Tag Archives: altered book art journal

My Mother’s Prayers. (Video flip-through)

Front and back cover of altered book art journal — My Mother’s Prayers

It is done. This journal I began several months ago with my mother’s prayer cards. It is done.

When I began my intention was to honour my mother’s life journey through using her prayer cards as a collage element on each page in the journal. I wasn’t thinking about healing. Or growth. Or change.

I was focused on diving into the creative field of creating an altered book art journal with her cards.

And then… Transformation beckoned.

Which makes sense, given that the premise of an altered book art journal is using an existing book to transform it into something else.

Don’t you love how art mirrors life and how when we open up to creative expression, life awakens in all its magnificent hues like a crystal prism hanging in a window refracting and reflecting rainbow shards of sunlight?

Through working on this journal, I have found myself falling with grace into all the colours of my human emotions. Grief. Joy. Sorrow. Gratitude, Regret. Compassion. Denial. Appreciation. Sadness. Joy. Anger. Love…

As I’ve written on one of the pages, “There are no mistakes in the human heart. There is only Love.”

In the end, and in the beginning… there is only Love.

There are no mistakes in my life. No paths not taken I wished I had. No roads wandered I wish I hadn’t.

Every path, every road, every step and word and gesture and action and encounter have all added up to create this space in which I live today. Breathing deeply of the divine nature of life.

It is here I find myself floating on a sea of gratitude, waves of joy and love and friendship and laughter and harmony and grace washing over me as I bathe in the waters of sacred communion with Life.

And so I say the prayer that stirs my soul and fills my heart with gratitude. “Thank you.”

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For the past two days I have been working on a flip through video of the book.

On each page I share the words that are most evocative of that page.

I am pleased. The book has turned out better than I imagined (Yes Jane. I’ll say it. “I did a good job!” 🙂 )

But, more than how the book has turned out, I am so very, very grateful for having taken this journey. I began without expectation of an outcome. I end with gratitude for the transformation that has appeared on my path through stepping into the creative exploration of My Mothers Prayers.

A note on the cover — my mother loved baubles and bling. She always wore sparkly things. On her fingers. Around her neck. In her hair. On her wrists. The original cover was orange – not one of my mother’s favourite colours. I painted it purple, covered that with gold spray paint and sprinkled gold dust over the entire thing. The jewelled pieces were my mother’s earrings and on the back, the embroidered bird is from excess fabric from the skirt I wore when C.C. and I were married. Made of hand-embroidered silk from India, I felt it would bring my mother to our wedding as she was too frail to attend. Underneath the bird is one of my mother’s prayer cards.

ThE Incantations

“Whispered into the holy night, her prayers were an incantation awakening sacred joy and delight.” Pgs 51 & 52 My Mother’s Prayer altered book journal

My father was a curious man. He read voraciously and always replied to questions such as, ‘How do you spell ___________?” or “What’s does _________mean?” with the response, “Go look it up in the dictionary.”

Of course, I’d try to find a ‘smart alecky’ answer like, “If I don’t know how to spell it how can I look it up?

It never phased him. He’d make me think about the spelling, what I thought it was, and work from there.

Question about the meaning of life, or things or processes were always answered with, “Go look it up in the Encyclopedia Britannica.”

The EB was the fount of all knowledge when I was growing up. If it wasn’t in the Encyclopedia, it wasn’t worth knowing.

Because French was my mother’s native tongue, I seldom asked her those kinds of questions. For her, I reserved my curiosity about God.

“Why would God place a sin on an unborn child? Aren’t we born perfect and whole in God’s image?”

“Why do dead people have to wait it out in Purgatory for prayers of the living to release them? Doesn’t God forgive all sin? Isn’t that why Jesus died?”

To my mother, my constant questioning of God was an assault on her faith and her being.

I didn’t intend it to be but, because so much of what I learned about God as a child was fear-based, I wanted answers so I wouldn’t feel so afraid.

I didn’t like feeling afraid, especially if the adults around me didn’t have ways to assuage my fear.

And I definitely didn’t like the anxiety of waiting for ‘the Hand of God’ to come crashing down from the heaven’s above and knock some sense into me. Which is something my mother often wished for, at least that’s how I translated her entreaties that I ‘be like the others’ (my 3 older siblings) and stop disobeying her constantly.

