Category: gratitude

Muddy Toes…Happy Heart

Muddy Toes…Happy Heart

simonelipscomb (3) copyAs soon as I stepped onto my SUP board, a large shadow passed overhead. Wings gliding through air were so close the rush of air through feathers sounded like soft music. I watched the pelican navigate upriver as I turned my board around to head down…down river.

Those first few paddle strokes felt amazing. Weeks had passed since my last visit with the river and so I found myself unable to resist her call after my Pure Barre workout. A hearty breakfast and I was out the door after grabbing my cap and waist-wrap PFD. It only took a few minutes to strap the wheels on my board and begin the short walk to the water.

photoBliss began to fill me as my mind expanded through the sky reflected in the still water. And then, having paddled less than 100 yards, a large tree blocked my progress. At some point during the past five weeks a maple tree fell from the eroding bank and blocked the narrow passage of the Magnolia River headwaters.

Not to be deterred, I turned around, exited the water, re-strapped the board to the wheels and walked further down river to another put-in point. It wasn’t the white, sandy beach I am used to but it worked.

SimoneLipscombThe black mud oozed between my toes as I gingerly walked my board over submerged tree limbs. It wasn’t ideal but finally…ahhhh….I was free.

The wind picked up so once I was into the Cold Hole it gave me an immediate challenge. It didn’t really matter. I felt like I was getting reacquainted with an old friend.

The new floating dock in the Cold Hole had been whitewashed by grateful pelicans who discovered it as the perfect perch from which to sit and hunt. All the way past the bridge and onward the splashes of pelicans dropping from heavenly realms created wondrous music that blended with the steady dip and splash of the paddle blade as it sliced the surface.

Osprey...image taken in Florida last winter

An osprey cried overhead as I disturbed her morning’s reverie in the high pine tree just before Devil’s Hole. Cormorants swam and pattered on the surface of the water as they gained momentum to fly.

heron7Another large bird flew beside me with a large branch in his beak. The great blue heron flew up and over my head to the pine tree where he and his gal had raised a baby last year. Patiently waiting on the new nest was his mate.

Because the wind was quite brisk I hadn’t planned to go very far but the river was like a magnet for my soul and I was unable to resist her attraction. So on I went.

Past the snowy egret….past the snag where I saw the bald eagles last autumn. Past the double tree snag that was now filled with buzzards…past the last house and into the place where the river is wilder, more feral. My turning point would be the bend in the river where the sandhill cranes mesmerized me with their haunting calls during the migration last year. I wanted to peek around the bend and see marsh grasses further on…those sacred rushes where amazing nursery habitat for so many fish and sea creatures hugged the banks of the widening river.

SimoneLipscomb (2)Clouds grew darker and began to organize into layers of gray-blue puffy formations. It was the nudge I needed to turn homeward. With the wind pushing me now, I paddled steadily back to the muddy beach but my mind was lost in geometries of elongated ovals of dark blue ringed with purple, reflections on the surface, distorted by wind.

SimoneLipscomb (6)Too soon my board nosed into the submerged limb and the black ooze welcomed my toes as I stepped over otter footprints and climbed the sandy bank with my board. Some of my human friends are hunkered down for another North Carolina snow storm. Another is recovering in a hospital after being hit by a drunk driver and air-lifted to a trauma center. Other friends are recovering from serious surgery and on the list grows. So today…on this beautiful day…I feel blessed that somehow grace has touched my life and given the gift of the river.

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Angels Among Us

Angels Among Us

simoneOver 28 years ago I was sitting in Centennial Park in Nashville, Tennessee. Going through a major upheaval in my life caused me to seek guidance from a therapist and I was using the before-session time to sit quietly and collect my thoughts. During that time in my life I was awakening to my spiritual path and trying to figure out who I was…normal twenty-something angst.

A quiet corner of the park drew me and I sat in a glider. As I watched the trees and squirrels and people, I noticed what appeared to be a homeless man walking with strong intention from the far corner of the park. I was a bit uneasy as I was alone and he seemed to be heading straight for me.

Sure enough his long, purposeful strides brought him directly in front of me where he stopped and held out his hand, as if to shake mine. Without knowing what else to do I simply held out my hand and shook his. He simply said, “My name is John.”

SimoneLipscomb (1)When our hands touched and he spoke, it was as if my heart and mind expanded. I felt as if everything changed in that moment. It felt like an electrical jolt awakened me.

