Saturday, November 30, 2013

SAVORING LIFE ON THE GEORGIA COAST: Random photos from one day on St. Catherines Island

Hallelujah for deeply appreciating this beautiful EARTH and our presence here. For the Thanksgiving Holidays, my dear Chiboogamoo and I travelled to St. Catherines Island, Georgia, to spend time with my dear collaborator Jenifer Hilburn and the people in her universe. I wanted to share glimpses of my time here, only glimpses now...more to follow in later posts.

CO-PARENTS OF THE LIFE-CYCLE OF THE AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER. Jen and I have been collaborating by phone, email, and skype beginning since we began our journey as co-creators of our book on American oystercatchers when I was on St. Catherines Island, Georgia, in August, so we were delighted to be in each others' magnificent presence once again on this precious island off the coast of Georgia. Indeed, it was something to be thankful for. (photo by Tony Martin, aka Chiboogamoo)
CURIOUS LEMURS. YES! Lemurs inhabit the island of St. Catherines (quite a back story to their presence here--see this blog)! On Thanksgiving Day, my hubby and I were fortunate enough to meet up with two different lemur groups on the island. With sheer pleasure, we turned off the engine of our vehicle and let them sniff and scent wherever they wanted. No, we don't touch or feed them and neither do they. (photo by Tony Martin, aka Chiboogamoo) 
Here is a short video for your viewing pleasure:

LEMUR CEREAL. In our communal kitchen, someone had this fun breakfast food. Trust me, the lemurs on the island eat much more nutritious food than this human food. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
PALEONTOLOGIST BARBIE INVESTIGATING. "It's possible to understand animal behavior without observing the animal directly," comments Paleontologist Barbie, our esteemed and trusted travel companion. She observes that raccoons have come down from the maritime forest to the marsh for some delicious fiddler crabs. (photo by Tony Martin)
SANDHILL CRANES. It is deeply satisfying to be in the presence of this pair of Sandhill Cranes. They allow you to be near and observe them. When disturbed they let you know by the piercing sound of their haunted bird cries. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
SPANISH MOSS. Who doesn't love Spanish moss and the way it drapes on trees. Here you can see the natural beauty created by the yellowing leaves of a grape vine interspersed with the moss hanging like icicles. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)

NORTH BEACH, ST. CATHERINES ISLAND, GEORGIA. What a privilege to be with a paleontologist who can look out at this landscape and talk about deep time. For instance, looking at the strand of trees out in the middle of the marsh sitting before the surf--why is it there? A paleontologist might tell you it is because that part of the soil is from the Pleistocene (10,000 years ago) and is more resistant to weathering than the surrounding soil from the Holocene, which has been added much more recently. So we sit there on this bluff being amazed at so many natural history stories sitting before us. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)

I am so thankful to be here now on St. Catherines Island without the intent of research or education. Rather to rest and observe and to discover something new just by relaxing.That's Coffee With Hallelujah! Soul Blog with me and tell me how you are savoring your life today!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

ALLIGATOR DREAMING: Being invited to go deeper

ALLIGATOR DREAMING. Did the alligator dream me? (art by Hallelujah Truth)
Hallelujah for ALLIGATORS! Hallelujah for DREAMS! Hallelujah for ALLIGATOR DREAMING! Hallelujah for BEING in the PRESENT and following our inspirations that PROPEL us DEEPER into our SOULS!

Dear Pilgrims, I am slowly working my way through Gail McMeekin's book, The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women, and this morning I started chapter 2 entitled "Honoring Your Inspirations." Here is one of her questions that I wanted to respond to and connect to my Alligator Dreaming:

"Uniquely yours, inspirations invite you into the world of creative possibility. How do you respond when an inspiration beckons? Do you accept the invitation or discount it? By honoring a personal impulse and following where it leads, creativity is born."
HALLELUJAH DREAMING. Did I dream the alligator? (art by Hallelujah Truth)
Let me respond to these questions that McMeekin says gives birth to creativity:

QUESTION #1: How do you respond when an inspiration beckons? 
Because I have a daily creative practice (visit and join my Facebook group, THE DAILY CREATIVE PRACTICE), I strive to record my inspirations each day either by drawing or writing. Each morning, I go to the table to confront an empty bowl and wait for it to fill with visions. Some times the bowl is overflowing before I arrive. 

