Live Well. Stay Connected.

I love this photo because it is full of joy — and my granddaughters desire to get moving written all over her face! 🙂

When my 97-year-old mother passed away in 2020, three weeks before the first Coronavirus enforced lockdown, we were able to celebrate her life with family and friends. Grief and gratitude for this woman who had given so much to everyone were present. We were fairly confident the virus wasn’t.

For our family, the passing of our matriarch was a shared experience that enriched our lives and brought us closer, not just with one another but with our many friends, most of whom had known our mum and loved her for her gentle ways and many kindnesses.

In the final two weeks of her life my mother was never alone, never without a loving presence sitting at her bedside, talking, reading, sharing, laughing, caring. Sometimes, friends dropped by to say hello, and good-bye. It was a loving, peaceful farewell made even more beautiful because we each knew that we belonged within the family circle my mother had woven and stitched and patched and repaired throughout her life.

For older adults, having a sense of belonging is vital to physical and mental health. Yet, too often, social isolation and loneliness shadow their days and nights, leaving them exposed to many diseases.

The CDC reports that “Although it’s hard to measure social isolation and loneliness precisely, there is strong evidence that many adults aged 50 and older are socially isolated or lonely in ways that put their health at risk. Recent studies found that:

  • Social isolation significantly increased a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity.
  • Social isolation was associated with about a 50% percent increased risk of dementia.
  • Poor social relationships (characterized by social isolation or loneliness) was associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.
  • Loneliness was associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide.
  • Loneliness among heart failure patients was associated with a nearly 4 times increased risk of death, 68% increased risk of hospitalization, and 57% increased risk of emergency department visits.    Source

I have often wondered how my mother lived such a long life, and aside from severe arthritis, a relatively healthy life.

My mother was seldom lonely.

She made it her mission in life to befriend strangers, to surround herself with people about whom she cared and who cared for her. She lived connected to a vast network of family and friends. And though there were times we worried about her mental health and her ability to cope with life’s ups and downs, her resilience and ability to make meaningful relationships where ever she was, her habit of always giving back in whatever way she could, kept her safe and secure to her final day.

Many older people are not so fortunate. Nor connected. As we age, so too does our close community. This can lead to feelings of loss, loneliness and isolation. These feelings can be exacerbated by life circumstances such as transitions to retirement and accompanying loss of identity, ill health, loss of a spouse or friends, mobility problems, vision and hearing loss, lower income, residential changes, and changes in access to transportation.

And, when we’re feeling lost and alone, when we fear we have no one we can safely reach out to, our mental and physical well-being are at risk.

We live in a diverse society. Not just gender, race, faith, sexual orientation and culture but age too. As in other developed countries, Canada’s population is aging. The number of Canadians aged 65 and older will rise from 14% (4.8 million) in 2010 to 25% (10.4 million) by 2036 (Statistics Canada, 2010). By 2056, 1 in 10 Canadians will be aged 80 or older (Martin-Matthews, 2011).

We are also living longer and continuing to make meaningful contributions to society well beyond the socially accepted retirement age of 65.

To ensure we capitalize on the age diversity that exists in society today, we must ensure our policies, programs, services and structural facilities are designed to promote social inclusion, connection and belonging. To capitalize on the significant contributions older generations are making and will continue to make for the common good, we must not limit their potential.

My mother was 97 when she took her last breath. If she had one regret, she used to say in her soft, lilting voice, it was that she hadn’t accumulated great wealth to leave behind for her children and their children.

She need not have any regret. What she left us is far more valuable. She left us knowing we belong to one another and an appreciation for the power of social connection.

My Grandmother’s Code Revisited

After two weeks with my grandchildren (and their parents) my heart is full. Of love. Laughter. Joy. Contentment. Wonder and Awe.

Before my grandson was born I wrote a Grandmother’s Code for myself to remind me of what I wanted my grandchildren to learn and know — not just about me but about being in this world.

As I played and chatted and soared on imaginary space ships to the moon and talked to trees in the forest and searched for crabs beneath rocks on the beach, I wondered, what am I teaching them? Am I teaching them about kindness? About diving deep into your imagination to explore what’s possible and to believe in your dreams? Am I teaching them to love fierce, live wholly, be present?

This morning, I went in search of my Code to check out how well I’d lived by its tenets. I’m grateful I did.

What do I want to teach my grandchildren?

I want to teach them that who and how they are in the world makes a difference because their being in this world makes a difference.

