Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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Wide open spaces of possibility and other vistas

Alcohol Ink on Yupo 11 x 14″ 2019 Louise Gallagher

I played yesterday. I set aside my list of ‘todo’s’ and immersed myself in the pure joy of spreading colour and texture upon a canvas. Well, Yupo paper to be exact.

Yupo paper is a synthetic sheet of plastic that alcohol inks do not soak into but instead, float on the surface until they dry. It’s what gives them such vibrancy and unpredictability. That, and their chemical make-up.

My chemical make-up has been struggling with the fears, tears, frustrations, angst of imminent retirement. I smile as I read back on what I just wrote. This having an end date without a ‘destination’ is rather daunting! And while I am excited, thrilled, filled with anticipation and joy, this transition time also has its ennui.

Who am I without my title? Who am I without a place to be every day?  People expecting me to turn up, have answers, make decisions, make things happen?

And while I know the answer is “I am all of me and then some”, there is still this place of angst to navigate and cross-over.

It is a threshold. It is part of living because life is filled with thresholds.  Some easier to cross than others. Some harder.

In a workshop I recently took with the incredible Kelly Lee Bennett , she encouraged each of us to create a list of 100 Aspirations.

At lunch last weekend with my beautiful friend Kerry Parsons, she encourged me to leave off determining the ‘how’ of my aspirations until after I’ve spent the summer enjoying life, savouring downtime and alone time and time to play with my grandson and my creativity. “Can you give yourself space to just be present without having to set any goals?” she asked me.

Goals are the ‘how’ of my aspirations. They are the concrete, measurable steps I need to take to create reality to the things to which I aspire.

Aspirations are my ‘why’, my heart-driven, emotional sometimes whimsical thoughts of what I’d love to create in my world if…. my life were ideal, my world perfect. I was living my dreams.

Goals are factual. Aspirations are an expression of my inner self, my feelings and emotions.

Since moving into this home a year ago, I have been planning on having our builder come back to build out my studio space downstairs. One of the deterents has been C.C. and my conversatoins on where to put the studio versus where to put his ‘den’. You know that man cave where he watches sports, drinks beer and throws peanut shells on the floor — okay the throwing peanut shell bit is not true but it paints a true picture of what the space is for.

I need light.

He needs…. whatever light he feels like turning on.

Hence, the debate has been studio in the front end of the downstairs walkout leading to the river or, in the farside where there are no windows.

Not having the studio builtout has resulted in my using the kitchen island as my makeshift studio. It’s 14 feet long so there’s lots of room to paint and cook, but, I do put everything back at the end of every painting session simply becuase I don’t like the mess.

It’s also meant I haven’t had much space to work with anything other than the inks.

Yesterday, I jettison  my ‘to do list’ in favour of creating a space in the walk-out side of the downstairs for me to paint. (You know, the ‘to hell with waiting to make the decision, I’ll just take matters into my own hands’ kind of move that gets one thing done immediately — and leaves the rest of what needs to be decided until later.)

I am grateful. Relieved. Happy.

Something in my heart went click, like the tumblers in a safe’s combination falling into place.

I have a space, a place. To create in. To dream in. To aspire in.

I have an artist’s space.

It is filled with light. Beauty. Possibility.

I threw away my ‘to do’ list yesterday. I played with inks and then, decided to get busy creating for myself a space where I can come home to the canvas, to my art journal pages to find myself at ease, inspired by the sheer joy of letting my creative expressoins flow freely.

Hello retirement!  Or, as Thelma Box, founder of Choices Seminars calls it, ‘Refirement’.  I am all fired up about the wide open terrain before me as I step lightly into the undefined, unmapped possibilities of my life.

Namaste.


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What do you do when you grow tired of your own excuses?

Alcohol Inks on Yupo Paper 11″ x 14″ By Louise Gallagher

I don’t yet have my studio built-out in our new home. I’ve been using that as my excuse to not create.

Yesterday, I decided I’d had enough of my own excuses.

All my alcohol inks and paraphernalia were in one box. I hauled them upstairs, set myself up on the island and began to create.

