Category: bears

Mountains and Friends

Mountains and Friends

Abbey
Abbey

It has been over 19 months since I moved from the mountain in the Riceville Valley area near Asheville, North Carolina. Today I returned. The mountains snuck up on me as it was foggy and pouring rain as I wound my way up through the North Georgia Mountains. Rather than the usual distant view of the mountains, that always makes my heart light up and teases me with the majesty to come, I found myself suddenly surrounded by peaks and thrust into the beauty of mountain energy.

Living in Asheville was a wonderful experience and a dream come true for me. My creativity was unlocked here and connections with others boosted my work…my friend Jen and I used to take wild day trips to the Smoky Mountains and immerse ourselves in the beauty of nature while practicing our art of photography. I met her on the mountain.

sharkswebThe owner of the company that published my first book lived a couple houses down the mountain from me. She helped me learn about the business and taught me the art of editing. Other mountain neighbors became friends as we connected through this magical place that draws so many wonderful people.

As I got closer to Asheville this afternoon I became anxious. I wasn’t sure how to return gracefully to a place I deeply loved and left. How does a person love a place so fully and leave it? For me it was a call back to big water and coastal life that I had been away from for twenty years. So the move south was a good one but I was left with a heart full of love for the mountain and friends that became family.

The time spent in my new coastal home has been focused on healing my life. That opportunity came about due to a relationship that ended…the one I thought would be the forever one. Coming back to the mountain meant facing possible emotions of sadness and grief. I have worked so hard to heal my heart I was fearful that I’d slide back into the darkness from which I had freed myself. Nineteen months of deep, inner work were about to be tested.

photoAs I ate at Doc Chey’s, my favorite Asheville restaurant, I saw in my mind’s eye my former husband and I there but rather than sadness I simply observed and enjoyed the meal. Afterwards I walked to Mast General Store, another Asheville favorite, and walked around hearing the familiar clumping of people’s feet on the wooden floors. Downstairs I touched a shirt made of waffle-type thermal material, the kind that he used to wear, and my breath caught. A moment of sadness arose but was replaced with a sweetness as I remembered his strength and then I simply walked on…letting go even more and feeling the strong sense of wholeness within my being.

one of my friends on the deck of my former home here
one of my friends on the deck of my former home here

It continued to rain as I drove east toward my former neighborhood and as my car began the familiar climb up the mountain I felt like a horse being led to something she feared…balking a bit but then I was passing my former cedar home with the wall of windows overlooking the valley and I felt that I had truly moved on and my home wasn’t there any more. There were no ghosts of the past lurking about.

The familiar arms of my friend Phyliss embraced me. Actually it was my buddy Abbey that greeted me, wagging her tail and smiling with excitement. Then the Phyliss hug…and then Bob. These special friends welcomed me with such warmth. All anxiety of facing the past evaporated as I recognized the healing that has come to my life. I realized I had truly come home to myself.

Later this evening we drove back down the mountain and dined with other dear friends. Laleah and Bill provided a wonderful evening where the conversation was rich and varied with deep sharing and multiple explosions of laughter.

the winter that helped me decide to head back to the tropics....
the winter that helped me decide to head back to the tropics….

And the mountain…let me say how incredible it is to be on the mountain again. This place nurtured my soul and helped me open to the creative spirit. It was here that I felt my wings expand and carry me into the heavens where I learned that flight takes only surrender to the forces that are ready to lift us all to our potential.

As I reflect and write I sit snuggled under blankets as the wind howls in the rainy, cold night. The weather forecast calls for snow and with the excitement of a child I realize that I have come full circle in my life and am ready for the next flight on which these wings will carry me. What a blessing to be able to return to this family of friends and a mountain of magic and wonder. My heart is filled with gratitude as I count the many blessings that continue to fill my life from the coast to the mountains.

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It’s the Little Things….

It’s the Little Things….

800_1019I wasn’t really sure why the idea of a retreat to the Smoky Mountains came to me. I had been in a pretty weird place the past few months with no ability to focus on work. It felt as if I was lost in a big ocean with no rudder, wind or navigation aids. Frustration was building so I decided to take the month of August to do anything I wanted to do, even if it was doing nothing at all.

Doing is my trademark, it’s how people know me. Volunteering for one of several causes, preparing environmental education programs…always, always staying busy. But I had reached a point where I didn’t really know where to apply my energies. Nothing felt right except stillness, quiet….silence–not doing.

800_0234It was not easy untangling myself from the habit of busyness. I didn’t realize how much I used activity to distract myself. So at first…and honestly, the entire month….I really felt lost. Having removed the need to stay busy I struggled.

About the same time I took off a month from pushing myself to do something…to keep my mind busy…I began working out and putting my body into an intense series of classes, Pure Barre. The physical workouts were instrumental in shifting the stuck energy and the result was a clearer focus.

800_0019A little over a week ago I finally felt it was time to move forward and a short retreat in the Smoky Mountains was the idea that surfaced. I’m usually more of a planner but I wanted to be open to the flow. I packed my camera gear and clothes I’d need for woods and water and made reservations in a hotel in Townsend…the quiet side of the Smokies…far away from the chaos of Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg…and very close to Cades Cove, one of a few of my most favorite places on the planet.