I want them to know that this world is a place of awe and wonder. That amidst the turmoil, pain and chaos, that kindness, beauty, creativity, compassion are essential. And that in all things, all places, all situations, Love is always the answer.

And I can only do that by living through:

The power of kindness.

The beauty of honesty.

The gift of creativity.

The exquisiteness of compassion.

The grace of Love.

By living these tenets in all ways and all things I am, I want my grandson and granddaughter (heck. make it the whole world) to know that you don’t have to do anything to make a difference. You are the difference you bring into this world. Make your difference be a reflection of all you are when you walk with integrity, act through kindness and do all things with a heart full of love and compassion.

Airport Hustle

Airport Hustle
by Louise Gallagher

The world is on the move
masked faces
eyes watching 
smiles
frowns
furrowed brows
checking…
Where’s my ticket?
Wallet?
Hand sanitizer?

Suitcases rolling
wheels turning
clicketty clack 
clicketty clack 
people walking
people standing
milling about
beneath glass ceilings 
soaring high
pouring light
upon bustling crowds
gathered
around touch screen kiosks
checking in
printing out
baggage tags
and boarding passes
people on the move
conveyor belts
rolling
clicketty clack 
clicketty clack 
carrying baggage
to distant ports
clicketty clack 
clicketty clack 
in the hope 
it will arrive 
at the end of the journey
in the same shape it began.

 
Long lines
snaking through
security barriers
laptops tested
carry-on scanned
passing through
to the other side
leaving behind
going towards
new horizons
home turf
everywhere
busy
busier than its been
through an invisible microbe’s
demands 
the world limit
where we go
and who we see.

The world is on the move 
faces masked
eyes watching 
people moving
wheels turning
clicketty clack 
clicketty clack 
airport humming
with life
and people
travelling 
holding on
to the hope
that when they reach their destination
they will be home
free
of an invisible travelling companion.

Photo by Joseph Barrientos on Unsplash

I am home again. My heart full. Memory overflowing with joy.

See you soon!

Bliss Is…

I started writing this post several days ago.

That’s how bliss works.

It captures you in the moment, immerses you in joy and sends thoughts of all those things you need to ‘get to’ away.

I have been immersed in the bliss of time with my grandchildren for 10 days now.

Pure bliss.

And though tiring, the tiredness pales in comparison to the joy that consumes me when I hear their laughter, see their smiles and feel their tiny and small hands in mine.

At 3 and a half, my grandson is an ever-moving energized bundle of legs running, arms flying about like an airplane or rocket ship or break dancer breaking wild. He pushes a never-ending plethora of dumptrucks zooming across the floor and excavators digging up dirt all while racing his “boy-size’ Porsche car around the island chasing his 13 month old sister as she pushes her ‘her-size’ baby carriage gleefully in front of him.

There are cuddles and story-time and laughter and sometimes tears too and always, always, “Play with me YiaYa’s” galore and questions that can never be answered to his satisfaction like “What are you doing?” and “Are you finished your coffee yet so you can play with me now?” and “Where’s Daddy?” or “Why is mummy busy?”

There are walks in the forest to talk to trees and listen to their heartbeats and follow the story of their roots deep into the ground and stare up into the sky high, high above their branches and walks along the beach turning over every rock in an endless search for crabs and assorted sea life and digging in the sand and climbing up monkey bars and sliding down slides and taking rocket ships to many moons of many colours.

And through it all, there are rainbow ribbons of bliss weaving magic in the air all around and filling my heart to the roots of my soul’s craving for more time to savour the sacred nature of being their YiaYa.

I am here for a couple of more days. My planned trip to Gabriola for the weekend aborted as Covid numbers climb and playing safe means more than just making sure a little pair of hands don’t get caught in closing doors or as my grandson reminds me every time I buckle him into his carseat, “Make sure you don’t pinch me YiaYa.”

And, because I know my granddaughter will be waking from her nap soon, and my grandson will be returning from a walk with his mum, I let go of the need to check back on what I wrote and let it go. That way, I can come back again and again when I return home to savour the feelings of joy and love and bliss that fill every moment of time with my grandchildren and their parents.

This is bliss.

Namaste

The Cabinet Liberators

It’s not ‘beautiful’ but it is useful!

For 3+ years, our old kitchen cabinets sat in the basement, gathering dust, taking up space.

Last week, I finally got around to removing all the stuff I’d piled inside them and moving them out into the middle of the floor so I could take photos and C.C. could put them on a social media market site.

