Gestures of Love Live On

Two very dear and deeply loved women who had great impact in my personal and professional life died a week ago. Accomplished, smart,talented, beautiful and blessed with a lovely streak of mischief. Beacons of joy, they radiated love and kindness. Cruelly, both were ravaged by disease.

janetJanet Heerema battled ovarian cancer then acute leukemia fighting until her last days when she finally, gracefully, stopped. In the midst of her illness, Janet organized a ‘Celebration of Life’ which was a monumental sold-out concert raising thousands for Ovarian Cancer research. Janet had a way of inspiring, bringing out the best in people. She created community, using music as a balm and an inspiration. The times I needed counsel, Janet would offer thoughtful, experienced, kind reflection. She lived fully, with the belief love was the reason and the answer. Her example is one I will always draw upon.

 

 

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Lesleigh Turner’s battle was also courageous. Struck down by the relentless illness of depression, Lesleigh put a brave face on her struggle finally succumbing to her disease by taking her own life. An unfair end to an unfair diagnosis. An incredibly talented woman – photographer, actor, director, producer, creator of community. Over her challenging final years she moved heaven and earth to build a home for her family. Lesleigh was a great friend, a great collaborator and a champion of everyone she knew. She loved and lived fiercely, an example I will carry.

 

My friend Donald D’Haene beautifully described Lesleigh as having ‘drowned with love’. I would say that Janet was ‘buoyed by love’.  The world shifted with the loss of these powerful women. It’s a different place this Sunday then it was a week ago. I don’t believe Janet and Lesleigh knew each other but they have impacted my life and our communities through similar gestures of love.

Living too far away to be able to attend their memorial services and life celebrations, this reflection is my way of honouring the lives and my friendship with Janet Heerema and with Lesleigh Turner.

 

 

 

 

 

Gord Downie. Land and Sea. Poetry and Music.

Canadians possess a fierce pride of identity. A vital thread of our cultural history is so young that we can reach back and be within a generation or two of touching those pioneers who helped forge our identity. And from those markers we can draw a direct line to each generations’ cultural benchmarks. Our sense of self as Canadians is etched on the landscape where we first identified with these distinctly Canadian heroes. The Canadian Shield, the Rockies, the Great Lakes, three Oceans and the Hudson’s Bay.  From which birthed the Group of Seven and their compatriots who painted what we felt, to poet Al Purdy considered by some the quintessential voice of Canada , giving words to those same feelings. Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, and on to the Tragically Hip. Their music echoes the rough wildness of the land, laced with the most sophisticated and graceful turns of phrase. Land and sea. The poetry and the music. The Hip sound like our Canada. Just as Emily Carr’s and Tom Thomson’s paintings look like our Canada. gd

Like Purdy, Gord Downie’s poetry and lyrics do not shy away from the stark, the harsh, the vulnerable, the real. Without pretense. On a cold February night in 2013, a friend and I sat in Koerner Hall, Toronto, for a fundraiser supporting the preservation of Al Purdy’s A Frame cabin. Al Purdy’s home at the edge of Roblin Lake in Prince Edward County Ontario had always welcomed artists and would continue to be an education resource and home of cultural discovery. A place of legacy and cultivation. Gord Downie performed.

“I am drinking yellow flowers

in underground sunlight

and you can see that I am a sensitive man.”

You could be forgiven if you attributed this line to a Hip lyric. It is from Al Purdy’s “At the Quinte Hotel”. The thread from Purdy to Downie re-stitched. I marveled and also reveled that for Canadians, a poet’s home was worthy of preservation. That our cultural stars would believe in the importance of place – identity, legacy, cultivation.

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Gord Downie reading ‘At The Quinte Hotel’

Flashback to early summer 2000. I am spending the better part of a week recording soprano Barbara Dunn-Prosser and pianist Brian Jackson at The Bathouse, the recording studio created by The Tragically Hip. Dunn-Prosser’s ‘Till We Meet Again’ was the first classical recording, we were told, at the studio. I opted to stay on-site, immersing in the space that had an extraordinary Canadian pedigree trying to absorb as much as I could to, in some intangible way, infuse it back into the recording. The state of the art studios, driveway basketball hoop, wild rhubarb patch through the path out the back door, Lake Ontario at its front doorstep and the warm Bathouse Team. Creating the capacity for Canadian musicians to fulfill their artistic visions. A place of legacy and cultivation.

