Tuesday, January 16, 2018

I AM A LOVER OF THE LAND

PERPETUATE. The words preserve, maintain, conserve, sustain, continue come to my mind when I think of our Earth, and in particular, my beloved Georgia Coast. (art by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)
Hallelujah for our beautiful Earth! Hallelujah for all of us who are Earth lovers and caretakers. Hallelujah for conferences like #100MilesGA that bring together conservations who inhabit the 100 miles of Georgia Coast. 

This past weekend (January 13th), I attended the second annual 100 Miles Coastal Conference on Jekyll Island. The theme of this conference was "Choosing to Lead." I was asked several questions about my involvement in taking environmental action for the Earth related to climate change and our Georgia Coast.

WHAT ARE YOU DOING FOR THE ENVIRONMENT?

WHO, ME?
ME? RUTH SCHOWALTER, aka Hallelujah Truth on Jekyll Island, Georgia, 2018; Second Annual 100 Miles Conference: Coastal Conservation in Action/Choosing to Lead. (photo by Tony Martin)

I didn't have a ready answer. And I really wanted one. After all, aren't I involved in environmental activism? 

Here are some items of action I have accumulated:

1. Wife and field assistant of the author of Life Traces of the Georgia Coast. (All you have to do is read the book and see how present I was in my husband Tony Martin's jaunts up and down the Georgia Coast and the majority of its barrier islands.

2. Even before his Life Traces book came out, I had illustrated a children's story, "The Misadventures of Maria the Hutia," set in the Bahamas and about endangered species there. The book is used in the Bahamian schools.

3. Generated numerous images and wrote blogs about the Georgia coast. See these blog posts as an example: Life Cycle of the Moon Snail: Lions of the Tidal Flats, Eternal Sacred Images: We Find Ourselves in Nature, Substituting Beauty the Spiritual: An Interview with Carol Ruckdeschel.

4. Began a collaboration on the life-cycle of the American Oystercatcher with Jenifer Hilburn, then the ornithologist on St Catherine's Island. See a couple of the blog posts that documented this process to get the idea of our collaboration: Getting Inside of the Egg, Embracing Hope as a Strategy for Conserving the Environment.

5. For the past several years, I have been integrating the improvisational system of InterPlay with science communication. In addition to training undergraduate science majors, international scientists and researchers how to express their ideas more effectively, I engage the general public in "play" around topics of evolution, the environment, water monitoring, and science as fact. Here are two blog posts: Improvising Trilobite Eyes: InterPlaying with Evolutionary Concepts at the Atlanta Science Festival, Shyness Evaporates: College Science Students Use InterPlay Storytelling Methods to Convey Their Nature Observations.

But, how do I condense what I do into one polite but descriptive response? I find myself lacking confidence in the face of a lack of clarity. I need a vision that will embrace it all!!!

Perhaps  I am a LOVER...A LOVER of the land as author, poet and wildlife ecologist J. Drew Lanham talked about the closing keynote at the 100 Miles Conference this past Saturday. He equated being a lover with being a conservationist. Here is his definition of conservation:

"Conservation is caring about something intensely enough to save it for later for others." -J. Drew Lanham

J. Drew Lanham. Master Teacher and wildlife ecologist at Clemson University, Lanham teaches that conservation must be a blending of the head and the heart. A widely published author, he has most recently published, "The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man's Love Affair with Nature," which won the 2017 Southern Book Prize. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
This caring equates LOVE. We are LOVERS, those of us who care for the land, striving to take action to save it for later for others.

Could my answer be: "I am a LOVER of the LAND. I care intensely enough about it to save it for later." ?

That's Coffee with Hallelujah. Soul Blog with me. I want to know what you are doing as a caretaker for the Earth? Do you care intensely enough about the Earth to save it for later for others?  Are you too a LOVER of the LAND?
PERPETUATE. This image began back in 2014 as an outcome of the work that I was doing with the ornithologist, now Altamaha Riverkeeper, Jenifer Hilburn. We were collaborating on a story about the American Oystercatcher. She was the scientist taking action to perpetuate the life of this coastal bird, and I was the artist, listening to the plight of this endangered species and interpreting the emotion of the situation. Titled, "Perpetuate," this piece was an "outside" work. That is, I put myself into the image as the central figure. By being front and center is the way I figure things out. I put myself into the Georgia Coast landscape. In viewing the life cycle of the American Oystercatcher, I was able to see where it nested in a "scrape" nest on thin bars of marsh land covered with oyster shells. The nests are threatened by rising sea levels, predators, and mindless boat visitors. In my hands, I hold "Baby New Soul," who embraces a baby alligator. Yes, there appears to be a story here. Stay tuned. (art by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: Thanks to Tony Martin, whose amazing life's work takes
him again and again to the Georgia Coast. In great appreciation to the Emory University project, The Georgia Coast Atlas, that funded this trip to the 100 Miles Second Annual Conservation Conference. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

