Category: Alabama Coast

Let Your Little Light Shine

Let Your Little Light Shine

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Many of our wonderful, big-hearted town folk. Photo by….Jody’s camera…who took it?

Joni Mitchell sings in her song Shine, “Oh, let your little light shine….Shine on rising oceans and evaporating seas, Shine on our Frankenstein technologies…Shine on science with its tunnel vision, Shine on fertile farmland Buried under subdivisions…Let your little light shine…Let your little light shine…Shine on the dazzling darkness That restores us in deep sleep, Shine on what we throw away And what we keep…Shine on good earth, good air, good water And a safe place For kids to play, Shine on bombs exploding  Half a mile away…Shine on good humor…Shine on good will…Those seekers of mental health Craving simplicity They traveled inward Past themselves…May all their little lights shine.”

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A veterinarian from Audubon Zoo checks our manatee friend with rescuers. Photo by Simone

This song played today as I cleaned gear from yesterday’s community effort of support to our manatee friends that have lost their way this winter and journeyed to the Magnolia River springs instead of to central Florida springs. That navigational mistake is costly as it most certainly leads to death from cold-stress unless they make it to the warmer springs of Florida on their own or by assistance through rescue.

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Photo by Ted (I’m sorry…I lost track of who took this photo) please message me and I will add your correct name.

The details of the recovery of the smaller, weaker manatee or the capture and escape of the larger, healthier manatee are not as important tonight, as the love that was generated from the coming together of the community of volunteers from Magnolia Springs, Alabama…my home town. Those upset or angry about the rescue didn’t dampen the spirit of unity that grew as the day progressed. What a beautiful sight to see such caring, loving people with open hearts show up to lend support through dragging nets, parking cars, carrying gear, smiling from shore, taking photographs, asking questions to learn more about manatees.

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Photo by Jody Moore.

I always question interfering with wild animals as the rescues can easily turn into recoveries, but this endangered species cannot survive here during the winter months due to cold water and the deadly consequences that it presents to manatees. So if we do nothing, they die. If we try to save them they may die. It’s a constant inner struggle for me yet with the proper rescue team and equipment, rescues can happen and animals can be saved. And when it comes to an endangered species, every animal counts.

IMG_7747Thank you dear neighbors for letting your light shine. Thanks for opening your hearts.  I know there is sadness about the small manatee that died. It was very sick. But I think of what a strong spirit he or she must have had to bring all of us together in such a beautiful and strong way. While we mourn the loss of this precious one, we can celebrate the beautiful gift it gave to each of us who had our heart open enough to receive it.

Our friend passed away shortly after being brought to shore. Surrounded by love generated by his strong spirit.
Our friend passed away shortly after being brought to shore….surrounded by love from our community, generated by his strong spirit. Photo by Simone

Oh, let your little light shine….Shine on manatees struggling in the cold A warm spring to enfold, Shine on rescue workers coming to their aid In Magnolia waters shine, never fade…Let you little light shine. Oh, let your little light shine.

 

 

 

Love Never Ends

Love Never Ends

SimoneLipscomb (1)The sun slowly set across the bay. From my perch on the end of the hurricane-damaged pier I sat alone—utterly alone— yet surrounded by endless memories. As I closed my eyes and listened, I could almost hear the laughter of my brother and cousins when we were children. I could hear our mom’s calling out, “Don’t run! Don’t run on the pier!”

A mullet splashed and brought me back to the present. My thoughts turned to my grandfather. If only he could be in the swing sitting with me on the pier telling stories of hauling watermelons to New Orleans. Or maybe he would tell the story of getting married to my grandmother, of having seven dollars and the Pensacola judge asking ten dollars to perform their marriage. It left them no money for lunch. He perhaps would remind me they did not tell anyone they were married for two weeks and they only knew they loved each other. That was all that mattered.

