Category: Environment



SimoneLipscomb (22)I sit drinking hot tea while listening to bowhead whale song. It touches that place in me where wildness resides, where instinctual wisdom is present. Deep, deep in the inner waters that remain still, untouched by external chaos, global destruction, and consistent attempts by humanoids to pave over anything if it creates profit, I find peace.

This week has been profoundly healing, immensely wonderful. It has been a time of coming home to myself and refocusing my life’s work. And it all came about because I followed my intuition and opened my heart to doors that are open and waiting for me to walk through.

SimoneLipscomb (21)The 30A Songwriters Festival in Santa Rosa Beach gave me a nudge to make my yearly pilgrimage to visit manatees in south central Florida. Since I’d already be two hours in that direction I decided to go. But this time rather than arrange everything in advance, I allowed the entire trip to be fluid.

In the interim of trip planning and the festival, our area of Magnolia River had a manatee rescue by Sea World so I decided to ask Sea World if I could visit our gal while she is in rehab. Wouldn’t it be neat to see her and be able to report back to our community?

SimoneLipscomb (86)All plans remained open. I hadn’t received a response from Sea World but decided to leave a day early anyway and simply head south. When I weighed the two departure dates it was obvious which day would be best. And it made all the difference.

As I neared Crystal River a huge rainbow appeared. The arch was steep, a circle of rainbow light over my left shoulder. I stopped at a traffic signal and glanced at the name of the street: Follow Your Dream Parkway. At that point I knew the trip took a deep dive to other levels of experience–the realm where spirit resides.

SimoneLipscomb (97)I signed up for the early boat trip on the way down and was one of only four people on the trip. A true rarity in Crystal River during peak manatee  season. Also on the trip was a marine biologist from Australia. As we talked it felt as if we knew each other and were picking up where we left off at some other time and place. He is pursuing a PhD in Marine Education so our conversation was immediately on track to expanding ideas and sharing concern and grief over the status of our Ocean.

SimoneLipscomb (74)While the water was murky when we arrived at the site, it was for a good reason. Manatees were so thick in Three Sister’s Springs I refused to enter. They were stacked on top of each other sleeping. It’s illegal to swim over a sleeping manatee so the only option was to quietly exit without entering the main area of the springs. Well…my only option. It’s more important to allow them rest and quiet than for me to get a photograph. When I enter their realm it is with a sense of respect and awe….reverence. Their world is a cathedral, a holy place. I listen to their whistles and squeaks as holy choruses that strike deep chords of harmony within my soul.

SimoneLipscomb (8)The following day Rich, the marine biologist, and his wife Deb and their beautiful two year old daughter and I hired a guide in Homosassa to take us out on the water. While the water is greener there, the experience of absolute quiet with no other humans in the area was amazing. We all share a deep respect for wild animals and simply laid still in the water, away from each other, and allowed any curious animal a safe, respectful encounter with us.

SimoneLipscomb (2)Immediately after entering the water I had a large animal swim under me and start rolling around on the bottom. With each roll he would stop and glance at me and pause while I took video and still photographs. I could feel ripples of love and light flowing out from my heart as I remained motionless, an observer in awe.

SimoneLipscomb (14)Two juveniles played around me, coming to my camera housing and butting noses on it. They would get hungry or miss mama and would squeak and swim off to find her. I remained floating where I was and in a few minutes they would return. With the limited visibility, it was as if a phantom gradually appeared from the green depths and slowly changed from verdant algae tint to gray as it approached.

SimoneLipscomb (26)After a couple hours of floating and relaxing in the watery bliss, I grew cold. As I was thinking of heading back to the boat a very large mother manatee swam up behind me and rested her head on my left shoulder. Behind her, a juvenile rested her head on mama’s back. I glanced back and couldn’t believe the image I saw. Tears of wonder and joy flow even now as I reflect on this encounter. In stillness I laid on the water’s surface and marveled at the love I felt, prompted by this rare encounter…one of the most sacred moments in my life.

SimoneLipscomb (18)On this trip I experienced large manatees swimming up to me and laying beside me, snuggling for lack of a better word. We floated side-by-side in stillness. I dared not move as I didn’t want to kick or in any way disturb them. So in stillness, in depths of silence, I was one with animals that weighed 1000 pounds more than me. There was no separation of spirit, of love. They taught me to go deeper, deeper into myself to find that place of stillness and quiet where perfect peace abides.

