Category: Alabama Coast

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.

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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?

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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

Sea Turtle Mania

Sea Turtle Mania

IMG_4550As I hopped into the car, silver strands of spider webs swirled around me. After an 18 mile bike ride I was headed to help the sea turtle team with our three nests this morning. THREE!

IMG_4556Was on the bike just after 5.30am and enjoying the beautiful sunrise and cool temperature when my phone rang at 6.01am. It was a turtle team friend. She knows to call me before the ALL CALL goes out because I live 20 miles from our Laguna Key team beach. Rather than fumble with it I just let it go to voice mail and continued the ride.

When you are in the back of the state park on a backcountry trail, it’s going to take a while to get back to the car anyway. Why not finish my ride?

The Share the Beach ALL-CALL came in at 6.22am. I had already turned around to head back to the car so I’d check it when I finished riding. But at 6.31am my friend Cathy, who had called me earlier, texted me so I knew something was up. It wasn’t just one nest. Her text read: THREEEE NESTS!

IMG_4532So I forwarded my iPod to Prince and Michael Franti and put the after-burner on full blast. So much for a leisurely pedal back to finish the third day in a row of cycling fun. I texted Cathy: Cycling. Be there in a bit. There is an art to texting and cycling which I don’t recommend.

Back to the car by 7.10am and called to find out their location. Just starting the first nest at the far end of our section. Nice, I thought. By the time I drive from the state park to the beach they will have found eggs at the first nest and I’ll help with the other two. 

IMG_4558Unfortunately that wasn’t the case and in fact our team was split into two groups, each digging to find eggs on two nests within 100 yards of each other. I knew it was bad when I arrived and all I saw was the top of their heads sticking out from the hole. No eggs yet.

I joined in and it took us until 8.30 am to find eggs. The nest was right on the edge of the water and had to be moved by 9am. The other diggers still had no luck with their nest.

You might wonder how we know for sure there are eggs and it’s not just a false crawl. A false crawl is when we have tracks that generally are in and out of the water with no body pit or spray. An indicator of a nest is of course the crawl, an indentation or body pit and sand spray. Both nests had body pits and spray. The other nest was even closer to the water. A high tide would most likely take it out.

IMG_4560Deb found the eggs and ran to help the other group while Jan, one of our team leaders, and I started removing and counting eggs. Meanwhile Ken, the other team leader, went due north of us to dig a hole that would have the same depth and dimensions as the original nest dug by mama turtle.

We finished moving the eggs, putting the predator screen and stakes in place and marking it and headed for the third nest further east. We left the rest of our team trying their best to find eggs before 9am.

Nest three of the day was wonderfully placed by the mother turtle so we only had to find the eggs, not move them. And do all the measurements and GPS readings that we do.

IMG_4562I began digging…by digging I mean carefully using the side of my hand to gently scrap layers of sand somewhere in the spray zone of the nest. Ken and Jan started the measurements of crawl, placement and such. I hadn’t been digging long when the rest of our team showed up and helped. It was getting hot and none of us had eaten breakfast so we were quite anxious to find the eggs, take the GPS reading, erect the protective gadgetry and head home.

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This is where the mother turned. Notice her body pit. Spray is to the left.

Every mother turtle has her own, unique way of placing her nests so there isn’t a formula that takes into consideration her crawl in and out of the water, the spray zone or placement of the body pit. Every one is different so that makes finding the eggs a chore.

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Another view of the crawl, body pit and spray. Spray is to the left.

Thankfully, I found them within 15 minutes of scooping sand. All of our knees were nearly blistered from kneeling and scooping sand for hours. Also, our team isn’t made up of young adults. We are all middle aged plus so it really takes a team effort to do the work.

This past Sunday we had two nests, yesterday we had two nests and today three. I predict a really bad hurricane along our coast some time late August or early September. These turtles have a way of knowing when to lay their nests. I hope this isn’t the case but we’ve seen it before. Or they know the satellite tag team is about to began their work and they are wanting to avoid the capture and tagging process.

We were exhausted after our morning's work.
We were exhausted after our morning’s work.