Granddad with the great-grand kids
Granddad with the great-grand kids

As I sat on the pier and watched the sunset, I thought back to days when our entire family was together—Dad and Mom, Mammaw and Granddad, Babe and Preston, Patti, Paula, Mike, Johnny, my brother and me, Aunt Bert, Aunt Carrie, Aunt Teet–all of us together enjoying fish fries, water skiing, sailing, crabbing, fishing, swimming, and nights spent on the pier staring up into star-filled heavens. Summer days were filled with the essence of family, fun, seafood, salt water, sunshine, and the ingredient that made it all magic—love.

Granddad and my daughter Emily...1986
Granddad and my daughter Emily…1986

It was not that it had all been easy. There had been difficulties, heartaches, mistakes, deaths and sadness, but that is only part of being human. It is part of life. The thread that had kept us all together was love—love anchored by Granddad and Mammaw for sixty-three years and then by Granddad for the past several years. In my reverie on the pier, I realized that with his passing our anchor would be gone. Each family, now including great grand children, some of whom were adults, would drift farther away from the nucleus that Granddad had anchored. Our lives would change. The thread would unravel a little more.

I remembered how things changed when Mammaw passed on years earlier. We began using disposable plates at Thanksgiving and Christmas instead of her favorite china. Granddad missed her greatly but went on the best he could, honoring and loving her with a deep, true love. Granddad made an effort to step in and do things with my brother and me when our dad was unable. We rode horses together, sometimes with my brother Lance following along on his bicycle. I never realized until recently how he helped father us when our own father was sick.

Granddad and me in a Foley Christmas parade...circa 1975 or so
Granddad and me in a Foley Christmas parade…circa 1975 or so

Why is it that only when we face losing someone we love do we realize just how deep love’s grooves are worn into our hearts?

An empty bottle floated past the pier. It bobbed slowly past as the current carried it out to sea. Our lives are so much like that bottle—floating along on the currents of time, steered by an unseen force from the day we are born until we die. Is it chance that steers the current of our lives together or is it some greater force that brings us into each other’s presence? Maybe it is a little of both, but regardless, it is love that keeps us close, that brings us to a place of understanding and tolerance, of patience and peace.

SimoneLipscomb (7)I turned and looked back over my shoulder, up the pier to the moss-draped live oak trees and the large white house that my grandparents called home for so many years. I swear I could see Granddad walking down to the pier in his khaki work pants and shirt wearing his boots and straw hat to sit with me and tell me once more about…..memories flooded my mind and my heart listened wide open, as my grandfather shared his life story just one more time.

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I wrote this after visiting my grandfather on the way back to North Carolina…just after his surgery and before Hurricane Katrina. A few days later I shared it at his funeral and later still, it ended up in a chapter of my first book, Sharks On My Fin Tips(Published by Grateful Steps Publishing House, 2008).

Coming Home

Coming Home

SimoneLipscomb (21)“Like many coastal species that begin life in the brown waters of Weeks Bay, I began my life on the shores of this tiny estuary. I grew up amid herons, egrets, baby crabs, shrimp and mullet with the dark-brown mud squishing between my young toes. The smell of the salt marsh filled my being and was imprinted on my soul only hours after I breathed my first breath.

I played under live oak trees heavily draped with Spanish moss and was nurtured by the bay as surely as it nurtures young marine life destined to swim out into the Gulf of Mexico when they are of sufficient size. And like the creatures birthed in the bay, I too moved away from its tranquil shores yet I will always feel the pulsation of saltwater in my blood like a magnet, drawing me home.”*

SimoneLipscombAfter we come into our body, our remaining time seems to be spent trying to find our way back..back to the place from where we came: salt marsh, mountain, prairie, beach, farm, city. Or something more? What is the pull we feel as we move through life? Is it calling us to a physical home? Is it calling us back to family? Or is it the metaphysical call that whispers to our heart and guides us to a deeper, more profound home–that inner place of stillness, of quiet.

