Kiri’s Piano — No. 78 #shepersisted

I didn’t intend on painting a #ShePersisted woman yesterday when I walked into my studio. In fact, I had gone into the studio with the intent to tidy up and get some things ready for a course I’m taking on Saturday.

And then… the muse whispered… and I heeded her call… and #78 in the #ShePersisted Series was born.

Last evening, when I showed her to C.C., he commented that he really likes how I do eyes.

I laughed. I do not think I do eyes well at all. In fact, I struggle the most with the eyes. I painted over No. 78’s twice (and am still not happy) I told him.

“I feel like eyes are the mirror of my life,” I told him. “I struggle to get them right and with every struggle, I improve just a little bit and sometimes, to make it easier on myself, I paint them closed and then figure out how that ‘fits’ with the story. Like in life, I work at doing better, at righting wrongs and then some days, I just want to close my eyes and ears and heart and pretend I don’t see the wrongs and there’s nothing I can do.”

And I went on about the struggle and commitment and all that jazz until I ran out of steam. Gently and succinctly, he replied, “I think you’re amazing.”

Gotta love a man who listens and then doesn’t try to fix or argue you into ‘seeing the bigger picture’ or some other perspective. He just listens and when you’ve had your say, he simply affirms you.

And that is the genesis of No. 78.

In everything I’ve read about racism, cultural genocide and other forms of human eradication and ‘othering’ of our differences (I’d like to call them ‘our uniqueness’s’ but as a humankind, we are not there yet) by a dominant culture which also has historically believed it is superior because of the whiteness of its skin and its God, getting out of the way is critical to change.

Giving way, stepping aside, giving up centre stage, letting go of trying to ‘handle’ change for someone else or in ways that make it easier for us to stomach is essential for those who have been racialized and marginalized and subjected to cultural traumas about which, because we who have not experienced them in their skin/faith/shoes, can not truly understand nor comprehend. The deep historical and present impacts of their trauma can only be healed from within both their body of culture and their bodies. Not by ‘us’ telling them what to do, or how to do it or leading the way.

We do not have the answers for another.

We can create space for ‘the other’ to create a path that is reflective and supportive of what they have identified as their needs, their way, their right to make change happen and to lead their own way. And the only way we can do that is to get out of the way, step back, move aside, give way and give space for voices of cultural experience to be heard.

The impetus for No. 78 came from an article I was listening to on the radio about the rise of violence and racism in Canada against people who can be easily identified as of Asian descent. I am both confounded and saddened.

And in my confusion and sadness, I turn to the canvas. To the page. To nature to walk myself through my thoughts and feelings to understanding, harmony, acceptance, compassion, balance.

I’m not there yet.

No. 78 is just one step on a long journey. With each step I learn something more, I expand my compassion, my understanding, my sense of hope that one day we will quit repeating history – at least the bad parts.

And, as I take each step, I remember back to a song by James Keelaghan that speaks so eloquently and compellingly to me. I met James many years ago when he volunteered to perform at a concert I was producing as a fund raiser to support an organization working with street engaged teens. His heart and compassion are big. So is his story-telling.

Ever since meeting James and hearing his music, I always play his My Skies CD as I travel down off the summit of the Coquahalla Pass towards Hope. On that CD is a song that reminds me always that when we target one group we are ripping apart our own hearts and shredding our own humanity.

Below is James Keelaghan performing Kiri’s Piano. The second video is his story about writing and performing that song – it’s well worth the listen.

And I come full circle to Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and its powerful question… “When will we ever learn?”

Go Right. (a Quadrille)

“Creativity,” she said, “Is a muscle. Use it or lose it.”

At least, that’s what I remember the muse whispering in the sweet nectar of that space just before the dawn where I drift in blissful dreamland, just before Beaumont the Sheepadoodle comes and sticks his wet nose in my face.

It’s his signal. “I have to go. Out. Now.”

Of course, The ‘now’ when it’s -23C (-9F) with the windchill takes a few minutes to happen. By the time I’ve layered up, Beau is at the front door. If he could cross his legs I’m sure he would.

We went out. Walked the quiet, frozen streets for 15 minutes while he contemplated the perfect spot to do his business.

Beaumont is a master at picking his moments (and spots). If I’ve made him wait he’ll make me wait too.

But, back to the muse and her whisperings.

Since I can remember, I have loved writing prose and poetry. I’m not a rhymer. I just feel great joy experimenting with the words to create images and connections and ideas. I love playing in the flow.

On Monday, the inspiration to play came from a poetry prompt at dVerse.

Today’s challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to write a quadrille poem. If you’re new to dVerse or the quadrille, it’s simply a poem of 44 words (excluding the title.) You MUST use the word “way” in your poem.

I accepted the challenge and the words flowed.

The first line that came out of my pen was, “That’s no way to be a lady.”

I laughed and invited it to wait. “You’re much more of a #ShePersisted kind of prompt,” I told it and saved it in my #ShePersisted quotes file. I know it will be waiting for me to pick up the brush and start creating anew.

‘Cause that’s the thing about inspiration. It doesn’t have a best before date. It only asks that we take note and trust that when the time is right, it will be there inviting us to come alive in its vision unfolding.

I began again on divining the essence of the ‘way’ to write my Quadrille. This time, the words settled onto the page like honey melting in a mug of hot lemon tea. The perfect blend of sweet and sour. Smooth and syrupy.

Okay. So it wasn’t as fast as honey melting in hot tea. It took several hours to get the words to sing within the parameters of a Quadrille. Exactly 44 words (not including the title).

But that’s the thing about creativity. It isn’t a once in a lifetime occurrence. It’s an, ‘I’m always flowing in and all around you’ kind of medium. Like the tide. Always ebbing and flowing. Constantly in motion.

My job isn’t to watch the waves roll in. My job, my passion, my creative urge is to dive in and ride the arc, carving my words onto the page like a surfer catching the break, swooping and dipping as she rides the curl, body balanced within the crashing swell until there’s no wave left to ride and she paddles back out to catch the next one and the next.

Creativity is everywhere. Creativity has no beginning nor end. It just is. A force of nature. A fact of life.

Which is why, I didn’t stop with writing a Quadrille. I painted it too.

Ahh…. that muse. She takes such delight in play.

 Go Right
 ©2021 Louise Gallagher
 Thinking I’d find
 a shortcut to happiness,
 I blindly followed
 the road most travelled.
 The road
 veered left.
 My heart said, 
 go right.
 I followed my heart.
 There are no shortcuts
 to happiness.
 There is only the way
 of the heart 
 leading through Love. 


And P.Ss — the song that was singing in my head as I painted happened to be a song written in the 60s by Malvina Reynolds and made popular by the great Pete Seeger.

Perhaps it will inspire you too!