Tuesday, March 29, 2011

LIFE CYCLE of MOONSNAILS: LIONS of the TIDAL FLATS

Dear PILGRIM! How fortunate I feel, how exuberantly thankful to witness the mesmerizing cycle of LIFE in the form of the MOONSNAIL along the Georgia coast in the middle of March!

My Chiboogamoo and I (along with my sister-in-law Liz) left Atlanta with the Japanese magnolias weeping pink petals on the ground waking from winter. Other trees stood by ready to exhale life into budding leaves and blooms. We headed to Jekyll and Sapelo, beautiful barrier islands along the coast of Georgia.  One of the most exciting aspects of visiting undeveloped coastal islands is that you never know what you will discover in the vastness of their overflowing LIFE.

To my surprise and delight the glorious carnivorous, and yes—cannibalistic—MOONSNAIL dominated the shore from surf to the dunes! How exciting to see
thousands of “sand collars”—the nickname for the MOONSNAIL egg case—thrust everywhere on the beach’s surface. These sand collars were still wet and sparkly at the shoreline, dry and dusted with a fine white sand above the sea.

Moonsnail eggcasings at the surf zone.

Moonsnail eggcasings at the dune zone.



Art by Hallelujah Truth
This funny grayish brown collar, smooth on the inside part of the circle and ruffled on its outside, is formed by a complex process. For anyone unfamiliar with snails, it must seem a bizarre one. 

Observe this moonsnail in action on a Sapelo beach. Although it is not forming an eggcase here, you can see how its  foot engulfs its shell as it moves in the sand. Notice the similarity in the  shape of the foot to the eggcases shown in the photos above. Photo by Chiboogamoo (aka Anthony Martin)
The snail’s foot comes out of the shell and completely engulfs itself. After the cilia on its foot collect numerous sand grains, the MOONSNAIL emits mucous and coats this sand layer before laying thousands of eggs onto it. Then the same process of collecting sand and emitting mucous is repeated to seal the eggs in. The MOONSNAIL then escapes this egg casing by digging downward, leaving the trace for us beachcombers to find! For the moonsnail eggs to make it to the next stage of life, they will need to hatch in the water and be planktonic until they form shells.

Because the sand collars were the largest and most apparent, we “discovered” them first. Yet rapidly scanning the beach, we then saw numerous MOONSNAILS at the water’s edge appearing to peak up from the sand as the receding tide was revealing them in their burrows.  It is in this stage of life that the MOONSNAIL is acting out its name—THE LION of the TIDAL FLATS—by feeding.


According to my Chiboogamoo (who has researched coastal ichnology for his forthcoming book, Life Traces of the Georgia Coast), the MOONSNAIL is the TOP PREDATOR of the sandflats. Unaware humans who might be fortunate enough to be strolling along these undeveloped beaches may or may not be aware that a terrific amount of predation is occurring underneath their feet.

By inhaling and exhaling water through its mucous-coated foot, many LIONS of the TIDALS FLAT are hungrily pulling themselves toward their prey—anything slower and smaller than themselves such as the dwarf surf clam and even other MOONSNAILS! As it approaches its victim, the MOONSNAIL engulfs it in entirety with its mucousy foot. Then through a method that could have only evolved over millions of years, the MOONSNAIL follows an exacting procedure of steps. It emits a substance that weakens the shell of its imprisoned meal and then drills a hole in it with its secret weapon—teeth called a “radula,” which miraculously regenerates if damaged by the drilling. Finally, it inserts it foot into the little clam or snail and eats it—yes, before it has died! Yowl!

A lone Moonsnail eggcasing rests among numerous clam shells, many of which bear the predation trace of the mighty Lion of the Tidal Flats!

Often the casual stroller who leans down and scoops up the numerous shells with holes drilled neatly and precisely in them gives little thought to how they occurred! But I know, and now you do too—it is a result of the LION of the TIDAL FLATNeverita duplicata, commonly and affectionately called “moonsnail” because of its beautiful round shell—like the shape of the moon! My Chiboogamoo has wittily called the adornments made from the shells of these MOONSNAIL victims as “necklaces of death.” Thanks for that phrase, Baby!

