Tuesday, November 24, 2015


RUTH GLORIOUS RUTH. Thank you Trish Weaver for taking and creating this dramatic photo of ME with the warm breeze whipping through my hair and titling it "Ruth Glorious Ruth." It might not be apparent to my dear readers, but I am talking (to my husband) on the I-phone in front of ME  on the table. The Atlanta skyline looms in the background behind ME. I did not pose for this picture and wasn't only vaguely aware that Trish was snapping away.
Hallelujah for BEING here now and EMBODIED. Hallelujah for those artistic friends that SEE ME as worthy of their photo studies (Lisa Alexander Streib) and succeed in capturing some aspect of WHO I AM in their creative work. Since I have spent a life time asking the big question--WHO AM I?—I strongly appreciate Trish Weaver’s generous response to that question in the photos she took of ME at the beginning of November when she arrived in Atlanta to hear rock legend, 69-year-old Patti Smith give a reading of her new book, M Train. Her images convey something about ME that I like.

Feeling pudgy and struggling with keeping my weight 25 pounds below 200, I don’t feel like the "Vain" Ruth likes being photographed. Consider also at the grand old age of 57, that I have a considerable number of wrinkles, and my once blond hair is gray and thinned because of my challenge with the auto-immune disease, alopecia. Who would trouble themselves to capture my image? Who is this woman who has gathered so many years? The question, "WHO AM I?" is perpetual for ME because change is constant.
WHO AM I? is obviously a metaphysical question for ME. Therefore, I would accept many answers but will settle for one answer right now. I AM the SUBJECT of these photos in relationship to the photographer, my friend Trish. I EXIST here, captured in these images because of our friendship and her artistry.
Upon meeting in Raleigh, North Carolina, via my Chiboogamoo at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Trish and I connected quickly as a result of our mutual interest in ALL THINGS CREATIVE even though she is a paleontologist and an ichnologist at that. Yet, she is not defined or limited by her scientific obsession or profession. Instead, she has demonstrated to ME that her curiosity is vast and that she is dedicated to expressing it in wild creative ways in her science and through her painting, photography and story telling, as well as her dedication to pursuing her fascination with Patti Smith.

Which gets us back to why she was visiting Chiboogamoo and ME here in Atlanta in November after seeing Patti Smith perform the 40th anniversary of her album, Horses,  in New York City. Having already visited the Atlanta Botanical Garden and High Museum of Art on previous visits, Trish chose for us to walk along the Atlanta Beltline and peruse the art there. After two weeks of rain, we had a lucky respite from the gloom and cold and were bathed in the warm golden sun of an Indian summer. You can see the luminosity of the light in these photos, which are all titled by Trish.

A STUDY IN RUTH: (Part 4) ACTIVE LISTENING. When Trish posted this final image in the series of "Study in Ruth" in our Facebook group, The Daily Creative Practice, two of our friends wrote the following laudatory comments about her photography
From Andrew Rindsberg: "Thank you, Trish. I've enjoyed your evocation of Ruth Schowalter in Piedmont Park, Atlanta. Although it made me smile to discover that your "Study in Ruth" lasted perhaps twenty seconds, I was also sobered to realize that this is an effective way of capturing the essence of a dynamic personality without resorting to motion pictures. Some of the most interesting people are difficult to portray in still images precisely because they keep moving. I guess some people look good both ways! We all have seen wonderful photos of Ruth in majestic still poses, and in performances. Now we see her in conversation. You've made it look easy, but it is not."

From Ty Butler: "Trish I really like these photos of Ruth. They capture hints of her inner power. For those who don't personally know her, this power of inner contact is immense and when focused turns the heads of those around her. I've been privileged to see it many times."

In addition to the recognition Trish deserves for her photographs, I also linger on Andy's descriptive phrases "dynamic personality" and "interesting people" and Ty's "inner power" that when "focused turns the head of those around her." They SEE ME! Is this WHO I AM?