Fifteen solid walnut kitchen cabinets. For Free.

The only caveat was, they had to take ALL of them.

And they needed to be able to carry them up from the basement and out the front door.

The first couple who arrived drove up in a big SUV trailing a small trailer. I was curious how a man and woman in their 60s, him with bad knees, her with a bad back (they told me) were going to navigate the physical labour part of the deal.

In the end, they chose not to.

The second cabinet liberators were two very fit, younger men undaunted by the prospect of carrying the cabinets up the stairs and out the door.

They filled their trailer with the first 6 cabinets and said, “We’ll have to come back for the rest.”

And they did.

Except, as they finished carrying up the 10th cabinet one of the men told me they needed to go pick up lumber and would be back. Tomorrow.

I needed to believe him so I smiled and said, “Great! See you in the morning.”

They never returned.

At first, I was ticked. I mean seriously? The deal was ALL the cabinets, not just 10 of them.

C.C. put the five remaining back up on the market site, but they were a disparate lot. There were no takers.

Finally, seeking to find value in all things, (and having no desire to rent a truck and haul them to the landfill to create more waste) I decided to make use of the remaining five.

And that’s when the true gift of The Cabinet Liberators deception became my reality.

After three days of sorting, moving, clearing out and shovelling out things that have been cluttering up the basement, I have a fabulous (albeit not beautiful) new work space where I can keep things like my big paper cutter, my Cricut, Big Shot and other paraphernalia I use occasionally. (but would probably use more often if they were more easily accessible). I also have wall space to hang some old paintings!

And here’s the thing, the man who said he was coming back for the rest of the cabinets and didn’t… I have a feeling he is carrying the guilt of lying. I could see it in his face when he told me they would be back the next day. His eyes looked down. He was flushed and gave me a nervous smile.

So… just in case he is feeling guilty, I forgive him and his partner ‘in crime’.

Ultimately, they did me a favour. Had they taken all 15, I’d be trying to figure out what to do with all the paraphernalia that needed a home.

Yes. It would have been nicer if he’d just told me the truth. But his deception only created a momentary pang of annoyance before I got to work making it work for me.

So… I set my pangs of annoyance free and embrace the feeling of gratitude and relief that comes with finding a solution that is a win/win for everyone involved.

And I say, Thank you Cabinet Liberators. May the cabinets you took be of great value to you. May they fill your home or whatever space you’re using them for, with a sense of joy in their usefulness. And, may you know peace.

And if he’s not carrying the guilt I suspect, that’s okay too. A little gratitude and forgiveness goes a long way to easing any burden I might be carrying!

Namaste.

What’s she doing on my bed and blog? (An SWB post)

Beau takes exception to the fact the top photo on his blog today is of a cat.

But…. I made up for it and include a video of him at the park chasing after the ball.

He certainly hopes you come and visit — and see him at work chasing and retrieving the ball — well almost retrieving…

Oh. And as to the cat in our house… He is not impressed.

Read all about it HERE. Video is at the bottom of the post.

Will We? Can we? Change.

This is the view from where I sit in the mornings, meditating, writing, watching squirrels scamper in the trees, the river flow past.

The view is cloudy these days. Smoke-filled molecules saturate the sky with ash and toxins.

Yesterday, I uncovered the furniture on the deck. No rain is forecast.

The air is too smoky to sit outside. I covered the furniture up again this morning. I don’t want to collect toxin-laden molecules in its cushions.

There is no reprieve in sight. Wildfires continue to burn. To the south. The north. West and east.

I fear Mother Nature’s desperate pleas for help remain unheeded.

My days remain unchanged. I write and paint and walk with Beau along the river. I spend time with my beloved. We see friends a bit more now. I hugged my daughter yesterday. We don’t have to wear masks everywhere anymore. I still carry mine in my purse and car. In jacket pockets. I want to be safe and be a safe person to be around.

It is summer in the city. A different summer every year. Of note, each year feels marked by more and more days of smoke-laden air and time spent indoors with windows and doors tightly closed.

And I am reminded again. We must each do our best to pull ourselves back from the abyss of environmental disaster.

Yesterday, I read up on incandescent versus fluorescent and LED lightbulbs. I spent the afternoon ensuring there are no incandescent anywhere lightbulbs in our home.

A friend mentioned using only bar soaps – from laundry to dishes to hands to hair – she has dispensed with all plastic containers in her home.

