Thursday, September 30, 2010


Hallelujah to each and every one of us! Hallelujah for our differences! In recent years, as a teacher of international students, I have found myself intrigued when I’m in the presence of Muslim women whose faith suggests they wear hijabs. For me, a United States citizen, these head scarves seem exotic and their wearers from Saudi Arabia, Libya, U.A.E., Ethiopia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Turkey appear mysterious.  Hijab fashion fills me with delight because each scarf expresses the personality of the woman wearing it.

 How is it that a yard or more of fabric intended to cover each woman’s hair, ears, neck and chest, can be expressed in so many different kinds of fabrics and patterns? The silks, cottons, polyesters and denims dazzle the eye in a complex of florals, solids, checks, and stripes.

In addition to choosing the fabric and pattern, each wearer of the hijab determines how the swath of material is negotiated at the forehead, around the ears and pinned at the neck. Some hijabs, which are worn loosely, come undone erratically and require constant supervision. With great periodicity, the wearer must flip the errant scarf back over her shoulder and tug at it unceremoniously under her chin.  Other hijabs are secured firmly in a no-nonsense way, the fabric agrees not to budge. This certainty of placement gives their wearers an aura of serenity and calm control.

 Each day my work culture becomes more entwined with these young women’s cultures.  I know that as women they are like me, but as hijab observing Muslims, they are different. The hijab they wear has become a metaphor for me, representing that which I can’t fathom—that which remains hidden. I do a lot of pausing around these women, leaning into the unknown, wanting to discover what IS there. I greet them. I sit down with them. I ask questions. I wait to see what topics they might nominate. In addition to the cultural and religious differences, the age difference—I am 52, and they are some 20 to 35 years younger—also stalls the conversation.  Instead of understanding the sublime, I am left with the material world and the small things I can observe looming at what feels to me to be the gates of mystery.


Occasionally, in the restroom at GT’s Language Institute, I catch a little glimpse, a small part of the woman under the scarf. She removes her hijab and adjusts her hair before pinning the scarf back on. How surprised I have been to see blond, light brown, or brunette hair instead of the black hair I expected to find. Would they be amused at my small curious observations?

 Needless to say, the prospect of what IS IN THE MYSTERY lingers with me. In my morning creations, often a girl in a hijab finds her way into my drawing, speaking to me of what I already know. I stay present to making the image, honoring its desire to emerge before me. This process makes me Hallelujah!

I HONOR MYSELF and EVERY ONE. Hallelujah for our differences. Hallelujah for the MYSTERY and to ART which allows me a way to contemplate the MYSTERY.

 That’s COFFEE WITH HALLELUAJH! Soul blog with me and tell me what is your understanding of the hijab, the mystery of differences and similarities. How will you honor yourself today? Hallelujah loves you!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The SOUL is not in the BODY; The BODY is in the SOUL--Cleaning Out Sally’s Studio Closet


When a FRIEND dies right in the middle of things, right in the middle of LIFE—where does it leave those of us who remain? When Sally died on August 22, 2010, it left vast and various communities here in the Atlanta area openly wondering this question. What do we MAKE of our LOVE for Sally and what do make of our LIVES?  Last February at a SPIRITUAL ART PILGRIMS’ meeting Sally quoted to us from Hildegard von Bingen: “The soul is not in the body; the body is in the soul.”

(All of the artwork you see here in this particular blog is Sally's. I am especially fond of the image of the woman's head with the leaf coming out of her mouth. Speaking of nature? Aspiration? The black torso with the head coming out of its side is an image of Sally's that she repeated frequently. For her, it was about the emergence of Eve from Adam's ribs. The little boy figure cut out of pond rubber is one of many pieces Sally left behind. Each fragment tells part of her story.)

Does that mean that once the BODY is gone, that the SOUL is still here, present among us? Certainly for those of us who are artists, we can find evidence of Sally in the art that she left us. Could we change Von Bingen’s words like this: “The soul is not in the art. The art is in the soul.”?



On Labor Day, Britt, Sally’s husband, invites me into the splendor of the holy objects belonging to his wife, my friend, my collaborator in the refugee community art workshops, and fellow art maker and PILGRIM. Britt asks me into her studio to put away her art supplies. Thank you Britt for giving me this opportunity to be with Sally, as everything about her feels so fleeting, as if she is leaving all of us, escaping into an eco-zone beyond this EARTH. In her studio, I hold her Art—the art-if-facts of Sally Wylde.