About 55 days from now, we will be recruiting volunteers to help us with these nests. We erect black tarps behind and along the side to keep light from the houses and street out, but we really need to be present to make sure they don’t get out and crawl under houses or into the street. Surprise hatchings have yielded this result and it’s sad to see the carnage of baby turtles if they crawl the wrong way out of their nest. Third week of July if you’d like to become a volunteer we can get a free shirt and training for you. The nights sitting out under stars while the Gulf of Mexico laps gently along the shore….it’s just hard to beat. Seeing the tiny turtles in the black out conditions make their way to the water is amazing. Once in a while there is phosphorescence in the sand and their small flippers create little star-bursts of light as they touch the sand. Have I sold you on volunteering yet?

FullSizeRender 3We will have seven nests hatching around the same time. That’s crazy….and there could be more.

You never know what the day will bring. Today it was sea turtle mania. Tomorrow…who knows!

Paradise Right Here*

Paradise Right Here*

SimoneLipscomb (1)It was still dark as I pulled onto the highway and turned east. There, in the lightening sky hung venus while Dreamer’s Sky, Will Kimbrough’s song on the new Willie Sugarcapps CD eased me into the morning. The last sea turtle patrol of the season begins here, in my car, with music carrying me toward the Gulf of Mexico.

A turn south and another song, another turn east and there’s Venus again with Anthony Crawford‘s song, Love Be Good to Me, sweetly sung by Savana Lee Crawford. The planet of love and these lyrics…..”Love be good to me, Fill my heart again. Love, can you still hear me calling out to you?…..Everything happens in its own time.”

SimoneLipscombAnother turn south and more wonderful music. Grayson Capps, Love, surrounds me with soulful words and notes. And finally, a turn west at the beach and the full moon hangs in a perfect square notch in a massive cloud as Will Kimbrough’s, Paradise Right Here, begins to play. For less than a breath the moon is cradled by the towering cloud and then it disappears.

The words of the song touched me deeply the first time I heard it at the Frog Pond. Tears streamed down my face as I listened to Will’s lyrics. Today, they touched me again as I thought of daily abuses to our planet that take more of the paradise away….the paradise that literally is in the palm of our hand, as Will sings. It is totally up to us if it remains or is destroyed.

MagnoliaSophiaI reach the beginning of my sea turtle patrol at the edge of the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge and grab my camera as I exit the car. The full moon is still bright in the sky and the sun not yet risen. As I reach the water’s edge my faithful dolphin friend swims up and we journey east, toward the rising sun. He, swimming just offshore, and me, walking close to the water’s edge. The past several Sunday’s we have shared the sunrise together and the thought of not seeing him next Sunday saddens me.

_TSL5715The sky is in full sunrise celebration with crazy clouds and colors of phenomenal beauty. Joy leaps up within me as I frolic along the shore which seems to excite my cetacean buddy. As Will sings, “I’m glad to be alive and I’m thankful for this paradise right here, paradise right here. Right here, by the warm inviting water, right now with my bare feet in the sand, right here share it with your sons and daughters, paradise in the palm of your hand. Paradise in the palm of your hand. Paradise in the palm of your hand.”

_TSL5769So grateful for the paradise of this shoreline, the Alabama coast and the greater Gulf of Mexico….all life here…and hopeful that we can make it even better with efforts to be good stewards and approach our walk on this planet with love and compassion for all life.

_TSL5711The end of my walk neared and I saw two of my teammates approaching from their section. We celebrated the beauty of the morning and a successful patrol season and sea turtles. We remembered our loggerhead friends who lure us out each Sunday morning from May 1st through August 31st to chase the sunrise and re-discovered paradise…in the palm of our hand.

_TSL5808*Paradise Right Here is Willie Sugarcapps new CD title and the title of Will Kimbrough‘s fantastic song. Check it out!

Five Years Later

Five Years Later

Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, Summer 2010
Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, Summer 2010

I stood on the shore of the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, early summer 2010 with tears streaming down my face. I had just called the hotline to report oil on the pristine, sugar-white sand. I thought that finally people would awaken and forge a new path of care and love for this Ocean planet. Five years have passed and the fervor to find and extract oil, at any cost, has escalated. And there are more spills worldwide, more toxic wastes generated by fracking operations and more earthquakes near fracking zones. The Atlantic coast is being opened to offshore drilling. The Arctic is open for drilling. Politicians are systematically trying to dismantle protected areas in states and federal lands.