I believe John was an angel in human form. He disappeared after shaking my hand with the same purposeful walk. But my life was never the same.

Yesterday as I was leaving the Starbucks in Lake City, Florida I noticed a man with a heavy beard, cammo jacket, rough skin and very sad eyes drinking a cup of coffee. I paused, made eye contact, smiled and nodded. When I stepped outside I noticed his beautiful dog sitting next to his pack and bedroll. Alert and watchful, he observed me cautiously as I said hello.

SimoneLipscomb (2)I got to my car and felt my heart open and tears began to pour down my face. First, I felt tremendous gratitude for my many blessings…friends, family, home, car, food, and lots of fun toys for scuba, SUP boarding, cycling, photography. All of this abundance for which gratitude and humility bubbled up within me. Then the tears intensified as I wept for people that are alone or lonely or in pain. And I thought about how humans are so disconnected and how each day we have opportunities to make a difference in other’s lives.

It was New Year’s Day and so I was already pondering changes I would like to make in my life during the upcoming year. The weekend had given me much to ponder as I trained in a new form of scuba and cave diving. Challenges always bring up my ‘stuff.’

SimoneLipscomb (3)My instructor and I connected through email after I shared a blog entry I wrote about my experience and through her reply I had a major self-realization: I have consistently felt the need to be strong, to not show weakness. For decades I’ve put an intense effort into being strong. I did this from the time I was a small child riding a tricycle. Always independent and capable, refusing to ask for help. After over 50 years of this, I’m tired.

Nobody asked me to be strong or fiercely independent and it has served me well in much of my life. But a hard edge developed and I felt protected and guarded…not always, but much of the time.

Tears flowed as I read my instructors beautiful comments. I realized how much I’ve had to demonstrate strength and power to be accepted in relationships…or at least that was my perception. I never knew those scars were present until her kind words found their way to me.

SimoneLipscomb (5)When I greeted the man in Starbucks, when our eyes met, I was reminded that an open heart and mind is what I want to offer the world this year. As I drove, I pondered the entire weekend and resolved to bring all of who I am into the world. Refusing to hold back parts of myself but to joyfully express love and compassion, to allow myself to be vulnerable.

SimoneLipscombI’m not sure how angels work among us but I believe they do. When we drop the walls of fear erected to protect ourselves, we begin to know them, to learn from them. And can then pass along the love given to us.




Blessings, Forgiveness and Endorphins

Blessings, Forgiveness and Endorphins

The workout pushed me to my limit and somehow I pushed through. As we began our final stretches the instructor reminded us to be mindful of our blessings. With my physical body exhausted and open, her words touched a deep place within and as I settled into this expanded physical experience my heart and mind followed. I felt a rush of gratitude that brought tears of relief, of joy. It wasn’t just the endorphins.

simonelipscombOver the past two nights I have awakened with a similar dream. Both involved a significant person in my life, a person that was a light in my life when I needed it most. And sadly, a person no longer in my life. The dreams showed me that he and I are much alike and without going into details, I found myself lighting a candle this morning with forgiveness for us both.

In this morning’s dream we sat together and I shared my sadness over leaving the beautiful wooded acres at our home in central North Carolina and our home in the mountains. I didn’t realize how much grief I carried over leaving the land there. We sat as friends, in my dream, and shared with each other. Such openness. Such beauty. Such calm acceptance.

simonelipscomb (2)Last night, prior to sleeping, I sat on my back porch in the hammock chair for hours just listening to the night sounds. Watching stars twinkle through oak leaves, allowing the drone of insects to put me in a sort of trance, listening to scurrying creatures in the courtyard…opening myself to the Earth and the Sky….feeling myself as part of this amazing Universe.  Breathing in the energies shared by the grandmother oak tree that spreads her massive arms protectively over my home, acknowledging with gratitude the gift of life…I rested and floated in my swing.

simonelipscomb (5)It’s been over a year and a half since I moved back to the Gulf Coast and I love it. But I hadn’t allowed myself to touch the grief of leaving the mountains, a place I had dreamed of living my entire life. In a sorting, clearing and organizing push during the past week, I pulled out a painting I created that depicts the view from my loft office in my mountain home. I had it stored until yesterday when I hung it in my office here. I am strong enough now to feel the grief of leaving the mountain and Etta’s beautiful acreage in central North Carolina and accept the nurturance freely given by the land in both of those places and here, under massive live oaks, near a slow-moving river.