I’ve never met Gord Downie but he has had a tremendous influence on my creative career. It’s very Canadian to feel a familiarity with our cultural stars.  Lyrics and poetry resonate because they are drawn from our collective landscapes. Our stories are intertwined. Yet we are also determined to etch out our own destinies and this is what Gord Downie continues to inspire. Brilliantly. His path and that of the Tragically Hip, have been uniquely theirs. We can’t help but say, uniquely Canadian. This final summer tour solidifying our collective identity, securing their legacy as they write their own history.  Gord Downie continues to be the author of his own story. And in doing so, he has become the hero of ours.

(You can see Gord Downie read ‘At The Quinte Hotel’ in a wonderful short film shot in 2002, here: https://youtu.be/vPKeczB3wrg )

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Al Purdy’s A Frame Cabin

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The Bathouse Recording Studio

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As seen on MindBodyGreen: Being Nice is Overrated

…and Other Things Turning 50 Taught Me.

(link to original article: Mind Body Green )

On the cusp of my 50th birthday, I found myself especially sensitive to offhanded, brusque comments from acquaintances, feeling unusually hurt by close friends, and generally dissatisfied with life. The milestone had made me more introspective, and I began to realize that I’d allowed an unhealthy pattern to emerge in my relationships. I took the opportunity of turning fifty to reassess the way I interact and start fresh.

Like charms on a bracelet, eight jewels of clarity came to me. Here are the things that will help me cultivate better, healthier relationships for the next 50 years.

1. Words DO hurt.

I have felt the affects of harsh words and I have witnessed the pain caused by my own thoughtless comments. Tom Hanks’s character in You’ve Got Mail describes this moment beautifully: “when you finally have the pleasure of saying the thing you mean to say at the moment you mean to say it, remorse inevitably follows.” Whether you’ve wounded another or been wounded yourself, the scratches on our hearts take much longer to heal than any physical scar. For some, they never do.

2. Kindness trumps niceness.

When I was younger, I thought being nice was a badge of honor. But I realized it came from trying too hard to please people. Now, I choose to be kind. Kindness takes real effort. You have to channel reserves of grace, self-control, and maturity. It garners respect, rather than disregard.

3. Intentionality and determination are superpowers.

If I ever questioned that I had superpowers, a thorough review of my past would allay those doubts. Stating a desire or goal is the first step to realizing it. My best moments were born from the powerful declaration of my goals. Intentions, though they aren’t strict paths, are an offering to the universe. Saying, “I am ready for a new career,” or “I am ready for love,” we open up the possibility for success and fulfillment. Those things may not arrive by the means or in the package we expected, but that makes them infinitely more exciting.

4. I am 50 percent responsible for 100 percent of my relationships.

If I want successful, healthy relationships, I have to take full responsibility for my actions and reactions. I’m talking all kinds of relationships here — family, friends, colleagues. Further, I must be intentional about not taking responsibility for anyone else’s part of our relationship. Relinquishing control of other people’s behavior allows them to live up to their part of the bargain. We meet each other half way. Exactly half way. Which brings me to my next realization.

5. Drama doesn’t deserve attention.

It’s easy to find yourself in the middle of a crisis that is not of your own making. Most people who try to involve others in their drama are addicted to the surge of adrenaline provided by a perceived crisis. Having an audience (that would be you) is how they validate their behavior. People confuse drama with having an interesting life. But I have learned (and I hope you will, too) that ditching drama makes space for so many more compelling pursuits.

6. Shame is not productive, but accountability is.

I’ve made huge, cringe-inducing mistakes in my life. But never once has theself-loathing or self-flagellation I responded with actually helped me move on, or make better choices. Now, I’m choosing to acknowledge my mistakes, take responsibility for them, and then let go.

7. All the world’s ills can be solved with homemade soup.

Maybe it’s the meditative element of chopping, mixing, stirring. The rhythm and repetition are calming. When I make soup, I slow down. In that quiet space, I have room to be creative, and my mind fills with possibilities. The rest of the world disappears. And the result of my meditation is a tangible, delicious dish that’s nourishing to my body and my soul.

8. To place proper value on myself, I must make boundaries.

Too many times I’ve compromised myself by giving time or trust to someone who didn’t deserve it. I’ve given the best of my ideas and talents to groups that did not respect my contributions. I’ve given my affection to people who undervalued me. Eventually, I realized that this was my fault. I was letting people take advantage of me because I did not sufficiently value myself.

These things feed on each other. Creating boundaries is a way of telling yourself that you have value, and your needs and desires deserve to be honored. Valuing yourself makes it easier to prioritize yourself, and not let other people’s needs trump your own.