THE EAR AS PETAL

Hallelujah Dear Pilgrims! What are you doing to create grace in your life and the lives of others? Hallelujah for art making! Hallelujah for ways of relating to one another that can soften the hardness of our protective barriers! I created this image, "THE EAR AS PETAL," to remind us that truly listening to another is a gift.

One of my gracemakers is Mark Nepo. When I am seeking calming thoughts, I open his meditations, "The Book of Awakening." This morning, I am contemplating the soothing aspects of nature. And, then using nature as metaphor. Mark Nepo writes: 

"The ear is only a petal that grows from the heart. When we hear each other, it all becomes a garden."

In this image, I have created ears that are pitcher plants. I am listening to you all as I practice creating grace from the mundane to the mysterious in my art making. You are my LIFE GARDEN! And 
I am so very thankful for you being here in this garden of my life. 

I ask you all to SOUL blog with me, sharing your thoughts on the theme of the wonders of nature. In these times, I am truly appreciating all of you fellow creatives from around the world. I invite to post  your words of hope and grace. Or you can join me on my Facebook Group, The Daily Creative Practice and post your photos, drawings, dances....etc...that soothe our souls in these times of angst.

That's Coffee with Hallelujah! 
EAR AS PETAL. This piece was created in January 2017 while focusing on "creating grace" in order not to give in to the turmoil being generated by the election of the 45th U. S. president. Even though I was almost completely silenced verbally for one calendar year from the political duress, I continued drawing. This image was drawn in pencil and then altered using the Paintbrush App.  (art by Hallelujah Truth) 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Improbable and Beautiful--As though I had wings

IMPROBABLE AND BEAUTIFUL--AS THOUGH I HAD WINGS. (Art by Hallelujah Truth)
Hallelujah for seeds, wings, beauty and all that is improbable but possible! Hallelujah for imagery, dance, and music--for the song in our hearts and the lines that I draw.


As 2018 opens up, I am mulling over where I want to fly and what noble and ordinary things I want to do! Nothing decided yet except that I want to have fun and to play along the way and while being and doing. I will be using "easy focus" for sure. Wheee...!

That's Coffee with Hallelujah! Soul blog with me! Share with me your thoughts of dangerous and noble things! What are they?
Wheee...!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

2018 FEAST FOCUS

FEAST FOCUS. My intention for 2018 is to keep my focus on the GOOD. There is so much  of that goodness in my life, why not direct my gaze at it? This takes the practice of restraint. Each time I turn my head to what is "not good," I will practice turning my head back to what is abundant and resplendent in my life. In addition, I will look towards the "ordinary good" as extraordinary. My plan is to diminish the negativity and embellish all else. This image of Hallelujah with the seed represents "heart growth" gained from focusing on the feast. (art by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)
Hallelujah for 2018! Hallelujah for posts in our life fence that allow us to begin all over again!

Dear Readers, what word have you chosen to guide your actions in 2018? I discovered my word while traveling in Argentina. I experienced such an overwhelming sense of abundance, that the word FEAST chose me.

I had been flirting with this word in 2017. My focus was increasingly attending to the riches in my life. Let me name some of them here:
GROWING THE GOOD


Life with my boon companion, Tony Martin

Friendships with women from China, Korea, Japan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Argentina

Good health

Opportunities to integrate InterPlay with teaching American English fluency

Art making and Art friendships

Facilitating improvisation (InterPlay) as a way to improve science communication

Hard honesty given to me by trusted friends

There are so many other jewels in my life that I am not mentioning here, but you get the idea--right? 

Hallelujah for the FEAST!

This FEAST FOCUS requires me to restrain my peripheral vision. Yes! I can see all that is wrong in my personal universe and the ripples of your universes and the world's.  2017 with the Trump presidency shut me down. Some personal challenges with relationships dampened my joy. Lacking vision hampered my creative growth.

