Category: Beach

Song of Life

Song of Life

simonelipscomb (7)The white sand felt cool on my feet as I stepped out of my flip flops at the bottom of the dune. I turned to gaze out over the Gulf, metallic turquoise in color. The sun was just beginning to warm the sky with golden light.

simonelipscomb (6)There was no wind or big waves to disrupt the surface of the water. Purple, teal, pale orange, gold and indigo danced in slowly-moving geometric patterns. As I raised my camera to capture the image, I realized I couldn’t discern the horizon. It was blurred with low-hanging pink clouds. Water and sky blended as elemental spirits celebrated the day.

My excuse to be on the beach at sunrise was sea turtle nest patrol. I was supposed to be looking for mother sea turtle tracks but admit distraction occurred, culprit of the gentle, soft beauty emanating from the sea and sky.

simonelipscomb (10)As I approached the edge of the water, where saltwater slowly pushed against the sand, a little shark swam by as it fed in the shallows. I don’t think most birds were awake as it was quiet and still topside while the toothy dawn feeders, who live below the surface, were already enjoying a tasty breakfast.

The sand welcomed my happy feet. Every step was a celebration of beauty, of life. There was no separation as I breathed in harmony with life on the shore.

simonelipscomb (21)This is how we’re supposed to live–each step one of gratitude and recognition of the oneness of life…in a state of balance and harmony.

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Each color was a note. An osprey diving just offshore gave a dramatic increase in the tempo and crescendo, those elements that create tension in a composition. A sanderling scurrying along the water’s edge created sixteenth notes, quickening the symphony. Dolphins offshore gifted grace and rhythm to the song. A tidal pool added a bridge, that contrasting bit of music leading back to the original melody. The song still echoes within my being as I sit inland among the live oaks and reflect upon that glorious two hours at the shore.

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Migrating Monarchs Amid a Tropical Storm

Migrating Monarchs Amid a Tropical Storm

Part 1 Image 27Today as I was driving along the beach highway in Gulf Shores, Alabama my intention was to photograph beautiful cloud formations from Tropical Storm Karen. It was lovely on the beach and the clouds didn’t disappoint but what really caught my attention was the hundreds and hundreds of monarch butterflies moving through our area on their way to wintering grounds in Mexico. I wanted to tell them about the stormy winds that would make their journey more hazardous, more difficult but they fluttered by, determined to make it or die trying.

Dodging them was my priority but it was almost impossible given their erratic flight and the steady wind. I did my best though. The thought of killing one after he or she survived such a long journey was repulsive to me. You guys are so close! Why don’t you find some nice flowers and just hunker down….and stay out of traffic.

Their instinct overrides everything. Even facing strong winds these amazing and seemingly fragile creatures were launching over the Gulf of Mexico as dark clouds hung ominously overhead.

Part 1 Image 27 (13)I feel like a wimp compared to monarchs and their drive to move, to fly even amid stormy weather. Of course, they have a goal in sight–a crystal clear path that is hard-wired into their DNA.

What if each of us came into this life with a hard-wired goal or purpose.

Part 1 Image 27 (5)What if our purpose is simply to discover our purpose? Perhaps we make it more complicated than it really is. Perhaps our collective purpose is simply to learn to love unconditionally and develop compassion. Like the saying goes…it’s not the destination that matters but the journey.

Part 1 Image 27 (2)The monarchs arriving on the coast just prior to a tropical storm has given me much to ponder. May I open my heart to love and compassion without restraint, with wild abandon…and keep flapping my wings even when storms try to turn me back….and that is my wish for you as well.

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Sunrise…No Excuse Necessary

Sunrise…No Excuse Necessary

photo-1In the wee hours of the morning I found myself driving to Destin, Florida for a morning of diving. The two hour drive would give me a chance to wake up. Of course the 63 degree temperature was helpful in chasing slumber from my groggy mind.

It was a perfectly beautiful start to the morning with clear skies and a stillness that foretold of potentially great diving. There was barely a ripple on Perdido Bay and Pensacola Bay.

photo-2The sun was just peeking over the horizon as I neared Destin when I received a call from the dive shop that the trip was cancelled due to high wind and rough seas. I was shocked…wind? Evidently the wind was blowing from the east and offshore seas were over six feet. Ugh….I was happy to miss that! But in truth, I felt that odd intuitive uneasiness had been with me since the day before.

I had my tanks serviced at a local dive shop and asked them to put a mixture of gas known as nitrox in the tanks. Nitrox is a rich oxygen mixture used in diving. It’s beneficial in that you build up less nitrogen, which is good. Nitrogen is an inert gas and if you apply the laws of physics related to pressure you know that a gas under pressure….oh, bother. The short version is it is better to have less nitrogen in the bloodstream and nitrox, being oxygen rich, makes that a reality. The downside is that breathing a richer mixture of oxygen you have more oxygen in your system because you are under pressure from being under water….it won’t bubble like nitrogen but the partial pressure of oxygen has to be closely monitored so you don’t overdose on oxygen. Making sense? Oxygen can be toxic if you get too much. So there are depth limits for each mixture of nitrox.

