Sunday, July 24, 2011



ARTISTIC ASSISTANT: Paleontologist Barbie has a strong aesthetic sense and helps Hallelujah Truth in her studio when she is not out on the road finding her next fossil.
HALLELUJAH for unexpected relationships! HALLELUJAH once again for SCIENTIFIC INVESTIGATION and ART united that brings CURIOUS SOULS together! As recent as last December, my Chiboogamoo and I had a new curiosity move into our lives in the form of PALEONTOLOGIST BARBIE! Since then both my Chiboogamoo and I have been happily collaborating with her in our respective CREATIVE areas. Upon her return to Decatur, Georgia, USA, from the east coast of Australia with my Chiboogamoo, she delighted me in agreeing to do this interview.

OAXCAN DINOSAUR WOOD CARVING: Paleontologist Barbie suggested I use this wood carving of a dinosaur from Mexico. Here she is explaining the way theropods threaten their prey.

HALLELUJAH: Why paleontology? Specifically ichnology?

PALEONTOLOGIST BARBIE: Sure I’m an ichnologist but that is part of being a good paleontologist.

HALLELUJAH: Okay, but then why paleontology?

PALEONTOLOGIST BARBIE: Paleontology is probably the most awesome science ever. You don’t need a lot of equipment, a lot of research money, or a lot of research assistants. You can just go out there and do it.

HALLELUJAH: But you do have a fascination with the past?

PALEONTOLOGIST BARBIE: Of course I do. Who wouldn’t be fascinated with a 4.0 billion year history of life and how it evolved over time!

HALLELUJAH: I admire your SPIRIT and ENTHUSIASM. What drives you? What is at the SOURCE of your PASSION?

PALEONTOLOGIST BARBIE: CURIOSITY. Every day when I go into the field to look at fossils I WONDER what I am going to find.
LEADING THE WAY ON THE ROAD: Paleontologist Barbie, filled with excitement, stares out the road south of Winton, to the world-famous dinosaur tracksite at Lark Quarry. She has been looking forward to seeing these dinosaur tracks for a long time! (Photo and Caption by Chiboogamoo) See Chiboogamoo's blog entry about Lark Quarry. I also wrote about Lark Quarry in a previous blog entry about how scientists need to "re-envision" the stories they tell about the past.
HALLELUJAH: Can you give me an example?

PALEONTOLOGIST BARBIE: Well, as you know, I just got back from a trip to Australia and I thought that the fossils there were wonderful because some were similar to what I had seen in North America but some were different. For example, the Cretaceous rocks formed in marine environments of Australia and North America both had a clam named Inoceramus and many ammonites. But these same rocks hold the remains of very different marine reptiles, such as Kronosaurus in Australia, but Mosasaurus in North America. Isn’t that cool?!

HALLELUJAH: So you are from the United States?

PALEONTOLOGIST BARBIE: I like to think of myself as a citizen of the world.

HALLELUJAH: What do you mean by that?

PALEONTOLOGIST BARBIE:  I think paleontology is a universal science that crosses all boundaries of gender, ethnicity, and nationality. Anyone can do paleontology if they have the passion for it, which I do.

HALLELUJAH: What is the most exciting thing you’ve done in your paleontological career so far?

PALEONTOLOGIST BARBIE: Unlike math, that question is hard.


PALEONTOLOGIST BARBIE: Because right now, everything paleontological is exciting to me, and I don’t see that excitement going away very soon. Each fossil is interesting. Each fossil is a potential discovery. I believe every fossil should engage us.

HALLELUJAH: Can you share with my readers of my blog, COFFEE WITH HALLELUJAH, when you started collaborating with Chiboogamoo and subsequently fell in love with ART as well?