QUESTION #2: Do you accept the invitation or discount it?
Part of THE DAILY CREATIVE PRACTICE is accepting "the invitation" to be creative. It is through the practice of saying a resounding YES (see this blog) each day to inspirations that all kinds of visions, ideas, and dreams continue to "fill my bowl."

Discounting Inspiration leads to a deprivation in my creativity. Refusing to eat from the "bowl" results in less BEING in the "bowl." Herein lies the MAGIC of our creativity. Use it up and it will be replenished. Ignore it, waste it, walk away from the table, and the "bowl" becomes empty.

Hence I am glad to have this opportunity to contemplate my ALLIGATOR DREAMING depicted in this image below:
ALLIGATOR AND HALLELUJAH DREAMING. Today, I have honored my dream by drawing and painting it. In turn, the "energy" of the dream is released and I empowered, moving along in my life with the affirming certainty of knowing who I am. How about you? (art by Hallelujah Truth)
The ALLIGATOR has long been one of my animal totems, coming to me in a DREAM many years ago as a needy infant needing my care. I embrace the interpretation that Ted Andrews gives to this powerful animal of the earth and water in his book, Animal Speak. Here is the prognosis from Ted Andrews that I'm going to adhere to for understanding my dream:

"If the alligator or crocodile has shown up, look for an opportunity to touch very primal energies. There is going to be an opportunity for strong birth and/or initiation that will open new knowledge and wisdom in some area of your life."

THE DREAM. In my dream, a young boy dove into an alligator pond covered with water lilies, unaware of the multitudes of alligators lurking underneath the surface. I watched as one small alligator swallowed him and then was swallowed by a larger alligator. My dear husband woke me from this dream since I was calling out for help.

What does this ALLIGATOR DREAMING mean? How can I understand it to go deeper into my SOUL? 

I know that the small boy represents my "animus" or the masculine part of my psyche and the alligator is my feminine nature. 

I also know that as I seek a new way of BEING that I feel some confusion in how to "map out" my future actions.

It is possible that my ALLIGATOR DREAM is reminding me that I have a veritable pond of full of feminine energy and creativity (alligators) that can be used in my "mapping."

It is also possible that the young boy knew exactly what he was doing when he dived into the alligator pond and that he is "inside" the feminine, nurturing it with his clear direction and youthfulness. He is the great primal sacrifice, dying so that new life can be born!

That's Coffee with Hallelujah! SOUL BLOG with me and share how you are going to follow your inspirations, listen to your dreams and go deeper.

Friday, November 22, 2013

A DECADE OF BEING FATHERLESS: Embracing my father's spirit 10 years after his death