I am asking that this 2018 FEAST FOCUS allows me to regain my spirit, my umph--that which makes me feel vital and juicy!


PERSPECTIVES. I place myself at the "heart root" to improve my  perspective of the GOOD. Thanks to Cynthia Winton Henry for her offering of the words from Muriel Rukeyser "The blessing is in the seed." See my previous blog for more on this theme.
That's Coffee with Hallelujah this morning! I invite you to share your 2018 word and to give an explanation if you care to. What are you leaving behind and moving forward towards.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Blessing is in the Seed

"THE BLESSING IS IN THE SEED," Muriel Rukeyser (art by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)
Hallelujah for SEEDS and the new beginnings they possess! Hallelujah for Dance Chapel with Cynthia Winton Henry and for the embodied wisdom she offers through movement and poetry in our online community.

This was the poem Cynthia read to us before she invited us to move with our hands cupped, embodying or holding the SEED.



Seeds

Not all things are blessed,
but the seeds of all things are blessed.
The blessing is in the seed.

(Muriel Rukeyser, 1913 – 1980)


I held my SEED as I danced. I moved about my room with the lights twinkling on the fig tree and Norfolk pine. I envisioned the SEED opening up and becoming a pair of wings--a butterfly. I saw a bivalve opening and revealing a pearl. Then my arms moved and I felt like a SEED springing open in the ocean swimming with the vastness of Life.

I experienced the SEED on multiple levels of thought, emotion, and body. For me, this experiential sense of of new beginnings is a way to feel vital and juicy and creative.

How many of us are casting SEEDS into the new year of 2018? Not all of the seeds we sow will grow, but isn't it wonderful to think of all seeds as a gift, a blessing, from which good things might originate?

EXPERIENCING THE SELF
I am so grateful for the spiritual direction that Cynthia offers, the community that she has created for our Monday night online Dance Chapel, and the wider InterPlay community, that supports me in finding and validating my own reality through experience. This kind of authenticity is a treasure.

Our Dance Chapel ended with this quote:

“That which cannot change remains. The great peace, the deep silence, the hidden beauty of reality remain. While it cannot be conveyed through words, it is waiting for you to experience for yourself.”
—Nisargadatta Maharaj


This image of me, Hallelujah, represents the many SEEDS I have for 2018. I know that the blessing is the SEED, but not all the things are blessed. I await the joy of discovering which SEEDS come to fruition. And I wish you the same. That's Coffee with Hallelujah! Soul blog with me and tell me what new beginnings 2018 holds for you? What SEEDS do you possess?

Sunday, January 7, 2018

TATTOO: Interconnectedness between Cretaceous Past and Our Present

DINOSAUR-RHEA JANUS TATTOO. I created this image as a tattoo for  a fictional Argentine ichnologist, created by my dear boon companion, Tony Martin in his work-in-progress. The tattoo incorporates the head of a Cretaceous theropod dinosaur and that of an extant rhea, a large ostrich-like bird that roams the Argentine pampas in the same places where dinosaur fossils are found. The image has been stylized to reflect some aspects of the art of the indigenous people who inhabited the lands that are now Argentina. Art by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter
JANUS
Happy New Year! Welcome 2018 and all that we have to discover in the upcoming months!

Hallelujah for travel both geographically and in time! Hallelujah for the imagination that allows us to take the present and past and merge them together to either tell a story or create an image!

The above image is an amalgam of ideas past and present. I created it as a tattoo for a female Argentine paleontologist protagonist in Tony Martin’s current work-in-progress (more to be revealed at a later date).

How appropriate that I would create a “Janus”-like figure at the beginning of 2018 and in the month of “January.” As a god of motion and change, Janus represents beginnings, passages, and duality.
RHEA

The tattoo combines the head of a birdlike dinosaur from the Cretaceous (looking to the past) with the forward-looking head of a rhea, a large Argentine flightless bird (similar to an ostrich) that roams freely on the pampas. Their shared evolutionary ancestry is represented by one large foot that could be both dinosaurian or avian. The foot is important since Tony’s character is an ichnologist, one who interprets behavior in the past from fossils including tracks.

The spiral at the animals’ heart center is a reminder of “deep time” and the interconnectedness of these creatures throughout evolutionary time.