PALEONTOLOGIST BARBIE: Chiboogamoo had been a long time admirer of my work and the research I’ve done in various parts of the world. He and Andy Rindsberg invited me to northwest Georgia to look at Ordovician and Silurian rocks because they wanted to get an outside perspective on the rocks and fossils they had studied there for a long time.
TRILOBITES AND BARBIE: Paleontologist Barbie measures the width of Trichophycus, a trilobite burrow preserved in Ordovician rocks (440 million years old) of northwest Georgia.

SERVING AS SCALE FOR GEOLOGICAL PERIODS: Paleontologist Barbie correctly identifies the Ordovician-Silurian boundary here, an unconformity dated at about 443 million years ago. Silurian sandstone above, Ordovician shale below. (Photos and Captions by Chiboogamoo)

HALLELUJAH: Did you contribute anything to the work they did in the field that day?

PALEONTOLOGIST BARBIE: Yes! We had an in-depth discussion about trilobites, which are only evident there through their trace fossils. We also found a trace fossil of a starfish that was resting on the sea bottom about 440 million years ago.

HALLELUJAH: Wow! And it really looked like a starfish, didn’t it! Now, can you explain how you were assisting Chiboogamoo in Australia?

PALEONTOLOGIST BARBIE: I was invited to go on the field trip to the outback of Queensland to assist him and his students from Emory University. It was thrilling to be there with such enthusiastic young, potential paleontologists! But I was also aware of how I was serving as a role model for them.

HALLELUJAH: I saw the photo of you gripped in the jaws of an ancient whale. Do you think that was being a good role model?
SERVING AS A ROLE MODEL: While in Melbourne, Victoria, it was time for Paleontologist Barbie to examine some fossils and fossil replicas in Museum Victoria. “Looks like a skull cast of Dorudon, an early whale from the Eocene Epoch!” Here she looks at the spacing between the teeth toward the front of the skull. “This is the sort of functional morphology that can provide more than a few insights on its diet,” she assures us. Who could dispute her? Paleontologist Barbie, while investigating bite forces in Dorudon, demonstrates yet again why she is the honey badger of paleontologists, totally fearless and unstoppable in her pursuit of scientific knowledge. (Photo and Caption by Chiboogamoo)

PALEONTOLOGIST BARBIE: I wanted to show them that I was fearless about learning paleontology, and that I’m willing to go to the extreme to find out the truth of evolution.

HALLELUJAH: How do you do that in the jaws of a fossil whale?

PALEONTOLOGIST BARBIE: Sometimes you have to put yourself in the place of ancient prey, then you will understand how those extinct animals behaved.

HALLELUJAH: What does the future of paleontology hold for you?

PALEONTOLOGIST BARBIE: I see more travel to see more rocks and fossils from many places and many ages.

HALLELUJAH: What are your tips for successful fieldwork?

PALEONTOLOGIST BARBIE: Attire is extremely important. Notice I have a field hat that I wear at all times to keep the weather off my head. But I also wear light, loose-fitting clothing, and of course, proper boots.

HALLEUJAH: I notice that you are barefoot in some of Chiboogamoo’s field photographs.
TRACKING TURKEYS ON CUMBERLAND: Here, Paleontologist Barbie spots tracks made in dune sands by a wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), which serve as excellent analogues for small theropod dinosaur tracks that were also made in dune environments during the Mesozoic Era. (Photo and Caption by Chiboogamoo)

PALEONTOLOGIST BARBIE: Oh yes! Those were taken on Cumberland Island along the coast of Georgia, when Chiboogamoo and I were tracking wild turkeys, using them as analogs for dinosaurs. I found it easier to track these animals in the sand without needing to take the sand out of my boots. It also felt really good on my feet, but I don’t recommend it for amateurs.

HALLEUJAH: You are aware that Chiboogamoo uses you for geological scale in his photographs. If you could use any person, animal, or thing for geological scale in your photographs of fossils in situ, what would you like to use?

PALEONTOLOGIST BARBIE: Probably a Brunton compass. Every geologist knows the size of one. For laughs, I would like to use a GI Joe—they’re cute dolls. For all my scientific proclivities, I’m still a regular gal.