Self acceptance is at the core of all of these realizations. If I value myself, then I am accountable to myself. I am responsible for my words. I am kind. I can focus my power for good, live intentionally, and when necessary, create boundaries with grace. I hope the lessons I’ve learned help you inform and improve your life — whether you’re 28 or 82.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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Pencil, Pen…Ink…Blood

“I was working on one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.” Oscar Wilde

If you have a story, love to write, love the idea of writing, or wish you knew where to start, how to keep moving or when to stop, then you should join our Writing Workshop. Spend an evening or a day with kindred creative people who scribble, jot, type, eat, mull, procrastinate and then eat again, all for the sake of the story. Whether you are just beginning or you are well into your work, a few hours in an artistically nurturing and stimulating environment can do wonders for your personal creativity!

This is about writing your heart out, in your own unique voice, telling the story you’ve held, writing the poem, novel or memoir that has patiently percolated waiting for your attention. Structure, voice, dramatic arc, strategic advice, small hurdles or the big picture, we will cover what you need.

If you are beginning a musical work, in the middle of a story, not sure how to end a script, or are looking for some guidance with your artistic work in progress, there is nothing like a ‘comrade in arms’ to champion your work while providing meaningful support.

Private tutorials are held on Skype or Google Chat. These one hour sessions focus on your specific work and strategize moving your projects forward.  It can be detailed editing or general discussion – often it is both. Writers, musicians, creative explorers are welcome!

Message me for details and we can discuss your work further.

Creativity Lives Here!

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The Promise

Promises are sweet. As I have grown I have learned to be more judicious with the promises I dole out. Living has shown that promises aren’t to be given out on whims and fancies. A true promise is heartfully rendered. A thoughtful quiet proclamation that connects us deeply with each other. And because I now understand this, I don’t have that many to share. They require attention, a gentle upkeep – they are responsibilities and so take time. I also now truly and better value the promises that are given in return, holding very close the gesture and the promise giver. I believe and trust better, in myself first and then in those whose promises I choose to accept.

Quiet promises given and received.

The Promise, by Aaron Copland, is a composition that captures the true nature of a promise offered, the gentlest ripple resting on an epic undercurrent of repercussions. A statement of a people and country but also a personal gesture.  Given from one to another. Simple and sweet. Lyrics by Horace Everett.

The Promise of Living,

the promise of giving,

the promise of ending

 is labor

and sharing

and loving!

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Life-ology

Welcome to Life-ology! Predicting the future, daily horoscopes, astrology sites, promise sneak peeks into how our day will turn out. Have you found after reading as one horoscope told me ‘today would be a very good day to avoid contact with most people, as a matter of fact, just stay in bed’ that you careen towards that outcome? A bad day ahead and you feel a tad gloomy, or if you are told it is coming up roses, you feel lighter? Suggestion is powerful. I think most of us read  horoscopes  for assurance, an indication that everything is going to be alright.

I have decided to take some of that powerful suggestive energy and put it to this site. Life-ology, the alternative astrology site! When the spirit moves me a new Life-ology prediction, based on the careful interpretation of the signs around me, will be posted. Here we go!

Life-ology for April 2016

The signs have been read and the meaning is clear: Today is the perfect to sit where ever you are and enjoy the view. Step out into the world, take a deep breath, look up…way up… and welcome the glorious beauty in.

Life-ology for March 2016

Sometimes it is all said in a picture. This could be a film set, a lush painting, gorgeous digital ‘other world’…it is my favourite park in the downtown area of a small town in North America. Really it could be ‘anywhere USA or anywhere Canada’. Cool shade, paths steeped in history, gates leading to storied caves, sigh. It has been a very trying week for our continent. The images could also be ‘anywhere USA or anywhere Canada’. It’s hard not stay in front of the TV. Experiencing the horror in real time.  Life-ology today is the suggestion that for a moment at least, go to that personal place that gives you pause, where you can find some quiet, peace, reflection. img_20120502_120428.jpg

Life-ology for February 2016

After last week’s Life-ology weather report I think we were all assuming things would settle but the fronts continue to push extreme cold or extreme heat – dependent upon where you live on this planet. This is serious stuff. The weather patterns are indicative of some crazy climate re-wiring taking place – which just adds to the anxiety or pressures we are already feeling the weight of. So what’s a girl to do?

Sometimes there isn’t anything to be done, but just chill. Maybe you can’t do anything to fix this problem today, or maybe your efforts are taking longer than you had hoped. Perhaps you aren’t sure what the heck to do to, after all one soul facing a raging storm can be overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all. I’ve been listening to this song alot lately. It is one of my FAVES!! The blues with smokey male vocals, sparse electric guitar, fantastic female vocal line, and strings –  yes strings! Listen to how they start the piece and the resurface again midsong. Love it!