It was a dream day. A day for calm and joy. Centredness and exploration.

I haven’t used alcohol inks and Yupo paper a lot. One evening course recently with the amazing Allyson Thain and that’s about it.

But that’s the joy of creating just for the joy of creating. I don’t have to ‘know the rules’ or even worry about following them. I simply have to be willing to let go of expectations and dive into exploration.

It can be so easy in this time-challenged, expectation-riddled world to fall into the trap of believing spending an afternoon and evening creating is ‘doing nothing’.

It’s not. Nothing.

It’s everything without having to be anything.

And that’s where freedom, creativity and inspiration exist. Beyond the spaces between expectation and demands, rules and commitments. Beyond ‘have to’s’ and ‘you’re on a schedule, don’t lose it’ is a world of possibility where magic happens. If only I get out of the way of forcing it to do it my way, or expecting it to appear on my schedule, in my life-inbox the way I want.

I lost myself in the art of creating yesterday with no expectation of creating anything other than space to savour the moment and be one with The Muse.

While C.C. watched football games and hockey on his laptop in the bedroom, I muddled around with inks and paper, exploring what happens when I let go of having to make it look this way or that, and fell instead into the freedom of letting it flow.

In that space, worry subsided and I was reminded once again, to not take myself so seriously. To ‘go with the flow’ and let nature have its way. My job isn’t to direct nature. It’s to create the space for magic, wonder and awe to appear naturally amidst all the struggles, upheavals and mistakes of every day living, and amidst the beauty too.

This world is filled with angst. With turmoil and pain. And it’s filled with beauty.

When I release my need to make sense of the turmoil and fall instead into surrendering to the beauty, I create peace, joy, harmony within me. And in that place, magic awakens, miracles arise as I free-fall into being present to the wonder and awe of creation.

________________________________________________________________________________________________

Thank you Kerry Parsons for reminding me of my creative nature and inspiring me to connect once again with The Muse.


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Life is a work in progress

Art Journal Feb 21, 2015

Art Journal
Feb 21, 2015

Val Boyko writes beautiful and enriching words on living life in the balance of all things at her blog, Find your Middle Ground. Last week she shared a delightful acronym for the word STOP in her post, STOP and Find Balance.

STOP in Val’s words is a good reminder to,

S = Stop for a moment…

T = Take a full deep breath…

O = Observe… What am I aware of right now? … What is alive in me? Can I be with it whatever is coming up right now.

P = Proceed… What do I choose to do now that I have stepped back and been an observer of myself. The options are many…

I don’t work Fridays. By design my work-week is four days. As I’ve got so much to do right now, however, taking Friday’s off is not my choice.

Which means, I need to STOP more often to find myself amidst all the lovely things on my plate because, no matter how lovely the things, I can get lost in the busy-ness of it all.

C.C. plays hockey Friday afternoons and afterwards was watching the NHL game with team mates. When I got home I had the house to myself and in the quiet of it all found myself immersed in the joy of creation in my studio.

Saturday, I had intended to work on the final proof of the report we need to have printed this week, but I didn’t have the final version back yet, so let my plans go. I spent a bit of time cleaning up some work I needed to do and then, once finished, slipped back down to the studio to keep playing.

Yesterday, still no final proof and a great opportunity to keep creating.

But, rather than paint, I worked on the brooch bouquet I’m creating for our wedding. If you’ve never seen a brooch bouquet, check out Pinterest ideas. They’re stunningly beautiful and as in the case of my bouquet, have meaning. Some of the brooches I’m using were contributed by family and friends. There’s an elephant my sister gave me years ago, one from my father’s sister, another from the wonderful Kerry Parsons who will be officiating at our wedding.

I’d started working on the bouquet after Christmas and was stalled in that space of chaos in the middle of creation — the not finished project hasn’t had enough space to breathe and my head wants to tell me to give up. It is quite time-consuming as each brooch needs to have two wire stems affixed and spun together to create enough stability to hold their place in the bouquet.

