Tag: Adventure

Long Meg and Her Daughters

Long Meg and Her Daughters

_tsl9419We had directions from Keswick to the stone circle and a road atlas but I found myself pulling into a small auto repair shop in the middle of beautiful English countryside to ask directions. The SAT NAV system was no help at all and wasn’t like SIRI who will at least apologize for not being able to find something.

I asked the delivery guy leaving if he knew of the circle and he said he wasn’t local, to ask inside. The roll-up door was open and a gentleman was spray painting a car bright green. He didn’t hear me over the compressor motor. Finally I got his attention.

“Excuse me, do you know directions to Long Meg?” I asked.

“Oh, sure. You’re really close. You just passed the turn. Go back, take a right. Go across the next crossroad, then make a right and stay on the dirt road. Take a right at the fence and just keep going. You can’t miss her.”

Having been used to the SAT NAV who reminded me at every turn, I asked to hear the directions again and then repeated them to him and then thanked him and flashed my most genuine smile and did a little bow with hands over heart.

It didn’t sound that complicated but there were no signs pointing the way, nothing to suggest there was a historic stone circle anywhere around…except the red lettering on the atlas page near Penrith. I drove down the small, one-lane road onto the smaller, one-lane dirt road and glanced at sheep and cattle near the fences. Hmmm…..

A very large tractor was coming and I had to pull over and stop and the driver of the tractor did the same but was able to pull onto the shoulder and create a larger space. I waved and then stopped beside him and hopped out.

“Is Long Meg nearby?” I asked.

_tsl9403“Oh, yes love. The stone circle is just up the road. But she’s not in today. She’s gone shopping,” he said with a twinkle in his eyes.

I laughed and thanked him and continued driving on the farm road. That’s the best way I can describe it. In a few minutes we pulled under a very large tree and parked. The road went right through the circle.

_tsl9413Long Meg and Her Daughters has one of the largest diameters of any stone circle in the U.K. At 300 feet long, it’s quite impossible to photograph the entire circle at once.

Walking around the circle was challenging. Not so much from the size of it but from the number of piles of slippery sheep and cattle poo. Evidently, they loved the circle of ancient stones.

_tsl9401I felt immediate joy and laughter at this circle. It had a very different energy than Castlerigg. I walked up the slight hill to Long Meg and stood beside her. She seemed to emit the sound of women singing. When I stood in the vast space at circle’s center, I still ‘heard’ women singing and felt laughter and joy vibrating around me.

_tsl9523After about half an hour, a small school bus pulled up and several children emerged with two adults. They had on colorful stocking hats which caused the world to waver a bit. Just two days before, after visiting Castlerigg and having a very powerful experience there, I had drifted off to sleep with a vision of children running and playing in brightly colored hats among standing stones. Here was the exact scene manifested in physical reality.

_tsl9521I paid very close attention to their energy since they embodied a vision. They walked around the circle in pairs counting the stones. Then their teacher gathered them around Long Meg as I knelt among the cow paddies and began talking about the circle, teaching them the known history. How amazing to be a child and grow up among ancient stone circles over 5000 years old. That must add to their human experience a great deal.

_tsl9502After listening, I wandered away to take more photographs. The sun finally decided to show up after four days of gray skies. I had been struggling with gray light for days. To have warm, sunny light to work with made me incredibly happy.

_tsl9461It was very cold and windy and even the sun’s appearance didn’t keep me from wanting to retreat to a warm coffee shop. We decided to try Ed’s route, a scenic drive near Grasmere after leaving Long Meg. But that’s another story for another day.



Where’s My Ice Axe?

Where’s My Ice Axe?

FullSizeRenderIt was an interesting travel day. Just the diving + underwater photography and the gear penalty that comes from that equation is grueling but today gave other experiences besides whining about the gear.

First, my mom dropped me at the airport and as I asked her to push the button to lift her back tail gate, I remembered my camera gear bag was leaning against the door. I ran in what seemed like slow motion to the back of her SUV as I watched the bag do a perfect roll out of the vehicle onto the pavement. The good news is, the new EVOC bag I just hocked my three cats and dog for (no…not really…calm down) protected all the cameras and lenses and laptop. The investment of the bag paid off already.

Then the woman sitting behind me on the plane was in her late 70’s or early 80’s, was from my tiny home town…lives next to friends of mine…and she was on her first plane ride ever…first leg of a trip to Ireland. That’s a crazy-cool brave thing to do for your first experience in a plane. The flight attendants gave her wings, checked on her often and she did just great. I thought a lot about her courage.

The first flight was 20 minutes early arriving into Atlanta but probably because they were trying to beat the horrible weather that moved into the area. There was a two hour delay due to Mr. Thunderstorm, the name given to the weather by the gate attendant. It wasn’t such a big deal to have time to grab a sandwich and eat a late lunch.

Once we boarded the completely packed…but very nice, sort of new jet with blue mood lighting…the captain came on the intercom and warned us it was going to be a horrible flight. Well, maybe he said very, very bumpy. He said the extra bouncing would mean the attendants couldn’t serve anything but water. Luckily for us it really wasn’t bad and most likely they simply didn’t have time to restock drinks and snacks because the plane was two hours late arriving due to the weather..those quick turn-arounds don’t give much time for those luxury items airlines have these days…you know the pretzels and sodas. Nevertheless, it was fine and we made an impressive landing from over the Atlantic Ocean into Fort Lauderdale.

