Category: Bonaire

Mermaid School

Mermaid School

SimoneLipscomb (2)Today’s class began once again before sunrise. Small green and black crabs clung to rocks covered with sea vegetation as waves washed over them. They taught me to hunker down, hang on and allow life’s challenges to proceed without getting caught in the chaos.

SimoneLipscomb (5)Next came a quick rain shower as I stood in the salt water picking up pieces of sea glass. It felt like a salt-water baptism and a good old-fashioned christening. A cleansing, a rite of purification.

SimoneLipscomb (3)First dive of the day was at Salt Pier. The Beast went with me and while I have simply fallen in love with the ability to produce images that do justice to the underwater world, it makes shore entries with surge and waves and loose coral and holes very challenging with such a heavy and awkward set up. Thankful for helpful friends.

SimoneLipscomb (1)Many huge schools of fish welcomed me into their midst as I floated weightless among them. Being a mermaid requires joining large groups of underwater creatures in certain rites and celebrations. Today we collectively moved our gills back and forth and learned to change direction by moving only our tails.

SimoneLipscomb (7)The second dive was at a site near downtown called Something Special. There are many small fish at this location and lots of trash as well. But it’s mostly old trash that ocean life has utilized for homes, as anchors and it has become part of the ecosystem. The teaching here? All of our lives are valuable, even the past…even situations we thought were over and done can be used to build something new and wonderful.

SimoneLipscomb (4)Rest time in mermaid school is very important. Today’s recess involved fixing and eating a healthy lunch, uploading photographs from the morning’s two dives and uploading video footage of two iguanas having breakfast. After a few hours of shade and relaxation, it was time for one more session of class.

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Sponge at Something Special dive site.

The Ocean was the instructor on this final class of the day. The water clarity was as bad as I’ve ever seen it in Bonaire. Brown clouds of particulate matter created a strange color underwater and turned the usual bright blue a strange icky green-brown. But part of being a mermaid is embracing the Ocean no matter what.

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Damsel fish requested her photograph be taken.

After about 30 minutes my dive buddy turned back and I wanted to check on a coral farm further north so I kept going. Not long after we parted, a beautiful hawksbill sea turtle, foraging on sponges, allowed me to approach and respectfully observe. I suppose this was my reward for persevering in less-than-ideal conditions.

After saying goodbye to the turtle I swam to the elk horn coral ‘trees’ and greeted the corals growing and the fish utilizing these unique, man-made trees where coral is grown and then transplanted to areas where coral has died.

I set a strong pace returning back to the exit point to feel the strength of my body and to test my swimming legs a bit. It was great fun and a wonderful way to end the day.

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A selfie taken with The Beast….so grateful to be in this beautiful place and have the right equipment to bring the beauty of the Ocean to those wanting to see.

As my head broke the surface of the water, the sun was close to setting and almost ready to slip beneath the watery horizon. I paused before exiting the water to send gratitude to the Ocean for Her most magnificent day of teaching. Thus ended the second day of Mermaid training, Level 10.


Mermaid Practice…Everything’s Okay

Mermaid Practice…Everything’s Okay

SimoneLipscomb (1)Crystal-clear, warm saltwater caressed my feet and legs. In the gray, pre-dawn light I stood allowing gentle waves to wash away worries, concerns, grief. The Ocean brought me into the present moment.

SimoneLipscomb (5)The morning ritual, while in my Ocean ‘home’ island of Bonaire, is to gather tiny bits of sea glass, tumbled from the constant irritation of sand and movement. It’s a small beach of honey-colored sand, so soft it made me smile with delight. The tinkling sound of bits of coral clinking together was music made by the Ocean…the soundtrack to my morning.

SimoneLipscomb (3)A dry and exposed wall of fossilized coral protected me from the strong and constant winds of this small desert island. I stood gazing into the water and felt someone looking back at me. My eyes scanned the water as movement within a few feet of me caught my attention.