This is no casual beach stroller! She is my sister-in-law, Elizabeth Schowalter, who is collecting shells that have been drilled by the Lion of the Tidal Flats. The perfect holes in the little clams will make it easy for her to sew them onto one of her pieces of fabric art.


Because of the vastness of these tidal flats on Sapelo and Jekyll, you must walk and walk to move from the surf zone where we found the live MOONSNAILS, which were actively burrowing and feeding to the dunes, to where we witnessed numerous abandoned MOONSNAIL shells crusted with sand, many displaying the now familiar MOONSNAIL drill hole. Cast among the emptied shells were MOONSNAIL eggcases that more than likely would dry out, break, and disintegrate without successfully contributing to the MOONSNAIL’s life-cycle.



Hallelujah for the abundance of life even in a creature as small and obscure as the MOONSNAIL! Forever more elevated in my mind—and perhaps in yours too! Hallelujah to the LION of the TIDAL FLATS!

Sunrise at Sapelo, Nanny Goat Beach, March 2011


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: With careful attention and wonder, we PILGRIMS can find meaning in unexpected places. Yet it often requires a wise guide. In my case, I thank my dear companion Chiboogamoo for all of his knowledge and patient teaching! 

Chiboogamoo!
Another companion, Elizabeth Schowalter, was invaluable to me on this coastal venture because of her ability to see deeply into her surroundings and translate them into her own artistic vision (see her website: Liz Quilts: Kapa Kuiki Collection). I look forward to seeing future work of hers’ reflecting this trip.


Finally, being HALLELUJAH allows me to be a gracious visitor filled with wonder appreciating all that my new environment bestows upon me.  It can be recorded that in the middle of March of 2011, on Sapelo island along the Georgia coast, the ocean, the tidal flats and dunes offered me this LION of the TIDAL FLATS roaring silently and unheard but observed.

Fellow PILGRIM, share your observations of the world around you by SOUL BLOGGING with me at Coffee with Hallelujah.



Sunday, March 20, 2011

SPIRITUAL ART PILGRIM INTERVIEW #2 of 2011: ROBEY TAPP--SEARCHING FOR MEANING

Hallelujah for THE CREATIVE JOURNEY! Hallelujah for SPIRIT, ART and FELLOW SOJOURNERS! For my second SPIRITUAL ART PILGRIM (See the first interview with Cecelia Kane.) interview of 2011, I am honoring ROBEY TAPP, collage and text artist, Decatur neighbor, art colleague, friend, spiritual art pilgrim group member, co-volunteer, and docent at the Carlos Museum at Emory University.


On the last weekend in February 2011, Robey and I sat in her sun-drenched art studio on the second floor of her bungalow nestled near the Emory University campus. Threaded and unthreaded, textured and stamped colored papers, painted in dazzling arrays of magenta, cerulean, gold, and green surrounded us. The sheer randomness of order gave the feel of being in an exquisite bowerbird’s nest!


HALLELUJAH: Give me your personal definition of ART.


ROBEY: I’d say two things:

One—creativity and action.

Two—creativity is expressed in whatever form it takes.

HALLELUJAH: Talk to me about CREATIVITY and action.

ROBEY: We are all creative. Everybody has the potential to be creative. Over a course of a lifetime, I don’t think we all use our creativity concretely. This may be because we are too busy, don’t know where to start, or think we are not artists. But once you pick up the paintbrush, the pen, the scissors, and do anything—dig a hole in your garden—you are acting.

HALLELUJAH: What is SPIRITUALITY to you?

ROBEY: Spirituality is connecting what is deepest in you to what you perceive as deepest in the universe. It is what makes your life meaningful. Not that it answers those deep existential questions.

ROBEY: I am intrigued by the triptych form and the space that it gives me to play with combinations of image, text, and texture.  Triptychs have such spiritual resonance.



HALLELUJAH: What is the connection between the ART you make and your SPIRITUALITY?

ROBEY: I think the art I make expresses my spirituality because it attempts to express what I find meaningful inside and outside.

HALLELUJAH: Can you give me an example from your work?


ROBEY: Well, maybe I’m thinking about one of the first books I altered. It was a book of my father’s called “Art and Nature Appreciation.” While I was working on that book, I was having a conversation with my father. I thought of all the things that he imparted to me.