SimoneLipscomb (26)The first time I moved away from home was when I went to Auburn University. It was a fantastic small town atmosphere rooted in a large university’s deep resources and programs. My mind expanded with new people, ideas, and experiences.

SimoneLipscomb (9)Through the years I moved back to the Alabama coast and away to places like Nashville, Atlanta, Greensboro, and Asheville. My time in Asheville was probably my most happy. I was living on a mountain in a beautiful chalet-type home and was fulfilling a dream I had since I was a child.

SimoneLipscomb (11)For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to live on a mountain. In truth, it was a passion that filled me throughout my life. While my time there was only six years in length, during that time I made connections that launched my creativity and career as a writer and photographer. The particular mountain on which I lived connected me with a publisher, a friend who shared my passion for photography and graphic design, other friends who surrounded me with support and love, a co-author and mentor for other poetry/photography projects, music friends…soul friends.

SimoneLipscomb (15)And the mountain gave me more. It showed me how to expand and rise to heights within myself I had never been able to reach. When I first moved into my home there I felt myself really having to work to expand to be able to hold the energetic space of the home…and the surrounding mountains and sky. It was blissful there (except for the winters…and wind and snow…and ice). Snow and a tropical gal are not a good combination.

SimoneLipscomb (24)Years ago, when I was in my early thirties, I remember walking along the beach at the Gulf of Mexico and feeling strongly that I was supposed to be there even though I lived far away at the time. In my silent gaze over the water I opened my heart and expressed my willingness to serve. Softly, like whispers on the wind, I heard, You will know when its time to return. You will feel the call.

SimoneLipscomb (23)On April 20, 2010 I was in the Atlanta airport flying back from a dive trip to Curacao where I had been ‘unplugged’ for a week. I looked up at the television screen in the gate waiting area and saw the footage of the burning well, the Deepwater Horizon. You will know when its time to return. You will feel the call. The message returned in perfect clarity.

I returned to the Alabama coast one week each month for the first year after the oil spill and documented it through writing, photography and video. I wrote a children’s book about it and spoke to community groups. At some point, during that year of grief and sadness and heartbreak, I realized how much I missed the Alabama Gulf Coast.

SimoneLipscomb (18)My conditions for moving were these: Sell my mountain home at the listed price and do it within the first six months of listing it. And to move to Magnolia Springs, a beautiful community where I lived for several of my childhood years. My house closed two days before the six month contract expired at the full, listed price. I moved to Magnolia Springs and bought a sweet home nestled under live oak trees.

SimoneLipscomb (12)These two and a half years back at the coast have been a time of deep inner healing. For the first time in my adult life I was alone. Since I was twenty I had been in a relationship of some sort and so my coming home was more than a physical experience of relocating to the place of my birth, it was an invitation to come home to myself, to become acquainted with myself as an individual and not as someone’s wife or significant other.

SimoneLipscomb (14)Distractions are many in our lives…going to school or college, establishing a career, getting married, having a child or children, building a life…struggling in our own ways. Opportunities are given to return back to that place of inner quiet and knowing yet often the distractions keep the journey ‘home’ as a distant, longed-for event on a hazy horizon. But the invitation never goes away, it’s always open.

Today as I was cleaning my floors I went into a sort of meditative state as I mopped and realized I feel happy and at home. Not just in my southern cottage house, but within myself. Really happy, really content…at peace with who I am and my place in the world.

SimoneLipscomb (17)While making the physical move back to the place of my birth brought me home, I realized the true meaning of coming home was simply finding my true self amid shattered dreams, fears, successes, losses, accomplishments…finding wholeness, completeness in the dazzling array of distractions called life.

Do I want a loving partner? Yes. And I am happy without one. Do I want my work to find a bigger audience in the world? Sure. And I am content if only one person sees it…or if I gain something just from the creative process of producing it.

SimoneLipscomb (19)People…places…things do not bring happiness and contentment. These come when we find ourselves at peace with who we are and when we realize that life is a journey where we are continually coming home, discovering new inner spaces and expanding the possibilities of who we are and who we can become.

