Category: Nature’s teachings

The Sacred in the Small

The Sacred in the Small

simonelipscomb (2)Yesterday the river was clear enough from recent rains to get out and enjoy a nice SUP board paddle. Recent heavy rains had shifted a downed tree almost completely out of the way and created a nicer, whiter beach at my usual put-in spot in our neighborhood. After a leisurely warm-up paddle I was ready to turn on the turbo when I spotted a mother wood duck and her brood of over ten babies.

Who could pass up such a delightful surprise? I stood on my board watching as the little ones scooted behind their mom…peep-peep-peeping. Oh…it was great to be back on the river!

photo copyIt was a quiet morning with only  a few boats so stillness prevailed. I saw the pine tree at Devil’s Hole had three great blue heron nests in it this year instead of one. Two of the nests had the tall gray-blue birds standing in them. I sigh now remembering the joy that sight produced within me.

And so I continued downriver a bit and decided to turn and head upriver. I had to stop and greet the osprey pair and watch as one of the parents chased a large crow away from the tall nest. Across from the osprey family a large group of turkey buzzards were perched on the tin roof of a boathouse. I could hear their long nails scraping against the metal and even though I’m not afraid of them, it sort of creeped me out. They eat carrion…dead things…and so I felt a little squeamish as I kept an eye on them and told them, “Not yet boys. Not yet.”

When I got to the big bend in the river just past the Devil’s Hole, I spied a tiny baby turtle attempting to climb up on a small, round piece of floating driftwood. He kept spinning it. So I gently reached and caught him and placed him on my board. I gave him a ride to the nearest pile of floating vegetation near the river bank.

As I passed under the bridge and then through the Cold Hole I neared the narrow stretch of river that would lead me home. I heard a peep, peep, peep. Hmmm…where was that coming from, I wondered. And then, as my eyes scanned the direction of the sweet sound, I saw a single wood duck baby. Mama and siblings were apparently gone. I sat on my board and listened carefully and watched for any sign of movement along the opposite bank but saw nothing.

So I sat with this amazing, fuzzy, precious duckling and waited. I talked with her, suggested she stay clear of bass and keep on peeping for her mom. My heart ached as I could sense the anxiety of this small, sacred life…desperately wanting the comfort of her mother and brothers and sisters. I gave her space and left at one point to paddle back toward the bridge looking and then upriver a bit but never saw a glimpse of mama wood duck.

With a deep sadness that echoed throughout my being and out into the world,  I paddled onward. Thirty minutes I waited, watched and searched but knew that the best chance this young one had was to survive long enough for mom to return and gather her into the fold once more.

Innocent beings, the smallest of the small, touch me and create such compassion and honestly, such heartbreak. I was telling a friend and fellow bird-lover about the baby duck and how heart-broken I was that I couldn’t do anything but witness the baby’s dilemma. He reminded me of the cost we pay when we are empathic. It hurts to care…and yet it is a reminder that I have such capacity for love and compassion. We all do.

800_0234Driving back from Gulf Shores today I saw a tiny inch worm crawling on my leg. I carefully placed my finger in front of him and offered safety until we arrived home. This tiny, amazing worm also reminded me that all life is sacred. All is worth protecting. And yes…all life is related…connected. The smallest creatures remind us of this truth.



SimoneLipscomb (6)As I worked in the yard clearing, cleaning, trimming dead plants after the polar vortex put a deep freeze on the deep south, I noticed that one of my large container trees had standing water around it. I had not noticed it before because of the mat of asparagus fern growing around it.

The container stands at waist height so I had to find a metal rod to try and open the drain hole. When I inserted the rod there was mostly water and roots. No wonder the tree had been failing to thrive. A very muddy job quickly became obvious.

First, I removed the ferns. Their massive roots system had been all that was holding the tree upright. Once I removed them it was relatively easy to remove the tree. Only one snag held it in the pot and with a bit of tugging, it came free.

SimoneLipscomb (7)Once the tree was removed and ready for in-ground planting, I returned back to the mess in the container. Still no drainage of the mucky water so I began scooping it out. I finally reached a five inch layer of muddy sand. That was the extent of soil left in the pot.

After removing the dirt I found the cause of the clog–a root. But even after great efforts of digging with a screwdriver, the root remained in the drain hole.

The container weighs over 200 pounds…much more than I can lift with my arms and back…but I do have strong legs so I sat on the steps and padded my lower back with my hands and pushed the container to lift it. Viola! Something released…and thankfully not in my back or legs.

Then with careful implementation of proper lifting or sliding technique I was able to move the container…inch by inch of turning and twisting it to a new location. That was a heavy beast! What I found after moving it was quite amazing.

The root that had clogged the drain came out the bottom of the pot, went through the brick pavers and into the soil far below my courtyard. I marveled at the determination my tree friend used to survive, grow, find nourishment and move beyond the limitations set by a container.