ROBEY: I love stitches. Stitches are a kind of mark making. Here the stitches were unintentional, but I find them intriguing.

The process of altering the book also allowed me to express what I think about art and nature, which are two areas of real meaning to me. So, I look upon that book as a spiritual expression.
  
ROBEY: I like viewers to interact with the book in some way. I like secret doors and windows. I like people to play with my work.




HALLELUJAH: In what way does your ART enhance your SPIRITUALITY?

ROBEY: I think by expressing my ideas through art, I gain greater access to them. Making art allows me to wonder and to play and to feel in a deeper way. To explore areas that I didn’t realize needed exploring.

HALLELUJAH: Can you give me an example?
ROBEY:
I don’t always start with what I am going to explore. I just start playing with color and texture and see where it leads me. Sometimes I’m surprised. That’s the fun of it.
    

HALLELUJAH: Has SPIRITUALITY always been a source of your ARTMAKING?




ROBEY: Yes, but I think the older I get, the more conscious I become of it, and the more grateful I become of art as my medium of exploration.

HALLELUJAH: Can you speak about your use of color and texture?

ROBEY: I think I really respond to color and texture, and when I don’t know where to begin to start a piece of art, I look through all my thousands of pieces of paper, and I find something that I know I want to use. I may not know why or what resonance there is yet. But I know that it speaks to me at that moment.



HALLELUJAH:  Who do you consider influential in the way you think, act, and make ART?

ROBEY:
Well, I certainly think you (Hallelujah Truth) and Cecelia Kane (SeeSee's website) have invited me to talk about artmaking. I think our group (Spiritual Art Pilgrims) has created a space in which we can talk about the art we make and own it.

Harriette, my close friend, has always been a huge appreciator of artists and has always encouraged me to take my art seriously. Gary, my husband, is a poet. Part of what we have always had in common is a tremendous respect for creative expression—our own and other people’s.

I also want to acknowledge Lesly Fredman, for her creativity counseling and inspiration. And Ann VanSlyke and Ellen McFee for giving me my first show at Mingei World Arts.
HALLELUJAH: I know you are an avid reader and that there is a steady stream of voices coming through your life.



ROBEY: I’m always inspired by what people make of this world and this life and one of the reasons I read so much is to keep finding out. That inspires me every day. I think of art as a conversation. So I gather from other people and then I find myself responding.



HALLELUJAH: What is your purpose for making ART?

ROBEY: Exploring that connection between the inner soul—whatever you want to call it—and what’s out there that is bigger than me. And meaningful.

 HALLELUJAH: Right now, both of us are working on ART for an exhibit opening in September at Atlanta’s Fernbank Museum of Natural History on the topic of Charles Darwin. Can you say something about the process you are going through in making ART for that?

ROBEY: I have spent the last few months reading about Darwin. Thinking about Darwin. Thinking about the world and time in which he lived and the impact of his thinking. Then I discovered this woman, Mary Anning! I consider her a paleontologist. She found a lot of the fossils that support Darwin’s theories but got very little credit at the time because she was a poor “uneducated” woman, and the “establishment” in England at that time was rich Anglican men.

The pieces I’m doing are honoring her contributions to science. I’m using textured colored paper and text with her as the subject and inspiration.

HALLELUJAH: Let’s connect this ART project with SPIRITUALITY….

ROBEY: As an explorer of fossils, Mary Anning was a breaker of molds. She was examining very huge questions: How did we get here? Who are we? Are all the things that we thought in the past true or not? These were the burning issues of her day. I’m inspired by her courage and her determination not to let people silence her voice.

ROBEY: I’m always inspired by what people make of this world and this life and one of the reasons I read so much is to keep finding out. That inspires me every day. I think of art as a conversation. So I gather from other people and then I find myself responding.

HALLELUJAH: When you look at the large body of your own work, how do you perceive and understand the results of your reflections?

ROBEY: I think when I look at the books—each book, is a record of what idea has intrigued me or what issue I have been grappling with when I worked on it. If I look back at one, I can say, “Oh! This is when I was thinking of these things or struggling with this.” It’s not to say the book is an answer, but it is what I got from the experience.


