Hallelujah CYBER-PILGRIMS. Hallelujah for CHANGE as we travel on our journeys. The NEW YEAR is right upon us. Winter has already brought us the shortest day of the year, and now, each day grows brighter, illuminating our PATHS.
BEING on the PATH, TRAVELING, BEING in PROCESS is essential for me. No matter what! Today, I share with you “darker” images that have emerged recently. These cloaked women seem to be a departure from HALLELUJAH’S soulful, joyful journey to the Bahamas.
As you know, I teach international students English at Georgia Tech, and in the past several months, Muslim women have been sitting outside my office door on couches in the hallway chatting, eating, and studying. Cloaked in various colorful scarves and long cloaks, these modest women murmur, sharing food and drink even though they come from countries as diverse as Libya, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.
The two women I have painted here are both from Saudi Arabia. My curiosity about Islam and issues concerning women’s issues always pulls me to standing in front of them asking questions. They like talking with a teacher. Our Language Institute students are infinitely practical and ambitious. Conversation with a teacher will improve their English.
The woman dressed in black is 7 months pregnant with her third child. This baby will be sent back to Saudi Arabia to be cared for by her mother who is already tending the other two children so she can work on an advanced degree along with her husband. Black is the traditional color of outer garb for Saudi women. The other woman, also a mother, is wearing just as much clothing (They conceal all of their bodies, including necks, wrists, and ankles—even ears.) but is dressed in white. She laughs explaining that she can wear this color while living in the United States, so she is doing exactly that. They are not encouraging about my going and living in their country: “It would be hard for you,” they say.
Why have their images haunted me? They are joyful, smart, and privileged. When they are in the privacy of their own homes, the outer clothing comes off and they dress, I am told, like everyone else in our school.
I can’t escape the MYSTERY they PROPOSE—an UNKNOWN WAY of LIVING. Hallelujah is on her pilgrimage and does not know WHERE she IS, nor WHERE she IS GOING. But I AM in the CANOE! Let me explain.
Twice weekly, I receive a letter from Robert Genn, a Canadian artist, who has a fantastic website called “A Painter’s Keys.” I suggest any art pilgrim wanting to get inspirational thoughts about the creative process to get on his email list. In his most recent email, Genn writes about the relationship between making art and staving off depression. It seems that ART MAKING helps keep us sane—even if you aren’t masterful. MASTERY isn’t even a part of it. Genn refers to an interview with Garrison Keillor in an issue of Time: Asked, "How did you master both writing and oral storytelling," Keillor replied: "I didn't. There's no mastery to be had. You love the attempt. You don't master a story any more than you master a river. You feel lucky to canoe down it."
Hallelujah for the RIVER, for the JOURNEY, for BEING in the CANOE. Fellow Sojourners, we may celebrate the coming of the NEW YEAR with this thought…CHERISH THE PROCESS. Happy New Year! That’s Coffee with Hallelujah!