SimoneLipscomb (94)I struggle about writing and sharing these experiences as I don’t want to suggest that everyone has experiences such as this. I don’t want to create even more masses of humanity descending upon these endangered animals. But for those who are quiet and still and are passive observers of these magnificent animals…they can change your consciousness, alter your perception, bring out the best that resides within you. But it only comes on their terms. You must act as a manatee….move slowly, float calmly…observe life gently…open your heart.

Rich and I were discussing manatee behaviors after our trip to Homosassa. He mentioned that as soon as he wanted to ‘manipulate’ the encounter…by wanting the light to be this way or the animal to be in a certain place….the animals that had been with him left. He didn’t move but his thoughts changed. Surrender to the encounter, let go of what ‘you’ want and magic happens. Very keen observation on his part. And how true for life.

SimoneLipscomb (25)Since we cannot stay underwater forever, the real benefit of experiences such as these is how they create lasting change within us. After years of observing people observing manatees I am more convinced than ever before that these animals are incredibly sensitive to not only human behavior, but human thoughts and emotions as well.

Yesterday I observed two permitted photographers — #1 and #12 (professional photographers apply for a permit through USFW) harass a mother and juvenile in the springs. The mother moved three times to try and find a place to sleep and rest with her calf and the photographers followed and continued their pushy behaviors. They may have images of manatees but they will never understand the spirit of these beautiful animals, never grasp their own arrogant and aggressive behaviors as being the exact opposite of how these creatures live and move and have their being in the water.

Photograph by Richard Wylie...THANK YOU!!
Photograph of me with a juvenile manatee…. by Richard Wylie…THANK YOU!!

I take away from these days with manatees a simple yet profound realization: Open heart, open doors. As I keep my heart open, the open doors will be made known. I will feel my way to them through an open heart.

Everything is getting clear on the path before me and with gratitude for the teachings they offered, I wish my manatee friends safe journeys through the waterways of life.

SimoneLipscomb (20)As I reflect on the week I remember the rainbow arching over my left shoulder, Follow Your Dream Parkway and the mother manatee and juvenile that rested on my left shoulder. The meaning isn’t lost on me. The visceral connection of the teaching is working deep within me. I remember the mother taking my right hand off of the camera housing with her flipper and holding my hand within her flippers and then directing it to her heart.  How can I not experience long-lasting and powerful change after this?


SimoneLipscomb (11)And yes…Sea World called and I got to visit Magnolia in her med pool. She is recovering nicely and being treated for deep propeller wounds along with other manatees who are injured. The rescue and rehab program at Sea World is simply amazing. Simply. Amazing!



Staying Open

Staying Open

photo 7Today was the last day of sunrise sea turtle patrol for me but I was fortunate in that I got to sub for another team member on Friday so two sunrises on the beach this week. And that’s when it started…two days ago…a nagging question.

Six o’clock found me struggling through soft, white sand as I walked the mile and a half route. It was a lovely morning with the Gulf of Mexico sending small, sweet waves onto the shore but I felt nothing. And I noticed that nothingness. It surprised me. Usually I’m in tune with the salt water and happy vibes are pouring out from my heart and mind but that day it felt like a vacuum where my heart was. I couldn’t connect.

photo 2It bothered me and as I walked I pondered that feeling of the ‘booooinnng’…like the beauty and light and delight bouncing off a closed door. Why am I closed? What’s happening, I wondered. So I journeyed inward and explored a bit.

I felt the sea reaching out with her watery fingers, trying to find an answering response from me but I remained shut down, distracted. My mind wandered and found a question: Am I closed down because of fear? Do I fear losing this beauty and so I’m acting like it’s already gone?

photo 4And then I wondered if we do that with each other. Do we allow fear to close our hearts and minds rather than remain open? Is this what keeps us from connecting with friends, lovers, partners? Are we so afraid of getting hurt that we refuse to open our hearts?

Today’s walk was better but if felt like I was in quick sand. The fluffy sand seemed to suck my feet so I stopped several times and just stared out over the water. What’s happening? I’m strong and fit so why is this so difficult?

photo 5During one of my pauses I thought of the list of sad things happening to and on our planet: Hurricanes in the Pacific, tropical storm in the Atlantic, earthquake in California, volcano erupting in Iceland, ebola in Africa, Russia invading a sister country, Israel bombing apartments and schools in the Gaza strip, the Middle East about to go up in flames, fracking by the fossil fuel industry, oil spill fallout in wildlife species, police officers shooting unarmed kids, people fighting each other over other violence…..dear God…how are any of us sane? And I don’t watch the news….this list is simply from an occasional view of NPR news.