800_1468The Earth Mother nurtures us at every stop we make in our lives. It is my hope that I can remain open to receive and with a joyful heart give back to that which sustains me. Grounded in forgiveness for all my mistakes and the mistakes of others I can state truthfully and freely, I feel blessed. And that’s not the endorphins talking.

A shout-out to Pure Barre Eastern Shore instructors. THANK YOU for everything you do for us! I am so grateful for you all!

Rainbows and Sea Turtle Babies

Rainbows and Sea Turtle Babies

The scheduled shift for monitoring the loggerhead sea turtle nest came at the end of a day of coastal storms. I left my professional photography gear in my office and headed to the beach with my iPhone and rain gear. Turns out I brought the wrong gear and left the right gear at home.

CopyrightSimoneLipscombArriving at six o’clock I found the beach glorious. A nice breeze kept biting insects pushed away from the shore and the temperature was perfect. I listened with the stethoscope to the nest of busy hatchlings and heard fifteen second sand cascades with long pauses in between. Nothing soon but probably tonight, I thought.

So another team member and I walked down to the water’s edge and watched the frenzy of fish activity in the waves and I rescued tiny baitfish as they washed on shore. The gulls developed an intense dislike for me but I can’t help it. My heart will always help the underdog. And besides…I sort of know what it feels like to be a fish out of water…at least metaphorically.

CopyrightSimoneLipscomb (1)As the hour progressed toward sunset the sky suddenly went berserk with color and rainbows. There was one main rainbow, a second and then the clouds began to glow pink. Armed only with my iPhone, I cursed my decision to leave my ‘big’ camera and tripod behind. The beauty of the sky was absolutely breathtaking.

But it was the rainbows that filled my heart with delight and brought such joy that I didn’t try to contain it. I opened my arms to the sky and opened my mind and heart to the beautiful energy of rainbows. Promise. Hope. Light!

CopyrightSimoneLipscomb (3)As the sky faded I had a strong feeling to check the nest. When I approached the top of it was moving. It appeared as if a baby turtle was swimming in the sand, just beneath the surface. At 7pm I texted the two people who had asked to be notified…our team leader and another couple who live nearby the nest. There was no need to listen with the stethoscope as there was enough light to see the top of the nest moving.

At 8.10pm 84 to 86 (our two counter’s totals) ‘boiled’ out of the nest and went EVERYWHERE! There was no moon due to clouds and too much light on the beach and it was a wild scramble of babies making a mad dash to light. This is the reason Share the Beach was started, those many years ago. Baby sea turtles crawl toward light and with so much coastal development many were crawling into the street, under homes and becoming lost or dead.

Thanks Sherry Sander Parks for taking this photo of me playing under the rainbow!
Thanks Sherry Sander Parks for taking this photo of me playing under the rainbow!

It was an intense hatching that kept us constantly assisting them find their way to the sea. But finally, the last one crawled into the warm, salty water and we could relax a bit.

Amid more rain this morning and thunder and depressed cats sulking because they hate thunder, I feel joy and gratitude for such an opportunity to receive so many gifts from spending time under rainbows and crawling on the sand with loggerhead hatchlings.

Visit our team’s Facebook page at Laguna Key-Share the Beach. 

Morning Courtyard Dance

Morning Courtyard Dance

simone (4)Warm air, heavy with the scent of jasmine, wrapped around me as I entered the courtyard. It had only been four days but during that short time so much had changed.

The wall of jasmine was the most obvious change as its delicious smell mixed with gardenia created a mood-altering experience through scent. And as much as I wanted to explore, communion with the river came first.

RIVER2 (3)Layers of humid air hung heavy over the water as my board sliced through the mirror-slick surface. My body longed for movement after traveling and sitting so much over the long weekend. I amped up the pace and had a great workout, during which I discovered the osprey babies I have been monitoring had hatched. Mama Osprey was feeding them as I paddled under their nest atop the high pole. This morning my river prayers were of thanksgiving for these new lives.

Upon returning home, I walked out to my garden and saw baby jalapeño peppers, baby tomatoes, and baby satsumas hanging green and full of potential. Growth was the theme of return to my beloved home.

After communing with my plant friends I turned on my favorite classical music in the speakers outside and glided around the courtyard greeting the beauty exploding everywhere. Such life!

simonelipscomb (2)The grandmother oak tree in the center stood watching and when I finished, she called to me. I laid my hands on her rough bark and felt her strength as I offered up a prayer of gratitude for the opportunity to celebrate the day with a morning courtyard dance.