(In order to gather Sally's art supplies, I had to gather her "artifacts" that inhabited the shelves amongst all of her paints, tools and papers. I stacked larger pieces of artwork. I put smaller ones in plastic baggies to await her daughters' arrivals and perusal. Some I took out and pinned on the bulletin board you see here to join other work Sally had hanging there. )

Artifacts—half human figures with holes in their torsos, galloping horses, women dancing, half forms of trees and houses, paper after paper hand-sized like a bird nestled in shelves with pieces of brightly colored fabric, remnants of performances—the Lump Journey’s eggs (rattle shakers), tree limbs, branches, pieces of bamboo, honeycomb, grape vines twirled into haloes, words, calendars, numbers, lots and lots of pencils, staplers, pliers, gallons of glue, rubber, boards, larger pieces of paper, important Mark Nepo poems, layers and layers of LIFE, blue, green, red—multicolor expressions, memories incremented on line of fabric, sewn into garments, glued onto paper, holding whispers of yearning….Sally yearned for ever more knowledge, leaning into the feminine, cultivating and anticipating increasing wisdom. Sally was beyond being a nature lover—she was a NATURE BELIEVER and worshiper….

 How many paintbrushes are there? More than it is timely to count. How many paint tubes? Old ones dying or dead, newer ones bigger and fresh. Scissors and jars of paint, carving tools and printmaking inks, needles and pins, and embroidery floss, burlap and canvas, and mesmerizing fabric from exotic places. 

(Jesse, Cecelia, and Lesly met me at Sycamore Place Gallery, where Chiboogamoo and I have just gotten a studio space, to make prints for the parade following Sally's memorial service.  An important member was missing from our printmaking--Robey Tapp.)

The SOUL is not in the ART; the ART is in the SOUL. Sally, your SOUL left us these remnants. A group of us artists decide to open our SOULs and MAKE ART using the block prints you have left behind. It is there that we find you as we print these words on paper: WONDER, FEAR NOT, THANK YOU, ALL WILL BE WELL. We burnish your images in red, orange, green, and blue onto brown and white paper: a girl riding a galloping horse, a sailboat, women dancing, stars, and an angel…. 

(On September 11, minutes away from a sunset, we paraded down the streets of Oakhurst, passing Sally and Britt's house, to get to the community garden. On our way, we saw a rainbow in the sky!)


Other friends cut bamboo and cardboard, creating signs to hold these images of OUR UNIFIED SOULs. YOUR ART IS IN OUR SOULS. At your memorial service, the Oakhurst Baptist Church is filled with OUR COLLABORATIVE SOUL SIGNs.  Afterwards, in a joyous parade the community carries these banners to the community garden you started. Drums beat, and we dance holding you amongst us in YOUR images, OUR images now.

 Hallelujah for all of us SOULs—PILGRIMs. Hallelujah for ART being there inside us ALL. ALL WILL BE WELL. FEAR NOT. WONDER. THANKYOU. Hallelujah loves art and community! Hallelujah!

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Hallelujah Pilgrims! My LOVE of NATURE often startles me.  Living on the edge of Atlanta, a city populated by five million humans, I find myself incredibly challenged to HONOR MYSELF in relationship to this great ancient altar: NATURE. Within all that is vegetative and animal is the fabric of bouncing molecular energy. And from this ENERGY flows ETERNAL SACRED IMAGES. But where to FIND this ENERGY and EXPERIENCE these IMAGES?

 In our Decatur townhome, Chiboogamoo and I live amidst concrete roads, pathways, and walls with only north facing windows. Within our shadowy walled enclosure, we harbor parsley plants for the sheer pleasure of seducing butterflies to enter our lives. Our birdfeeders house “peppered” sunflower seeds to attract the local finches and occasional woodpeckers to our windows and successfully discourage the squirrels who visit everyday to shred calcium from the cow’s skull I have hanging on the east garden wall. How my HEART BURST with WONDER this past June when I witnessed baby praying mantises dispersing across the wall above our front door!

 For me, this HEART BURSTING WONDER is magnified a hundred fold when I am visiting along the Georgia coast on one of its numerous barrier islands—Cumberland, Sapelo, Ossabaw, Little St. Simons, and St Catherines—to name a few. These slender finger like islands built from accruing and eroding sands for almost 50,000 years are fortresses of ancient maritime forests towering behind oozing muddy marshes which release their rich organics out into the ocean’s eternal ebb and flow. ENERGY VIBRATES HERE.

