Category: Balance

All is Well…at the Center

All is Well…at the Center

No news reports are broadcast in my home or on the computer or any electronic device and yet it trickles in through word of mouth and social media. If I search out news, it’s from sources I trust…proven journalists that research their stories and refuse to report what has commonly become known as fake news.

Even with these protocols in place, it is impossible not to notice that the poop is hitting the proverbial fan in our country. Assaults on the environment, the middle class, wildlife, domesticated animals, children, women, those with different sexual orientations, people of any color other than white, those who fall in the 99% of wealth, rivers, oceans, sacred places….there is not one dimension of life in our country that isn’t being assaulted or threatened.

The struggles we have already been through over hundreds of years are happening again and they are compressed into one place in time. It gets overwhelming on a daily basis. I cannot imagine how it must feel for those actually watching news broadcasts and having those fights and negative voices echo through the sacred walls of their homes.

It is challenging to stay informed and stay sane.

I refuse to be uninformed and uninvolved although the temptation is certainly there. It’s much easier to numb-out, be in the world asleep. But I can’t do that. Yet….there has to be balance. Too many angry emoticons on FaceBook makes Simone a withered shell of a person.

Recently we experienced several days of rain and cold weather so cycling was not an option. I continued being outside in nature doing three mile walks even when it was pouring rain and cold. It was my grasp at sanity. I wasn’t able to pound on the pedals and whirl away 20 miles of crazy for a week, so I had to adapt.

Never before have I felt the hollowness of living alone so acutely and painfully. Missing the companionship, friendship and love of an understanding man has prompted me to spend more time outdoors seeking the stillness and quiet of the forests, beaches and open spaces.

Standing in a small forest of trees with soft, pine needles underfoot and rain drops bouncing off my rain parka, I found balance. Walking by the headwaters of the Magnolia River with fog rising from its slow-moving water, I found peace. Walking my canine friend in the snow…his first ever….and watching his reaction, I found laughter. Walking bundled in winter clothes on the beach with a friend, I found companionship. It took work, but I found balance amidst the chaos….or as close as I can get given the circumstances.

I’ve always loved nature, but if you’re reading this you probably know this about me. My life is dedicated to sharing the beauty of the planet. However, lately I have found it absolutely necessary to step away from screens and be outside. Even if it’s sitting on my porch and watching it rain or walking in the neighborhood….nature gifts me with healing and balance in an ever-challenging world.

Nature responds to our reaching out. Be still, listen. Open your mind and heart. In the deepest place of silence, all is well.

Keep It Real

Keep It Real (202)I woke up early my first morning back from two weeks of desert and ocean and heard myself say out loud, “Keep it real.” I was referring to breaking out of that habit of turning on an electronic device as soon as I was conscious. There, among fish, cactus and iguanas, I was either scuba diving at dawn, photographing the sunrise or writing beside the Ocean…all contemplative and solitary experiences. I didn’t want to return to old habits. (5)With pen and pad in hand, I went to my hammock chair on the back screened porch. It seemed to be inviting me to sit and contemplate.  The cat kids joined me as we welcomed the day under the massive arching branches of my friend, the grandmother live oak tree. I sat quietly observing the sounds, listening to the dawn.

simonelipscomb (121)I’ve pondered the reason I feel so alive in Bonaire. Is it diving? Ocean? Desert? Latitude? What if it’s simply spending so many hours outdoors each day. What if it’s that simple.

simonelipscomb (44)There are many distractions at home…stacks of mail to sort and recycle, Netflix series  paused mid-season, Facebook, emails, telephone messages. It’s an endless list created just to navigate each day. Everything on my to-do list seems to take me further away from the reality of nature and more specifically, the connection that nature and I share. When I unplug from nature, I am unplugging from my self. These castles of distractions I build seem to carry me further from home, further from who I am in my most physical self and spiritual core. (215)Rainbow cotton threads supported my body and I swayed gently. Birdsong filled the air. A barred owl hooted nearby. Cardinals, chickadees, titmice, wrens, warblers and even a random sea gull voice created a welcome song to the day. Flashes of wings flitted among the courtyard greenery as my cats and I sat watching, welcoming life.