“God knows everything,” my mother would say. “He sees you and hears you and he is angry at you for being so bad.”

And she would cry and wonder out loud what she had done to deserve such a difficult child as me.

After years of therapy and inner child work and personal development courses and journalling and a host of other practices to make sense of the mess I felt was ‘me’ inside, I understand how my mother and I walked on such unsteady ground.

How could she keep me safe from the world if I was constantly putting my eternal soul in danger by questioning God’s will?

How could she have peace if I was constantly searching for answers to the things she did not want to speak of?

Namaste

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One of the gifts of art journalling is its invitation to experiment. With products, process, perspective…

Awhile ago, I watched a video on using Vaseline with alcohol inks. I wasn’t using Alcohol Inks on this page but was curious what would happen if I used it with acrylic inks.

Magic.

The vaseline acts as a resist so that when I spray onto the page, where ever I’ve applied the vaseline, the ink doesn’t adhere. When the ink is dry, wipe it off and voilá! (Ok. The wiping off takes patience but it’s well worth it!)

The lighter spaces, including within the dark image on the left which was the photo on the page I was working on, remain untouched by the ink.

For me, this page speaks to the mystery of my mother’s faith, of life, of relationships, of the universe.

I see the scrolly piece at the bottom as the filigree frame that separated the penitent from the priest in the confessional.

The lone figure walking towards the lit area of the image on the left is me, searching for answers while staying true to myself — which was not always easy when my path took me far from the Catholicism of my mother’s way.

And the entreaty to, “Be. Here. Now.” is the reminder that the past is not alive in this moment, nor is the future.

Life lives in the now. It is here where the mystery flows with grace into the mystical nature of life, creating magic and wonder in my life today.

Now is where Life happens.

Celebrate it. Cherish it. Create beauty within it.

.

In The Garden Of Her Prayers

Her prayers became a garden. “My Mother’s Prayers” altered book art journal. Pgs 49 & 50

I remember as a young girl my mother admonishing me after one of the squabbles my middle sister and I often had. “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” It was one of her favourite sayings.

My mother kept her silence. A lot.

I used to think her silence hurt her. Filled with all the not-nice things she wouldn’t say, her silence constantly grated against her peace of mind.

As I work in this journal and come to its last pages, I recognize the limitations of that belief. As I paint and meditate on the pages. As I collage a prayer card on the page and allow the words to divine their way into being known, the awareness grows that her prayers were her way of transforming her silences, her secrets, her worries and fears and anger and tears into hope and love and above all kindness.

As a child, I never liked that adage of my mothers.

It was my inability to not be silent that frustrated my mother the most. Particularly, as my speaking out often came in the form of questions about things she never wanted to discuss.

“Let bygones be bygones,” she’d say.

“Stop making trouble Louise. It was long ago. It doesn’t matter today what happened then.”

“Don’t be mean. Be quiet.”

I never meant to be mean, but to explain to my mother the source of my angst or questions required speaking of the things she did not wish to speak of, at least not with me.

Which is one of the gifts of this journal journey.

There was a time when I thought that my mother just wanted to avoid talking about everything and anything that did not please her or paint her in good light with the saints to whom she whispered her prayers. And while she did like to ‘look good’ and spent a great deal of energy worrying about what others thought, it was her right to choose what she did or did not speak of.

In my constant questing for answers, and her desire to not speak of things for which she knew her answers would not be enough for me, there was no safe container for either of us to find our way through the turmoil of the past together.

In all probability, my mother did speak of the unspeakables she carried deep within her heart and mind. It’s just, the only one she trusted with her thoughts and feelings, fears and doubts, anguish and anxiety, was her God.

My mother, like me, was never perfect.

She was kind. Caring. Generous. Shy. Quiet. Creative. Loyal. Steadfast.

And above all, she was a woman of great faith.

A woman who wanted the best for others. And even when she didn’t know how to give it, or how to speak the words, she never doubted that her faith was enough. In her steadfastness, in her constant prayers, I was free to grow fierce and loving. Strong. Wild. Free.

As this page says, “Her prayers became a garden where Love grew stronger in the memories of those she left behind.”

Namaste.

The Way Of A Mother’s Love.

Her prayers fed hungry souls and created a world of goodness and light for all to see.