But the best part of this song is its message – when you become so focussed with your own ideology a self-righteous alienation occurs. Just chill baby, chill.  Here is my Life-ology fortune cookie* for you this week, in the form of a song by the Mighty Sam McClain ‘Too Much Jesus (Not Enough Whiskey)‘. I wish I’d thought of it!

http://youtu.be/cz8dje4FfHY

* Yes, I realize this isn’t a fortune cookie, but honestly, when was the last time your fortune cookie actually told your fortune!

Life-ology for January 2016

Rain, thunder, lightening, wind and fog sum up the weather of the past few days, unsettling in January. Typically this time of year is one of change, when we have strong urges to renew,  edit and alter. Lots of work to be done in the hibernating months, which makes sense as it is in the dark and quiet that rebirth happens – like in the earth as seeds prepare for spring, in the womb during gestation and even in our times of grief as we move through to happier days. It can feel as if emotionally we are in the midst of a weird unseasonal fogstorm.

To get this weeks Life-ology forecast, I drove through that foggy rain, home just in time for the thunder/lightening show resulting in a torrential downpour. So what does all this mean? Are these eerie weather patterns actually signs that I should be paying attention to? Is fog a metaphor for my need for clarity? Does the sudden appearance of thunder and lightening mean that turmoil is afoot? After much deliberation, mulling over of recent life events, an honest assessment of where I am in my own personal re-edit, I’ve realized that, nope, it doesn’t mean anything. Except it’s a great day to sit in front of the fire. Stuff’s gonna happen and while I really don’t like fog, I actually do quite like thunder/lightening.   Which is good to remember. Perhaps we don’t need to take ourselves quite so seriously. Maybe this week rain is just rain, even if it is in January.

Life-ology for January 2, 2016

Congratulations on your arrival in mid-January! This week will be one of discovery as you find yourself moving forward with your goals with a renewed determination. Where is it that you want you to be? What do you want to be doing with your life? Now is the time to go for it!

This week shows the steps taken last year, whether they were leaps or baby steps, have moved you closer to your goals than you could have imagined. Where were you 6 months ago? 3 months? 3 weeks?  The options for this week will be to continue to steadfastly walk your path while living fully in THIS moment. How do we reconcile moving forward and standing still at the same time? This uses both the heart and the mind.  It is about being mindful of the life you are living, making the choices in this moment that will create the life you want to live.

The path may not be straight and you may stumble but don’t be hard on yourself. If you are making the best choices you can with what you know, then that is all you can expect of yourself. Whether it is sunny or grey where you are, this week looks bright so shine on!

Ziegfeld Model - Non-Risque - Dancers by Alfred Cheney Johnston. Restored by Nick and jane. Enjoy!

Willow and Poppy!

Willow & Poppy

Willow & Poppy

What do books, art, theatre, music, history, science and and nature have in common? Willow and Poppy are mixing it up to find the connecting thread.

Alice Book Pendants

We are very excited to announce the opening of our new venture, Willow and Poppy Studios!

Handcrafted works of art as accessories, jewelry, signature pieces and one of a kind creations – we are exploring the inspiring aspects of artistic work around us.
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Creative thinking is not limited to the arts! History shows that creativity abounds in maths and sciences too. Every field it would seem, has its dreamers!
Willow and Poppy Studios feature the work of Louise and Gillian, mother and daughter, who work, live and play creatively!  Both share a passion for creating art in the studio and on the stage.
Gillian Etching on Pointe 2 of 5 2010

Every item is ‘made with love’ – the only way we know how.

Visit our ETSY shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/WillowAndPoppy
Visit our WEBSITE: http://willowandpoppy.wordpress.com/
Like us on FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/WillowandPoppy
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This is Julia Childs, not me, making soup - just in case there was any confusion...

Soup for SuperSoulSunday!

I’ve become kind of ‘known’ for my soup. If you’ve been invited to my home, attended a workshop, a dinner meeting, chances are as you walk through the door, you’ve had soup thrust upon you. In fact my soup has become so legendary that at one speaking engagement the wonderful woman who introduced me waxed poetically about my soup – which was perhaps the most flattering personal endorsement I have ever received.

What is it about soup? Quite a bit of thought-full-ness goes into each bowl. I search through the cupboards and fridge to suss out ingredients, assemble a collection on the counter then mull over the soup possibilities. Next I wash, chop, dice and mix. Toss everything into a pot and begin to stir. Simmer, stir some more, taste, add herbs and spices, stir again, then serve.  The recipes are equal parts chance, luck and experience plus one secret ingredient – they are each made with LOVE. Trust me, it makes all the difference.

