where all that makes sense is to simply let go and create.
I am grateful.
In the muse’s beautiful song, I dance free of having to do it, ‘the right way, and find myself blessed with the gift of being in the grace of the simplicity that comes when I let go and create, or as Dale suggests in her comment on Wonder. Dream. Dare. “Enjoy and do. Enjoy and do.”
About the painting:
I tried a new technique yesterday that I learned in an online course with Lorna Horn. I love the ethereal nature of her technique of painting leaves and, as I always do, I adapted it to my own expression.
The woman in the bud is a surprise. I had no intention of painting a woman — the spread was going to be all leaves and buds in various poses and then, I saw an image in an artbook I often use as reference and she appeared on the page.
That is the beauty of the creative process. There is no right nor wrong way. There is only the way I choose to express what is on my heart, in my soul, percolating up from my belly seeking release. And in that expression there is no The Good. The Bad and The Ugly. (thank you Clint Eastwood). There is only the beauty of self-expression. The wonder of what appears. And the joy of creating from the depths of my being present.
A note about the quote: Beauty found her safe within the bud of her imagination. Captivated by beauty, She danced free.
After writing it, I kind of cringed. Dang. It would be better to read… beauty found her sheltered within the bud….
And I smile. Seeking perfection is soooo tiring. I’ll stick with seeking beauty in all its manifestations.
I sit at my desk beneath the glow of incandescent light cast upon my hands resting on the keyboard. The night is slowly retreating beyond the reach of the sun’s advances. The sky scans dark to light. The horizon stretches east to west, its vast expanse kissed pink and golden beneath a lone dark grey cloud hanging low.
The river flows unending, a silver ribbon of movement rushing eastward to greet the growing lightness of day dawning like a virginal bride blushing in her lover’s embrace.
Steam rises from my coffee mug. I wrap my hands around the warm pottery, tracing the shape of a heart etched into its surface. The scent of cinnamon fills my nostrils.
And I remember you. Long ago. You were like cinnamon on buttered toast. Sweet, scented memories drift through my mind, reminding me of how you were the question mark I could never straighten out. The exclamation I never dared to live up to.
I breathe deeply into memory stirring at the edge of night. Softly, lovingly I relinquish its hold on the landscape of my mind. Deftly, the rising sun erases the punctuation marks held fast in the imprints of your touch in nights long past. Memory falls as gently as the autumn leaves scattered on the ground outside my window.
Breathing deeply into the growing light, I fall with grace into the sights and scents of this Saturday morning opening vividly into day.
I’ve got it! My new career! I know exactly what it is.
Seriously. It came to me this morning as I was sitting watching the sun come out from a cloud laden sky and dapple the golden leaves of the trees outside my window and the sun fairies dance on the waters of the river flowing by.
You know how tornado chasers race all over the countryside in search of winds to follow and photograph, to document and capture?
Well, I’ve decided my new career will be kind of like that… but not really.
I’ve decided to become… A Rainbow Chaser!
Okay. so it’s not really a well-known or probably even a ‘real’ career that will earn me a gazillion dollars but, hey, if it brings me joy, Why not do it? And anyway, who’s to say my donning the mantle of Rainbow Chaser won’t make it ‘go viral’ and all that jazzy stuff that happens when something someone does captures the imagination and whims of others?
Why Rainbow Chaser?
Because I can.
Because who doesn’t love rainbows? And heck. The world is filled with them! They’re universal. They’re magical. And they always appear after the rain when the sun comes out and sparkles through the light.
Me, I love rainbows and after several days of wallowing in the dark matter of the icky stuff that sometimes clogs the free-flowin’ style of my living life on the outside of my comfort zone, chasing rainbows is so much better than living under the dark cloud of my own unease.
See, sometimes I get stuck in the story I am telling myself about why I am not wanted, not needed, not welcome on this journey called life.
Sometimes, I believe my own critics who troll the avenues of my mind, seeking out weak spots on the edges of my limiting beliefs and the fears tucked away in hidden alcoves where the sun don’t shine.
And here’s the thing, I figure as a Rainbow Chaser, I’ll be dancing in the rain and the sun because everyone knows, rainbows are always waiting in the wings for their star appearance after the rain.
To be in the right place to capture the rainbow, I gotta be willing to stand in the rain knowing the sun is still shining behind grey clouds. I gotta hold onto my belief that if I breathe deeply enough, the wind’s of time, supported by a whole lot of Love, will blow those grey clouds away and the sun, along with its beautiful sparkling light-lit rainbow, will appear.
And then, another question popped into my head like a gopher on Ground Hog day popping out of his hole.
Are there rainbows in the night? Do they appear by moonlight after the rain has passed but we never see them because we’re sound asleep waiting for the sun to rise?
Oh boy! My Rainbow Chasing career is off to a good start.
A deep question to dive into and explore. Because, seriously, if I’m sleeping through the dark, how will I know when the sun has risen? What if, I choose to let rainbows and moonbeams cast away the dark and create a world of joy. A world, my heart can really sing about!
Yup. Rainbow Chaser, the career of dreams and flights of fancy. A career worth dancing in the rain for and singing out loud my song of joy.
Not bad for a day that started under gloomy skies!
Now that I’ve got my eyes wide open and my heart a beatin’, I’ll see ya’ll later.
I’m off chasing rainbows, and fairy dancers and sunburst making daydreams worth chasing! And maybe, when the sun sets, I’ll go chasing moonbeams and starlit staircases leading up into the glittering beauty of a beguiling night sky strewn with a gazillion diamonds — cause the more I think about it, the more I’m thinkin’ there are rainbows in the night — diamonds cast ’em when they capture the light just so… Why wouldn’t the stars?
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