WHO AM I? I feel privileged to have these positive and affirming responses to Trish's photos of ME without my eliciting them from friends who know ME on varying levels. Art is such a rich way to be in the world! What a great fortune I have to be engaged in an artful life on so many different levels--making art, having friends who make art, and BEING the ART!
TRISH THE TRAVELER. I took this image of Trish when she visited Chiboogamoo and ME in Atlanta from her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, at the beginning of 2015 to take part in an intuitive painting class. I had requested she bring her "top hat" with the octopus arm for the festive occasion of getting together with members of the Daily Creative Practice, my online Facebook Group, where we have shared so much of our creative work. Arriving on the MARTA train from the airport she was equipped with her Coca Cola and cigarette.
Trish's photos surprised me so much that I asked her to write a statement about why she started taking these black-n-white snapshots of me. Here is her response: 

"This series of photos was a combination of me trying to capture a bit of the essence that is Ruth Schowalter and me just playing with a new camera. Prior to taking these images I had been reading Patti Smith’s book, Just Kids, about her life and her relationship with the artist Robert Mapplethorpe. Smith’s words, her sense of time and place, and images were ringing in my ears as I looked through the lens. The lighting, wind, and Ruth’s expressive nature did the rest. I shot in black and white because of the lingering impression the book left on me (imitation is the highest form of flattery, is it not?) and because devoid of color, all the glitz and colorful facades of life are stripped away and one is left with the feeling of what is real. Ruth in her adopted city on a late fall day overlooking Piedmont Park."

SELFIE OF THE SUBJECT (ME) WITH HER PHOTOGRAPHER. Trish and I captured the essence of who we are for a moment in time, taken outside of Sevananda in Little Five Points, Atlanta, after a visit to Junkman's Daughter to buy these hats, to have additional ones to offer members of the Daily Creative Practice at our evening gathering. Play is certainly involved in our creative activities together. Besides having great taste in photo subjects and hats, Trish is good fun. Her laughter is the best!
That's Coffee with Hallelujah. SOUL BLOG with me. Share with me your answer to the question, "WHO AM I?" Have you ever BEEN the ART? 

To see blogs written about my BEING THE ART in relationship to Lisa Alexander Streib:

True Collaboration: Show up. Do the Work. Consider it Good Enough.

Defining My Mission
Atlanta Along the East West Line MARTA and a Portrait of Two Women
Mark Nepo and Lisa Alexander Streib Collide in My Life
Infinity and the Selfie

The Reach

Monday, November 23, 2015

Hallelujah Life: Dead Reckonings of Time, Father, and Me

MY FATHER, A HERO. Who am I in relation to my Father, a man who earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for his brave leadership in the Korean Conflict when he was 24 years old and went back to war again in Vietnam and earned the Silver Star? Here in this photo, Dad appears to have said something humorous to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who has just awarded him the Medal of Honor in January 1954.
Hallelujah for Life! Hallelujah for calculations, recalculations and positions from our past from which to estimate where we stand currently in our lives! As the 12th anniversary of my Father's death washes over me, I stand fixed, anchored in being a 57-year-old woman, but also craving a reassessment of who I am in relation to my Father, Edward R. Schowalter, a complex man of considerable depth, a war hero, and someone who wasn't always easy to live with.

IN THE HEAVENS OBSCURED BY CLOUDS. Dad and Mom moved to Auburn, Alabama, from Ft. Benning, Georgia, after he retired from the Army. During that time, he made the yard surrounding the front and back of our house, an extravagant rose and camellia garden.  Four of the five of us were in our respective universities while he planted 100 different varieties of roses and got to know local horticulturists who helped him decide to grow different varietals of camellias, which were in bloom in November 2015 when I just visited my Mother on the 12th anniversary of his death. The yard work that needed to be done, he did it himself. Here he is pictured some time in the 80's by my youngest brother Bill, methodically cutting down a pine tree in the back yard. He nailed cut pieces of board in the tree to create a ladder and then tied himself to the tree while he sawed of limbs. Dad always had a detailed plan which he executed as carefully as he could.
Using "dead reckoning" from where I was "standing" when my father passed away 12 years ago to determine where I am "standing" now, I can say that TIME softens and clouds the past. The photo above expresses the way my understanding of my Father has shifted, softened, and grown fuzzy since his death. I can state assuredly that my love for my Father has grown and deepened.