* Excerpt from Sharks On My Fin Tips: A Wild Woman’s Adventures With Nature by Simone Lipscomb published 2008 by Grateful Steps Publishing House, Asheville, NC. Available from Amazon or from the author (see the BOOKS page of this website).

Planet Ocean

Planet Ocean

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Seventy-one percent of our planet is water. Two hundred miles offshore from each land mass we find international waters; therefore, 45% of the planet belongs to nobody.  Iain Kerr, CEO of Ocean Alliance, spoke last night in Pensacola and shared about the research they are doing in the Gulf of Mexico. He and Dr. Roger Payne, President of Ocean Alliance, talked about shining light on problem to effect change. Their presentation certainly gave a clear picture of problems our water planet is facing but they also gave us hope that collectively we can make positive change.

simonelipscomb (27)The Gulf of Mexico has 21 species of whales which include dolphin species. Sperm whales are included in our permanent Gulf residents. The largest apex predator in the Ocean calls the Gulf home.

simonelipscomb (28)Those present last night were reminded that the Gulf of Mexico is a microcosm of the larger Ocean system and that oceans are downhill from everything. Here are some interesting facts: 50-80% of all life is found in the Ocean; 1.2 trillion gallons of sewage and waste water are dumped in the Ocean every year; 14 billion pounds of garbage is dumped in the Ocean each year. Yuck!

simonelipscomb (2)The Gulf has an estimated sperm whale population of 1600 and this is the species Ocean Alliance is studying. One of the reasons is that apex predators are at the top of the food chain and therefore, like humans, suffer the most ill effects of toxins and contaminates. From whales benignly sampled all over the world, their research has shown that the Gulf of Mexico has the highest levels of metal toxins. Their research on whale cells cultivated on board the RV Odyssey proved that very low levels of these metals are toxic to cells. Imagine what the elevated levels are doing to sperm whales…to you…to me.

simonelipscomb (22)Dr. Payne reminded us that the health of the Ocean affects our lives. If life in the Ocean dies, we die. It’s really that simple. Over half of the oxygen for our planet comes from the sea. If phytoplankton that produces this oxygen is destroyed by contaminants none of us will survive.

simonelipscomb (8)I took pages of notes last night and wish I had done so today while visiting the Odyssey, their research vessel. I chatted with a few of the crew who entertained questions and showed visitors the high-lights of their work.

Area showing sperm whale population...note it is in the same area as the BP Deepwater Horizon
Area showing sperm whale population…note it is in the same area as the BP Deepwater Horizon

Those of you familiar with me know the Ocean has claimed me as Her own and I simply try to be present and show up when opportunities are presented. Of course I was excited to learn about whale research but want to know this: Why aren’t there more organizations studying whales in the Gulf? Dr. Payne reminded us that apex predators such as sperm whales are the proverbial canaries in the coal mine, giving us very clear indicators for not only Ocean health but human health. Do we just not want to know or maybe I should say who doesn’t want us to know what’s happening?

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Here’s a bottom line for those of us who live in the coastal region of the Gulf of Mexico: Nickel and chromium levels are alarmingly high. Can you guess where these heavy metals can come from? If you guessed crude oil you are right. (sigh)

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Dr. Payne concluded his presentation last night reminding us that people need to lead and we do that by the choices we make. The greatest illusion corporations want us to believe is that we are powerless and at their mercy. My friends, we are the masses, we have the power to instigate change and it begins by demanding change as a united group that puts the health of the planet, and thus humans, before profit. Every time we spend a dollar we are sending a message. What message do we choose to send? What do we believe? What do we create by our intention?

