Category: Alabama Coast

Finding Home: The Life of Stella Sea Turtle

Finding Home: The Life of Stella Sea Turtle

It’s always fun to see a project come together. The latest is another children’s book about sea turtles. It’s illustrated by my pal Linda-Bell Schorer and we are donating a portion of each book sold to the Friends of Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge for sea turtle conservation on public lands.

If you love sea turtles, children and public lands I invite you to support this project by pre-ordering the book and/or sponsoring the project. We raise all printing costs before going to press so order now to help the project move forward for an early-December release.

Thank you as always for supporting the work of my heart. Visit the info/order page.

Where Wild Can Breathe

Where Wild Can Breathe

The Gulf of Mexico called me this morning. Come walk with me. So before sunrise I parked my car and set bare feet upon white sand.

The state park is squeezed on all sides by real estate–expensive real estate. And the former governor…the one forced to resign over shady dealings….set in motion construction of a monument to himself in the form of a convention center and hotel on state park property. Yes, there had been one there before it literally fell apart from repeated bashings from the sea and salty winds. But there is a glut of condos on the beach now and a convention center nearby and a new one being built just north.  But I digress….

Walking along the beach in the state park is a nice respite from walking in front of condos that form a wall of concrete along the Gulf Coast. Little jewels like Gulf State Park, Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge and the Gulf Islands National Sea Shore give  wildlife a chance to exist. They allow human’s wild spirits a place to spread out and connect with something greater than ourselves.

This morning I spent time contemplating the fate of our planet. We’re the self-absorbed animals of the planet…the only species willing to destroy our own habitat in order to amass wealth and power that lead to a non-future created by our destructive actions. Such a bizarre species.

It’s weird to witness the current, strange goings-on where decades of effort invested in protecting fragile areas, sacred areas, is being wiped away  in a few months and these amazing places are going to the highest bidder to exploit. Have we forgotten the past?

Remember Erie Canal catching on fire because there was so much pollution in it? Or smog so horrible you couldn’t see in cities like Los Angeles and New York? It’s easy to forget the things we depend on for survival….things like clean air and water. Unregulated corporations and their push for profit-at-any-cost nearly destroyed us. We shouldn’t forget this. Ever.

And yet there is a huge push to roll-back environmental protections and demolish agencies charged to enforce them. And agencies tracking our changing climate. Some people have forgotten our past, our history and how lack of concern, compassion and common sense destroys wildlife and human health.

Places like parks and seashores set aside and protected feed our souls. They remind us of beauty and invite us to walk in beauty….with beauty…and help us be mindful the interconnectedness of all life.

When I visited Johnson Beach–part of Gulf Islands National Seashore–after visiting Gulf State Park this morning, I felt a noticeable difference. It’s protected from development. There’s no hotel on the beach or fishing pier. The only structures seen are wooden boardwalks to protect the dunes, a pavilion area and a narrow roadway that is frequently covered with sand as the beach reclaims it for its own.

In Johnson Beach one can park and walk beyond the road, beyond most human comings and goings, and breathe deeper, fuller. A release of the spirit occurs when we stop looking at watches or cell phones and allow wild beauty to pull us completely into the present moment.

As I stood on the beach there this morning, near a loggerhead sea turtle crawl, I noticed a lightness of energy and freedom that is missing in places overshadowed by high-rise condos or surf shops or tee shirt stores. We need places where wild can breathe deeper and fuller, where nothing comes between nature and humanity.

Pretty Work

Pretty Work

_TSL6105I heard the phrase, pretty work, echoing in my fatigued brain as I was crawling into bed at 1am. It was a busy night on the beach. My life coach has used the phrase for as long as I can remember.

What a night!! But this was last week, the night before Hermine brought us high tides and surf….and nothing else. But that’s for later in this tale.

Nest B25 was ready to tarp and I went as a tarp helper and to take photographs of sky and waves. I helped dig the trench and release 17 babies from the previous night that had been in ICU. Magic. Beautiful sea turtle magic.