800_1790Somewhere in the few days of simply following my intuition and opening to the experience of not knowing or planning, some really amazing experiences occurred. And sometime Friday morning, along a narrow road while covered in dew and kissed by fog-filtered sunlight, I had a breakthrough that opened me. But it didn’t come from any prescribed path or formula…it came from simply being present with whatever presented itself and letting go of everything else. I lost myself in beauty…surrendered to it.

800_1578I was feeling glorious about the sunrise Friday morning and fog and light and flowers but it was hundreds of small spider webs that blanketed the grass and glowed with dew illuminated like diamonds that pulled me free. I stopped and gazed into endless sparkling works of spiders and started weeping. Life felt so full and so precious. Everything felt intensely sacred and holy. It seems like such a small thing to create such a huge inner shift.

The past few months have felt like my life was going through a shake-down. The real stuff was being separated ¬†from the husks and now I have some really beautiful little seeds to nurture. And a lot of my busy work I’ll be letting go of…including some volunteer efforts and work I thought I “should” do.

800_1408I suppose anything can help us open if we are ready. For me, though, it always seems to be the little things that push me over the edge into complete surrender, complete trust and therefore utter peace and contentment. With gratitude I complete this retreat and return to my everyday life with a vision.

When Beauty Makes Me Weep

When Beauty Makes Me Weep

800_1605I didn’t set an alarm clock this morning. Making another sunrise shoot wasn’t something I had planned to do. But I woke up early and had plenty of time to drive to Cades Cove before sunrise…so why not?

800_1468It was fogged-in again this morning but within an hour or so of sunrise the mists began to lift. And it was so gradual that I was able to travel around the dirt roads and loop road getting really nice images.

800_1555There was one particular field that was aglow with yellow flowers, some lingering fog glowing golden and a multitude of spider webs. I pulled to the side of the road and grabbed my camera and waded through very damp, deep grass into the field and was moved by the light, illuminating fog and life in general. Birds and insects of late summer created a symphony of sound and I completely lost myself to the moment. I heard myself whispering….thank you…thank you…oh how beautiful…thank you.

800_1408Wandering up and down the road on foot, more little miracles of light and water and color kept presenting to me. I could feel my heart filling with magic that was building as the elements conspired together to create a perfect morning. At one point I looked at the grass and saw hundreds…maybe thousands…of sparkling spider webs and the miracle of life, the unbounded beauty, caused me to sob great sobs that came from deep within as I was wrapped in the ecstasy of life.

800_1570I gazed into the azure sky, the green mountaintops, the golden fog floating as tears streamed down my face and I cried aloud, “THANK YOU! I LOVE YOU! THANK YOU!”

800_1635 (2)I continued composing various images after that intense opening to spirit, to life. I was drawn once again to the open field of flowers and fog. I glanced down the edge of it and a beautiful black bear, still wet with dew, started climbing a tree. The bear had witnessed my weeping and my loud exclamation of love and emerged as if in perfect harmony with my own feelings about the day.

800_1766Even while collecting my thoughts to write this the sobs come, the tears moisten my sun-kissed cheeks and I know a big door opened within my being for that is what happens when beauty makes me weep.

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Bear Jams…I Must Be in Cades Cove

Bear Jams…I Must Be in Cades Cove

800_0371In the foggy darkness I headed toward Cades Cove. A mere seven miles from my base of operation during my brief stay in the Smoky Mountains. In the pre-dawn chill the 58 degrees was intense for this tropical gal. But who can resist the lure of sunrise in this beautiful place?

I sat waiting at the gate with others, lined up in our vehicles awaiting the chance to visit this wildlife haven. This place of magnificent beauty. The pink clouds peeking out from the fading night sky completely disappeared when the ranger opened the gate. Cades Cove was officially fogged in. It was as if a curtain of white dropped on the day.

800_0435So when fog gives you lemons you made photographs…you know the saying. My lemonade was spider webs dripping with diamond-like water droplets, deer fading in and out of foggy meadows and then a glorious lifting of fog mid-morning when a lovely bear sauntered out of the woods.

800_0765A bear volunteer was busy yelling at people to stay back…stay back. One of three times I’ve seen a black bear show aggression toward humans was when a man was yelling at people to ‘stay back.’ The bear didn’t appreciate the loud and aggressive male shouting so she chased him to his vehicle. Go ahead and yell Ms. Volunteer. I’ll stay away from you!

And later, at sunset, a serious bear jam happened. No rangers or volunteers nearby to keep traffic moving or stupid people from getting too close to this juvenile. You can stand back and watch a bear’s boundary, where her personal space has been invaded. And yes, smart ass guy who thought walking within a few feet of a juvenile black bear was great fun….I saw you run like a scared kid.

800_1019It was a glorious day…sunrise to sunset. Some stupid people pushing the boundaries of the local black bear population and some very tolerant white-tailed deer made this just another day in Cades Cove. Bear jams, fog, wildflowers and mountain splendor. And today…I got to share the afternoon with a photog friend of mine from Asheville. Thanks Jen!

800_1173And thanks black bear, does, bucks and wildflowers…and of course the mountains, that surround me with such nurturing energy. Tomorrow awaits!