MY FATHER (CHRISTMAS 1960). Don't we all see our father--well, as fathers? Not icons? Well my father was a larger than life WAR HERO, a symbol of BRAVERY and DEDICATION to OUR COUNTRY. Yet, here in this photo taken by mother at Ft. Benning, Georgia, with four of his five children, he is "just" simply my father (I'm pictured to his right, and my brother Bill had not yet been born). Many years later, at some point before my father died, he expressed a desire to be buried in a civilian cemetery with a big tombstone that said: "Edward R. Schowalter--Husband of Bonney and father of Lynn, Ned, Steve, Ruth and Bill." Well, time marches on and without my father planning the details for his burial, his wishes were forgotten, and he was buried instead at Ft. Benning, Georgia, with a tombstone that recognized him as the icon of the SOLDIER and WAR HERO that he indeed was.
Hallelujah for the salve that TIME provides! Hallelujah for the journey in LIFE that allows us to embrace the natural DYING-OFF of all things that are brought to LIFE. In the ten years since my father died on November 21, 2003, I have continued to grapple with the complexity that is LIFE without his presence.
FIRST VISIT TO MY FATHER'S GRAVE 2013. My father's death rocked my world. Our relationship was a difficult but profound one. I was called "The Apple of His Eye," and therein lies the difficulty. A man who participated in 3 major wars--World War II, Korean Conflict, and Vietnam War--my father had seen and been involved with horrors that could not be discussed but haunted him nonetheless. As a child, I was his sidekick, the one most like him. In my young adult years, I spent many hours at the kitchen table with him where he plotted out which roses and camellias to buy for his extensive garden, and later, when his interest turned to refurbishing and collecting guns. We did not see eye-to-eye on many things, which caused great conflict in our relationship. His death left me with many unresolved issues. The night before he died, however, I slept beside him in a recliner next to his hospital bed, cradling my still smaller hand in his larger comforting one. The next evening after he took in his last breath and the rest of my family departed, my mother and I left his side only when the minister told us it was time to go. That was my final contact with my father. A little more than 24 hours prior to that, he had looked me in the eyes and used hand signals to tell me that he loved me, a ventilator preventing him from speaking. In the arena of such loss, it was inevitable that family conflict ensued which along with my own grieving prevented me from attending my father's funeral and from visiting his grave for 10 years. This photo was taken in October 2013 (see this blog for context of the visit) (photo by Tony Martin)
So ten years have passed and where do I find myself now in relation to my father?  How do we keep a person "human" and personable when he is a WAR HERO like my father was? Even after he retired, my father preferred to be called COLONEL by my male suitors. He proclaimed that, "I'm no Mister!"
THE COLONEL. I took this photo of my father when he and my mother accompanied me to a "suitor's" graduation from Ranger training at Ft. Benning. Yes, I was dating a soldier, one who later asked me to marry him. I declined not because of who he was but rather because of what I needed to become. As much as I was a MILITARY BRAT, I did not want to become a MILITARY WIFE. I hungered to find a different kind of life, one that would allow me to become my own person. That said, I have always felt a part of the love and dedication to the military and its families that serve the United States of America. I was proud that for this military graduation my father chose to wear his Congressional Medal of Honor and did so with great pride. In this photo, he is BOTH FATHER AND COLONEL to me.
Even now, ten years after his death, it seems that it would be easier to resort to memorializing my father as a Congressional Medal of Honor holder--HERO-- and to link to sites that explain who he was professionally and what courageous feats he achieved during battle. I have even written blogs on this topic (here and here). 
THE HERO. During my growing up days, my father would often be invited to be part of a parade or to go to a presidential inauguration party. Here he is in May 1963 participating in an Armed Forces Day Parade. (photo by U.S. Army)

DAD fixing my car.
But 10 years after his death and I am now wanting to see my FATHER as a man, complete with his vulnerabilities as well as his strengths. 

Funny in this long decade since his death, I am experiencing a limited number of stories to tell and photographs to use to discuss my FATHER's spirit. Just now, when I was linking to previous blogs about my FATHER, I see I have used some of the the same photos before.

It may seem obvious to say this, but once a person is deceased, there are no new meaningful photos of them. While there may be no more "new" photos that can help me express my FATHER,  I do think there may be many more stories to collect and tell. Yet, I don't think I am the one to honor my FATHER in this way. Besides, when he was given the opportunity to have a book or movie made about his life when he was alive, he declined.
HUSBAND. My mother and father made a glamorous pair. This photo was taken New Years Eve, 1963. On the tenth anniversary of my FATHER's death, I talked with my mother by phone, and we retrieved memories of him. Some how, I will always take comfort in my mother's proclamation, "He was the one for me." She said that again yesterday.

Dad had always wanted me to achieve and excel. And, I had in my own way before his death, but I had never married nor had any children which gave my successes tarnished edges to my FATHER. At the time of his death, he was happy to know that Tony and I were engaged. He and my mother had been married almost 50 years when he died. 

As Tony and I get ready to celebrate our ninth wedding anniversary this December, I am glad to have the love of a good husband. I have been given the greatest opportunity to have a marvelous life with a gentle, smart, and funny human being.  