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This is NOT a photograph of a sea turtle…just a nice gathering of corals and sponges.

There, at the edge of the coral and sand, was a small sea turtle. No more than 10 inches across, it was peeking out at me–a lovely little hawksbill turtle.  Mermaid practice started early this morning. The lesson? Everything’s okay. In this moment, at this place…all is well. Time to take a break from planetary destruction, humanity’s hate/humanity’s fighting. Time to allow grief, of loved ones lost, pass into another dimension as the present moment embraced me with such beauty. A juvenile hawksbill friend reminded me of this with her intense gaze from her eyes to mine.

SimoneLipscomb (2)After breakfast I gathered dive gear and headed with my buddy down to the water. It felt magnificent to be submerged again, one with the Ocean, breathing on life-support that would allow me over an hour of communing with my brothers and sisters of the sea.

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Friendly porcupinefish

A friendly and large porcupinefish escorted me for the first half of the dive, looking back occasionally to see if I was still there. One time  he circled back and waited for me when I stopped to look at two spotted moray eels tucked under a coral head. When I turned to head back to the exit point, the sweet, prickly friend waved a fin goodbye. I blew a farewell kiss.

SimoneLipscomb (30)An hour break to hydrate, eat and assemble The Beast–my Aquatica housing for my Nikon D-800 and two massive strobes. I think I should intensify my upper body workouts just to lift the gadgetry.

SimoneLipscomb (22)But once underwater, tools I had only dreamed of in the past became a reality. A big smile erupted from deep within me. This system…this beast of a system…was almost neutrally buoyant…just slightly negatively so. It handled like a dream and produced images with a fisheye lens that made me very happy…finally….I can create images that in some way do justice to the magnificent beauty of this realm, this Ocean of beauty where I find peace.

SimoneLipscomb (12)Before even reaching the drop-off on the reef, three friendly squid played with me and one especially like my dome port. It was a squid dance unequal to any I’ve had in the past. Sometimes they can be shy and evasive but these guys actually invited me to play.

SimoneLipscomb (14)And once again, the larger-than-life porcupinefish met me at our appointed time and posed for a couple of photographs before I turned to head back to dry land….a most challenging proposition for a mermaid-in-training.

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SimoneLipscomb (34)Special thanks to my friends Will and Dolphi for helping me and The Beast into and out of the water. It’s a learning experience…accepting assistance and even asking for it (gasp!). 

Will Tripp dancing with squid.
Will Tripp dancing with squid.


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.

A Wild Heart Always Has Hope

A Wild Heart Always Has Hope

SimoneLipscomb (15)Stanley Kubrick awakened me this morning in his attempt to snuggle closer. My orange tabby and his sisters missed me during my two week absence as I recharged and renewed my life in my spiritual home, Bonaire.

Unable to return to the land of dreams, I felt a shell forming around me…the one that I unconsciously assemble when away from the wilds of the magic of the desert island that touches me like no other place. When I make my yearly pilgrimage I feel it immediately cast off as soon as I walk down the stairs from the plane to the ground in the high, dry winds. Once the ground of Bonaire is underfoot I enter a deep place within myself.

SimoneLipscomb (1)On the final dive of the visit home, I turned to face the deep, blue water past the reef. My hands folded in a prayer position, I thanked the community of life there that welcomes me and nurtures me so profoundly. As I gently flipped my fin to turn back toward shore, I noticed a smallish green turtle slowly and effortlessly swimming in across my path. I stopped and watched and started laughing with joy. How perfect! For many years my logo has been a sea turtle and so the many, many teachings received and lessons learned from these two weeks were given the proverbial icing on the cake.

SimoneLipscomb (6)As I surfaced I turned and look back over the Ocean toward the mountains at the north end of the island. The setting sun was golden as it sparkled on the water’s surface. Suddenly I burst into joy-enduced laughter that was in no hurry to subside.