This is Julia Childs, not me, making soup - just in case there was any confusion...

This is Julia Childs, not me, making soup – just in case there was any confusion.

Preparing soup is as much an exercise in zen living for me as it is a gesture of welcome friendship for those I am making it. The best soup cannot be rushed. The flavours need time to mingle, the vegetables have to soften, the broth must come to a gentle boil. When I am making soup, time slows down. And when we sit to eat it the slurping and sipping, smacking of lips makes it a shared experience. You can’t gracefully eat soup on the run. In life, it’s true that nurturing takes time, with ourselves, our relationships as we mingle, soften and boil into the flavour-full people we are meant to be.

February 2006 my work  was featured in O, the Oprah Magazine. Once you have been welcomed into the Oprah family (even if you sit precariously as that obnoxious distant cousin who continually shows up unannounced!), you carry a kinship with their ongoing conversation on what it means to live a deep meaning-full life. Since then, I’ve been peeking over the fence as they happily picnic the ‘it’s always summer at Oprah‘s’ days away, lounging elegantly in Oprah‘s backyard luxuriously tossing ideas around like balloons, wondering what can I bring to this conversation? I have realized that my unique weapon, full of my secret ingredient, is my soup.

As a big thank you to those who have enjoyed my soups and to those who continue to ask for my recipes,  this blog called ‘Soup for SuperSoulSunday‘ will run each Sunday in conjunction with OWN Network’s SuperSoulSunday programming. A new soup recipe will appear, with heaps of love, here each Sunday morning. If you have soup recipes and soup stories, please share them with me on the Contact Form below, or message me through this website. It would be wonderful to share your soup inspiration over the coming months. The Soup recipes to date are found on my website here: http://louisefagan.wordpress.com/soup-for-supersoulsunday/

Check out Oprah’s website here, for more SuperSoulSunday information – it’s very inspiring.  http://www.oprah.com/app/super-soul-sunday.html

 

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Gardens

To work with creative people is a tremendous gift.  Days filled with questions, searching for explanation and understanding. Social commentary, expressing the human condition, taking what’s inside and churning it out, exploring, defining, soothing, infuriating… nothing is off limits for the artist’s probing perspective. To be a creative thinker is to be at once an artist, sociologist, listener, observer, explorer, imaginative and brave.  Oh yes, brave.  Whether you are the most celebrated recognized artist or create without audience or support, the personal dilemma can be the same; ‘who am I to write, or compose, or draw, sculpt, paint… why is my story unique or worth telling’.

The colleagues I have been working with have faced this inner struggle and  have found their voices. It’s a challenge to believe in your unique perspective. Being a red tulip in a garden of yellow can be, well, uncomfortable. Or absolutely stunning. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. My inspiration for the next phase of work will be from the creative minds that challenge me to look beyond the obvious, think of possibilities and believe in the sound of my own voice.

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Where the Wild Things Thrive

Inside all of us is a wild child. A rumpus-roaring, belly-laughing, jolly-jumping girl or boy thrashing about. What would happen if we dared to let that untamed hot mess of joy escape?

A tree  left to grow freely, bursts into the most glorious sizes, with branches sprouting in surprising patterns shooting towards the light, rooted deep in the earth. Pruning hands contain a tree’s natural inclinations,  uniform shapes  sculpted in attempts  to give order.  Our tree, then, is the same as our neighbour’s tree, which is the same as the next, and so on. When we come across that rare tree that has grown on its own accord we look at it in awe and admiration!

We can strive to embrace our own unique pattern of living, our voice and expression that is uniquely ours or we can  diminish to a palatable sameness that dulls the senses.

Dare to be Wild! Dare to sing in a voice born of your own truth rather than one that mimics or exploits from the truths of others. Out of tune? A tad raspy? Who cares! It’s your voice and it is glorious.

Dare to Create! Be proud of something you made that tells your core story. That is meaningful to you. Colouring outside the lines? Dripping watercolours? Me too!

Dare to make a mistake in the process of making your statement. And if you’re going to make a mistake, make it a big one. You might as well let it rip and rip good!

Dare to embrace the love of those around you. And be wild enough to trust you will know when the love is false. Fill your world with the raw life full energy of good solid people who hold you in their hearts with the same care, love and respect you hold theirs.

For when we are full in our own souls and have fullness around us, we can be the wild and delicious creative beings the world needs us to be!

of-forest-men-yann-arthus-bertrand-3.jpg.492x0_q85_crop-smart(Photo by Yann Arthus-Bertrand)