Brooch Bouquet --  A work in Progress

Brooch Bouquet —
A work in Progress

The process is meditative. As I worked, I felt myself settling into the rhythm of creation, and even though I was watching “Romancing the Stone” 🙂 on Netflix, I found myself slowing down, I felt my breathing deepen, my heartbeat quiet.

I listened deeply to my heart yesterday. As I wired and spun and worked to create a thing of beauty to carry on our wedding day, I rejoiced in the wonder and awe of walking in love. As I carefully constructed the bouquet, I cherished the memories of each piece of jewelry and savoured the essence of the person who gave it to me and the gift of carrying them in my heart, and hands, today and every day.

It still needs some work to find its balance, some added space fillers to find its symmetry. But I’m happy. It is, like all things creative, a work in progress.

 

 


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Being present makes a difference

Calgary is a car friendly city. It’s streets and avenues are designed to carry traffic, not necessarily make the way easier for people. The downtown core is laid out with one way streets designed to make entry and egress easier, faster. You drive through downtown, not to the core.

Yesterday, as I walked from one meeting to another, I chose to consciously be present on the sidewalk as I walked. I chose to notice how I moved between people, cars and signposts. How I was present amidst people, cars and signposts.

Self-preservation won. If I didn’t stay present to the cars, I could easily have gotten in their way. If I didn’t stay conscious to the street numbers I could have lost my way.  At one point, crossing from one side of the street to the other that bisected a one way avenue, I thought, “Hmmm… They put the name of the street only facing the traffic moving from the east to the west. I was walking west to east. To see the name of the street I was crossing, I had to turn my head and look behind me.”

Last night, in the Primetime for Emerging Women course lead by the irrepressible and essential Kerry Parsons that I am taking, we began with an exercise of ‘being present’. We stood in front of each person, and breathed into our own presence, their presence, our connected presence in the room. And when we became truly present, we said, “I am here.” and when they felt our presence truly here, they responded, “I see you here.”

It was a powerful and enlightening process. Slowly, I felt myself sink into being present. Completely. Openly. Honestly. Present. No veil. No barrier, no ‘bubble’ protecting me from being present to myself and the other. It was beautiful.

I thought of my walk earlier in the day along the streets of downtown Calgary. Like the cars, even though I was focused on ‘being present’,  to ensure my safety and protect my limited time to get from point A to point B, I was more focussed on the information I was gathering about getting to the address where I was going, rather than the act of how I was walking, consciously connecting to the world around me.

It’s my Bubble World Attitude. I walk, drive, am, operate in the world from a place where fear of getting hit, falling, tripping over obstacles, running into dead ends, getting to the ‘church’ on time, keeps me doing whatever it takes to keep me safe — and separate — from the world around me.

In my Bubble World, vulnerability is not necessary — the thinking goes, “It’s not safe to be vulnerable walking the streets. You might get hit by someone or something.” In fact, when I got to my meeting, one of the people I was meeting with had somehow received a cut on his ear that kept bleeding. It was a windy day so the assumption was, a piece of debris had flown past and nicked his ear.

Aside from wearing a helmet, how do you avoid getting nicked by flying debris on a windy day in Calgary?  (and yes, that’s a rhetorical question)

Like life, we can’t control the world around us. We can’t dictate how it will unfold, who will do what, go where, go how we determine. It is in its very unpredictability and unexpectedness that opportunities unfold, miracles happen. This is life. Nicks, bruises and falls are inevitable. It’s what we do with them that makes a difference.

Challenge is, in my bubble world attitude, I can often operate from a place of perceiving the world as filled with opportunities to stumble. And in my desire to not, I miss those special moments where I can fly free. I miss those divine opportunities to risk it all and leap into the unknown, confident in my gifts, my strength, my capacity to weather any storm and life’s desire for me to achieve all that I am here on earth to become.

The Universe is with me on that one — it needs me, wants me, has evolved through me to create opportunities for me to become all that I am when I let go of fearing, the fall.

And to inspire you this morning, I am sharing Dawna Markov’s signature poem from her book, I will not die an unlived life.  We read it last night during the course and while I’d read it before, I’d never quite heard it like that! Open. Present. Vulnerable to the beauty of her words shimmering in the light of awakening.