Dropping away throughout the years since his death is the agony resulting from the many conflicts we had because of our differences, or was it because of our similarities? My mother often told me that we two were alike and called me the "Apple of his eye." I'm told my blue eyes are like his.

Oh Dad! I remember you being the one to anchor me in what life was and how to go about comprehending it. The year I was in seventh grade and struggling with understanding Robert Frost's poem, "Mending Wall," you came home from your military job at Fort Belvoir and sat with me as we worked the poem's meaning out line-by-line. We had grown up with you reading poetry to all five of us kids and requiring us for a while to memorize poems to receive our allowance. When we were in high school, there were the dinners that we were asked to bring an article to the table and explain it to everyone. You loved literature and opera. I remember the times you and I sat listening to Madame Butterfly and discussed what the songs were expressing. We even had a book that explained the various opera plots.

Your great appreciation of ideas and beauty merged with your fondness for the outdoors, teaching us to shoot bows and arrows, as well as BB guns and air pellet pistols. I grew up fishing from your various boats. After we moved from McLean, Virginia, to Ft. Benning, Georgia, you bought the property on the backwaters of the Chattahoochee and baptized it "The Get Away."  Our high school years were spent there with you canoeing, water skiing, and sailboating. You knew how to "get away" when you needed to and you brought us all with you to overnight in rustic trailers and ride mini bikes on the orange dirt roads. To this day, when I cross over the Chattahoochee heading from Georgia to Alabama, I remember our days on its banks and swimming in its murky waters. Thank you for those "get away" days.

Dad's been gone 12 years now, and with "dead reckoning," I am able to view him with even more awe from where I stand now then when he was alive. He didn't share much about his emotions, which I would have gladly dived into. So much of Edward R. Schowalter's life remains a mystery. I believe he suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, yet he was never diagnosed, so that interpretation remains mine in order that I might make sense of our life together. I imagine the "making sense" of who I am in relation to my father will continue for the rest of my life and the "dead reckoning" calculations will keep evolving over time.
This December (2015), I will have been married 11 years to my treasured Chiboogamoo (aka Tony Martin). The entirety of my one-and-only marriage has taken place in the absence of my father. Something to ponder. This beautiful challenging, charismatic man loomed so large in my life that I didn't even get serious about getting married until his life was almost over. I'm so glad that Dad had a chance to meet my husband, who asked him permission to marry me. Dad began given his acceptance with the words, "Well Son...."
SUMMER OF 2003. Dad didn't live to give me away at my wedding in December 2005, but he was asked by his good friend Jerry's fiance to give her away at their wedding. Dad spent weeks preparing what he was going to say so that he would remember it on the special day. Wheeling an oxygen tank down the aisle with one hand and the bride with the other, Dad achieved his goal eloquently. A year-and-a-half before his death and challenged by a lack of breath, vision, and memory, Dad persevered as he had always done in his life. You can see I was so proud of him.
THE COLONEL. I took this photo of my Father during an award ceremony at Ft. Benning, Georgia.  I thought dad looked so magnificent in his civilian clothes with his Medal of Honor, I had to capture this image. You can see my mother's skirt to his left, and I wish I had included her. When I look at Dad's large hands in this photo, I remember the comfort I always took in holding one of them. Mostly, the memories are from when I was a child. The last memory is the night before he died. I slept in a chair next to his bed and held his hand the entire night. Tears come to my eyes now as I think of that night. Time is a magnificent healer both in softening sorrow and mending hurts from conflicts and failures to understand.
In her book, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Rebecca Solnit talks about two meanings for being "lost." One of them is about losing the familiar and the other is about the unfamiliar appearing. Significant deaths in our lives bring both. Here is how Solnit describes this process:

 "Imagine yourself streaming through time shedding gloves, umbrellas, wrenches, books, friends, homes, names. This is what the view looks like if you take a rear-facing seat on the train. Looking forward you constantly acquire moments of arrival, moments of realization, moments of discovery. The wind blows your hair back and you are greeted by what you have never seen before. The material falls away in onrushing experience. It peels off like skin from a molting snake."
LIFE IS FOR THE LIVING. This image is part of a series of work, "Hallelujah Life," that I am making to honor me, those in my life, the world, and all those who have past. This one is for you Dad! (Art by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)

That's Coffee with Hallelujah! SOUL BLOG with me. What do you have to share about your "Dead Reckonings"?