(How magical these Georgia barrier islands are. On Christmas Eve 2008, I saw this photograph of a fish crow on a young buck's back displayed on Royce Hayes' fridge in his home on the island of St. Catherine and knew I had to paint it! How surprised I was when he as the island manager picked up the phone and called the island's ornithologist, Jen Hilburn, and asked her to make me a copy! It appeared on our cabin's doorstep that afternoon. Island hospitality!)

I must say here that I am knowledgeable of these Georgia Golden Isles because of my Chiboogamoo.  As he nears the completion of his book, “Life Traces of the Georgia Coast,” we marvel at the beauty that exists a 200-mile drive and ferry ride from our townhome front door. His research and documentation of the thriving wildlife on these everchanging and moving islands has brought us into the caring hospitality of island naturalists such as Jim Bitler, John Crawford, Jen Hilburn, Scott Coleman, and Carol Ruckdeschel.

(Here I am with my Chiboogamoo on Cumberland. Vernon J. Henry and Carol Ruckdeschel took us there to look at a Pleistocene outcrop in December 2008.)

 My sweetheart and brilliant husband Chiboogamoo has had me accompany him on these island adventures as his worthy assistant and sincere LOVER of NATURE. Hallelujah! HALLELUJAH! H A L L E L U J A H ! ! ! Zeroing in on my AUTHENTICITY, I greet all that I see and all of those that I meet as COLLABORATORS in my PILGRIMAGE, my quest to find and document the ETERNAL SACRED IMAGES. The beaches, marshes, forests, and ponds THRIVE with LIFE. Most recently, Gale Bishop has been posting daily photos from St Catherines as baby turtles emerge from their deep sandy nests along the dunes into the endless moving sea—an eternal cycle of life, one for the sea turtles that has been going on for more than 100 million years.

Last week in the middle of September, Carol Ruckdeschel, a naturalist living on Cumberland, was kind enough to send me some images of the black vultures that are part of her daily environment on this southern most Georgia barrier island.  I had asked her for “island” stories in my absence of experiencing island NATURE directly for the past six months. These vulture photos were her response, and they were ENOUGH. Carol’s portrait of a vulture spoke to me profoundly and deeply. I had to paint this greatly misaligned bird, despised by humans because of its carrion feeding ways, in the way that Carol had captured it.

I titled my portrait, “I AM HERE.” I use the verb “to be” in present tense to address the simultaneous presence of LIFE and DEATH that the vulture represents to me. While being very much alive and experiencing hunger, parenthood, the breeze through pine trees, this bird also reminds me that I one day will be carrion but long after its own demise. I AM HERE. Yes, be present to THE NOW. I have a goal in MY PILGRIMAGE, my creative odyssey: to greet TRUTH with a HALLELUJAH! Hence my name—Hallelujah Truth. Hallelujah Black Vulture! Hallelujah NATURE!

I began this blog entry with the question as to how to find and experience the ENERGY of these ETERNAL SACRED IMAGES found in NATURE. My answer is this:

 Fellow Pilgrims, follow your intuition, listening to what you already know. Our spiritual paths are often a rediscovering of what we already know deeply within ourselves. Honor nature and see how its life reflects back your interior.

 This carrion eating bird is essentially me, as much as a sea turtle or American oyster catcher! I AM HERE. YOU ARE HERE. WE ARE NATURE! Hallelujah! 

(I painted this image for Scott Coleman, who is the naturalist on Little St. Simons. He was kind enough to meet us on a cold Saturday morning in March 2010 and take Chiboogamoo and me for our very first time to see this jewel of a Georgia barrier island. His office is located in an old home sitting on the marsh, where Scott frequently watches otters frolicking. Viewers have responding to this image positively. Is it because of how I have made these creatures look very human like?)

Friday, September 10, 2010


What is creativity coaching? Imagine the Dementers in Harry Potter. Dark cloaked figures arrive flying from the sky’s horizon, materializing out of another dimension, something like the Wicked Witch of the West but without a broomstick.  The atmosphere becomes embroiled with a sad heaviness as they hover over their human targets. Then ALL THAT IS PRECIOUS in LIFE is SUCKED OUT of the frail mortals who are left empty human shells incapable of experiencing joy or thought evermore.