There’s always something more I can do to make a difference.

I must keep reading up on possibilities.

Yesterday, I also read about why the sun glows red in smoke-filled skies – red rays are longer and stronger than blue rays, thus, are more adept at travelling further through the smoke-filled sky.

It was that thought which inspired the poem below. That, and the weekly prompt from Eugi’s Causerie.

Eugi's Causerie Prompt 

Your Weekly Prompt –Petals – July 29, 2021

“The soul has words as petals” – Edmond Jabes

Go where the prompt leads you and publish a post on your own blog that responds to the prompt.

It can be any variation of the prompt and/or image. 

Please keep it family friendly. This needs to be a safe and fun space for all.

Again, as always seems to happen, I had no idea where the prompt would take me until I was done.

There is a melancholy in my writing this morning. A yearning for clear blue sky and fresh air. I want to be more upbeat, promising, hopeful. I struggle.

I am hopeful. I’m also leery. Can we? Will we do what must be done to step back from the edge?

Can we? Will we? Change.

Sky Coughs. Ash Falls.
by Louise Gallagher

Heat rises
day breaks
through night
sunrise bruises the horizon
in rose petal colours
of crimson, gold and purple
blue light fades
like a memory
vanishing
into long ago days
spent languishing under a summer sky
unblemished
by smoky clouds
drifting languorously
away 
from earth’s forests
burning
red
hot.

In the distance 
an engine backfires
a car travels west to east
over the bridge
towards city centre
carrying its lone occupant
to a job
buried deep
within a towering building
reaching 
greedily
for the sky.

Above,
sky coughs
ash falls
like a symphony of petals
tumbling
silently
to the ground
covering the earth
in summer's finest snow.

Why I Art Journal

Art Journal page – created in 2015

I am a visual thinker. I imagine/see/experience things in my mind’s eye – what’s in front of me, what’s behind me, what’s inside me, what’s beyond me – before I get to the touching, feeling, knowing stages.

It is my pathway into understanding, learning, growing, evolving. It is as much a part of me as my heart, limbs, skin, bones.

Which is why I art journal.

Art Journalling is my pathway to embracing all of life… its sometimes inexplicable, ineffable and incomprehensible moments as well as its exquisitely moving, breathtaking ones.

It brings me home to my heart. It reminds me to let go of judging and move with grace into acceptance, gratitude and trust.

Art Journalling soothes me, excites me, awakens me to the wonder and awe that is everywhere, in all things, in all ways of being present with, in and of life.

And… it reminds me to stop looking for ‘the path’ and let the path appear as I create.

Another gift of art journalling is its awakening of the muse within me because, while I often speak of her as being ‘out there’ she is actually ‘in here’. Within me, all around me, everywhere. Through art journalling, I connect with her flow and find myself unravelling the knots that get tied up in my thinking I know the way, I have the answers, I get it.

Art journalling reminds me, there is no need to ‘get it’. The gifts are in letting go of ‘getting’ to fall effortlessly into BEING. Of it. With it. Within it. All.

That’s why I art journal. It keeps me grounded in my heart and whole body and out of my thinking mind. It fills me with hope — that there is a way through everything even when I think all hope is lost. It brings me great peace full of the possibility in all things, all people, all life. And, it brings me into deep, abiding connection within the exquisite, ethereal and mystical nature of the world around and within me.

If you’re interested/curious about art journalling, I have a few short posts on my website on How to Begin. I’m working on updating them with videos but for now… they are a good place to get acquainted with, not just the ideas and concepts — and lack of rules — of art journalling, but also your own creative core. Because… the lack of rules is what intrigues me and excites me most about art journalling. It’s always, always an expression of YOU! And what could be better than that?

I hope you pop over and check them out — and let me know what you think. Please. I’d love to hear your thoughts and feelings and ideas.

Much gratitude.

Click HERE to access The Art of Journalling

A Love Story

I have learned to not question the muse. To heed her urgings and let her whims take me where they will.

Following the multi-hued wisps of magical mystery she casts within me and all around is always a journey into, through and with trust.

This morning, her whispered incantations took me into the land of poetic free-form verse.

I had no idea where it was going. Where I would end up or even what story would appear.

All I had was one phrase… Serendipity, she said.

And I followed it.

What appeared warms my heart.

If I had to name a flower that described my father, it would be a rose. Deep. Mysterious. His words flowed like rivers of poetry peeling away life’s edges to reveal the delicate nature of life in all its seasons, all its manifestations. Yet, he was prickly. Cantankerous. Prone to flashes of angry outbursts. A hard man to get close to.

