Category: Beauty

Mountains and Friends

Mountains and Friends


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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Eagles, Sandhill Cranes….Abundant Beauty

Eagles, Sandhill Cranes….Abundant Beauty

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Pelican flying nearby

It was a most glorious day here along the Alabama Gulf Coast. Sun was abundant and the temperature may have reached 70 degrees. This is my favorite time of year here and makes up for those humid, 90 degree summer days.

After an early morning Pure Barre workout followed by hedge clipping from a ten foot ladder, I wasn’t sure about SUP boarding today but even after the yard work and intense workout, I simply couldn’t miss some river time.

photo copyI hadn’t planned to paddle hard given that I felt my workout needs were met for the day, but the wind–blowing upriver–caused me to dig deep from the beginning and so I resigned myself to finishing the day with another intense workout.

Just past the bridge an osprey sat silhouetted in a tall pine tree. At the corner before Devil’s Hole, two brown pelicans floated along the surface.  Even though I gave them a wide berth they flew off a bit grumpily. As I paddled past the beach at Devil’s Hole, the tree with the heron nest caught my eye as a huge bird moved. The juvenile bald eagle from two days ago was still hanging around. Sweet! This was exciting. Perhaps he or she will be making the river home.

photoDownriver I paddled, digging against the wind but not complaining. Pelicans were floating and fishing on both sides of the river as it widened. When I got to Bemis Bay an abundance of the large diving birds were feasting on my juvenile mullet friends. I was so caught up in watching the pelicans that I nearly missed two bald eagles flying together, touching, grabbing talons briefly and then flying away. Did I just see that? I was in nature-rapture.

photo copy 4Continuing my downriver paddle I came across another bald eagle in solo flight and one more off in the distance. I felt as if I was in a shamanic journey and a new spirit animal was coming to befriend me. I stopped paddling and stood laughing hysterically. What else could I do? It was beyond my ability to take in, to even believe.

Then I looked up, toward the sun, and there was a huge gathering of large birds riding the thermals over the river. No matter how much I paddled, I never got as close as I wanted to. They were very high and gliding air currents in large circles. White wing feathers glistened in the brilliant light and were visible against the blue sky. Sandhill cranes in migration. I have seen this in Florida before but never here.

photo copy 7Could my ability to take-in more beauty expand any more? Then SPLASH! A pelican landed maybe fifteen feet from my board. When I glanced back he was swallowing a fish. Then on a few more minutes and a huge mullet landed less than a board length away from my board after making a big leap.

Great egrets, shining white in their fine feathers, crowned several of the cypress trees as they sat observing the river happenings. I drifted under them on my way back upriver as the breeze gently pushed me.

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Pelicans perched at the no wake zone.

I sit now, reflecting on the abundance of life and extraordinary experiences that happened during my paddle. When I got back to the wide area of the river we call Bemis Bay, I knelt down and watched the two eagles play…or whatever they were doing. Not that many years ago this would not have been possible but thanks to reintroduction efforts, the bald eagle is beginning to thrive here. And come to think of it, so am I.

Thanks for reading. Comment and/or share as you wish. May your day be filled with abundant beauty.

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.

Fire in the Heart

Fire in the Heart

Sometimes the biggest lesson comes from the smallest creature.

Last night a sea turtle hatchling that had been attempting to crawl out of her nest…a nest successfully exited three nights prior by 99 brothers and sisters….was helped along by our sea turtle team as we excavated the nest to gather statistics for USFW Service. The sand was so wet and the empty eggshells so packed that she was stuck. As stuck as I’ve ever seen a hatchling.

For three days after the initial hatching, the massive boil where her siblings made it to the Gulf of Mexico, volunteers listened to her scratching. That may not seem long to us but imagine being in the dark, surrounded by empty shells. A brother nearby also struggling but not having the strength to survive. Another sibling stuck in her eggshell but losing the energy necessary to make it.

But one little hatchling was determined to live, to see her ocean home. Imagine what strength and willpower it took.

When she was removed from the nest there was only one intention….CRAWL TO THE SEA! She never slowed down. Never hesitated. She was focused in her spirit, in the instincts that called her home.

In putting together a short video on her journey I chose a song that illustrated musically her journey and while watching the finished product realized that she is an inspiration to us all.

Anchoring deep in our core….feeling the strength rise up within as we work to build resilience and power….oh, yes. She is a master teacher for us.

What is your goal? What is your passion? What do you want to bring to this planet? What is stopping you?

(Thank you baby turtle and Pure Barre Eastern Shore for helping me feel my strength and realize I’m so much stronger than I knew!)



simonelipscomb (4)I watched a movie on Netflix called, The Chosen One. It was about a man who was struggling with his life….with alcoholism, a wife who left him for a yoga instructor, and his father’s suicide that happened years ago. Three shamen from a far-away, little-known tribe came to him and told him he was chosen to help save their tribe.

He thought they were crazy but he kept having strange things happen. One was a recurring hawk dream. Even through his resistance he saw changes in his life from their presence in it. Houseplants began to flourish, all alcohol evaporated from bottles and old behaviors began to be questioned and transformed as he began to open to change.

simonelipscomb (7)One of the key components of him stepping into his greatness to help this tribe was self-forgiveness. You see he was drunk when he came home and found his father hanging in his garage and for years had blamed himself for his father’s death. The shamen kept purifying him with sage and rattles and prayers. He slipped into old behaviors and fell backwards…briefly…but he finally put it all together and realized what his moment of greatness entailed and he took the risk to do it. In the process of helping a hawk in real life, his past was healed.

During his act of bravery to help the hawk, the scene flashed to him finding his father in the garage and taking him down from the rope. He was able to rewrite history, in a way. He held his father in a loving, tearful embrace and his father transformed into a hawk.

simonelipscomb (9)What a powerful moment in life when we can, with the utmost love and respect, open our arms and allow freedom to rule.We forgive our mistakes and the mistakes of others and stand with open hearts.  With no need to grasp on to the past or future, we stand in the present moment.

Self-portrait in Bonaire, N.A. "One with the Elements."
Self-portrait in Bonaire, N.A. “One with the Elements.”

Perhaps we can begin by setting ourselves free, forgiving ourselves. Then, as the shamen taught, we are free to heal the world. Healing the past can open doors of great love in the present, the future. Who knows what miracles can occur when we choose to heal our lives? It can only create more room for love. Inner change can be scary as we are moving into unchartered inner territory. The key? Simply being open to transformation.