The Squirrel Hunter (an SWB story)

Me: Beaumont. We need to talk.

Beau: I’m busy.

Me: Beau….

Beau: Yah. Yah. Yah. Whatever.

Me: Beaumont. This is serious.

Beau: Taking me to the groomers and inflicting all that brushing and fluffing on me is serious Louise. If what you wanna talk about is what I think you wanna talk about, well that’s not serious. It’s just dawgie nature.

Me: Catching a squirrel isn’t serious?

To read the rest of Beau’s misadventure with a squirrel, click HERE to go to Sundays with Beaumont (I know! A dawg with a blog! Imagine! 🙂 ) He hopes to see you there!

If I Could…

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

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

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

A deep one.

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

And that’s when I felt the murmurings.

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

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

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

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

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

_________

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

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

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

And the words guided my heart into creative expression.

Namaste

Learn and Grow.

When my first article was published in my mid-30s, I didn’t believe I’d ever be ‘a writer’. At least not out there in the ‘real’ world. And then, my first feature article was published in a magazine and there I was, a ‘real’ writer. (OK. In my defence, I don’t think being published makes you any more or less a writer – but getting paid to write did help my writer’s confidence!)

When I started painting in my mid-40’s I didn’t know I could, especially since most of my life I’d told myself I had no artistic ability. And then, I picked up a paintbrush, dabbed it into a pot of paint, smeared it on a canvas and fell in love with visual-storytelling.

In my 60s now, I still want to learn new things to fall in love with.

Like video-making.

Using the tools at hand, my art, my words, my smartphone and laptop, I have been playing with creating videos of my artwork, both process and finished product.

Recently, I created a mini-movie of one of the mini-art journals I made in a series I’m working on, A Book of Seasons.

While creating it, I learned many things. Like, lighting is everything when filming a mini-art journal and because I’m not all that comfortable with my recorded voice my discomfort makes my voice sound ‘fake’. Learning to become comfortable with how I sound when recorded is a constant journey of practice and… learning to love myself without fearing I will be judged harshly by others. Because, my discomfort with how I sound is not founded on what I think, it’s based on what I fear others will think.

Good learning. Good growth opportunity.

See, even before I became a published writer, I worried others wouldn’t like my words, which meant they wouldn’t like me. And needing people to like me was not healthy for me. It meant I was measuring my worth on what other people thought of what I was doing and saying instead of being comfortable with myself and authentic in how I am in the world.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s lovely if people like me – it’s just not healthy when the need for others to like me overshadows my being authentic and real, honest and true to my values, principles and beliefs – and my creative expressions.

Which brings me back to creating videos.

I’ve been having fun.

And as my friend Rod Winkler likes to remind me, having fun is important! So is not taking myself too seriously, a trap I can fall into when I’m learning something new.

Like the painting above. Yesterday, I decided to stretch myself and paint something almost realistic. I don’t tend to paint realism. I’d like to believe it’s because I prefer the abstract but the ‘honest truth’ (that’s such a contradictory expression isn’t it?). I think it’s because I’m afraid whatever I paint won’t look ‘real’ so I don’t do it.

Looking at my painting of the vase of lilies I can see how I can improve on the flowers. I can also see how I need to celebrate what I created.

It’s the yin-yan of learning/doing something new.

I want to do it perfect the first time knowing it takes practice and repetition to learn something new and grow my expertise as well as my knowledge base.

See, I don’t lose what I already know when I paint ‘realism’. I simply expand my skillset and my capacity to see the world in different lights.

Learn and grow.

It is my mantra for this year. It is the perfect accompaniment to my word for 2021 – “UNFURL”.

To unfurl, I must grow. To grow, I must learn to be comfortable with the imperfect nature of life, and learning something new so that I can keep growing.

Keep learning. Keep growing.

____________________________

And… this is the video I created of my A Book of Seasons mini-art journal.

Stop. Breathe. Listen.

This year has been heralded in with doing some things differently.

Like Beaumont the Sheepadoodle’s first saunter in the morning.

Up until the week between Christmas and New Year’s, my practice was to let him out the studio door on the lower level of our home to do his little wee and then, off to the park we’d go at 8:30 for our ‘big walk’ and his ‘big business.’