Gulf of Mexico today
Gulf of Mexico today

As I sit on the sandy, Gulf beach watching the chocolate-colored waves, at least there is no benzene smell or globs of fizzing crude oil washing ashore. The dark water is from recent heavy rains. The salt breeze carries the smell of incense, an offering to the spirits of this magnificent body of water. I ask for forgiveness on behalf of all humans.

Common Loon resting on the beach this afternoon
Common Loon resting on the beach this afternoon

I reflect on John Muir’s life, one that was dedicated to preserving sacred places of unparalleled natural beauty and the success that came from his unrelenting love of nature. He saw the Divine in nature and viewed it as a direct reflection of God. Places like Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon, Mt. Rainer, Petrified Forest are a small sample of areas Muir helped preserve. He petitioned Congress for a National Park bill and in 1890 it passed.

Photograph Summer 2010...Shell Oil
Photograph Summer 2010…Shell Oil

“The radiance in some places is so great as to be fairly dazzling, keen lance rays of every color flashing, sparkling in glorious abundance, joining the plants in their fine, brave beauty-work–every crystal, every flower a window opening into heaven, a mirror reflecting the Creator.” John Muir.

Photograph Summer 2010 Gulf State Park Pier
Photograph Summer 2010 Gulf State Park Pier

“Keep close to Nature’s heart, yourself and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean from the earth-stains of this sordid, gold-seeking crowd in God’s pure air….Don’t lose your freedom and your love of the Earth as God made it.” John Muir.

Photograph I took Summer 2010. It reminds me of a woman's body and so I call it the Rape of Mother Earth
Photograph I took Summer 2010. It reminds me of a woman’s body and so I call it the Rape of Mother Earth

Lately, as I’ve read about seemingly endless assaults on nature and attempts to sell it to the highest bidder for fossil fuel and about sonar testing that deafens cetaceans, sentencing them to death, I have become increasingly disturbed. The grief and despair I felt during the year I documented the oil disaster has been touched and the wound opened again and again.

Photography taken Summer 2010 Orange Beach, Alabama
Photograph taken Summer 2010 Orange Beach, Alabama

I wrote this in August 2010:

“This morning I sat weeping for the birds, oysters, shrimp, crabs….for us all. As I breathed in the stillness of the dawn I felt sadness that we have collectively created such imbalance on this beautiful planet. Inhaling, exhaling…pausing to touch the grief within me….how did it get so messed up?

We have become so dependent on practices that destroy our world, there is no easy way to stop them. The oil industry is woven into the fabric of life in Louisiana along with the Gulf’s bounty. Maybe the problem began when we considered only what could be produced from the Gulf.

But it goes beyond the Gulf Oil Spill Crisis–way beyond to the collective intention to consume, to conquer without regard for what it does to the planet that, quite literally, gives us life. Where did this short-sighted way of thinking begin?

I weep for our ignorance and the destruction it keeps in motion. I weep for political polarization that puts power on a pedestal over compassion and caring. We are lost in fighting battles that pull us apart and weaken us.

When will we stop and breathe together in silence? When we will awaken from our slumber and join hands to work to save our planet, to save ourselves?”

Common Loon friend that shared the beach with me today as I reflected on the past five years
Common Loon friend that shared the beach with me today as I reflected on the past five years

Today, almost five years later, the same questions still haunt my mind every day. When will we stop and breathe together in silence? When we will awaken from our slumber and join hands to work to save our planet, to save ourselves?

Yet there is hope for there are still people who care, who love Nature and understand that humans are part of it, not above it. There are many who understand the necessity for living in balance and who grasp that the mindset of ‘more at any cost’ is no longer a valid way to successfully exist. We sell our own souls when we auction nature to the highest bidder.