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Hydrophone cable is pulled behind the vessel and the crew listens for the very loud click...click...click of sperm whales to determine location
Hydrophone cable is pulled behind the vessel and the crew listens for the very loud click…click…click of sperm whales to determine location

I could share facts about the work Ocean Alliance is doing in the Gulf of Mexico or specifics about their research vessel. I could tell you what I learned about their sampling methods and how data is used. You can find all of that on their website. The only thing I can really do is simply share how I felt listening to the program last night and spending a couple hours on their  vessel today.

simonelipscomb (24)Since documenting the BP Deepwater Horizon I have met some of the most incredible human beings who genuinely care about the planet and all life here. But sometimes when I read the never-ending depressing news about the latest species going extinct or the level of pollution or when I pick up garbage on my sea turtle walks, I feel very hopeless. Humans can be incredibly compassionate and caring and they can also be stupid and mean beyond understanding. I struggle with ongoing sadness and grief at what we do to this glorious Ocean planet. And then…well…then I’m guided to meet people who genuinely care and are working very hard to gather evidence that helps educate the rest of us..that can help species find greater levels of protection…or maybe even help set aside sanctuaries to protect vulnerable species.

When I meet others who share a passion for the Ocean and all life within it, I feel as if I have met family. We need to remember that all of us are family…in the truest sense of what family means. So tonight, as I try to put into words my gratitude for people like those who work with Ocean Alliance, I breathe a little easier. My heart’s a little bit lighter.

simonelipscombHere’s an example of how it can work: My artist cousin Donna emailed me a flyer about the Ocean Alliance program last night. I sent it out to several friends. Six of us showed up because she sent me a flyer. There were many more people there but think about that. If each of us connects with others to create positive change, the effort is magnified because of connections, networking, caring. One doesn’t equal one. One equals six…or twenty…or more! The more we share our ideas, information and even our emotions about what’s happening to our planet, ourselves, the greater possibility for change. Now is not the time to give up but rather the most important time to take magnificent care of our Planet Ocean.

Some of the visitors to RV Odyssey today...learning about our Gulf of Mexico and our friends, sperm whales
Some of the visitors to RV Odyssey today…learning about our Gulf of Mexico and our friends, sperm whales

Here’s just a few things we can each do on a daily basis: use re-usable water bottles and STOP purchasing plastic bottled water; use re-usable shopping bags and refuse plastic garbage bags; stop consuming so much ‘stuff’; recycle recycle recycle; grow our own food organically or purchase organic produce; stop using chemical fertilizers and don’t fertilize near waterways; eat less meat and use more vegetable protein; vote only for those who care about our planet and if you can’t find anybody that cares run for office and be a pivotal point for positive change; turn off lights; adjust the thermostat to save energy; write letters with positive ideas to corporate CEO’s; form support groups for positive change; reach out to neighbors to encourage positive change; get outside and reconnect with nature; driver slower…it saves gas; use LED light bulbs for amazing energy savings and looooong-lasting bulbs; turn off the water when you brush your teeth; keep showers short; turn down the thermostat on your hot water heater; carpool; combine trips for errands to use less fuel; ride a bicycle for errands; use energy-efficient appliances; pick up trash on beaches and near other waterways and ditches; pat yourself on the back for trying to do one thing every day to help the planet…after all, you’re helping yourself when you do.

I encourage everyone to share this blog post and to visit the Ocean Alliance webpage as well as their Facebook page. They need our support and deserve it for the incredible work they are doing to help our Gulf of Mexico…to help us.

simonelipscomb (4)For those still eating apex predators such as swordfish, blue fin tuna and even grouper here’s something to think about strictly from a human health perspective. Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) degrade immune systems and can cause serious health consequences for species consuming them. They are man-made chemicals that find their way into the Ocean as runoff from everything upstream. Microscopic diatoms are contaminated by EDCs and since they are at the bottom of the food chain contaminate everything that eats them…and then the organisms and fish eating them that eat other fish all the way up the food chain build-up higher and higher levels of these toxins. So the top predators, like swordfish, tuna, humans, sperm whales get the highest doses of EDCs. The crew put together a little formula to consider when eating a one pound steak of swordfish…it takes 50 ten ton trucks of diatoms to create that one pound steak of swordfish. It’s like your liver (the detoxifying organ in the body) is hooked up to that many diatoms…and if they are polluted as well as other fish further up the food chain, you my friend have just dosed yourself with some pretty nasty chemicals. Maybe your swordfish didn’t eat contaminated fish who didn’t eat contaminated diatoms….but how can you tell?

