Category: Cave diving

Earth Celebration

Earth Celebration

SimoneLipscomb (17)Today is the day we set aside to celebrate our beautiful planet…Earth….Gaia….Mother Earth…Pachamama…The Blue Planet. I’m sitting here in my little motel room in High Springs, Florida, with the door wide open as twilight arrives. I am reflecting on the day with a smiling heart. I feel all tingly and it’s not from excess Nitrogen after cave diving. I feel alive and connected to this living being that is my Mother.

I started the day at Cave Country Dive Shop getting my tanks topped off. James was so speedy that there was extra time to play at the springs taking photographs before I met my side mount instructor and fellow Earth-lover.

SimoneLipscomb (31)To say it was a glorious morning is not doing justice to the absolute beauty of the early morning time along the Sante Fe River with the last lingering mist evaporating as brilliant sun illuminated tender, spring, verdant leaves. Clear turquoise water glistened like an aquamarine gemstone. There was no other humans so my morning meditation was spent in sweet connection with Her. Whispered phrases of gratitude wafted from my lips into the water…the misty air…the rocks…the sun.

photoAnd then it was time to meet up with Jill at the entrance to Ginnie Springs.  We did two wonderful cave dives into the Ginnie cave through the eye. At the end of the first dive we peeked into the river-flooded Ear entrance and saw the dark tea-colored water swirling above the crack in the Earth. A mighty sight! We then exited through our entry point, the Eye.

Both dives were as sweet as any I have done at Ginnie Springs. Jill models such a respectful and calm attitude of love for the cave. Witnessing her connection was powerful and it changed me in ways I don’t realize yet.

We shared a nice lunch and chatted about wildlife and turtles. Mostly turtles. Appropriate since Earth is also known as Turtle Island, a turtle floating in space…and we were celebrating Earth Day.

SimoneLipscomb (12)After returning to my cozy little room and hanging my gear to dry I walked across the street to the dive shop to settle my tab. On the way back I noticed a little shop I’ve seen for the ten years I’ve been coming to High Springs. High Springs Emporium is a rock and crystal shop…and so much more. I wandered in and spent an hour visiting with the owner. I felt the connection between Gaia and me strengthen and grow fuller as I stood among Her crystals, rocks, bowls of crystal that vibrated my bones…and my soul. It was the perfect ending to a joy-filled day…the proverbial icing on the cake.

SimoneLipscomb (5)For the past seven years I have dedicated my life to helping our water planet and haven’t known if I was making a difference or simply deluding myself. Today, as I waded into the clear spring water with my camera, ripples erupted from my feet and slowly spread across the large spring. A smile erupted as I realized that ripples from what each one of us does makes a difference….positive or negative. To give up, to stop trying is not an option. When your heart calls you…when you love deeply and profoundly you never, ever give up.

photo 2And so begins the next step of my journey with this water planet, my Mother. May my life be a love song to Her and may I sing it until I draw my last breath…hopefully many years from now. Tears flow as my heart opens to beautiful Pachamama, my Water Mama. My Path begins to open in ways I have never dreamed possible…I feel it.

SimoneLipscomb (33)With deep gratitude for this Earth Day spent with Jill and the turtles and fish…and the baby flounder who did a back flip for me…and the cave….the magnificent cave that welcomed me as Her own and cradled me within Her dark walls as I navigated my rebirth.

May each of us realize the potential to make positive change by our actions and dedicate ourselves to it.

Simone cave diving in Mexico. Photo by Ed Jackson
Simone cave diving in Mexico. Photo by Ed Jackson

I love you Mother Earth…I know your heartbeat…your amniotic fluids…your powerful embrace. I am yours.

 

 

 

 

 

A Personal Odyssey

A Personal Odyssey

photo 7As I floated in the fresh, blue-tinted spring water I gazed into a sea of green leaves outlined by cerulean sky. Reflecting back into the cave I had just exited with my friend, I smiled and whispered words of gratitude. Underwater caves always create some sense of magic and wonder within me and today was no different. Except it was my birthday. And I had the strangest sense that today would be an epic journey… something akin to Homer’s Odyssey.

photo 1There had already been two very strange encounters followed by a truly magnificent cave dive. First, I was visiting three black and white horses after checking in at the dive site and decided to do a selfie with them in the background. I love horses and they had seemed nice enough. But as soon as I turned around one of the horses literally attacked me and bit me hard on the back of my head and neck.

