Thursday, August 26, 2010


Hallelujah for celebration of change! Hallelujah for the RIVER of LIFE. Hallelujah for state parks that allows PILGRIMS to dip into the flowing healing waters and in the darkness of deep-green protective pine trees. My Chiboogamoo and I recently went to Sweetwater Creek State Park in Douglasville, Georgia, for the renewal of our SPIRITS, to track the presence of wildlife, and to “discover” whatever was awaiting us.

 In addition to the various little toads jumping jubilantly across our trails, deer tracks appearing and disappearing in the sandy black soil, and a single blue heron feeding from the rocks on the river bank opposite us, we came upon FELLOW PILGRIMS participating in an ANCIENT SPIRITUAL RITE.

(On an early Sunday at Sweetwater Creek, my Chiboogamoo captured me revering a blue heron.)

At first, I asked my Chiboogamoo if those were some white birds flocking along the river’s edge far ahead of us on the riverbank. We were scaling rocks, hugging the earth, and looking out into the mist. Blue heavy air veiled the trees and river, and in front of us, we could see “movement”—something TRACKERS are always looking for in the hopes of seeing the TRACEMAKER, be it deer, raccoon, turtle, or opossum. Earlier, we had seen a flock of ducks fly by along the river’s path.

We paused. HUMANS dressed in WHITE formed a circle. We froze. SOME IMPORTANT ACT was occurring. We did not want to interrupt them.  Then HUMANS sensing HUMANS, the ENACTERS of this RITE turned and looked at us. We moved into action, scurrying up the hillside. We slid here and there. The pine straw, a foot deep, was slippery, and underneath the pine needles, the earth was muddy because it had been raining. I encountered a wonderfully plump millipede in the process!

Out of breath after our brief WITNESSING of this “going to the river” RITE, we asked each other what it was about. Was it a BAPTISM? Then a few days later, we went to see the play, “Shakin the Mess of Outta Misery,” written by the African-American playwright, Shay Youngblood.  Set in a community of 8 “Big Mamas” who are playing mother to a teenage girl—“Daughter,” whose mother has died, the play is about them preparing the teen for her passage into womanhood by TAKING her DOWN to the RIVER. The possibilities at the river’s edge are many for us PILGRIMS.

 One thing I know for certain is that WATER HEALS. WATER TRANSFORMS. NATURE HOLDS and ENFOLDS US. What my Chiboogamoo and I saw has stayed with me. I feel LARGER somehow for having WITNESSED this RITE by the RIVER. The watercolor images you see here are my response to yet another wondrous MYSTERY in my JOURNEY. I am grieving the loss of friends. The RIVER promises the possibilities of healing. The RIVER promises continuity of movement. The RIVER flows, and so must we my fellow PILGRIMS…in our own time….

(Chiboogamoo and I were startled by the presence of a group of Pilgrims performing some rite of passage at the river side. Please forgive Hallelujah for photographing this private moment. I wanted to hold it for longer than a moment.)

 Hallelujah for PASSAGE. Hallelujah for NATURE. Hallelujah for RITUALS that assist us in moving along the RIVER of LIFE. Soul Blog with Hallelujah and tell her about PASSAGES in your life. Do you have any words of praise for the healing powers of NATURE? Share your ideas with HALLELUJAH! Blessing to all of you FELLOW PILGRIMS.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


HALLELUJAH FOR THE GREAT MYSTERY! I am a member of the ALCHEMIST TRIBE, affectionate lovers and gaspers of the GREAT MYSTERY. I am in awe of the power of LIFE’S TRANSFORMATION, no matter what it is and where it takes us. Each of us has the privilege of saying “YES” to THE CHANGE.

(Cecelia's WINGS. Huge. Colorful. Inviting Journey.)

YES—and rolling, flying, leaping into the REALM of the UNKNOWN. One might play with the possibilities—and there are uncountable ones, all the time breathing big gushing gulps of oxygen.

 I gulp huge gobs of air when I witness a FELLOW PILGRIM’s work with the MYSTERY. This is the GASP! My stomach twitches and every nerve in my body stretches and vibrates at the observation of COURAGE in ACTION. This is the AFFECTIONATE LOVE! Let me illustrate….