I realized that part of my not connecting to nature is a deep concern that we’re basically going to reach a tipping point from which we cannot recover. The emotional toll of the BP oil spill was gruesome in my life yet I clearly see what can happen if we stay closed and refuse to work together for solutions…for the environment, social ills, violence. Closing myself off is a protection. But it does nothing to make positive change.

photoIt’s difficult keeping an open heart and mind when it appears as if everything is failing; yet, there is no more important time to be open and allowing of the connection between myself and nature, myself and others than now. The challenge we all face is staying open when nothing is scarier. Now is the time for courage. It is the time for love and open hearts…and minds. How can we create a safe place to be open?


Loving the Earth

Loving the Earth

photoLoving the Earth: Creating a Conscious Relationship with Our Planet

A slight breezed carried my SUP board downriver as I stopped paddling to watch a pair of bald eagles drag their talons along the surface of the water. Nearby great egrets crowned cypress trees, their white plumage dazzling against the background of blue sky. A mullet splashed in the mud-tinted water of the Magnolia River and brought my attention back from sky to earth. As my gaze turned downward a brown pelican folded her wings, as if in prayer, and dropped from the sky close to my board. All around life expressed in a beautiful ballet of balance with this lone patron admiring the dance. Bliss seemed shared by all but perhaps it might be better named communion.

Osprey...image taken in Florida last winter

One never knows what will be the call that brings us to our heart’s work. While I loved nature since childhood, I never felt the commitment…the calling…to dedicate my life’s work to it until the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. It felt as if everything in life stopped so I could focus entirely on the Gulf Coast and the amazing life in our coastal ecosystems. During the first days of oil washing ashore I remember thinking the end of the world had arrived. How could this happen?

This should never happen anywhere on our beautiful planet...let's unite in love and compassion and create the world we want to live in and leave for generations to come.

It’s easier to believe everything is okay than to pay attention to what’s really happening. I shared my book containing oil spill images with a cousin the other day that lives in Pensacola and she was shocked to see the reality I documented. There are people who live in Gulf Shores who still believe it wasn’t bad…that there wasn’t oil mixed with dispersant and it wasn’t fizzing in tidal pools of tiny fish gasping to their last breath. I know because I saw it first hand and stood on the beach weeping for every life I saw pass.

simonelipscomb (18)The most difficult thing I have ever experienced was witnessing the spill and its effects on innocent life which included small children playing in oily waters…so polluted that the benzene burned my eyes and throat. Video and photographs in my library document everything I saw but they can never share the true experience of grief beyond anything I’ve known.

A friend and mentor reminded me, during the first year of the spill, that there was a reason I was being called to witness the horror even though I might not understand why. Over four years have passed and I am more convinced that the only way to heal our broken planet is to heal our relationship with It and to heal our relationship with each other. That means healing our own lives.

SimoneLipscomb (8)The only solution I have found is to practice love…love as compassion…love as respect…love in the purest form of opening to surrender, to service.

When wild animals make contact with me I always feel so joyful!

Love for the planet requires opening the self. When we risk the deep opening of human heart to planetary heart we know the elation of unspeakable joy, of the heart’s expanding in answer to beauty. We also know the experience of grief and heartbreak when places, wildlife and humans we love are destroyed or profoundly injured.

One of my favorite places to celebrate life is under the Salt Pier on the island of Bonaire

Celebrating the beauty of the Magnolia River and other places of natural beauty relieves the grief that comes from being aware of the trials our planet is experiencing. There is resilience in nature and my hope is we will practice better stewardship before a non-reversible tipping point is reached.

SimoneLipscomb (25)As I remain engaged with nature’s rhythms through simple, daily observation and intention, I am drawn more deeply into partnership with the Earth. If we collectively open our hearts to loving this sacred planet, we can create a bond with each other that will transform darkness and create positive, lasting change.



The box of books came yesterday, filled with Wendell Berry works. It was like opening a little treasure chest.

As I carefully took them out I noticed there were three copies of a book of poetry he wrote called Leavings. Oops…did I order three? Obviously I was supposed to pay attention to this book.  So…today I simply share Wendell Berry’s words and my images. May they bring you peace…joy…beauty. And some things to ponder.