PALEONTOGIST WITH ARGENTINIAN DINOSAURS. Here Tony Martin "becomes" a dinosaur as we waited for opening hours at  Plaza Huincul’s Museo Municipal Carmen Funes. For the tattoo image, I  used the profile of the dinosaur's head to the left of Tony. Notice how bird-like these dinosaurs are!  Photo by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter
One of the reasons that Tony and I went to Argentina during the winter break this past December was to explore and visit some of the paleontological riches of this South American country. We also wanted to understand both its indigenous and European culture.

Thanks to our Argentine friends - paleontological colleagues of Tony’s - we learned about the Aguada people who lived in northwest Argentina from 700-1000 and the motifs they used on their daily lives.
IMAGES FROM THE AGUADA CULTURE. These images were shown to me on my first day in Argentina by Diana Elizabeth Fernandez in response to my questions about rheas and the imagery of the indigenous people of Argentina. These ancient people called this large flightless bird a "suri."
Therefore, my tattoo image is informed by the imagery offered to me by Diana Elizabeth Fernandez, who is both an ichnologist and daughter of a anthropologist/ethnographer working with content related to these ancient Argentine people. I also incorporated other ideas I found as I searched Aguada images on the Internet, like the image below, which offered me the concept of Janus (cannot find the source, my apologies).

 
This tattoo image may evolve, just as Tony's work-in-progress is evolving. I will remain open to refining it. For now I am satisfied and so happy for the opportunity to collaborate with the imagination of my husband. Our shared life brings us great adventure and joy.

Acknowledgments: Thanks to Diana Elizabeth Fernandez for her close listening to what Tony Martin and I were searching for during our visit to Argentina. We could not have had a better friend, colleague, or assistant in helping us locate images, understand Argentinian culture, and navigate the transportation system or Spanish language.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Traveling with a Word for a Year: What's Yours for 2018?

Can You Guess My 2017 Word?

VISUAL IMAGE OF MY GUIDING WORD FOR 2017 (art by Hallelujah Truth)
Hallelujahs to all of us dear Sojourners! Do any of you feel the sense of time draining from the hour glass of 2017? I do! Seventeen more days until 2018!

Each year, as the new year approaches, I have a ritual. I like to choose a word that will inspire my choices and actions for the next 12 months. This ritual began as a prompt from community blogging challenges years ago. The blogging prompt would read something like this: 

By inviting a word to travel with you for a year -- and by going a step further and representing it visually -- I think that what you are really doing is giving yourself permission to explore something. It's a way of surrendering up to the universe something that you do not fully understand but intuitively know will yield something important and meaningful to you. It's a new lens through which to view your daily life, a private prayer, a fresh muscle to exercise, a secret reminder that there is so much more to you than meets the eye.

In this blog post today, I would to share my 2017 word with you. But I would like to offer it to you in "play" without revealing the exact word. The image at the top is the visual representation of my word for 2017. Just looking at it, what would you guess the word is?
SPEAKING HONORABLY. This close up is an image of me Hallelujah Truth. As you can witness, I created some intentions for myself!
Visually, I attempted to express a desire to speak honorably and to be trustworthy. My intentions also included about how I might "listen" to others and to myself.

Looking back on 2017 and how divided we all were here in the United States after the inauguration  of Donald Trump, my 2017 word also expressed a prayer for the exact opposite of division--I invited unity. I pledged to work for the sake of cohesion. I envisioned wholeness.
PLEDGING TO WORK FOR WHOLENESS.
This closeup (above) represents the Feminine, Mother, God. She is the "hearthstone" of my way of being. Her radiating star headdress offers strength, energy, and light. One hand is resting on her heart, filled with unconditional love. The other hand reaching out to us all offers connection and nurturance.
RENEWAL

My dear snake (on the left) promises continuity. There is hope in perpetual cycles. I fall down. I get back up. I fail at being honorable (does that ever happen to you?). I acknowledge my mistake, ask for forgiveness, and try to speak and act with decency and respect each next time. 

Have you guessed my word yet? Do any of my 2017 ambitions resonate with you? 

That's Coffee with Hallelujah! Soul Blog with me. I would like to know what word, idea, or image you are crafting to guide you in 2018. How will it make your life different from 2017?

I will be choosing my word for 2018 so stay tuned. 

Just remember that the world is waiting for you today! Something good is going to happen to you. Feel great! (words from Morris in the Morning, Clark Atlanta public radio)