HALLELUJAH: I would like to ask you a few SPIRITUAL ART questions—about your JOURNEY. How would you describe your JOURNEY?

PALEONTOLOGIST BARBIE: Early in my life, I felt boxed in. But once liberated from that box confining me in my abilities, I felt I could travel anywhere. Stow away in someone’s luggage and be somewhere at once instantly. Like the way I’ve accompanied your Chiboogamoo.


PALEONTOLOGIST BARBIE: People have often accused me of being too artificial. Maybe even plastic, but I like to think that I have a real place in the world and can contribute in a more real way then those people who say I am inanimate. REAL is a desire to learn and share that knowledge. Like the way I have collaborated with your husband Chiboogamoo.

HALLELUJAH: How would you define SPIRITUALITY?

PALEONTOLOGIST BARBIE: Every fossil has a spirit of the living animal or plant, and I feel like it is my job as a paleontologist to divine that spirit.

PERSISTENT CURIOSITY DIVINING THE SPIRIT: The Australian Age of Dinosaurs Centre has a large fossil-preparation lab, so Paleontologist Barbie took full advantage of this by learning more about bone preparation from one of their expert preparators, Freddy Hill. Heeding all warnings from Australia’s Occupational Health & Safety, Paleontologist Barbie gets up close and personal with this dinosaur bone while it’s being prepared. (Photo and Caption by Chiboogamoo)

HALLELUJAH: How does SPIRITUALITY relate or impact your understanding of paleontology?

PALEONTOLOGIST BARBIE: Knowing that life is all connected through evolutionary heritage gives me great insight into the spirit that runs through all living things.

HALLELUJAH: Do you have a SOUL?

PALEONTOLOGIST BARBIE:  That’s a really tough question to answer. Most people say I do not. But I like to think my soul is based on a quest for knowledge while having fun. I do think it’s important to keep smiling no matter what.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: Hallelujah to forward thinking DOLLS and the PALEONTOLOGISTS who collaborate with them and understand their significant contributions! It is with immense love and appreciation that I acknowledge my husband Chiboogamoo for his work with PALEONTOLOGIST BARBIE and for documenting their work together. I recognize PALEONTOLOGIST BARBIE for spending time with me, HALLELUJAH TRUTH, and for delving into drawing, painting, and observing ART with the same enthusiasm that she has expressed towards her fossil work.
THE ARTIST AND THE SCIENTISTS: After her Queensland fieldwork is finished, Paleontologist Barbie goes to Victoria, Australia. Here she is thrilled to meet paleontologists Patricia Vickers-Rich and Tom Rich, as well as famed paleontological artist Peter Trusler. Likewise impressed with her, they give her an autographed copy of their new book, “The Artist and the Scientists” (Cambridge University Press). (Photo and Caption by Chiboogamoo)

MODELING FOR SKETCH CRAWL: Paleontologist Barbie participated in the international Sketchcrawl along with  the Women's Caucus for Arts of Georgia on July 23, 2011 at the Atlanta Water Gardens. (Photo by Chiboogamoo)

That’s it for COFFEE WITH HALLELUJAH! Soul blog with me about your experiences with PALEONTOLOGY, PALEONTOLOGIST BARBIE, and ART.

Friday, July 15, 2011


THE INFINITE WHEEL (All Art by Hallelujah Truth)

Hallelujah for OTHERNESS and METAPHORS that explain the differences and the similarities we experience as individuals in our communities! Each one of us is UNIQUE, yet we are powerfully connected and similar to our neighbors in some deep and meaningful way. Mark Nepo, poet, philosopher, and cancer survivor, explains it using a metaphor of a WHEEL with SPOKES:
Hallelujah Truth at the Rim of the Infinite Wheel

Imagine that each of us is a spoke in an Infinite Wheel, and though each spoke is essential in keeping the Wheel whole, no two spokes are the same. The rim of that Wheel is our living sense of community, family, and relationship, but the common hub, where all the spokes join is the one center where all souls meet.
It is at this hub, “where all souls meet,” that Nepo calls the “ATOM OF GOD.” I found this idea of individualized SOULS uniting into ONE BEINGNESS so exciting and the metaphor of the INFINITE WHEEL so compelling, I burst into a flurry of activity to visualize the concept for myself in the drawing you see here. Spending hours penning spirals, flowers, miniature wheels, and creatures, I contemplated my position on the INFINITE WHEEL and made some conclusions about MY HALLELUJAH SELF in relationship to all of you, MY FELLOW PILGRIMS.