(Two of my watercolors envisioning PILGRIM SALLY's JOURNEY are shown here. Sally is dressed in black clothes similar to the ones she wore in the communal production (THE LUMP JOURNEY) that 12 of us women did with her when she got cancer the first time. Hallelujah is the gasping woman in the striped skirt holding the wallaby.)

My example begins with a journey to the foot of the North Georgia mountains to an artists’ retreat with my friend Sally. It is December. Smokey gray air hovers on the deep greens of the southern pine forests. We are visiting another artist, Cecelia, who has been secluded making art for two weeks. Scarves encircle our necks, the heater blasts. Sally, a northerner, has taken off a layer of clothes. I need each piece of winter garb. We have turned off the music because our earnest exchange requires close attention.

 We talk of being daughters and other significant relationships. We speak of praying, seeking healing. Possibilities. Healing. Change. Improv-ing. Healing. Community building. Healing. Dying…and Art Making…

 Once at Cecelia’s cabin, we DO our interactive celebration and exploration of our artwork, which I won’t disclose in entirety here since “secret” societies must retain their privacy! However, Cecelia has filled her entire space with canvases, watercolors, and most attention grabbing to Hallelujah—a pair of colorful wings, almost 7 feet long—with eyes and topped with branches! WOW! GASP! AFFECTIONATE LOVE!

(Sally at Cecelia's cabin in the North Georgia mountains, December 2009. THE WINGS are to Sally's left. You only glimpse a part of them. I did not photograph Sally's work for privacy reasons.)

Cecelia straps these SEEING WINGS on and takes a JOURNEY into the GREAT MYSTERY—the time beyond this physical dimension—DEATH. NEW JOURNEY. AFTERLIFE. PILGRIMAGE. Sally and I are witnesses. The magic wings help Cecelia navigate the UNKNOWN. We ask her questions, and she answers, gleaning the information from her imagined experience in the UNIVERSE. Cecelia’s artful play is the alchemy needed to transform her human experience--body and conscious mind—into a SPIRITUAL experience. All of us are different after this shared imagining. WE HAVE BEEN “THERE”—AND NOT ALONE.

(PILGRIM CECELIA with THE WINGS on her PILGRIMAGE. These wings echo the idea of the ones she made for mother at the time of her mother's death.)

Months pass. It is spring. Cecelia has worked the wings. She has pared down their dimensions in order to make them more “wearable” and efficient to maneuver in the darkness. The feathers have ripened from pastel yellows, pinks, and blues to sturdy red, grays, and blacks. Cecelia flies again--this time in Sally’s studio. The matured wings sober us all.  They represent the inevitability of the death that awaits each one of us. I strap the wings on. How amazing to imagine flying in the life beyond this one! In the community of friends, I feel encouraged to live the good life and to face the good death.

 Sally holds the wings but does not try them on. The cancer present in her body makes us all silent. Dammit. Cecelia and I are “playing” with the idea of death so as not to be afraid of dying. For us, our own death is still conceptual. For Sally, who is dealing with cancer for a second time, LIFE and DEATH are becoming big question marks. Fast forward to now…the middle of August.

(Because there is no room to tack THE WINGS on Sally's Studio wall, an ART PILGRIM on the left and PILGRIM SALLY on the right hold THE WINGS to support Cecelia's JOURNEY.)

(I try THE WINGS on. I smile out of a disquietude. There is nothing funny about imagining death.)

The summer heat is beginning to subside in Atlanta. Since mid-July, we have known Sally is “actively dying” in her home state of Massachusetts. It doesn’t matter that my calendar has marked, “SALLY RETURNS,” in big sloppy blue ink on September 1st. She isn’t coming back. I’m trying to remember to gulp gobs of air and to conjure the ALCHEMY I know is present to ALL OF US at this moment.

 A week or two ago, Sally requested a photo of Cecelia’s wings. Instead, Cecelia sent her THE WINGS. I don’t know if Sally ever actually tried them on, but she described her daughter and granddaughter whooping around in them like magnificent and joyful birds.

 Earlier in this blog, I offered to show you an example of what I meant when I said I am the AFFECTIONATE LOVER of the GREAT MYSTERY, especially when I get to witness a FELLOW PILGRIM’s work with the MYSTERY.