My mother. The Iris. Not only was it her name, but she was like an iris. Strong yet fragile. Elegant yet girlish. Beautiful yet unconfident in her beauty and her body. Uncomfortable with life and all its demands. Yearning always for a more peaceful, calm, still world. Like the iris.

As this poem unfolded, I followed the mystery of its threads and there they were. My mother and father. Laughing. Dancing. Spinning through fields of wildflowers. My father no longer clumsy and awkward in his movement. But flowing. Lithe. Strong. Supple. And as he spun my mother about, my mother who seldom laughed in life, through back her arms, leaned against his arms holding her and let joy fill her up like she’d never done in life.

I love it when the muse comes to visit and I throw away caution and fall into trusting her ways with all my heart wide open to the adventure.

A Love Story

by Louise Gallagher

Serendipity, she said
I was just thinking about you
wondering where you were.

Right here, he replied
flicking a speck of dust 
out of her hair.
It clung
like moss to a tree
until he blew on it softly
and it lifted off
and floated away. 

But where have you been, she asked, confused.  
She hadn’t seen him in years.
She was sure. 
Was her memory failing?

I have always been right here,
he said, next to you.
His voice was as smooth as
water flowing over a rock
in the river beside which she sat
bare toes stretched out to touch
the surface of the water.
It was cold. Icy cold.
I’m cold, she said.
Shivering.

Let me warm you, he said,
wrapping his strong arms around
her shaking body.

Thank you, she replied,
taking in his warmth,
the sweet tantalizing smells of
his breath, his body
pressed against hers.

Funny I don’t remember you,
She said, burrowing down into his embrace.

I’ve always been here,
he replied, picking her up in his arms.

She felt light, like a feather
 fluttering
effortlessly
through the air
falling
falling towards the ground.

I’m afraid of falling, she whispered.

It’s only a short journey to the other side, 
he said as he stepped into the water
holding her tenderly in his arms.
 
He began to cross.
You have nothing to fear, he said softly.

She closed her eyes
and listened to the steady
thump
thump
of his heart 
beat
against her ear
where she pressed her head
into his body.

I’m not, she whispered.

And he carried her to the other side.

It was there, 
on the other side,
where rainbows danced on sunbeams
and wildflowers grew with abandon
in fields of summer blossoms 
strewn across a wide valley
that spread out in all directions as if it had 
nowhere else to go but everywhere that she ran
as if her bones did not ache
and her memory did not fade
.
It was there
spinning beneath a kaleidoscope
field 
of scarlet and lemon and lavender clouds
streaming across the sky
that she remembered.
Him.
His touch.
His breath.
His smell.
His body.

What took you so long to come and get me, she asked, trailing her fingers through the fronds of wildflowers
blowing in the wind.

You can only cross the river
in your own time, he said.

She watched his hands
the hands she remembered
toiling
touching
tending
to the fire
the fields
the cattle
her body.

He lifted those hands
she remembered so well
up
up
up above her head
and from his palms
petals of sunlight
fell all around her
showering her in beams
of golden joy
sparkling like raindrops
falling
on a spring fresh morning.

Have I died and gone to Heaven,
she asked,
her smile girlish
her laughter tinkling
soft
like the wind chime that hung outside the window
of the only home she'd ever known where she was safe
in the arms of the man she’d loved so long ago.

Death is just the beginning 
of what comes next, he replied.
And he bent down towards
the ground and picked a blood red rose from the field of purple irises 
through which they walked and 
gently tucked it behind her ear.

We’ve only just begun, my love.
We’ve only just begun. 

Coming Home.

Let the fun begin!

Coming home, I enter my studio.

The muse is calling.

I play. I layer paint. I scratch and inscribe and make marks on the paper until, satisfied, I begin to draw and colour in floral shapes.

When I’m done, I have a small, (5 1/2 x 4″) 8 page booklet. On each page, I print in gold, one letter of the word Thank You.

It feels good to be creating. Easing into the creative field. Full of inspiration, ingenuity, inventiveness, I feel myself swimming effortlessly in its vast open waters of imagination.

It is here I find myself coming home.

_____________________________

If you are interested in an online (or in person) workshop on how to create one of these little booklets… drop me a note — either in the comment box below or via email/messenger or on my FB page.

Here’s a 10 second video of the final result of one of the booklets I made.