Horse attacking me...happened to catch it with my camera...as he bit my head and neck...
Horse attacking me…happened to catch it with my camera…as he bit my head and neck…

Then, less than an hour later I was hooking my side mount tanks onto my harness in the water and from out of the woods walked a father and his seven year old daughter. He was carrying a long mermaid tail that, once donned, made her an amazing mer-child. She swam in the spring and frolicked and brought beautiful energy to us before the dive.

And so as I laid upon the water, stretching and reflecting, the story of the Odyssey came into my consciousness and the day unfolded as an epic journey home, just like Homer wrote about in his tale about Odysseus’ journey home after the fall of Troy. Interestingly enough it was the Trojan War and the ruse of the Trojan horse that led to the destruction of Troy. So the horse attack this morning set the stage for my own Odyssey.

After a delicious lunch with my friend Pam I departed High Springs, Florida to continue my journey home. As I left the town behind, two huge wild turkeys were on the side of the road. I remembered a line from the movie, O Brother Where Art Thou. “You will see many strange and wondrous things on your journey.” And the drive home seemed like a series of strange and wonderful things.

It's okay to stop and rest in a storm....
It’s okay to stop and rest in a storm….

I experienced a flood of water with a storm that was probably the hardest rain I’ve ever driven in. I saw an 18 wheeler trailer on fire alongside I-10. A random peacock was wandering along the highway and later a huge hawk was seen diving with talons extended just about to grab dinner. And finally the sunset was perhaps the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.

Taken with my phone....nowhere to stop and set up my Nikon...
Taken with my phone….nowhere to stop and set up my Nikon...

Layers of clouds in spirals, wisps, puffy shapes with multitudes of pinks, oranges, grays, blue extended all around me and as I approached Pensacola Bay it was like a symphony of color and shapes surrounded me. The colors were like music. I could hear them, so loudly were they displaying.

photo 3Beautiful wisdom was gifted to me through this series of events, this epic journey home. The horses reminded me that there have been those in my life who appeared supportive and loving yet behind my back were very damaging to me. Like the Trojan Horse that led to the downfall of Troy, there are those who were not as they seemed.

Several years ago in a flight from Miami to Bonaire, the whirling propellers put me into a sort of trance as I flew over the Ocean and I saw a beautiful mermaid with a brilliant emerald tail and knew that she and I were one. I saw that part of me that is intimately connected to water. The young mer-child today reminded me to reclaim that sense of wonder and reclaim my deep connection to water that is the heart of my life.

The dive into Mother Earth…many levels of learning here but mainly I saw that persistence and inner strength can take me into places of magic and help me connect deeper with our water planet. Her beauty will be revealed as I avail myself to doors that open.

The wild turkeys signified abundance, blessings and new beginnings. Native wisdom associates wild turkeys with sacrifice of the ego for Higher Purpose so that in giving one is more open to receive. It reminds me of an email I got as I was in the middle of this journey home. My side mount instructor reminded me that my invitation to commune with the Earth (when I took other folks messages of love into the cave for the Earth) opened Her arms and I was ready to receive. Surrendering the ego, opening the heart, giving…and the return is profound.

The flooding rain hit as I entered Tallahassee so I simply stopped, sat at a Starbucks and waited out the storm. There is nothing in life that says I have to fight the storms that come. It’s okay to rest and observe and be ready to move forward when all is calm.

photo 6Sometimes parts of life are no longer necessary or even healthy. The fire of the 18 wheeler reminded me of this truth. Don’t cling…let go of the past. No more holding on to anything or anyone gone from my life.  The peacock is another symbol for the Phoenix which is the mythical bird that rises from the ashes of it’s own death. Let the past die…let the ego die and be reborn into the fullness of the Higher Self. (Got it).

The hawk reminds me to use my fierce passion for life and bring it to everything I do. Hold nothing back.

Time to step into life with everything I am....
Time to step into life with everything I am….

Finally, the sunset had me dancing in my seat. It truly sang with color and it had an alchemical effect on me. As it peaked over Pensacola Bay I glanced back over my shoulder and saw a flock of white birds reflecting the colors of the sky on their wings against a darkening sky beyond them. They reminded me that no matter where life takes me, if I stay connected to Spirit I will bring the reflection of Love and Compassion with me to infuse the space around me with magic…harmony…love….compassion.

What an incredible Odyssey this day has gifted to me. A perfect way to begin another trip around the sun.

 

Time for another trip around the sun....
Time for another trip around the sun….