Perhaps, it is because of this loving relationship that I have with Tony, that I want to claim my FATHER--now more than ever before--as just a man. I want to put the COLONEL and the WAR HERO to rest and in the ongoing years get to know the spirit of Edward R. Schowalter or Ned as he was nicknamed, but I rarely heard him called. Ned.
FLOWERS FOR NED. Taken in October 2013 at Ft. Benning, Georgia, where my FATHER is buried. (photo by Tony Martin)
That's Coffee with Hallelujah! SOUL BLOG with me and share your journey of LIFE and DEATH. Where are you on this mysterious path? How about memories of who your father is to you?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

DANCING FLOWERS FOR PEACE: Dialoguing with our bodies and transforming the negative into the positive

Hallelujah for the seeds that the Dancing Flowers for Peace are planting in our world! Hallelujah for their mission of nurturing health and well being through movement and transforming the negative into peace and much much more!
THE DANCING FLOWERS. Members of the Dancing Flowers for Peace began the November 3, 2013 workshop with a performance to welcome participants. Visit the Flowers' website to learn more about the dancers.(photo by Hallelujah Truth)
Yesterday, I had the immense pleasure of participating in one of the Dancing Flower workshops dedicated to women 40 and older (I'm 55). For awhile now, I have been joining the Dancing Flowers on their Saturday workouts for the first hour. I value these imaginative warmups directed by Lori Teague, Emory University dance professor, for the way they help me understand my aging body and the spirit that dwells within.
CONCEPTS TO DANCE WITH. The dance studio where we had the workshop was decorated with flowers and "thoughts" or "questions" to think or answer through our dance.(photo by Hallelujah Truth)
The question, "How do I create a dialogue with my body," is an essential one for honoring what my body needs. Any woman who has "gathered" four decades or more knows that our body acts differently as we age. Knees begin to act up, hips don't move as fluidly, and if we are too stationary, everything tightens up. Therefore, we need to begin and maintain a conversation with this body of ours to keep HER healthy and feeling good.
QUALITIES WE ASPIRE TO. In the workshop, we identified a flower that we would like to be and associated the qualities of that flower that we would like to embody. Here workshop participants each wrote one of their qualities. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
The workshop began the "dialogue" with our bodies by asking us participants to introduce ourselves, the flower we had chosen to identify with, the qualities of the flower expressed about our emotional or spiritual needs, and to create a movement that expressed the "essence" of the flower. Then we chose one "quality" we wanted to share with the group and wrote it on the whiteboard (see photo above). Afterwards, we were invited to dance those qualities.
EMBODYING QUALITIES THROUGH DANCE--A DIALOGUE. Being an observer is a rich way to understand the body's dialogue with an idea. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
In another phase of this exercise, we divided workshop participants into half, so we could observe each other. Seeing, witnessing, observing other dancers, whatever you want to call it, is a different way of understanding the dialogue we can have with our bodies. 

The workshop was rich with exercises--too many to share all of them here. But for now, I would like to conclude with the grande finale of the workshop. We took our experience of "embodying" qualities such as "celebration," "vivid," and "float," individually to building a dance in groups of four or five to express some aspect of PEACE.

Incrementality is essential in this kind of collaborative dialoguing. Each group member created a "phrase"--a movement. These "phrases" were connected into a "sentence" or a dance. The dances were then given form and shape in the space of the dance floor. These images show only a few of the wonderful results. 
COLLABORATION: BUILDING A DANCE FOR PEACE. In the beginning, we moved, discussed, and melded our ideas to build a dance for peace in small groups of 4 or 5. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)

INDIVIDUAL GROUPS PERFORM PEACE DANCE. Each group's dance was a unique expression of peace.  (photo by Hallelujah Truth and Lynn Manfredi)
For me, the outcome of this workshop with the Dancing Flowers was the fulfillment of dialoguing with my body and spirit in a few simple steps: 

1. Honor what my body wanted to express by creating a simple movement that could be repeated.

2. Honor and accept the movement that each member contributed.

3. Collaborate in piecing together our individual contributions to generate a meaningful dance that could be given a name.
OBSERVATION. Lori Teague (left) and Jennifer Denning watch the groups perform. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
Lori Teague concluded the workshop by telling us that we had been given "seeds" at this workshop and that were welcome to go out and plant them in the world wherever we wanted to! Thank you Lori! Thank you all Dancing Flowers for Peace! It was meaningful and fun. I plan on continuing this dialogue with my body--honoring its needs and transforming the negative into the positive.

That's Coffee with Hallelujah! SOUL BLOG with me. Tell me how you are going to dialogue with your body today. Can you dance PEACE?