Determined to get my 10,000 steps in every day, I have changed it up. When I awaken, sometime between 6 and 7 am, (even there I’ve shifted as 7 used to be ‘sleeping in’ for me), the first thing I do is bundle up in my longest coat (I’m usually still in my pj’s), don a hat and gloves and winter boots, put Beau’s harness on him and with his extendable leash in hand, off we go for a saunter of at least 2,000 steps. It gives him time to do his big and small business, and it gives me a fresh awakening to the day (not to mention the first chunk of my daily 10,000 steps goal).

Sniffing everything on his path, walking with his ‘hooman’, checking out the geese along the river bank makes Beau’s heart sing.

Walking in the envelope of morning between dark and light awakens me to the beauty of the day and the world around me. The fresh crisp air on my face. The light shimmering on the river’s fast-moving surface. The crunch of snow beneath my feet – stir my senses and open my heart to the beauty of the morning’s song inviting me to take notice of the world all around me and breathe it in deeply. It awakens my heartsong.

In every heart there is a song. A unique beat that calls to each of us with its beguiling invitation to dance, to sing, to live boldly and realize our heart’s desires with every wild, unstoppable expression of our being here on this earth.

It begins with listening to the songs of the forest, the river, the world around calling us to…

Stop.

Breathe.

Listen.

No matter what you are doing today, I hope you take time to hear the trees and the earth, the rivers and ocean, sea and sky calling you to Stop. Breathe. Listen.

In the listening, I hope you hear your heartsong calling you to come alive and dance to the beat of your own rhythm as you set yourself free to express your heart’s desires.

_____________________________________

About the artwork:

Along with carving stamps (which is another thing I’m doing differently), I have been playing with making my own stencils. The birds are a stencil I drew and then cut from one sheet of soft foam. The background is made with acrylic inks, collage and a stencil of trees layered over many times with spray inks.

7 x 10″ mixed media on canvas paper.

And the wind howled…

Geese huddle along the banks of the river, necks tucked down into their bodies, their webbed feet invisible beneath the surface as they drift in silent communion with the fast-flowing water upon which they float.

The trees bow their branches as the wind howls its woeful tale of the war and violence, sickness and death, poverty and grief it has witnessed on its journey around the world.

It is the time at the edge of dark when dawn races to rid the sky of night. Beaumont and I walk into the wind. Sky dark and brooding above. Pavement slick and wet beneath our feet.

It is raining. A rare occurrence in January here on the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies. The snow is quickly disappearing. The river ice is thawing.

A woman walks on the other side of the bridge. Shoulders hunched forward. Hands in pockets. Coattails flapping around her knees. We nod our heads towards each other as we pass as if to say, “Are we the only crazies out in this wind?” Her mouth is set in a grim line. Her body taut with determination as she walks with the wind at her back, upper body angled forward as if being pushed by an unseen hand.

A dried October-dead leaf spins past. Beaumont tugs on the leash. Gives a bark as if to say, “Come back! I want to play with you!”

I hold the leash steady in my hands. I cannot let him pull too much. There is ice beneath my feet. I must watch where I’m going.

The wind doesn’t care about my concerns for safety. It sends a handful of dried October leaves flying past. Beau strains harder on the leash. I pull harder to bring him back to my side. Our eternal dance of tug-of-war. Pull, drawback. Pull, drawback.

And the wind howls.

The geese huddle and float. One stretches up and flaps its wings, honks and then settles back down onto the water’s surface.

The trees bend and sway in a riotous dance of swinging arms and bodies contorting into the shape of the wind as it storms through.

And the wind howls as if with every breath it is emptying the woeful memories of all it has witnessed on its travels around the world into the dancing branches of the trees. Once free of their gloomy presence, it catapults itself into the sky to cavort again with Mother Nature.

And the trees gather the stories of the wind into their sturdy trunks and in the magic of photosynthesis, the wind’s stories are transformed into oxygen so that all life on earth can continue on.

And the wind howls and the river flows and the geese huddle and Beaumont and I walk into the wind until it’s time to turn back and let nature push us eagerly towards home.

________________________

It was a wild walk with the wind this morning. And now, I am back at my desk, looking out at the river and the trees. The wind has stopped howling. The sky is blue and the geese have taken flight.

All is well in Mother Nature’s flow.

Who Do You See?

What Do You See?
  ©2021 Louise Gallagher 

In every image I see

 something of me reflected.

In every image
 there is a reflection I must see.

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

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

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

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

Try it.

Right now.

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

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

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

We all deserve Love.

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

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

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

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

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

Mum breathed out. Kept laughing nervously.