Stanley K, my orange tabby friend, jumped on the ledge at the screen and threaded his head in and out of the hammock support strings. I don’t know why he did it but he appeared to be having fun. So I wondered….what do I do just because it is fun and playful? Do I miss out on life because I’m too serious….there are those piles of correspondence in paper and electronic form. Do I allow myself the freedom of play while in the land of saltwater and desert, fish and iguanas and not so much when I return? Do I censor my relationship with nature?

simonelipscomb (10)The day before I wandered through my yard and noticed someone had trimmed the shrubs in my yard while I was away…without my request or permission. I felt anger arise. I don’t like them cut into perfect spheres and prefer a more natural shape so the new shape really irritated me as it was generated from some random person that maintains the development’s plants (not invited into my yard). I sat with my strong emotions as an observer and realized that in Bonaire it’s easy to be fully who I am, open with my wild-woman self…the part of me that is fiercely connected to nature, gently connected…deeply aware of her connection with all life. When I return to my home it feels like a constant inner battle to stay real with my self, like I’m fighting an established norm to fit into a box or in the case of my shrub friends, a ‘perfect’ sphere. It’s draining and exhausting at times.

SimoneLipscomb (6)I don’t like boxes or conforming for the sake of conforming; yet I know, on some deep level, the constant attention to the edge is what motivates me to create. Dancing with the edge builds courage. It cultivates determination. It deepens passion to pursue the dreams. Just realizing this truth gives me understanding and thus fuels my efforts even more to keep it real…to stay connected with trees, earth, animals, sky, ocean….to dance with nature as She calls me. (6)Am I willing to drink the Koolaid and conform to the machine that keeps me asleep to my strong, wild and outrageously beautiful connection with nature or am I willing to continue to work for my freedom? If you’ve read this far and you know anything about me you already know the answer to that question. Koolaid be damned.

Children…Our Hope

Children…Our Hope

simonelipscomb (11)Tonight I spoke to my local community’s cub scout group. We gathered at the St. Paul’s Episcopal Chapel in Magnolia Springs and I shared a video presentation I produced on endangered species of the Alabama coast…specifically sea turtles and manatees.

The boys and parent/leaders were attentive and asked questions and showed a genuine and engaged interest in the message I brought them. It always makes my heart sing to participate in these programs. But it was the closing of their meeting that deeply touched me.

simonelipscomb (14)One of the boys was asked to close with reverence and he offered a prayer. First, he expressed gratitude for the sea turtles and manatees and other animals. Then he spoke of gratitude for our beautiful world. He was thankful for me being able to come and share with them. And finally…well, admittedly I was so deeply touched by his prayerful expression of love and gratitude for nature and our planet and animals that I lost the last bit of what he was saying.

turtle bwVolunteering doesn’t offer financial rewards but having the opportunity to share video footage, still photographs and personal stories of encounters with sea turtles and manatees with children eager to learn and willing to engage with awe of our planet gives me hope. Honestly there are days when I read the news and see the horrible ways humans treat each other, animals, land, plants, the ocean and other water and I feel despair. But this night, I came away with profound hope and that is pure gold to me.

swimmingOn days when we experience sadness, grief, despair and even anger over what’s happening to our beloved planet and all life here, I think the best way to balance those feelings is to pass along our love for the planet to those willing to listen…and especially to children, our hope.

Everyday Miracles

Everyday Miracles

The moist, warm earth yielded easily as my fingers pushed into it to create a home for each new plant…kale, mustard, brussel sprouts, cilantro and oregano. Nearby neighbors of broccoli, rosemary and strawberries welcomed the new garden dwellers.

simonelipscomb (20)I’m not much of a vegetable gardener but rather find flowers to be my ‘thing.’ But there’s a yearning within me to make the connection between earth and food so I grow a few veggies and some fruit. The energetic connection of soil, sunlight, water, plant and human is alchemical. To think that my body is nourished by plants grown in my yard, under my care is really quite miraculous. I’d rather consume the colors of flowers…they delight me so….but thus far I haven’t learned to survive on flower power.

Osprey...image taken in Florida last winter
Osprey…image taken in Florida last winter

It was a wild day on the river. Turkey buzzards covered boathouses and trees far upriver…and then gathered in great numbers and rode thermals. The osprey couple was mating as I paddled past them. I cheered them on. The great blue heron couple has a nest in the same pine tree as last year. Pelicans continue to hunt far upriver for fish…come to think of it I haven’t seen many fish lately.