Robey with long time family member, Baylor.


HALLELUJAH: Where do you see your SPIRITUAL ART taking you?

ROBEY: I don’t know. It’s kind of a ride. I guess I would like it to take me wherever I need to go. I don’t know where life will take me so I don’t know where it will take me.

HALLELUJAH: I am so glad that we are FELLOW SOJOURNERS. I love working with you around the issues of SPIRITUALITY and ART. Thank you so much for this interview!

ROBEY: Reading is not only linear. This book sculpture for me expresses the way we read and think and go off in tangents....It kind of reflects the folds we have in our brains and in our consciousness.

ROBEY: Leonard Cohen says it all for me. I think about this saying constantly. It's my mantra.
HALLELUJAH: It's the way the light gets in! 


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Thank you ROBEY TAPP for spending lovely afternoons looking at your work, playing with the SPIRIT of LIFE, and for your UNIQUE way of SEEING. I treasure our time together and will invite you back to COFFEE WITH HALLELUJAH.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

TOTEMS FROM MY LIFE: HALLELUJAH FOR COLOR AND SYMBOL!

Hallelujah for COLORS! Hallelujah Pilgrims for RED, ORANGE, YELLOW, BLUE, BLACK AND GREEN! On the last day of my creative writing class for spring session one at the Georgia Tech Language Institute, my students decided they wanted to write one more blog entry using a "group-selected" topic (See the previousgroup  blog they selected the topics for.) Since no one had a "working" idea, I suggested a "color-themed" one, and they happily chose the following colors with the exception of the color GREEN, which I added because they chose to post on St. Patrick's Day, 3/17 at 3:17 pm  (The use of the simultaneous numbers came from the writer of the blog, Pitch Your Guts.)

Below is my response to this blog entry prompt. But first, you may want to take a look at a few of my students' responses (Footprint of Water, Blueberry Cellophane, and Butterflying to Infinity) . The totems you see below dwell in the household I share with my darling Chiboogamoo.


RED DEVIL OF GLUTTONY
RED DEVIL OF GLUTTONY reminds me in a humorous way of the primal energy in all of us that hungers endlessly for the THINGS of this EARTH.



 


 
ORANGE MAGICAL JAGUAR
ORANGE JAGUAR is powerfully magic. This totem reminds me of all that is unknown to me. Present in my life as a mask, I continue to feel invited to "try" a new way of being on.

YELLOW ANGEL OF TRUTH

 YELLOW ANGEL OF TRUTH, watches me as I sleep. As a teenager studying at a Catholic high school in Columbus, Georgia, one of my teachers, a priest, advised me to always "search for the truth." He struck his breast right below his white collar with his hand on his heart. Since then, I have grown into RUTHTRUTH and HALLELUJAH TRUTH on my pilgrim's sojourn.





BLUE EVIL EYE

Oh BLUE EVIL EYE! How I love YOU watching ME! Hallelujah thanks the Turkish student who brought you into my life! You remind me that LIFE's FORTUNES can be perceived from different perspectives. I feel protected!
BLACK PETITIONING ANGEL
Save Us All! Thank you Georgia Folk Artist who made you BLACK PETITIONING ANGEL! As I write this blog, the Japanese suffering from both natural and manmade disasters are in my thoughts. I am also thinking of the Libyan rebels dying for their freedom. LORD SAVE US ALL.


GREEN DANCING ALLIGATOR WOMAN
Happy Saint Patrick's Day! GREEN DANCING ALLIGATOR WOMAN brings me joy every day as I look at the exuberance in her BEINGNESS! Some might say she is physically ugly, but who could ignore her inner beauty!

Acknowledgments: Hallelujah for ART, ARTISTS, COLOR, and SYMBOL. Hallelujah for MEANING and the ability to engage in a discussion of that meaning with all my FELLOW SOJOURNERS!  Thank you to the artists who made these totems. Thank you to my sincere and energetic creative writing students who wanted to keep on connecting through their blogs. Thank you to my Chiboogamoo, who is infinitely patient as he helps me with our camera, photoshop, and new computer!



