Category: wildlife

For All Things Wild

For All Things Wild

SimoneLipscomb (6)The intention was to purchase two trees–one for inside and one for the front, screened porch. The Fraser Firs smelled especially potent in the 77 degree temperature. I wandered through the sales lot in flip flops, short sleeves and aviator sunglasses…Christmas on the Gulf Coast.

Once home I unloaded the trees from my car rack, dunked them in buckets of water and went inside to choose locations. The inside tree was easy but the porch tree….to condense a long story, it came inside, too. Crazy? Hello…have you met me?

SimoneLipscomb (3)As I wound strands of lights around each tree I realized the smaller tree would have special significance: it would become a tree to honor animals, coral reefs, oceans…all things wild.

As I sorted ornaments for each tree, two of my cats became impatient. They began smelling ornaments destined for their tree…penguins, cats, birds, fish, dolphins, eels, dogs, squirrels…and more. Each ornament was placed with love and hope for a healthier, safer planet for all life.

SimoneLipscomb (5)After their tree was complete, I received a paws-up from each of the three precious four-legged friends with whom I share this home. And on a more universal level, I felt immense closeness with all life on the planet. It felt as if I created a ritual that will gain in power throughout the next month.

SimoneLipscombThe season of light took on a much deeper meaning for me with the creation of the Wild Planet Tree. From its place in my home, every light emits a beacon of hope for us all and especially for all things wild.


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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Manatee & Dolphins of Alabama

Manatee & Dolphins of Alabama

I have been working with Dauphin Island Sea Lab staff to create an educational video for schools, communities and all coastal residents. Please take a few minutes to view and then share with others as you see fit. The intention of the video is to promote awareness of our marine mammal species. Special thanks to Michael Brant DeMaria for allowing us to include two of his beautiful musical compositions.


I Choose Love

I Choose Love

simonelipscombThe past week’s meditations have been about connecting with animals…wildlife and domesticated. It has been challenging. Once we determine to be aware of what is happening in our world, we can never go back and forget. I discovered this while documenting the oil spill in 2010.

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Necropsy of young dolphin whose tail had been entangled in fishing line.

Ignoring news was my way to deal with the multitude of sins humanity commits against the planet. But when the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill occurred, I felt called to action. Ignoring was no longer an option. But it came with a cost. My life was changed and not in a good way. Once the blinders are off, there’s no going back into forgetfulness. No returning to blissful ignorance.

Fishing line discarded with embedded in sea gull's mouth/throat
Fishing line discarded with hook…now embedded in sea gull’s mouth/throat

So this week of meditating on animals has only served to remind me (as IF I needed reminding) of how humans perpetuate such darkness by our actions. Lack of compassion when killing for food, using fishing practices that harm sea turtles and marine mammals, not recognizing the spark of Spirit within all life….how can we do this and think it’s okay?

Northern Gannet being cleaned of oil in 2010. BP Deepwater Horizon spill.
Northern Gannet being cleaned of oil in 2010. BP Deepwater Horizon spill.

There are excuses for all behaviors we practice. Haven’t we heard them all? Sacrifice the land to drill for oil with fracking procedures. Pollute the rivers because it’s cheaper. Deafen dolphins, whales and other sea creatures just to test sonar. Is anyone else just fed up? The grief I carry within is so vast, so deep I truly feel paralyzed at times by it. I look in the mirror and am ashamed that I am human…part of a species bent on destruction and selfish greed…profit at any cost.

simonelipscomb (7)Joanna Macy teaches us to stay with our grief for it will fuel us to make positive changes. Right now…and for the past several months….grief has simply clobbered me. And I’m not writing to generate sympathy for myself…not at all. But it is time to simply be totally truthful  about what it feels like to be a human engaged in the planetary process…at least from my heart and mind.

simonelipscomb (4)I’m tired of pretending it will all be okay or things will magically get better. I am weary of humans ignoring responsibilities we have to clean up our messes and to stop doing destructive practices to our planet, each other…wildlife…domestic life.

simonelipscomb (3)I am crying out for an end to our closed hearts and an opening to love…to spiritual love that binds us to each other and all life. Living like we have been living is fast becoming an obsolete option. We have seen what living with closed hearts does to each other and the planet…ALL life on the planet. I refuse to live like that any longer. At the risk of standing alone I choose love. I choose an open heart!

800_1019I choose love. No matter the consequences. I choose love.

Bear Jams…I Must Be in Cades Cove

Bear Jams…I Must Be in Cades Cove

800_0371In the foggy darkness I headed toward Cades Cove. A mere seven miles from my base of operation during my brief stay in the Smoky Mountains. In the pre-dawn chill the 58 degrees was intense for this tropical gal. But who can resist the lure of sunrise in this beautiful place?

I sat waiting at the gate with others, lined up in our vehicles awaiting the chance to visit this wildlife haven. This place of magnificent beauty. The pink clouds peeking out from the fading night sky completely disappeared when the ranger opened the gate. Cades Cove was officially fogged in. It was as if a curtain of white dropped on the day.

800_0435So when fog gives you lemons you made photographs…you know the saying. My lemonade was spider webs dripping with diamond-like water droplets, deer fading in and out of foggy meadows and then a glorious lifting of fog mid-morning when a lovely bear sauntered out of the woods.

800_0765A bear volunteer was busy yelling at people to stay back…stay back. One of three times I’ve seen a black bear show aggression toward humans was when a man was yelling at people to ‘stay back.’ The bear didn’t appreciate the loud and aggressive male shouting so she chased him to his vehicle. Go ahead and yell Ms. Volunteer. I’ll stay away from you!

And later, at sunset, a serious bear jam happened. No rangers or volunteers nearby to keep traffic moving or stupid people from getting too close to this juvenile. You can stand back and watch a bear’s boundary, where her personal space has been invaded. And yes, smart ass guy who thought walking within a few feet of a juvenile black bear was great fun….I saw you run like a scared kid.

800_1019It was a glorious day…sunrise to sunset. Some stupid people pushing the boundaries of the local black bear population and some very tolerant white-tailed deer made this just another day in Cades Cove. Bear jams, fog, wildflowers and mountain splendor. And today…I got to share the afternoon with a photog friend of mine from Asheville. Thanks Jen!

800_1173And thanks black bear, does, bucks and wildflowers…and of course the mountains, that surround me with such nurturing energy. Tomorrow awaits!