I have a memory of my parents. They are in their kitchen. My dad is making one of his famous stews, or perhaps bread. Dirty dishes cover the counter. There is lots of noise. My father was not a quiet man.

My mother is fluttering around him. She is trying to clean up his mess as he cooks.

“Leave it,” he mutters. “You’re getting in my way.”

She ignores him. He keeps muttering angrily. She stifles her tears at his angry words and keeps doing the dishes.

It was their way.

The kitchen was his domain. Keeping it clean was her contribution, except for those times when he would give way to her desire to prepare her ‘fancy’ dishes. He’d grumble and mutter about ‘fancy food’ being a waste. About how the aromas bothered his sinuses, especially garlic. You shouldn’t mask good, hearty food with that garbage, he’d continuously blurt out whenever mom prepared one of her beloved curries or special dishes redolent with the aromas of India and France spicing the air and dancing together on the palate.

Whenever my mother came to visit she would immediately gravitate to my kitchen and start to clear away dishes and wipe down counters.

Helping out was her way.

It was not my way so I’d shoo her away.

It was the story of our life.

My mother wanting to help out. Me rejecting her help.

I am still that way. I don’t like people in my kitchen. I don’t accept help easily.

Back then, I didn’t understand my mother’s love language. I didn’t understand that after a lifetime of being told by my father that she was ‘in the way’, she wanted to find a way to be of service in peace.

In her lifetime, I never found a way to let her help out in peace.

In my lifetime, I am making peace with the places where strife stirred our relationship into a mess. I am letting go of the hurts and cooking up a new way of being at peace.

This, “My Mother’s Prayers” altered book art journal, is my path.

Like a coat of white paint covering graffiti on a wall, I am painting the past with beautiful colours that weave a glorious tapestry of acceptance and forgiveness from the memories that litter my mind. Like crumbs leading me home to my heart, I am following their way into peace and harmony.

It is not our differences or all the moments we caused each other pain that matters in my life today. It is the beauty I create to honour their memory that transforms them into joy and peace and harmony.

My mother and I never had an easy relationship. In memory and in life, I am free to let go of the unease and fall with grace into the Love that was always there and always will be. Now and forever.

That is the way of a mother’s Love.

Namaste.

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I am off to Vancouver tomorrow to visit my daughter and her beautiful family. For the next ten days, I shall be immersed in the joy of being with my grandchildren and sharing special moments on the coast.

C.C. and I debated about my going. The ‘second wave’ of the Corona Virus is expected to hit soon. Can I do the drive safely?

He was to have driven out before me with a friend, stopping to golf at several different courses along the way. After much consideration, he cancelled his trip but, we’ve decided that as long as I take all precautions, the risks are low. I do the 11-hour drive in one day, stopping only once for gas and calls of nature (which I plan for very carefully).

These are the times in which we live. Given Covid 19s presence and my aversion to flying in its midst as well as winter’s imminent arrival and the dangers of driving high mountain passes in winter months, this is probably the last time I’ll be able to see them until next spring.

I am grateful my daughter welcomes me with such love and grace.

I won’t have much time to post while I’m gone. See you sometime after the 15th.

Namaste and Happy Thanksgiving!

Calming Whispers

I have been working on this two-page spread in the altered book art journal I am creating with my mother’s prayer cards for a couple of days. I’m filming as I go and the added pressure is daunting.

I get to a point where I’m relatively happy with the background, but have no idea where the page is going next. My head is calling me to ‘do this’ or ‘that’ to make it go a certain way. My heart knows I need to get out of my head so that I can intuit the creative urges calling me to let go and let be.

I do what I love to do when I feel stuck in my head. I wake up Beaumont the Sheepadoodle who is sleeping on the floor by my feet and go for a walk through the forest and grasses that line the riverbank near our home.

I am immersed in nature.

It is there I find myself letting go of thinking about the page and simply allowing what is whispering to be released to come alive.

Creating this altered book journal, My Mother’s Prayers, has been an amazing journey. It has connected me through time and space within the sacred field of grieving and remembering and honouring and healing..

There are so many moments in my relationship with my mother where pain and regret and despair rippled in angry waves creating crenellated, hardened folds in my memory banks. Over time, the folds solidified and I became stuck in believing only distance would keep me safe.