At this point both my daughters knew what was necessary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Start by practicing, “I Love You.”

You’ll be amazed by what happens.

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

Sometimes, self-love starts with baby-steps…

______________________

About the artwork:

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

The little botanical is also a stamp I carved.

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

Mixed media 8 x 10″ on canvas paper

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

You Did What? (a SWB post)

I ‘accidentally’ go for a walk at River Park. without Beau.

He is not impressed.He hopes you join him on his blog today to commiserate and offer your sympathy.

And yes. It is. As always. All my fault. Sigh.

He hopes you join him on his blog today — he’s looking for sympathy. 🙂

You Did What?

Beau: So… let me get this straight. You went for a walk with Jane. Without me.

Me: It wasn’t intentional Beau. I just sort of happened.

Beau: Then explain to me how this ‘just sort of happened’ walk happened.

Me: Well, I was dropping off your Christmas gift for Uncle Al and..

Beau: (interrupting me) Wait! What do you mean you were dropping of MY gift for Uncle Al?

Me: Remember. I ordered it in November and it just finally arrived last week? You wanted him to get it didn’t you? Someone had to take it to him.

Beau: Without me.

To read the rest, click HERE

What If Trees Can Talk

When the leaves fell and winter came, the trees did not stand naked against the sky and cry for mercy. They called to one another, as trees do, urging each other to stand together. Together, their leafless limbs called out, we can weather Arctic storms and Polar chills. Together, we are strong.

And snow fell and covered the earth in its virgin blanket and the sun beamed and the moon sang a song of the seasons turning, turning as the earth spun and the stars pricked holes into the dark of night so they too could watch the storms of winter pass through.

And the trees stood strong, together. They whispered amongst their kin, ‘Dig deep. Dig deep’. And they thrust their roots ever deeper into the frozen ground as the storms howled and snow fell and their sap ran slower, slower but always enough to carry the breath of life flowing inside their weathered trunks.

And the winds blew and the seasons changed and spring arrived with its beguiling invitation to blossom and flourish.

And tiny seeds poked their heads out of the earth and the sun welcomed them with its golden beams full of warmth and growing light. And buds appeared on the trees’ many branches and slowly, ever so slowly beneath spring’s warm kisses, they blossomed and flourished.

When winter came the naked trees did not cry out for mercy. They stood together and weathered the storms and when spring came, as is their nature, they blossomed and flourished again.

_______________________

About the artwork:

I have been exploring creating stamps. What fun! I carved the large leaf stamp, printed it with black ink onto a very sheer piece of pale pink rice paper. After creating the background, I affixed it to my journal page and then painted it with acrylic ink.

I also collaged in a piece of woven white rice paper and a pansy I had dried at the end of summer.

I love exploring, ‘what if’s’…

The ‘what if’ for this journal page was, “What if trees can talk?” According to Robin Wall Kimmerer author of Braiding Sweetgrass, they can. I like that belief.

The photo is of two stamps I’ve carved.

Vision Board 2021

I spent the morning gaining clarity on my path for 2021.

I hosted a session on Zoom on creating a Vision Board with two friends.

As we created, we laughed and chatted and shared stories and sipped our coffees and got glue on our fingers and on everything else too!

And like women gathering at the wekk, we found ourselves in that sacred space that opens up when women come together in community.

A Vision Board is a visual tool that is both metaphorical and literal. With the use of images and words, it helps focus your intention, your desires, your wishes for your life – or one particular area of your life.

For me today, my vision board focused on my ‘creative expressions’. What I want to consider, conceive, and create this year.

Perhaps the most powerful morsel of clarity (which takes a huge bite out of my self-doubt and sometimes confusing thoughts on what I want to do next) is the answer that appeared to the statement – The unifying link between my work and my love for [life is]… Visual Storytelling & Words.

Wow!

I didn’t know when we began at 9 this morning that I would find that response.

And that’s the beauty of spending three hours individually and collectively focussing on ‘self’ and creating a visual storyboard of ‘what I want more of in my life’ and ‘where will I place my focus?’ this year.

If you haven’t created a Vision Board for 2021 (or ever before) it’s Easy. Fun. Enlightening.

I’ll be creating a ‘cheat sheet’ on how to do it and will post it on my website. Stay tuned! I’ll add the link here when I’m done!

(And that comes from the clarity I gained this morning! How exciting is that!)

Thank you JD and SV for spending the time with me and for inspiring me to focus my attention on the ‘what’ of this year.