Now IMAGINE the opposite—and you have CREATIVITY COACHING. My creativity coach, Lesly Fredman, is more like Peter Pan’s Tinker Bell with the ferocious intuition and intellect of Lily Tomlin, a whale and Leonard Cohen. Often appearing around Metro Atlanta as a SUNFLOWER in the “Dancing Flowers for Peace,” my CREATIVITY COACH follows the THRILLING LIFE FORCE, much in the same way that the sunflower moves synchronously with the sun’s position throughout the day.

(Lesly posing with old work of mine at a Christmas "Hot Grog" sale at her house in 2008. Before creativity coaching, I only worked on wood or found materials from the street. I used only acrylic and latex paints--generally gathered from the curb on garbage day. Since then, I have experimented with a variety of other media, finding my intense love for watercolor pencils shown in my work here on this blog.)

Okay, what would a mortal do with a CREATIVITY COACH? Let’s start with a simple act of imagination. CREATE a list of ALL that you HUNGER to DO to BE to EXPERIENCE to REALIZE—This is the list of YOUR ESSENCE (the kind that the Harry Potter Dementers want to suck out of you and that often remains IN you like an unlit fire!). With the assistance of the CREATIVITY COACH, you might do any of the following imaginative acts:

 1) DANCE each item on your DREAM list, experiencing and savoring each DREAM, bringing it into your body’s muscles, bones, and breath.

 2) PRETEND you are someone else interviewing the REALIZED YOU and finding out the ways you BECAME the DREAM YOU.

 3) PAINT (especially if you are a visual artist like me) aspects of what BEING in this NEW REALITY looks like.

 4) WRITE an “Exquisite Corpse” poem, teasing out fluid verbal images of YOUNESS.

(You have read earlier blogs about the death of my friend, artist colleague, and fellow pilgrim Sally Wylde. In the days following her death, I honored her in my daily creative meditations. I allowed her to be present in the unknown with DEATH. I trusted that together we would find a new way of being in DEATH.)

(The days following Sally's death, I drew each morning, holding the thought of her pilgrimage in the unknown terrain of death and without flesh. I was happy when I began envisioning her physical body returning to the earth.)

 Well, you get the idea. The CREATIVE ACTIVITIES are as INFINITE as the IMAGINATION. Live in the PRESENT and the thoughts and actions that you have and do become NEW WAYS of BEING. My Creativity Coach calls her business “PRESENCE.” We start a session by my answering the question, “What is going on with you right now?” Asked calmly, this question elicits a sweet hushness. We both lean into me to listen to my heart beat, my breath, to determine who I am now….

(We are readying for Sally's memorial service here in Decatur. Her death is with me. Mourning takes time. Sally will be a part of me in the many transformations of her PILGRIMAGE. This painting with death hovering around me is unfinished.)

This method of BEING PRESENT heals and rejuvenates. We, the CREATIVITY COACH and I, begin with WHO I AM--now. No past narratives and no whining about past periods of inactivity. We “light” the fire of Hallelujah. Even thoughLesly is sitting across the table from me, our meeting has the heightened feeling of ME being a performer on a theatrical stage. Didn’t Shakespeare write that all the world is a stage and we are all actors upon it? How FUN to get to TRY NEW WAYS OF BEING ON like a character in a play! Lesly gently directs ME with the skill of an experienced theater director. In fact, Lesly seems to me a most unique CREATIVITY COACH, having managed and been the artistic director of Theatre on the Prowl for almost 25 years.

 After working with Lesly for three years, I am here to tell you that our IMAGINATIONS CREATE REALITY. In our creative work together, I have started my own business, RuthTruth Art; created a new persona—Hallelujah; generated a blog, “Coffee with Hallelujah,” which integrates my creative process with my visual art; signed the lease for a studio at Sycamore Gallery to do collaborative work with my husband, Tony Martin, a paleontologist; given birth to the “Art Factory,” with Robey Tapp and Sally Wylde (who envisioned this art collective) and together completed a year’s art program with adolescent teenage refugees at Global Village School in Decatur. Believe me, there is much more that our creativity coaching has given birth to.  That is the subject of future blogs!