Another desert visit on Friday and then it was Saturday, time to leave. This is no easy task for me…aside from repacking dive gear, photography gear, computer and clothes. Uprooting myself from this sacred place is painful, so deep is the connection I feel to it.

SimoneLipscomb (18)As I sat next to the Ocean in the pre-dawn moments, the full moon hung amidst puffy clouds in the lightening sky. The rising sun’s light began to reflect onto the cloud which in turn reflected on the Ocean’s surface and then to me. It felt like the resplendent light of the Universe was touching me to ease the pain of leaving.

The pull of the moon on the sea has the same pull on me, my own inner tides. Turquoise and indigo saltwater bliss were inches from my toes and once again I was conscious of the Oneness of life.

Little crabs, at home in their crab kingdom, creeped closer and closer to my still toes. Wind whipped through my long mermaid hair. Salt air filled my lungs with each deep breath I took and with the exhalation feelings were given space to be…joy, sadness, grief, gratitude.

The bells of Her voice spoke through the tinkling coral pieces washing in the surf, in the wind whispering through cactus needles and by osmosis as I spent over 31 hours beneath the surface during my time there. Be fluid, be movable. Be open to the tides of your life. Live in awareness and awake to the energies of the planet. Be an ally to all life of the planet. 

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The downy breast of the tiny dove cradles her heart thats warmth touches mine. The iguana’s reptile heart, encased in rough scales on leathery skin, beats a rhythm I feel. The small but strong hearts of tiny crabs skittering along the shore’s edge, give yet another cadence. Each part of life pulses to its own, unique beat yet exists in harmony with all other life. We are all connected by one beating, planetary heart.

My favorite experience of the two week journey happened on a solo dive:

SimoneLipscomb (4)While diving at the Salt Pier I floated weightless among a huge school of small-mouth grunts. Their deep gold stripes and fins were brilliant against the deeper blue water beyond the pilings. Hovering horizontal, unmoving except how the Ocean chose to move us, the fish and I became one life, connected by water. Their large black eyes watched me, unconcerned. I was no threat, only part of the whole, in sync with them, in harmony. Almost an hour spent floating, gently drifting with the ever-so-slight undulations of the sea, surrendered, at peace. Part of the whole. Connected.

A friend recently reminded me that a wild heart always has hope. This is my life’s song:

SimoneLipscomb (1)Into the blue, into the blue

Deeper and deeper I drop.

Gliding down to the briny deep,

The spiral continues in my journey of love, 

Of compassion…of hope.

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Ik Rem Ook Voor Ezels

Ik Rem Ook Voor Ezels

SimoneLipscomb (2)I brake for donkeys.

There was no need to brake as I could hardly move so many donkeys were surrounding my truck. A herd of donkey zombies had me cornered and refused to move…or so it seemed.

SimoneLipscomb (6)The Donkey Sanctuary is a 143 acres on Bonaire where feral donkeys are cared for. They are left-overs from the salt production efforts many years ago but were set-free after machinery took over their jobs. Rather than ship them back to Spain, they were released into this desert of cactus and thorny bushes to fend for themselves.

SimoneLipscomb (4)Volunteers at the sanctuary work hard to keep them healthy and offer visitors an opportunity to meet those in their care. The only suggestion I have is to not sell carrots for people to feed them. I happily donated the money for carrots but didn’t want them as I didn’t want the donkeys swarming my truck. But they are well-trained and know how to ambush a vehicle, make it stop by stepping in front of it and then accost anyone within reach of an open window. I think this is really bad behavior for the donkeys to develop.

SimoneLipscomb (11)It got to the point where I turned around and left, so nerve-wracking was it to try to even move the truck. I applaud the good work they do and greatly appreciate the love and care they give these animals. I hope they will stop all feeding from vehicles to retrain these adorable and insistent four-legged friends to not step in front of, ambush, bite windows, bite mirrors, bite people who refuse them food, gnaw on bumpers, run beside vehicles. This is seriously dangerous behavior for them.

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