Of course to forget the past is to lose the sense of loss that is also memory of an absent richness and a set of clues to navigate the present by; the art is not one of forgetting but letting go. And when everything else is gone, you can be rich in loss. --Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Thanks to Pat Martin, my brother-in-law for putting roses on my Father's grave this past November 2015. 

If you want to read more about my memories of my father and me, visit this blog, "Odyssey to Ft. Benning, Georgia, to remember and honor my father." 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Ponderings on Death, Life, and Luck: Is it All Attitude?

HALLELUJAH LIFE (art (c) by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)
When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement. 
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
-Mary Oliver, excerpt from "When Death Comes"

He answered my knock on the Midtown restaurant's locked door. He put the money down that he was counting before he opened the cafe's doors for lunch. Leaving the cash register open, he moved towards me smiling, only a grin that Ian could offer the world. He hugged me, wrapping me in his thin arms, punctuating his actions and words with laughter.

GOBSMACKED. I was gobsmacked with his news that he and his wife were on a "death watch." He announced he was going to die in the next twelve months. His colon cancer that had been diagnosed two years ago had now spread to his liver, and he wasn't going to do life-extending chemo anymore. 

Three years had passed since I last saw this ex-patriot from the UK, the man who had lived down the hallway from me at Roane Oak Apartments in Little Five Points in the 1990's. Briefly, Ian Adamson and I had journeyed down the road of life together. I had always appreciated the joy he expressed about being alive. He was in Mary Oliver's words "the bride married to amazement" and the bridegroom taking the world into his arms.
Even at this moment on his "death watch," he still proclaimed amazement at being alive. "I'm so lucky," he said to me. "Some people die suddenly. I've been able to know I'm dying. I've had such a good life." I felt suspended in the air, trying to grasp the mysteriousness that surrounded us. Death. Life. Luck....
We reminisced briefly about our Savannah road trip and experience at a hole-in-the-wall bar with a cast of characters that included a Korean woman manager stretched out asleep across a red vinyl booth at the front of the bar, a midget who wanted quarters for the Juke Box, and a man who asked to buy my underwear for $20. I often think I imagined all of this and the sex worker who we chatted with while she sat at the bar waiting for her next client at the hotel across the street. 
HOLE-IN-THE-WALL Savannah Bar. (photo by Ian)

That was a colorful moment in time. I have no doubt that Ian has strung an entire strand of odd and real experiences in his short 54 years. His confidence about having had enough "life" and that that life had been "fun," left me filled with a painful sweetness

I have been pondering in the days since about losing him and all the other wonderful people in my life, who have already died--Kaye Lovvorn, my father, Oxford Stroud, Betty Breyer, Jeannette Fransden, Sally Wylde, Melissa Walker, Chantal Gadd, Thomas Schowalter, to only name a few.

What about my life? Could I smile like Ian about my imminent death were I to know it was coming? Is it all about attitude? Is there luck involved? How do we make our time here real, bold, and fun?

When it's over, I don't want to wonder 
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world. 
-Mary Oliver, excerpt from "When Death Comes"
That's Coffee with Hallelujah! SOUL BLOG with me and tell me what your ponderings on DEATH and LIFE are. Are you a bride married to amazement? What is your attitude about death, life, and luck?
IAN and HALLELUJAH in Savannah

AUGUST 31st, 2016
I am grieved to learn that Ian passed away on August 11, 2016, without my having seen him again. I will attend his memorial on September 1st only a block away from where we met at Roane Oaks Apartments in Little Five Points. 
So like Ian! Ianfest to celebrate his life. Click here to read his obituary.