My journey has been both light and dark, buoyant and treacherous--I have been willing to open all of these doors because I am dedicated to being present to my AUTHENTIC SELF, and because of Lesly (and my Chigoogamoo)--I have not been alone!

 What is CREATIVITY COACHING? For me, it is doing my LIFE’S WORK with the JOYFUL EASE of a cat napping! I am happily experiencing every inch of my BEING! Thank you Lesly Fredman, CREATIVITY COACH EXTRAORDINAIRE!

 Hallelujah wants to hear from YOU, FELLOW PILGRIMS! Tell her about your AUTHENTIC SELF. Soul blog with Hallelujah!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

1st Anniversary of “COFFEE WITH HALLELUJAH”: Making Time for Creativity Each Day

 Out of CREATIVE GRACE, Hallelujah entered this world a little more than a year ago. She flowed from my imaginative womb singing YESes to each artistic possibility. Hallelujah has been celebrating my SOULFULNESS with the joyful ease of a cat napping, stretching every inch of my BODY into SPIRIT and IMAGE.

 At this one-year anniversary, I am still HALLELUJAH-ing! This Hallelujah persona has not only informed me and been fun—but SHE has also S T R E T C H E D me. The principle of “Coffee with Hallelujah” is that if I have time for a cup of coffee each morning, I have time to DRINK in my SPIRIT as well. I have time for fifteen minutes of CREATIVITY.

Hence, the EVOLUTION of a SPIRIT—or TWO! Both the Aboriginal Creation God and I have evolved together in my daily drawings and paintings. Wandjina has captivated me since 2006 when I first went to Australia and spent hours in various museums around that vast continent. Last year in May 2009, after journeying to northwest Australia with my Chiboogamoo, I started yearning to draw Wandjina—to internalize his cyclone eyes, lightening rod hair, non-existing mouth, and whites, blacks, ochres, and siennas.

East of Broome and outside of Derby, I absorbed the work of the Mowanjum artists in their gallery and tourism center. Many of the Aboriginal artists are just now learning or re-learning the images from their Dreamtime stories that are painted in rock shelters throughout the Kimberley. The more than 200-year British occupation and subsequent Christianizing of many of the original inhabitants did create a temporary “memory” loss or gap for some Aboriginals. However, a 30-40,000 year old culture is not easily forgotten.

The POWER of their DREAMTIME is communicated in the intensity of the Wandjina, snakes, owls, turtles and other nature images—no matter the artist’s skill level. So Hallelujah has spent the first year of her BIRTH being PRESENT with Wandjina. The paintings you see here are my first attempts to FEEL my way into this ancient symbol of creation.

As the year progressed and I drew daily, Wandjina’s simultaneous earthiness and spirit informed Hallelujah. She began to wear a sienna and white skirt and a blouse with black or sienna and ochre spots. At times she sprouted lightening bolts for hair. HALLELUJAH developed a relationship with Wandjina and never journeyed without him. Wandjina began to represent THAT WHICH IS NOT HALLELUJAH—OTHERNESS! I petitioned a male DEITY-or-ENERGY to be my constant companion.

On my return to Australia this past summer in June 2010, I was able to study more aboriginal art. Imagine my surprise when I witnessed a contemporary Wandjina in the Australian Museum in Sydney! The artist had fashioned Wandjina in blues and greens, elongated his body, and had him emerging from blackness, staring at ME! I gasped! I was staring at the GREAT MYSTERY once again! Wandjina exuberant and athletic, catapulting out of the spirit world, witnessing ME!

This image resulted: a bluegreen athletic Wandjina reeling in the universe with Hallelujah who looks like an action hero, no less and no more than Superwoman! Also  present here is a female figure shroud in green, MOTHER of the GREAT MYSTERY, another important figure that evolved from my daily drawings last year.

 Hallelujah to the EVOLUTION of CREATIVITY! Happy Birthday HALLELUJAH!

FELLOW PILGRIMS, give yourself permission to CREATE. Observe your world. Seek what is TRUE to YOU. Find YOUR TRUTH. Discover that YOUR TRUTH IS OTHER PEOPLE’s TRUTH. There is a universality that connects us altogether. There is an ocean of US-ness, the collective unconscious.

 Make time for coffee with YOUR HALLELUJAH!  For now, Hallelujah asks you to wish her Happy Birthday. Soul Blog with me. Support me in my journey and tell me how to support you in YOURS! Seeking FELLOW PILGRIMS….