Tuesday, March 1, 2011

CREATIVITY EXERCISE at the GT LANGUAGE INSTITUTE: SCENES FROM A DAY


Hallelujah for CREATIVITY and the celebration of diversity! As one of the final blog entries in my creative writing class at the GT Language Institute for Spring Session One, my class chose eight topics for photos to be taken by everyone over the weekend. The goal was to loosely capture the same “Scenes from a Day” in their individual lives in order to tell a story about themselves. We hoped this project would help us glimpse how different and unique each one is—being that the 15 students hail from Saudi Arabia, Colombia, Korea, China, Libya, Taiwan, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, and Spain.

We agreed to post our photos--one of the bedroom, a view from our window, shoes we wear every day, the fridge, an activity from the day, an object in the hand, our computer desktop, and writing or drawing on paper--on the same day at the same time in class, so that everyone would have the freedom to create independently. My desire was for my students to experience the quality of their own creative voices and imagery while at the same time collaborating with their classmates to make “one” class project—something like individual singers contributing to a chorus.

I asked them if they wanted me to participate and they said yes. Below are my photos and captions for “Scenes from a Day (February 26-28). First, however, I invite you to sample some of my students' imaginative responses: Blueberry Cellophane, Pitch Your Guts,  Butterflying to Infinity, The Footprint of Water, and Happy Stapler.


1. BEDROOM: COMPOSING AND REPOSING—WHEREVER!
Creativity dwells in my home, in my husband, and in my heart. We both write, make art, and teach. Our bedroom has two creativity stations. Here you witness my Chiboogamoo happily composing underneath a painting we brought back from the top end of Australia.



2. VIEW FROM YOUR WINDOW: UNHARNESSED IMAGINATION
SEES BEYOND BARRIERS



My imagination seeks companionship through my art and by SOUL BLOGGING. I greet ALL GUESTS—real and imagined—with “HELLO” and “GOOD.” In my physical world, my Chiboogamoo and I live in a condo in Decatur and can walk to the library and numerous pubs and shops in 10 to 15 minutes.







3. SHOES YOU ALWAYS WEAR: DEPENDABLE WORTHY STEEDS


I am a PILGRIM
. I am on a SPIRITUAL ART JOURNEY. I depend on my sturdy shoes to take me to places of DISCOVERY away from the sole preoccupation of self to the UNIVERSALITY we all share!




4. FRIDGE: SAY YES
I say YES to nurturing the BODY and the SOUL! YES! Feed me lovingly one and all. I believe in the joy of mutuality and reciprocity. I believe in a steady diet of YESes and CREATIVITY.




5. AN ACTIVITYFROM YOUR DAY: CONNECTING WITH THE WORLD
At moments, TIME stops. Suns set. We breathe our individual happy breaths, but then we are compelled to connect with OTHERS…and the WORLD. The New York Times serves me indigestible facts--citizens are being killed in Libya by their own government. (See my blog entry about interaction with Libyan students.) It is warm for February. The early evening air whispers softly of approaching spring.




6. AN OBJECT IN YOUR HAND: THE WORLD
I’ve got the whole world in my hands! I feel so fortunate to commune with the people of the world here at the Language Institute at Georgia Tech! You broaden my experience of the self; you deepen me. You make me a better person, artist, and teacher. (Listen to Veronica Frosgren sing the song, “I’ve Got the Whole World in My Hands” in Dublin.)




7. YOUR DESKTOP COMPUTER SCREEN: CELEBRATION OF COLOR
Green excites and ignites me. My green “Celebration of Summer” mermaid greets me every day on my “virtual” desktop.  I absolutely adore COLOR. As an artist, my “real” desktop is an explosive song of COLOR and IMAGE. I am a primitive sophisticate!





8. WRITE OR DRAW SOMETHING ON A WHITE SHEET OF PAPER: YES
YES! YES, I say to myself. Not good. Not bad. Just is. Say YES! Lean into YES and see where it takes you! Say YES! (To see more on this topic of YES, check out Alice Teeter’s poem with the same name in a past blog entry of mine.)


Hallelujah for the JOURNEY! That concludes COFFEE WITH HALLELUJAH for today. SOUL BLOG with me and tell me about your JOURNEY today!