Photograph from Summer 2010
Photograph from Summer 2010

So how can we stay positive? Hopeful? By reaching out to each other in love and by treading as gently as possible on this sacred Ocean planet. And practicing simple, yet collectively powerful steps such as these: turn off lights not in use; don’t use disposable plastic bottles; use water sparingly; adjust the thermostat two degrees and save energy and money; recycle; re-use; opt out of the mindset that new electronics must be purchased each time a new version is released; get by with less ‘stuff,’ buy locally-grown foods’ celebrate the beauty of nature each day; participate in efforts to make a positive difference.

Photograph today at Gulf State Park. During the oil disaster this area was saturated with fizzing, oily sludge
Photograph today at Gulf State Park. During the oil disaster this area was saturated with fizzing, oily sludge

Now is not the time to give up. Now is the time to celebrate beauty found in nature and in human hearts everywhere.

Permission for Passion

Permission for Passion

SimoneLipscomb (2) The sea spoke to me this morning. For the second day I visited Her to connect, to pray, to ask for a vision. As the chilly, salt water caressed my ankles and splashed my legs, blue water peace filled me and insight came.

Last night was melt-down time. The actions of the past two weeks of forward direction, financial pay-out to that forward direction and future possibilities stood around me. They were like wild flames encircling me…a lot of money has gone out of my account and it scared me.  Doubt began to rough me up and shake me. It was not a fun evening.

SimoneLipscomb (15)Arguments for proceeding through the opening echoed in my mind while voices of fears screamed. It would be safe to say that Monkey Mind was loose and gave a wild ride. Just shut the F**** up! All of you!!! Just shut up!!! 

After wrestling with some old negative messages and emotions for hours yesterday, I managed to sleep and awakened to Willie Fay cat’s insistence to go onto the screened porch. It was barely light so I hurriedly dressed and grabbed my camera and headed toward the Gulf. If the next part of my life is going to be focused on the Ocean, then I wanted to connect with Her and feel my toes in salt water. And see if answers would come.

SimoneLipscomb (10)A few weeks ago the opening doors left little doubt of the next steps in life but on this side of the events, I began to feel fear. I’ve invested a lot of money into my work, with little financial return and I felt guided to lay out more big money for gear as well as for two more books. No question about doing it. The point of struggle was the fact that former work hasn’t paid for itself even though the message is well-received and appreciated by those who read my books or see my photographs.

I started to doubt my sanity for investing further in the work that is about healing environmental and societal hurts. The money I have saved will, at some point, be used up. Wouldn’t a wise woman with no retirement plan save that money and just forget her dream of making a positive difference on the planet? That’s such a lofty goal anyway.

SimoneLipscomb (33)The message I received from the sea was this: I am breaking free of old, societal conditioning. As I take this next big step those old voices of fear arise. I don’t want to be a prisoner to them. I want to live my life dedicated fully to helping…the ocean, people, ocean creatures. I want to be a bridge between nature and humans. I can’t do that if I hide in fear.

Today I had a vague memory of myself as a child being so afraid that I had caused something to happen because I had wished for it. I recognized, even then, that we have the power to create our lives and it scared me. Now I realize that we are indeed co-creating our lives by what we dwell on, what we hold in our minds.

SimoneLipscomb (12)I came to realize that I assessed value on my work by how many books sold, how many photographic prints sold and the fact that my creative efforts were not paying the bills. Thankfully, I have savings but the work of my heart has not provided for me physically. I heard an inner voice ask: Does it matter where the money comes from if it supports your work? In that moment I realized that I had placed the value of my work in the hands of others who may or may not purchase my books, my photographs. I was contemplating allowing other people determine if I continue on with the work I feel so powerful about doing. I was, in fact, giving my power away to others. A big mistake indeed for it puts brakes on my life’s work.

SimoneLipscomb (9)With the contemplation and realizations, I decided to allow myself permission to want something…allow myself to express the passion that fills me and do the work. I love the Ocean and Her creatures. It is my desire to dedicate my life to working toward creating a connection between the saltwater environments and humans…so more people will care, so the Ocean will be valued and all creatures within it respected. This is what I want to do with the rest of my life. I give myself permission to fully engage in this work and gratefully walk through open doors and follow the path that rises up to meet me. All is well…and all will be well. I know this to be true.

What passion is calling you? What do you want to do with the rest of your life? Beginning today…in this moment?