 

Alive in the World

Alive in the World

Photograph by Renee Power
Photograph of me by Renee Power

White line spun off the reel as I frog kicked through the water-filled tunnel. Out of the green light of the cavern zone through limestone walled wetness, around a sharp right turn and then a sharp left turn at the well-known STOP sign and onto the gold line. The magical gold line that cave divers know as the main line in cave systems here in Florida.

Once tied in we had a continuous line out of the cave in the event of light failure. So my dive buddy Pam and I gently and with care to the cave, made our way into the inky blackness. Illuminated by our bright cave lights we enjoyed the beautiful geological formations. Swiss-cheese-like here and solid with wavy lines in other places. Layers of brown silt hung on the nearly vertical walls like cinnamon dusting a scrumptious delicacy. And in truth, these caves are delicacies and must be treated as such.

After being out of cave diving for a few years I took a side mount class several weeks ago. It’s easier carrying one heavy steel tank to the water at a time that two at once. My back has thanked me. And just this past weekend I have found my cave mojo once again and it’s a great feeling. I’ve had some great friends in the past who supported my training and skill development and this weekend I found out I still have great cave diving friends although there are new faces.

Me and my buddy Pam Wooten after our awesome dive at Orange Grove, Peacock Springs State Park
Me and my buddy Pam Wooten after our awesome dive at Orange Grove, Peacock Springs State Park

Two days ago I felt it kick in but today that cave mojo surged through me and I felt myself move past where I had been three years ago to a different place within myself about diving caves. Not in a reckless way but with a deeper respect for my own strengths and acknowledgment that I absolutely love being in an underwater cave and seeing the beauty of the Earth and her lifeblood as it courses through underground aquifers.

SimoneLipscomb (2)This evening finds me in sunset bliss awaiting two mornings of manatee encounters. After a delightful dinner of Thai curry vegetables that was orgasmic…I’m NOT kidding….(Thai Phoon has amazing, amazing food)…I walked out on the dock at King’s Bay and listened to little coots as they swam in their duck-posse making their wonderful little coot song. The orange of the sunset reflecting on the water was interrupted with mullet splashing and the last pelicans of the day finding a roost. It took me to a place of pure bliss. A place of openness and wonder and awe.

SimoneLipscomb (1)It wasn’t just the cave diving this weekend or delicious nourishment or the sunset that has my entire being humming, it is everything lovely and wonderful that has come about over the past few days that makes me feel so alive in the world. And so incredibly grateful.

 

Note: Anyone interested in cave diving or cavern diving should GET PROPER TRAINING! I am an open water instructor but I still needed extensive training to become a cave diver. People who do not get appropriate training and dive into caves put their lives at risk. If you follow the rules things can still go wrong but your training is what can help you make it out alive! 

Within the Earth

Within the Earth

Me, and two dive buddies...Rick and Renee...and another diver we met after diving.
Me, and two dive buddies…Rick Crawford and Renee Power…and another diver we met after diving.

Sinking down…down through the large crack in the floor of the cave…floating gently down into the belly of the earth. Gently…gently like a snowflake feeling the pull of gravity.

It had been a while since the embrace of the Earth Mother welcomed me into her depths. While I took a side mount class just before New Year’s, my sinuses, ears, a cold bug and equipment issues seemed to be a big stopper…or my own dislike of a high-flow cave. But today…ah, today found me with two friends sinking into a fissure in the bottom of a cavern into a lovely cave at Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park in Florida.

Fossils were evident in the rock walls. Shells and shapes of shells embedded in high arches and rocks add an air of mystery to this sacred place. Tan in color, the walls warmly welcomed us as we glided gently past. Dark brown silt, although a beautiful part of the scenery, dared one of us to disturb it. The gold line we followed snaked throughout tunnels, around rocky outcrops and we frog-kicked onward through pock-marked archways deeper into the earth.

A gentle sweep of a light illuminated small holes and large, expansive archways. An albino crawfish scuttled across the floor…then another….such contrast to the dark brown silt. A stray catfish swam past occasionally but silence embraced us as surely as the cave did. How sweet to be within the lifeblood of the planet. How much at peace I feel reliving it now as I get ready to dream.

 

No Ego Needed

No Ego Needed

photo
Pam Wooten, Jill Heinerth, Simone Lipscomb. Photo by Rick Crawford.

The weekend before the New Year found me in Cave Country–North Florida–once again. I was drawn there to take a course in side mount, or so I thought. It wasn’t until after the trip was over and I was home that I realized the deeper reason I made the trip.