Creating in this journal has felt like standing in a gentle spring rainshower with my head tilted up to the skies. My arms are spread wide. The rain caresses my face and the breeze flows gracefully throughout my being. I am present to and within it all. I am refreshed. Envigorated. Enriched.

In the present, the hardened folds soften, the crenellations become smooth and the edges drift away. The past quietly floats out of view like a boat on the river rounding a distant curve leaving me embraced in the present moment.

And I smile.

My mother no longer visits me while in the bath. She no longer insists I ‘listen up’.

I like to think she’s having the time of her afterlife, living it up for all she’s worth in the heavenly realms of her prayers. Dancing with her brothers. Laughing at my father’s sweet nothings whispered in her ear as he nuzzles her neck. Sharing a meal at God’s table with her parents and brother’s and sisters and Aunties and Uncles and cousins who got there before her. “It took me awhile to get here”, she laughingly tells them all. “I had to clean up some business I’d left undone.”

I like to think she’s happy with how that ‘business with me’ is cleaning itself up. I like to think she too has found peace.

As I finished the final touches on this page, the quote came to me. “Her prayers were the whispers that calmed angry skies and turbulent seas.”

My mother’s prayers are like that boat. They are the sacred container carrying us all to safe harbour, in good times and in bad today. Whether she’s with us in body or in spirit.

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The following is the video I created of making this spread.

I am constantly amazed by how challenging a science video-editing is, and how creative.

I’m also sometimes quite frustrated with the technology and my lack of experience. Like syncing of the sound to video. I worked and worked to make it happen and finally had to accept, it’s not about perfection.

I also had to trust that in time, I will become more adept!

I hope you enjoy the video — sneak-a-peak — there’s even footage of Beaumont in the trees!

Thank you again Laura Hickli for sharing your amazing talent and voice. Mr. Butterfly is so perfect for this piece.

as Soft As A Petal Falling

Altered Book Art Journal page — “My Mother’s Prayers” – ‘Soft as Petals’ “As soft as an angel’s kiss, her prayers fell like petals from the heaven’s above blessing everyone on earth.”

For the past three days I’ve been working on a video of my creative process. I filmed myself working on another page from the altered book journal I’ve been creating of my mother’s prayer cards, and have been editing and editing and editing…

It is a good stretch for my brain and a good reminder of how the creative process is not just founded in ‘art-making’, it is everywhere! I have to keep reminding myself that creating a video is in and of itself a creative process. Rather than thinking it’s taking me away from time in the studio, I am focussing on the value of learning new things and how it is expanding my capacity to evolve into new forms of creative expression!

The other day, after commenting on my Mother’s Prayer Cards art journal, someone asked if I was okay. “You seem to be grieving so deeply,” they said. “Are you okay?”

I appreciated their question and concern. It felt very loving.

The fact is, I told them in response, I feel great. Creating this journal of mom’s prayer cards, immersing myself in an exploration of the power of prayer and memory has been a very healing, loving journey. It has expanded my compassion for my relationship with my mother and deepened my knowing of her love. It has also given me an opportunity to heal some of the broken places of our relationship.

In the eulogy I gave for mom at her celebration of life, I wrote, “Being the youngest, I wanted to be the rebel. In fact, for a large portion of my life, I wanted to be anything but like my mother. I am so grateful that through her prayers, I have become more like her than anyone else I ever thought I wanted to be. As I sat with her in the quiet of the night over the final week of her life and prayed with her and sang to her and read to her, I realized that the gift my mother gave me was and is the one I cherish most in my life today – an unwavering belief in the transformational power of Love. “

Kindness was my mother’s North Star. No matter how unkindly I responded to her when she told me she was praying for me, she never responded in kind, she only responded in kindness.

Life is a journey. It isn’t about how fast we go on the road of life nor how long we’re on the road. It’s about how much kindness we invest into each step along our way. It’s about how much we joy we instill in each day and how deeply we fall into Love with everyone and everything on our path.

My mother would have been 98 today. In her life and in her passing, I have found myself growing deeper and deeper into Love through her prayers that continue to be a constant on my path. Thanks mom! Happy Birthday!

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About this altered book art journal page:

I started this spread knowing what the words were. They had appeared while I was in meditation before starting the page and were my guide as I created. “As soft as an angel’s kiss, her prayers fell like petals from the heaven’s above blessing everyone on earth.”

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.

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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.