SimoneLipscombAs I planted the tree in the beautiful soil I felt a sense of relief, of gratitude that it was finally being given an opportunity to grow into its full potential. Free of boundaries, free to grow into everything that is tree. I sat back on my heels, covered in mud, and wished it well.

How often do we live with self-imposed limitations or boundaries set long ago by others and we accept as okay, as part of the plan? What if we removed ourselves from the mentally-created containers and dared to grow free? How would our lives be different? What could we create? How could we change the world for the better?

SimoneLipscomb (8)How can we reach for that which nourishes and supports us? How can we release ourselves from limitations created by our minds? Everything is possible. Every thing.


Wildlife….Two Sides of a Story

Wildlife….Two Sides of a Story

Photo taken by Laguna Key Team member today
Photo taken by Laguna Key Team member today of raided and consumed soon-to-be hatchlings

Today I received a text from my friend and sea turtle team leader than one of our nests had been raided and consumed by a fox. 105 eggs of nearly hatched loggerhead sea turtles became the meal of one of our beach foxes.

simonelipscomb (1)Sadness enveloped me. Not just for this precious, threatened species of ocean-living reptiles but for the skinny, malnourished red foxes who eek out a living in the dunes of the beaches. We have had problems with foxes this year. They have approached us very closely as we sit near the nests at night.

One night I was sitting at the edge of the Gulf of Mexico, avoiding the interaction and chatting among visitors at the nest. I wanted to connect with the tranquility of the evening. I felt something close-by and turned around to see a fox curled up maybe ten feet from me. I suspect humans have been feeding them and she was awaiting a morsel, a tid-bit of something to help stop her hunger.

So now, tourist season is over and easy handouts are no longer coming from well-meaning guests of our beaches. Even the garbage that might have fed them has all but disappeared. So what is left are hungry foxes.

These foxes are so skinny they look like slim cylinders of red fur with four stick legs. The extra food sources during our busy season causes them to have more babies; however, when the food source is gone, starving foxes will go to great lengths to obtain nourishment.

simonelipscomb (2)Our sea turtle nests have predator grates staked on them but let’s face it, if you or I were hungry we would work hard for food and persist in obtaining it.

By Jocelyn Forcht Langfit, team member
By Jocelyn Forcht Langfit, team member

I can’t be angry at the foxes or vilify them. They are wild animals trying their best to survive. I know there are lessons for us in this tale but it doesn’t take away the feeling of loss, of sadness.


Part of our team after processing a newly-laid nest earlier this summer.
Part of our team after processing a newly-laid nest earlier this summer.


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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.


Pigs are Not Domesticated and May Bite

Pigs are Not Domesticated and May Bite

800_0101There is a certain place on the highway toward the mountains where the forest opens up and there are the beloved mountains! It always makes me smile in my heart. Today was no different.

I haven’t visited the Smoky Mountains in a while due to the move last year and the process of getting settled. But a few weeks ago they were calling me and so I decided to visit after summer crowds were gone and before the masses of tourists in October–the busiest month of the year there.

800_0327It’s really a visit home for me. As a kid I loved these mountains with a deep, heart-felt joy. That hasn’t changed. I always feel ‘right’ here…in balance, at peace. Anchored in my skin. I feel that way on the Alabama Coast as well….but they are distinctly different ecosystems. And the mountains are not nearly as developed as the coast…which is almost totally developed, almost totally choked with houses, condos, restaurants….and on and on.

Like all wild areas, the Smoky Mountains speak to a part of me that is still wild and undomesticated. The wild woman within who likes to feel the squishy mud between her toes, warm sand underfoot, gaze out over a vast horizon at the edge of the sea and stand on mountaintops and feel the immenseness of space.

800_9979Today, while visiting the mountain farm near Cherokee, NC in the Smoky Mountain National Park, I saw a sign attached to the pig pen: “Pigs are not domesticated and may bite.” I thought of my wild woman self and realized she has that same potential. Don’t try to pen me up as I will bite…no ‘may’ about it.

I began to ponder the idea of domestication and immediately thought of computers and email and social media. While all can be useful tools, they can also be thieves that steal our wildness and keep us chained to a plastic box that squawks at us when someone is trying to contact us.

800_0234Sometimes we need to unplug and attune ourselves once again to the rhythms of nature…that magical, mystical web of life from which our physical bodies arise. It is home to us…it helps us reconnect with that from which we came.

800_9940I didn’t know what the day would bring as I motored closer to the most amazing biosphere of the Smokies. As I crested a ridge near Franklin, NC the fog–that living, breathing beast of  white mist–rolled over the mountain to kiss my cheeks with moisture. Welcome home, daughter. Come play in the wildness. Come feel your Mother nurture you. Rest…explore…absorb the limitless beauty.

For the next few days, I am not domesticated and I will bite….but only if someone tries to put me in a pen.

800_0284It’s time to fly!