Here’s a few side effects of EDCs: Increased rate of breast cancer, undescended testicles in boys, increased rate of prostate cancer, increased aggression in kids and increased rates of ADD and decreased sperm counts. If you’re really into swordfish and tuna and grouper…at least know what you are doing to your body. And what is happening in our Ocean….our one planetary Ocean.

Motivation to Move

Motivation to Move

photoThe engine of the car idling a few feet from my head brought me back to the present moment. I found myself laying flat on my back with severe pain in my elbow and back looking up at the ceiling of the garage. The cats! Through tears of intense pain I forced myself to get up and shake off the nasty fall so I could take care of my cat friends who were in their carriers inside the car.

Taking cats to the vet for their annual exam and vaccinations isn’t my favorite pastime but they really aren’t difficult to travel with and the vet’s office is a few minutes from my home. But let’s face it–cats are never overly fond of  change…and being crated, put into a vehicle and visiting a place where slobbering, noisy dogs are present is not on the top ten list for felines.

simonelipscomb (8)I loaded two of my cat companions into their crates and into the back of my station wagon. I pushed the garage door opener and the motor operated just fine but the door didn’t move. Drats! The power outage with yesterday’s storm had created a ‘situation’ when I tried to enter the garage so I had used the emergency release to open the door from the inside and closed it manually. I didn’t think about reconnecting the door to the electric pulling device so this morning I had to once again open the door manually.

There was no problem getting it open and backing my car into the driveway. I expected a quick closing operation but left the car running so the kitties would stay cool if I was delayed.

simonelipscomb (10)The wooden doors are very heavy and they are tall so I had to reach to grab the emergency cord to try to get the door moving. It wouldn’t budge. I’m pretty strong so I thought I would simply force the cord to move the door. Little did I know the cord was wimpy and as it broke my feet flew out from under me and I landed flat on my back and right elbow. Thankfully I had a pony tail that cushioned the blow to my head or I might still be laying on the floor.

simonelipscomb (4)What motivated me to get up and move, despite the shock and pain, was my friends in the car. The motor noise is what brought me back to myself and I realized there was a task to do, an appointment to make and so I wiped the blood off my elbow with my other hand, got a short step ladder, climbed it, grabbed the door and pulled the damn thing down. And we were off to the vet’s office.

simonelipscomb (2)Other than being a bit sore and having an elbow that’s complaining, I’m fine. It was scary…but not for me. I kept thinking: What would have happened to my cat kids had I not been able to move? They are what motivated me to get off my back and take care of business.

This afternoon I’ve been pondering the idea of motivation in our lives. What motivates us to take action? The safety of my beloved Stanley and Gracie motivated me today. But with life in general…what motivates me to take action?

simonelipscomb.com (5)If I titrate each action taken that has meaning, I’d have to say love is the motivation. Turtle volunteer work at sunrise and those midnight hatchings? Love. Scuba diving with all kinds of beautiful creatures? I LOVE them! Cave diving? I love the Earth and so appreciate being inside Her. Writing about nature? Love of nature. Teaching photography classes? The love of teaching something about which I’m passionate.

Cape Flattery, Washington

And sometimes love motivates us to take action that is most difficult….freeing someone we love to be on his Path….loving ourself enough to follow our Path…leaving a job we enjoy to take care of ourselves…moving geographically to follow a calling.

A kid's book I created to explain the oil spill in a simple, understandable way to all ages.
A kid’s book I created to explain the oil spill in a simple, understandable way to all ages.

Love can motivate us to get up when we have fallen, to push past emotional and physical pain and to follow our heart’s calling even when it’s difficult. What motivates you?