SALLY PILGRIM has caused me to GASP in awe. My stomach is fluttering. I have observed COURAGE in ACTION. As PILGRIM SALLY drifts between the translucent boundaries of land, marsh, and ocean, as she puts on THE WINGS and flies like a raucous wild bird along on her next JOURNEY, I declare my LOVE and AFFECTION for her.  I applaud her TRANSFORMATION. She has said “YES” to what is ahead of her. Yes, ALL WILL BE WELL.

(Sally's artwork made in the winter of 2010. Sally knew all will be well.)

Saturday, August 7, 2010


Greetings PILGRIMS! Hallelujah for the bounty of FRIENDSHIP, the beauty of ART, and the boundless nurture of NATURE. On this PATH, Hallelujah finds herself ENCIRCLED by FRIENDS, taking ART as MEDICINE, and breathing in the musky scent of herbs, perennials, and vegetables.

Several weeks ago in mid-July, a group of us PILGRIMS met at sunrise on Sunday to make a CIRCLE to hold our LOVE and PRAYERS for a FELLOW SOJOURNER—Sally Wylde. We gathered in the Oakhurst Community Garden, the garden she created along with the help of her community more than 10 years ago. Sally was not physically present with us in the sweltering heat of this summer morning in Georgia, where she has lived now for more than 15 years. Instead, she was in a hospital bed far away in a cooler and kinder climate in her home state of Massachusetts, where she returns annually every summer for two months. This year she will not return to us southern PILGRIMS who have grown to love her.  

(I made the crocodile and turtle block prints after Sally taught me how to cut images out of a hard rubber and glue it to wood blocks. I was experimenting with the words "play" and "pray." In some ways, it seems that living our lives joyfully, might be a prayer.")

PILGRIM SALLY is JOURNEYING to what is next beyond this MORTAL COIL. cancer. I cannot put this word in the same sentence with PILGRIM SALLY. In the past few years since Sally first became aware of her medical condition, she has PRAYED AND PLAYED with a loving intensity and presence to LIFE. Acting in improvisation classes, mentoring young and old artists (PILGRIM HALLELUJAH), singing, dancing, and growing green beautiful healing and nurturing plants. Writing. Seeking the spirit. Building community. Performing. Surrendering. Laughing. Loving. Art making. PILGRIM SALLY.

We met at the green HEART of Sally’s life, the community garden she envisioned and built. We met to hold one another’s hands, to speak out our grief about her PILGRIMAGE into the GREAT MYSTERY, to PRAY, to dance, to sing, and finally to speak to her by phone so we could send her our LOVE, our support, our LAUGHTER.

(Ginger brought Sally's artwork and with it a sense that Sally knows "all will be well." As you can see, we lit candles and gathered around her work--her presence for us that morning.)

“ALL WILL BE WELL.”  I was with PILGRIM SALLY in her studio when she made these block prints. She had invited me over one winter morning to show me how to make them. Using black rubber pool lining, we cut out our images and glued them down on wooden boards. She cut out her letters for “all will be well” and showed me how they had to be glued backwards so that when you made the prints the words would be going in the correct direction. She even showed me how you could check your potential results before gluing down the letters. We went to the mirror and approved of the image that was reflected back to us—ALL WILL BE WELL.

 That morning, I made my Wandjina (an aboriginal creation god from Northwestern Australia, but Hallelujah’s animus guide). Sally thought the image was lonely and encouraged me to add more. I had Mother Snake join Wandjina. Sally, then proceeded to show me how to coat the image with ink. The first step involved smearing ink on a piece of smooth glass and rolling it out. Sally had me spit into the ink to make it roll more fluidly (great tip). We used humble brown paper to hold our images. “You can roll it up then,” Sally said.

(This is a print of my Wandjina and Mother Snake from the block that I made at Sally's)

In our PILGRIMAGE, ALL WILL BE WELL. As we sang, “Sally be well,” I thought of all of OUR SHARED JOURNEYS with her. For me, I know that Sally, like me, sees the JOURNEY expanding out beyond our physical human boundaries. SALLY WILL BE WELL. This I know.

 HALLELUJAH FOR PILGRIM SALLY! Hallelujah loves you! Even though you are more than a thousand miles away, I hold you in my HEART, our shared experiences, and my PILGRIMAGE. HALLELUJAH SALLY!