I encourage you to take a moment during your day to read her words out loud, to savour each morsel and let them sink into your conscious awareness of being present, risking your significance to live, truly live, from that wild and brilliant place of your magnificence.

I Will Not Die An Unlived Life

by Dawna Markova

I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.

I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible;

to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.

I choose to risk my significance,
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom,
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.


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Community makes a difference

Bubbly and peace go together

We gathered together last night to celebrate the completion of “Summer of Peace Calgary 2012”. Seven of us communed around my dining room table, sharing a meal, laughter, companionship.

This is community.

No matter our purpose, our objectives, our goals, this is community. People gathered together, sharing, caring, being of one voice, committed to furthering that goal in ways that create more…. peace, harmony, forgiveness, kindness, … whatever the overarching purpose, it is the fact we are united together in community that makes the biggest difference.

Early last spring when the amazing Kerry Parsons approached me to ask if I wanted to be part of Summer of Peace Calgary, I was a bit dubious. Seriously? You want to do all that by June? Kerry’s passion and commitment to making a difference was compelling. So I joined the group of ‘peace angels’ as Kerry calls them and turned up at meetings.

Turning up is the first step.

Every Tuesday evening, from 7 to 9, we’d meet, talk about ideas, what we could do, what we needed to do to take just one of those ideas forward. The uber-talented Judy Atkinson of Circles of Rhythm generously offered up one of her regular Friday night drum circles as a venue and vehicle to connect people into the rhythm of peace and Drumming up Peace Calgary was imagined.

Dianne and Judy toast peace

It begins with imagining what is possible.

Once we’d imagined what could be,we focused on making it happen and it began to unfold. And it all began with the imagining of the possibilities. What if we could get 150 people to come and drum up peace with us? What do we need to do to make it happen?

At one of the meetings I told the story of my heart rocks and a peace rock ceremony was created. We needed the rocks, Dianne Quan set out to acquire them. We needed to paint peace symbols on them. Dianne had the method, I had the dining room table.

And so it went. From drumming to peace circles to the Peace Academy, peace came alive this summer in Calgary because from our imaginings we made space for it to happen. And in that creative, collaborative and co-generative space, peace happened. In that space of peaceful co-existence and recognition of our essential natures to be ‘of peace’, we set in motion what needed to unfold in order for Summer of Peace to come into being.

And it did. Come into being. In grand and gentle and rhythmic ways. In small and vibrant and resonate notes.

On Monday, Kerry was interviewed on CBC’s drive home program, The Homestretch about Peace Calgary and a $1200 grant we received from GIG YYC as part of Calgary’s year as cultural capital. While chatting with the announcer before her interview he posited that peace wasn’t really happening in Calgary. But it is, replied Kerry. There are so many small and yet significant events happening. Many people gathering to talk about and take action on peace.

Kerry & Marilyn share in peace

Peace is everywhere.

There is always room for peace. Always a place for peace at my table. In my heart. In my life. In my world. There is a place for peace and that is at the centre of my being at peace with where I’m at, what I’m doing, how I’m being in this world to create more of what I want, and less of what I don’t want.

It isn’t that peace doesn’t exist. It is that we often take the path of least resistance, the road well-travelled to get to our destination, to create what we want in life. If we were to stop and ask ourselves — will this create more peace or less if I do it this way? — before doing — we might make different choices.

Like anger, peace requires a change of thought. Counting to ten when anger rises up gives me time to assess how best to express my anger, without causing discord in my life and the life of those around me.

Counting to ten before taking action gives me time to check into my peaceful, or not, state of mind and ask myself, “Is this the path of least resistance? Will it create peace, or not?”

It all began with an idea.

It began with one woman believing it was possible to shine a light on peace in our city. From that tiny seed of a thought, an idea grew into a series of events awakening the possibility of peace.

From that one idea community was created, a community that gathered together last night to share in all that makes us magnificent human beings — our capacity to create change, to ignite possibility, to inspire greatness.

I witnessed an idea evolve into a community of gifted and caring people working together to make peace happen. Now. I am blessed.