THE HUB (The Atom of God)
First of all, I concluded that I prefer to stay close to the CENTER of the WHEEL with GOD. Since I was a child, I have been immersed in a contemplative life, dwelling in my imagination, reaching in deep, feeling the bottomlessness of my inquiries. As a young person, I sat on the edge of the WHEEL’S hub peering into the MYSTERY, surprised at its deep dark black unknowable infinity. It has been my life’s “struggle” to SEE what exists in this fertile darkness where all SOULS meet. As an adult, I have transformed the “struggle to see” into a JOYFUL JOURNEY of patient surprising discovery!

THE SPOKE (The Individual)
As a result of my natural preference for hanging out at the “inner” hub of the
INFINITE WHEEL and its proximity, I have spent a lot of time in SPOKEDOM, delighting in being an individual “spoke” emanating out from the hub (the ATOM OF GOD), cultivating my uniqueness, that which makes ME different from YOU.

One of my greatest hungers in life has been to be heard, to have a VOICE—a distinctive way of speaking that distinguishes ME from EVERYONE ELSE. I know I am not alone in this QUEST. In fact, I would venture to say EVERYONE of YOU reading this blog entry would express a similar desire to be listened to and to be appreciated for your unique perceptions and articulation of LIFE! The visual art I make and that you see on my blog Coffee with Hallelujah is an expression of my ME-NESS, my SPOKEDOM-NESS! Hallelujah!

THE RIM (The Community)
In my image of the INFINITE WHEEL, I have drawn Hallelujah Truth lounging at the RIM, staring out at ALL of US. There she is in the outer world of community, neighborhood, and workplace. I am suddenly aware that this positioning of myself there at the RIM is awkward, and I look forlorn and unengaged.

This ART piece of mine speaks to me—challenging me to explore how I feel about my participation and role in community and subsequent relationships to YOU and YOU and YOU. Sparks fly in my visual imagination, and I acknowledge the need for me to keep drawing and exploring this metaphor of similarities and differences in future drawings of the INFINITE WHEEL.  Hallelujah Truth needs be drawn multiple times at the HUB with GOD, positioned inside a SPOKE, and then returned to the RIM of community re-envisioned.

It is in this way that ART MATTERS to me! ART HEALS me where I am and the space I inhabit. ART can TRANSFORM all of US and MOVE US FORWARD in our SOJOURNS. I am certain that my image of Hallelujah Truth will change from forlorn and disengaged to something else on my SOULFUL JOURNEY!

PILGRIMS soul blog with Hallelujah Truth! Write me about where you find yourself on the INFINITE WHEEL today and where you have been and where you are going! What do you think about BEING THE ATOM OF GOD? Hallelujah!

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: Most loving thanks to my sister-in-law, Elizabeth Schowalter, for recommending that we read together and discuss The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo. In deep appreciation to Mark Nepo, who I first learned about through Sally Wylde’s reading of his deep and beautiful poetry (see her art work at one of my former blogs). Always thanks to my Chiboogamoo who travels lovingly and adoringly with me from the HUB to the SPOKE to the RIM!

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Owl Watercolors by Hallelujah Truth inspired by Blue Fire's 3-dimensional clay owls.

Hallelujah for the SPIRITUAL and the PHYSICAL! Hallelujah for the INFINITE and TEMPORAL! Hallelujah for my FELLOW ART PILGRIMS who CREATE deeply meaningful ART without the FEAR of its fragile brevity on this BEAUTIFUL EARTH. Hallelujah for the SCIENTISTS for their understanding of DEEP TIME.