My friend Pam and I decided to take the class with Jill Heinerth. Pam knew Jill but I simply followed the recommendation of another friend and cave instructor. I won’t go into the details of the course because that’s not my focus. But I would like to share about the women that were present that weekend.

Exif_JPEG_PICTURE
Connie LoRe, a role model for me in cave diving.  She has led trips to the beautiful caves of Akumal, Mexico for many years. Photo by Ed Jackson.

Cave diving has progressed from a male-dominated sport to one in which women are routinely participating, instructing and exploring. I thought it was rather awesome to be in a cave course taught by a woman with a female classmate who excels in the field of dive instruction. One of Jill’s friend’s was teaching a cavern course. Renee was another outstanding woman. As we were figuring out our new gear yet another amazing woman showed up to dive. Barbara am Ende, cave explorer and writer, came over and started chatting. I was a bit distracted with all the learning to realize the powerhouse of women standing around us.

Renee Power
Renee Power

Our first day ended with a dive in the Ginnie Bowl and Ballroom. Renee accompanied us. I’m not sure if it was because Pam and I were giving Jill more challenge than she bargained for and she was about to pull her hair out in frustration or if Renee just wanted to come along for the fun. Regardless, it was a very nice dive once we got our gear situated. We played around for over 30 minutes in the cavern and it was quite lovely surfacing after dark to a beautiful sky and clear water surrounded by cypress trees. After we finished Jill left to join her husband for dinner while Pam, Renee and I chatted. I felt an immediate kinship with Renee as we shared about our experience instructing scuba with wounded soldiers. Exhaustion finally overcame me and I headed for a hot shower and food.

At lunch Jill was telling Pam and I about an expedition Barbara had been on and mentioned something about a book. I emailed a note to myself to read the book…Beyond the Deep.

Barbara am Ende. Photo by Mark Long
Barbara am Ende. Photo by Mark Long

The following day of class I got to chat a bit with Barbara. She was super-nice and was interested in my photography of the trees, water and light. She shared her card so we could keep in touch but we didn’t have a chance to really visit too much. And for some reason I didn’t associate her with the expedition and book Jill had referenced.

I had to end the diving a bit early due to a cold virus that had been challenging me during the course and the dives. I had no energy and had to focus really hard just to stay present so perhaps that’s why I ‘missed’ the profound women gathered together. Or maybe it was because there was no ego, no chest-beating, no race to see how far or how deep cave penetration was that day. It was friendly, supportive sharing and everyone was equally bringing her best self forward.

WAWhandLOGOwebsiteOnce I got home and was recuperating on my sofa, I watched Jill’s video. We Are Water is a beautiful story of water and the importance of it to us but more than that, it is the story of Jill’s passion and love for the planet. And that resonated deeply with me. Her words echoed my own as she described entering the caves as a spiritual experience; a kindred soul indeed. I’m not an explorer into the deeps of caves or icebergs but I am an explorer of our relationship to nature. I see that in Jill as well.

After the movie, I wanted something else to help me make the best use of my down-time so I downloaded Barbara’s book to my iPad. As I started reading I thought, Oh, my goodness! This is the woman I met? The expedition to the cave in Mexico in which Barbara participated was intense. Over a ton of gear was transported by a system of belays to sumps far below the surface. I couldn’t put the book down and so stayed up late reading in awe of such an amazing journey. It was a powerful venture into the unknown.

beyond

I emailed and chatted with my friend Pam after the trip and shared with her my disbelief that such powerful women came together that weekend. It wasn’t planned. The timing of meeting Renee and Barbara was truly profound. I think this is so because there was such friendliness and approachability with everyone present.

It wasn’t just Jill and Barbara that brought tremendous strengths and gifts to those picnic tables at Ginnie Springs. Each one of us has an authentic way of interacting with the world and we each have something beautiful to offer the world. But so does every woman…every person.

 

Pam Wooten, PADI Course Director.
Pam Wooten, PADI Course Director. Photo by Simone Lipscomb

The weekend was made especially meaningful as Pam and I shared about our lives…openly, honestly. What a gift to experience the deepening of friendship.

 

Simone cave diving in Mexico. Photo by Ed Jackson
Simone cave diving in Mexico. Photo by Ed Jackson

Terry Tempest Williams said that if a woman ever honestly wrote about and shared her life story, the world would split open and be forever changed. As I reflect back to that weekend, gratitude overflows as I treasure the gift of wisdom each one shared. Perhaps the biggest gift I received was the assurance that wisdom comes with gentleness, straightforwardness, honesty, play, self-awareness in a space where no ego is needed.