Category: Beauty

In the Flow

In the Flow

800_2004My last morning on photography retreat was spent in my favorite place to work with water in the Smokies. It was so early, in fact, that I hardly saw anyone else…except a bear that scurried off as I drove by him. Standing beside or in flowing water made it difficult for me to hear snapping twigs if a big critter like a bear approached so I did a bit of singing hoping they would hear me and choose to wander elsewhere.800_0293Aside from that slight tingle of bear awareness it was the perfect ending to four days of connecting with nature through photography. Blissful quiet, hardly another human in sight and verdant beauty that seemed to reach into forever made me glad I had awakened before dawn and made the hour’s drive before the weekend crowd became active.

800_2054At one point I was braced against a large, gray rock with both feet wedged in between smaller rocks in the cold water while balancing with my tripod and camera taking long exposures. I checked the exposure on the screen and felt so grateful to be capturing such lush and endless beauty. My heart and mind merged with the flow of clear water and I felt a sense of purpose and direction that had eluded me for months.

Self-portrait...goofing off with my really dusty and happy car.
Self-portrait…goofing off with my really dusty and happy car.

Focused intention, open heart and profound love and appreciation for nature became interwoven elements that made for an excellent photography retreat. Being present with what I love doing in a place that I love kept me in the flow.

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.


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!

A Healthy Dose of Nature

A Healthy Dose of Nature

simonelipscomb (11)Sometimes a bit of nature helps me find balance, especially when I have sudden and unexpected emotions pop up. Things have been going well for weeks with my heart opening with feelings of it delightfully expanding in unconditional love and all the good stuff. Then for some reason, around lunch time, it was like poof! And I felt off balance.

simonelipscomb (9)It’s normal to have ups and downs. Being human and living life guarantees emotional tides. But when they bounce in and jump out, like my orange boy cat trying to scare me, I don’t get it.

It was like a dark cloud hanging over me. But I went on with my day–shopping at the natural food store in Pensacola, planting veggie seeds in the garden, potting plants for the courtyard fence and I still felt weird. So I decided to head south.

simonelipscomb (8)Our sea turtle team has a nest very close to hatching so I drove down to the beach for sunset with my camera and tripod and visited with folks and took photographs. At one point I sat on the damp sand near the water’s edge and just allowed the motion of the waves to cleanse the cloud from around me. I sang a while to the sea and by the time I left, was feeling better. Still a bit ‘off’ but lighter.

simonelipscomb (1)No matter what I’m going through, a healthy dose of nature seems to make everything better.