Anyway….the mixture I asked for was 32% oxygen (instead of air which is 21%). The guy at the shop didn’t have me analyze the tanks there…which is the usual protocol. When I got home and analyzed my tanks the digital readout kept going up and up. It didn’t stop at 31.7 or 31.8 or 32….it kept going to 35.7 for one tank and 35.9 for the other. Hmmmm. The maximum operating depth for that mix is 95 feet and that was the depth of the first dive. I don’t push limits so this concerned me.

photoI haven’t used my nitrox analyzer in a couple years so perhaps the sensor is bad. I calibrated it before using it and everything seemed to be working perfectly. But it made me nervous. I could dive that mix and stay shallower but I simply don’t push my limits when diving. And I always like to leave room for contingencies.

So when the call came canceling the dives I wasn’t really upset. The trip already had a weird feel to it. And even though I had planned to re-analyze the tanks at the shop in Destin before using them, it was almost a relief to scrub the trip. Once I get that ‘feeling’ –especially about a dive trip–its best to just not do it.

I had two hours before the natural foods store opened for my weekly shopping in Pensacola so I headed to the Gulf Islands National Seashore for an early-morning visit with the beach. It was very chilly and the wind was blowing. Offshore I could see jagged rollers dotting the horizon. Oh, I was happy to be on land!

Peace enveloped me as I strolled along the edge…that place where big water and earth come together. It had been a while since I treated myself to sunrise on the shore.  With the Sunday morning sea turtle team duties ending September 1st, nothing had motivated me to get up at 4.30am for a sunrise visit to the beach. Pity really.

photo-3Without the distraction of my heavy camera I found myself more present and focused. The glory of nature brought me into balance and filled a longing for the elements I didn’t realize I had. I miss the mountains and the opportunity to connect daily to such immense energy as the Appalachians yet equally important to me is the chance to dance with waves and wind of the ocean…the one world ocean of which the Gulf of Mexico is a part.

The theme of self-care was really evident with the nitrox mix-up and the rough seas…and the quiet time spent wandering the white sands of the beach. I left the gulls and sanderlings and beautiful, salty water feeling clearer and more focused. And happy to have had an excuse to witness the sunrise on the shore.

The Moon

The Moon

simonelipscomb (1)After listening to hatchling sea turtles half-heartedly dig their way up the nest and rest, I drove home. No emergence tonight, or so I suspected. But listening to their sweet sounds was a balm to my weariness. Sitting on the beach under stars and a slight breeze made it doubly worth the drive to Gulf Shores.

I arrived home at midnight but was restless. Too many emotions, too much unsettled within my soul. Too many harsh edges.

So my cats and I migrated to the back screened porch. They took up silent vigil gazing into the darkened courtyard. A hammock swing was my perch as I sat listening to sounds of the night.

simonelipscomb (3)Soft sounds of insects created gentle, soothing music while the moon’s silver light peeked through branches and leaves of the grandmother live oak tree that hugs my home with her sturdy branches.

Most thoughts ceased. The steady gaze of the moon upon me brought a peace that was difficult to find this day. Small flashes of wisdom came as I listened as my heart–stirred to speak by the peaceful, moonlit courtyard–reminded me of things forgotten.

simone (3)I took a deep breath and with gratitude retired to a peaceful night of rest and dreams of new life filled with love and peace.

Wildlife….Two Sides of a Story

Wildlife….Two Sides of a Story

Photo taken by Laguna Key Team member today
Photo taken by Laguna Key Team member today of raided and consumed soon-to-be hatchlings

Today I received a text from my friend and sea turtle team leader than one of our nests had been raided and consumed by a fox. 105 eggs of nearly hatched loggerhead sea turtles became the meal of one of our beach foxes.

simonelipscomb (1)Sadness enveloped me. Not just for this precious, threatened species of ocean-living reptiles but for the skinny, malnourished red foxes who eek out a living in the dunes of the beaches. We have had problems with foxes this year. They have approached us very closely as we sit near the nests at night.

One night I was sitting at the edge of the Gulf of Mexico, avoiding the interaction and chatting among visitors at the nest. I wanted to connect with the tranquility of the evening. I felt something close-by and turned around to see a fox curled up maybe ten feet from me. I suspect humans have been feeding them and she was awaiting a morsel, a tid-bit of something to help stop her hunger.

So now, tourist season is over and easy handouts are no longer coming from well-meaning guests of our beaches. Even the garbage that might have fed them has all but disappeared. So what is left are hungry foxes.

These foxes are so skinny they look like slim cylinders of red fur with four stick legs. The extra food sources during our busy season causes them to have more babies; however, when the food source is gone, starving foxes will go to great lengths to obtain nourishment.

simonelipscomb (2)Our sea turtle nests have predator grates staked on them but let’s face it, if you or I were hungry we would work hard for food and persist in obtaining it.

By Jocelyn Forcht Langfit, team member
By Jocelyn Forcht Langfit, team member

I can’t be angry at the foxes or vilify them. They are wild animals trying their best to survive. I know there are lessons for us in this tale but it doesn’t take away the feeling of loss, of sadness.


Part of our team after processing a newly-laid nest earlier this summer.
Part of our team after processing a newly-laid nest earlier this summer.


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