Some kind soul must have heard me last Sunday morning using a hand saw to cut a tunnel through the downed tree over the river…heard me grunting, possibly spouting a few colorful words…have you ever sawed standing up on a paddle board?? Much to my delight someone had cut a proper stand-up passage through the downed maple tree with a chain saw. That was a great surprise.

1796451_10152251956134214_1100857510_nIt was another great afternoon of music at The Frog Pond. Guitar deliciousness…oh, MY! Bill Kirchen, Will Kimbrough, Webb Wilder, Corky Hughes, Grayson Capps and Luther Womble. Lovely music and folks.

SimoneLipscomb (3)In reflecting back on the past few days it feels really good to see spring coming and colder weather backing off a bit. Wildlife is dancing with the season and I’m finding my way to have more contact with nature, to practice cherishing the earth and all things wild as a daily spiritual practice. Life goes on and somehow I find my place in it…and feel such gratitude for everyday miracles.

What Love Can Do

What Love Can Do

simonelipscomb (9)

Lately I’ve been asking the question, How can we really make a difference? Actually, for several months now I’ve been walking with this prayer in my heart and mind. I breathe it in the morning….walk with it during the day….rest my head on my pillow at night with this koan echoing through my spirit.

SimoneLipscombDocumenting the Gulf Oil Spill broke my heart and mind open. It brought me to my knees in the truest sense because I saw how everything precious and sacred can be taken away by careless human acts and ongoing choices and behaviors that are centered on profit…at any cost. After struggling with emotions of anger, grief, frustration, helplessness and more I connected with Joanna Macy‘s work and traveled to spend a week with her and others committed to creating positive change in our world. Without hesitation I can say that the week spent in Massachusetts helped me climb out of the emotional hole that I fell into witnessing first hand the oil spill.

Once among the living, however, my sense of direction faded. I realized I could no longer approach my work with anger or frustration because what I felt so strongly was love…for the planet, for creatures, for humans. I couldn’t bombard people with the horrific images that had filled my nightmares any longer. I didn’t want to be in denial about what is happening in our world but focusing on the terrible seemed only to perpetuate more of it. I felt that people were grieving the destruction of life, even if they weren’t consciously aware of it. And perhaps seeing beauty would inspire them to engage, encourage them to care a little more.

Water captivates me and my favorite images center around water...waterfalls...big water...underwater.

The theme of beauty and more specifically, focusing on beauty, became the answer I began to hear each time I asked the question, What can I do to make a difference? Yet that answer didn’t give me complete satisfaction or a sense of true direction. It was a start though.

Many more months have passed and the question still pulls me to deeper understanding. It seems quite simple but how difficult it can be to live the answer I received: Love. Love is the answer I’ve been hearing lately.

It sounds cliche. It sounds so ’60’s. Yet as I’ve explored and read….listened deeply to my core…it’s that simple.

Standing in love doesn’t mean we are powerless or squishy. Sometimes love looks powerful and strong. Other times it is enfolding, soft. It seems we are at a point of powerful change in our world. It takes radical courage to live from Love for most of what is modeled in our world is power-over, squishing the competition, winning at any cost….more…more…more. To observe this way of being and step away from it, to stand centered in love and compassion is radical. And yet history  has proven that power for power’s sake never works.

Or moments of intense stillness and inner quiet.

In some philosophies there is a diagram that is helpful. In it two lines intersect. One runs up and down and is considered to represent Spirit. The other crosses it and is representative of the physical path. In the center, at the intersection where Spirit and physical meet, is the point of becoming. It’s the place where we can, in a physical experience, balance our life with the qualities of Spirit, of Love.

Wendell Berry states, “Love isn’t a feeling. It’s a practice.” He also said, “What leads to peace is not violence but peaceableness.” This leads me to conclude that what leads to love isn’t hate…it’s love.

800_1019If we really want to change the world for the better, our first task then is to clear all obstacles within ourselves that keep us from truly knowing love. This means letting go of judgment of self and others, letting go of hate of self and others. Selfishness, ego…all must go as we open our hearts to the absolute power of love. When we do this, when we have such radical courage, we will see what love can do.