_TSL6840I was leaving because the nest wasn’t that busy, it was my third night in a row of sea turtle work and three other women were there. But just as I got to the car, my friend got a call that babies were under a house nearby.

Cathy and I ran and met Jan and another seasoned team member. Tourists had found them every freaking where. We didn’t know the source of the turtles. I was putting them in my shirt (basket made from shirt) and they were tickling my belly. We were finding turtles almost to the road. Cathy and I found about 14. Jan found some. Jim did as well. Tourists put about 50 in the water. I tracked and tracked and finally found the nest. Just a little sink hole in the sand almost at waters edge with high surf. I helped Jan excavate it and we had almost a complete boil. And every turtle was within three or four feet of water and they went to house lights. We figure 70 made it to the water.

_TSL6931Stop a moment and think about that. The hatchlings were only a very short distance from the Gulf of Mexico and they chose to go to lights under houses, street lights….every single track went away from the water towards lights…or death. If the tourists had not found them and helped us we would have possibly never known the nest hatched due to rising water from Hermine.

The nest had been marked as a false crawl earlier in the season. That mama surprised us with her ability to conceal her nest among her tracks.

We were leaving that wild experience and got a call that Ken monitoring another nest had turtles emerging. The three of us ran down to B24 and helped oversee the babies journey to the sea. The tide was coming up high. Really high. We broke down part of trench after they boiled due to tide and waves.

SL21HThe next morning brought heartache. I arrived by 6.30am to help with B22 which was flooded. Two teammates and I found 61 perfectly healthy hatchlings with their egg sac completely absorbed (meaning they were ready to swim into the Gulf). Unfortunately they had drowned. We had permission to excavate the nest due to the impending flood and the sounds that had been heard for two to three days prior to the storm (meaning they had hatched and had not emerged from the nest). It was determined that we could wait until the next morning….but it was too late.

SL21DWe know that every turtle counts when a threatened species is involved so a loss like this hurts deeply. And we potentially lost eight nests due to flooding and erosion from the storm…the storm that wasn’t even close to us and produced maybe three drops of rain here. Only three of our remaining eleven nests remained dry and unaffected by the storm. That’s just in our 3 mile stretch of Laguna Key team’s beach.

It has been a record year for sea turtles across the southeast. At the beginning of the season, when we knew the female loggerheads were about to break Alabama’s record, I suspected we would have a storm. Somehow they know.. the mother turtles know. Of course that’s antidotal and biologists might scoff at the connection. But even in just the five season’s I’ve been a sea turtle volunteer I’ve noticed this trend.

SL30AThe day of the storm was exhausting…emotionally and physically. After four hours sleep from the previous night’s wild goings-on, the excavation of the drowned hatchlings and another team member and I surveying a section of beach for nest damage…and getting ‘lost’ due to the rising tide and waves…I was ready to rest. We all were.

Searching for hatchlings in a flooded nest.

So many people compliment the work we do. It’s work of our hearts. Not everyone on the team participates at the same level due to work commitments, time constraints or simply lower interest levels. But those of us who are there no matter what, who lose sleep and exhaust ourselves, who wade through nasty, foamy water to dig out dead hatchlings as the waves wash underneath….who get screamed at by local homeowners who can’t grasp the need to walk near their property to access the beach….we cry, we laugh, we save sea turtles, we lose sea turtles….those that stick with it and dedicate themselves to these precious sea friends…we do pretty work. Even though it’s not always pretty.



Ridiculous Beauty of the Dawn

Ridiculous Beauty of the Dawn

_TSL6583Take a chance. Risk the extra burden. So what if the sand is soft and your burden is more difficult to bear. It’s time.

Take the leap. Never mind the excuses or reasons to fear. Do it.

Oh, but it’s heavy. What if it rains? What if it lightnings and I have to make a run for it? What if? What if? What if?

Take a chance. Risk moving beyond fear.

_TSL6600Okay. I’m ready…but….

The sand is soft. Walking isn’t easy. It begins to sprinkle. It’s lightning off shore.