SimoneLipscombLIKE SNOW

Suppose we did our work

like the snow, quietly, quietly,

leaving nothing out.

SimoneLipscomb (1)LOOK IT OVER

I leave behind even

my walking stick. My knife

is in my pocket, but that

I have forgot. I bring

no car, no cell phone,

no computer, no camera,

no CD player, no fax, no

TV, not even a book. I go

into the woods. I sit on

a log provided at no cost.

It is the earth I’ve come to,

the earth itself, sadly

abused by the stupidity

only humans are capable of

but, as ever, itself. Free.

A bargain! Get it while it lasts.

SimoneLipscomb (2)GIVE IT TIME

The river is of the earth

and it is free. It is rigorously

embanked and bound,

and yet is free. “To hell

with restraint,” it says.

“I have got to be going.”

It will grind out its dams.

It will go over or around them.

They will become pieces.

SimoneLipscomb (4)XII.

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.Hosea 4:6

We forget the land we stand on

and live from. We set ourselves

free in an economy founded

on nothing, on greed verified

by fantasy, on which we entirely

depend. We depend on fire

that consumes the world without

lighting it. To this dark blaze

driving the inert metal

of our most high desire

we offer our land as fuel,

thus offering ourselves at last

to be burned. This is our riddle

to which the answer is a life

that none of us has lived.

Wendell Berry from the book entitled, Leavings. Published by Counterpoint 2010.

What is the Earth Worth to You?

What is the Earth Worth to You?

graffitiA few days ago I visited a high school classroom where I presented a program on recycling. The teacher sponsors recycling for the high school but when I asked the students how many recycled in their home nobody raised a hand. I was shocked. Usually there are at least a few recyclers.

After completing the presentation I followed up with this question: What would it take for you to care enough to take action? Blank faces stared back at me. I asked again and one student said somebody would have to pay him.

It felt like the air was kicked out of me. These past few months of wondering what was the root of the problem of our planet and it comes down to my worst suspicions: Greed. Is it true that people are unwilling to take action, even something as basic and simple as recycling, unless there is something in it for them?

simonelipscomb (8)What they can’t see the payoff for being a good steward is having a healthy life, a healthier planet. A future.

In a blog post from Bill Moyers dated yesterday he wrote that top climate scientists recently reported that the time for us to act to correct the downward spiral of environmental health of the planet is very small. The study stated that unless we make major changes within a decade it’s basically an accelerating scenario of a planet unable to support life as we know it. The Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) warns, in this report, of an alarming escalation of climate impacts (droughts, floods, storms) but also shows that preventing climate chaos is still a possibility.

If my suspicions about human nature are true, as the high school class modeled, the majority of citizens think only in terms of monetary gain, not planetary stewardship. Somehow people must began to see that their direct actions of caring for the planet is the only way we have a viable future. Why are humans unable to remove the blinders that keep them from seeing the truth about what’s happening on the planet? What will it take to create the shift in consciousness necessary to make a positive difference? Do they care?

Recycling is so easy. I can’t imagine why people will not make the effort. Every time I see an aluminum can being tossed in the garbage I think…. 95% of the energy it takes to make an aluminum can can be saved by recycling that one. Or paper….28% of landfill waste is paper and cardboard…recyclable.  According to a report I read last week, almost 33% of food in the USA is thrown in the garbage. One-third! Can you imagine?? That’s enough food to insure almost everyone in the country had a meal but instead it goes to the dump. Plastics account for 13% of landfill waste….all recyclable and yet filling our landfills with trash that will be around for hundreds of years….or worse…our oceans.

tarballsshellImagine explorers visiting our planet after humans have driven our species to extinction…finding plastic bottles littering beaches, roadways. Can you imagine the conclusions these explorers might come to by what they see left behind? When they see how we treated the very ‘thing’ that sustains life for us.

How do we get people to care?

How do we get people to invest in their future by caring for the planet?

What will it take to create a shift in consciousness?

5forearth2 2 copyI can only do what feels right for me and pray that enough of us will care, will love our planet and our children…and future children…to be responsible, caring stewards. I wonder if we could start by taking 5 minutes a day to sit in stillness, in quiet, and ask what we can do to make a positive difference. I wonder….can we give the earth just 5 minutes of our day to listen?