One such artist is BLUE FIRE MACMAHON, a ceramic artist I have loved and admired for many years.  Many of her hand-built clay GODDESSES peak out from the corners of my home, including the ONE who presides over birds in the garden.  As the years have passed, I have lost two of her works to unexpected household happenings—a nail came out of the wall, and a dancing GODDESS slid to the floor in pieces. On another occasion my wonderful well-meaning Chiboogamoo was mopping and the mop handle lifted a GODDESS off the wall. SHE exploded into unglue-able fragments when she hit the ground! Another FEMININE figure sits on my nightstand with a chipped blue shoulder revealing the white clay beneath.

“Even fossils erode,” my brilliant companion Chiboogamoo says, trying to comfort me when a piece of ART passes away. And I am comforted by my household PALEONTOLOGIST! Hallelujah for husband PALEONTOLOGISTS!  Chiboogamoo is the first to remind me of geological time when we are running late for some engagement.   “What do a few minutes here or there matter in the course of GEOLOGIC TIME?” he utters soothingly. As a PALEONTOLOGIST, he reminds me of the scramble to study or collect fossils that erode into our human sight and then degrade in a few days, weeks, months or years—after being preserved for MILLIONS of YEARS!

IMPERMANENCE is a relative term, isn’t it? Whether we are talking about EPHEMERAL ART, such as BLUE FIRE’S clay works that embody elements of the human SOUL or evidence of ancient EXISTENCE preserved in the fossil record, EVERYTHING is CHANGING ALL the TIME. Our LIVES are in the CONSTANT STATE of FLUX. Impermanence is the nature of reality!

Recently, I purchased two more of BLUE FIRE’S sculptures: OWLS! She no longer lives in Atlanta, Georgia, where I met her, but lives in the mountains of North Carolina, where she is deepening in her SPIRITUAL JOURNEY (of which OWLS have emerged as a real and symbolic animal for her). Therefore, I purchased my OWL totems from Etsy, an online world marketplace for ARTISTS. In the “Note from Buyer,” I wrote to her that “I love the mortality inherent in these pieces as much as their vitality. IMPERMANENCE!”
BLUE FIRE'S OWL PERSON SINGING HER TRUTH TO THE NIGHT! She writes: "Her truth is the song of her heart pouring through her from the Dream of LOVE all around and within. We are all one. ALL is Love." See Blue Fire's fantastic work on her blog.

In response to my note, I received a gift from BLUE FIRE to “observe” IMPERMANENCE! Along with my purchases, I was given a small bundle wrapped in red cloth and tied with blue yarn! Inside was a hand-sized unfired earthen OWL totem! BLUE FIRE’S note read as follows:

Dear RuthTruth, this whole thing about impermanence fascinates me! Here is a little unfired owl…impermanent…if it is placed in the rain it will melt back into the Mother. BF

HALLELUJAH! HOW EXCITING! I immediately placed the small earthen owl outside with seashells from the Georgia coast, other artifacts of passing time (see my blog on the life-cycle of moonsnails)! Below are the first photos in my observation of IMPERMANENCE as given to me by ARTIST BLUE FIRE.
Ready for Rain!

After Rain One!

After Rain Two and Sun!
After Rain Three, Fourth of July

As I watch my little owl with its heart in the center dissolve, I think about my PRECIOUS PRECIOUS LIFE, and of YOURS TOO. What we will we do on our JOURNEY here PILGRIMS? Before our TIME is up, and our PHYSICAL bodies erode, what will we make of our SPIRIT?

SOUL BLOG with me at my blog, COFFEE WITH HALLELUJAH. Share with me your ideas about the reality of life! Do you experience the FLUX of the UNIVERSE? Write ME about YOU!
OWL on the WHEEL of LIFE, Hallelujah Truth!