Something has shifted. I feel surrendered to the Path. I laugh and keep moving….it’s okay.


_TSL6616The light begins to paint the clouds…the layers and layers of clouds. I stop. I cannot move. The light pierces my disbelief….my doubting…my fears.

Look at me, it says. Look….at….me.

Tears kiss my cheeks. Laughter erupts from my toes…up and up and up through my belly….through my heart….my mouth and finally my eyes laugh at the beauty….unable to hold back. Not wanting to.

I lift my hands to the sky. My fingers play with orange, yellow and golden light. My heart shines through dancing fingertips.

My camera whispers, Pick me up, love. 

_TSL6634My creative heart dances with glass and metal and electronics. The shutter clunks, the LED screen illuminates beauty that makes me gasp for breath.

At the end of suffering and pain, after the trials and storms, there is beauty waiting. It’s here. Now. Look up…with your heart.

The challenges and trials of the summer created a place of choice. Do I move deeper? Do I walk away in frustration?

My life coach has held my hand from afar and encouraged me to move deeper, to move beyond the obstacles within me reflected in the outer world. He has encouraged me to reach high and deep for love. And to not allow anything to keep my feet from the Path.

_TSL6639As I walk in the Sacred Temple of the Seashore I hear through the particles of light, This is what awaits the hard work of transformation. This beauty, beyond anything you have known, is what awaits those who remain true to the Path to which their soul calls.

Well, that does it. I leap and shout for joy! Why try to contain it? My open heart sings and salty tears flow to the sea. And I am made new.

_TSL6663So much has happened in the past twenty-four hours to open my eyes to the possibilities when I make as a mantra these words, I am willing.

He writes this morning, “Let your light shine in every corner of the world!” Everyone needs a life coach….a beloved friend who sees what we sometimes cannot see.

_TSL6638My gratitude list grows as I dance in the ridiculous beauty of the dawn.

Comfortably Numb

Comfortably Numb

FullSizeRender 2“Hello, Is anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me. Is there anyone at home?….

This is not how I am. I have become comfortably numb. I have become comfortably numb.”

Acres upon acres of wild backcountry are being cleared at Gulf State Park. It’s not just the width of another trail they are clearing. It’s wide swaths of trees, underbrush, ground cover….gone. Little-by-little this jewel of a state park is being turned into a manicured, groomed city park that continues to push wildlife into smaller blocks of land.

 First it was condos. The building boom hit right after Hurricane Frederic in 1979. It’s good for the economy, they said. It will generate jobs, they said. No, we can’t turn the beach front into a national wildlife refuge, there’s too much money to be made, they said. And so we witnessed the taming of the shoreline. Concrete, glass and landscaping that demands hideous amounts of water to survive.

Now that the beaches are nearly full of monuments to human-demand-for-more, the governor of the State of Alabama is building a monument to himself on the state park beach. Drive by and see his legacy…the mountain of sand…the machinery….all hail one of the biggest crooks in the history of Alabama politics.

It’s not just the new trail they are clearing. They leave a buffer of a few trees along the trail and most everything else is being cleared.

Off of Rosemary Dune Trail in the backcountry machines are busy in Gulf State Park. It’s not new trails that concern me, it’s the ridiculous amount of sacred land being cleared to make it appear more manicured? More city-park-like? There’s no reason for this kind of reckless behavior. None. And they are using restoration funds to do this?

The clearing isn’t confined to the trail development (shown here) and clearing, along country road 2 near the tee intersection they are clearing massive amounts of land….prime wildlife habitat.

I stopped to photograph the destruction and as soon as I unclipped from my pedals Sarah McLachian began singing, through my ear buds, the Prayer of Saint Francis….”Make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.”

Simone Lipscomb 6360It wasn’t just tears….it was sobs of grief. Where will the wild things go when humans bent on molding nature to their image and intention manicure it beyond recognition of what it once was?

Simone Lipscomb 6352And we sit by….and allow this destruction to continue. Pink Floyd nailed it….”We have become comfortably numb.”

Simone Lipscomb 6357