IMG_4721Then baggage claim…to add to my collection of huge bags. People sort of stare sometimes at the massive pile of luggage for just me; however, I’m used to it. A big gear bag for dive gear, another for clothes and strobe arms, a hardshell case for the underwater housing, and the lovely, new camera backpack…which needs an introduction.

It seems as if I’ve spent years looking for the right backpack that was carry-on size and would hold my gear.  I just recently I ordered and returned two such creatures from a photo supply store in New York. One was massive and wouldn’t even fit through the doorway of a jet and the other was smaller than the one I already had. So I searched and researched and watched youtube videos and read reviews and finally found the one.

The EVOC CP 35L is made in one of the alpine countries (sorry, can’t remember which one) and is a camera bag for adventurers. It is designed to protect photography gear and be handy and well-made to accommodate the outdoor photographer and still fit inside a plane as a carry-on. I’m not one to write about such trivial things as gear packs but given the grief I’ve had trying to find the right bag, its not trivial to my work. And I could help others who might be pulling their hair out over this matter. It reminds me of Hermoine Granger’s bag in the Harry Potter movie.

The only issue I have is with the weight of my gear…topping out at 37 pounds it’s really heavy to carry, much less lift into an overhead storage compartment on a plane. But here’s what it’s carrying on its maiden voyage: Two Nikon camera bodies, a 70-200mm lens, a 2 x converter, a fish eye lens, a 24-70mm wide angle zoom lens, a laptop and charger, extra camera batteries, battery chargers, two (huge) underwater strobes and their batteries, my travel wallet-purse, lipstick and lip balm, a little other makeup, meds, two pair of sunglasses in hard cases and a pair of regular glasses in a hard case…and other stuff I cannot remember.

FullSizeRender 2Learning the new bag I’ve found extra-handy gadgetry. For instance, there’s a fold out, water-proof avalanche emergency plan and a loop for my ice axe. I’m sure the avalanche plan will come in very handy seeing how much I love romping through the snow (not). But dang it all–the airline refused passage of my ice axe and I really thought I could use it in Bimini. Oh, well. Next time perhaps.

bitmoji-20160617204607It’s never to late to have an adventure, to go somewhere you’ve never gone before, to travel and enjoy the beauty of this planet. And if there’s anyone out there willing to voluntarily help carry gear, have I got a trip for you!


Who Squealed Louder?

Who Squealed Louder?

photo 3A balmy 97% humidity made it feel as if I was paddling my SUP board through water instead of on water. So close to the consistency of liquid was the atmosphere that I was soon drenched as I got into my fitness groove.

No air stirred, and the reflective river’s surface was only broken by mullet, alligator gar and bumblebees. Two of these flying wonders were upside down creating small ripples. I love bees and always stop and lend a paddle blade to rescue them so the two fat-bodied, pollen-toting creatures flew off to gather more pollen after a little help. I then continued downriver.

photo 2It was a hot paddle even though I started at 7am. But the playlist for the morning kept me going and before long I had paddled past the ski course, my 2.5 mile mark, and turned around. I faced the sun on my return paddle and it felt like I was being steamed alive. As fast as I drank water, I sweated it out of my body. My focus narrowed to simply getting back upriver and into the shade of the narrow part of the waterway.

Alligator gars were popping the surface as they came up for air. They can breathe underwater or at the surface and in the summer I see them from my paddle board as they pop up to breathe. I’ve had close encounters with them before and one time a large one (four feet long) surfaced at my left foot and I screamed like a kid. Since my board moves through the water silently I find myself too close often.

On-line photo
On-line photo

Today I had a particularly interesting encounter with this living fossil fish species. I was digging in, paddling hard. Jackson Browne was playing on my iPod and I was singing along…of course. “Fountain of sorrow….” and BUMP! My board was knocked. I squealed at the same time the gar squealed. I swear…I wasn’t suffering from heat stroke. The fish squealed! Either that or her armored, jagged, diamond shaped ganoid scales, that are nearly impenetrable, scraped the bottom of board and made the high-pitched sound. Or perhaps it was that double-row of sharp teeth. Regardless, I heard two squeals and can only claim one as my own.

It gave me a good laugh and brought me out of fine voice form momentarily. But I quickly recovered and went back to sweating, singing, paddling and groovin’ on this fine, summer morning on the Magnolia River.

My playlist you ask? It’s listed below in no particular order:

musicnotesriverFountain of Sorrow, Jackson Browne; Keep Breathing, Ingrid Michaelson; There Will Be a Light, Ben Harper; Never Alone, Lady Antebellum & Jim Brickman; Brothers & Sisters, Coldplay; Get On Your Boots, U2; Love Someone, Jason Mraz; Best Friend, Jason Mraz; Love is the Solution, Will Kimbrough; Sugar, Sugarcane Jane; My Someday, Brigitte Demeyer; Blessed Are the Brokenhearted, Jill Johnson; Washboard Lisa, Grayson Capps; Go in Peace, Sam Baker; Lift Your Spirit, Aloe Blacc; Ocean Soul, David Wilcox; God Bless, Lisa Carver; Mercy Now, Mary Gauthier; Singing Me Home, Lady Antebellum; Lost, Jay-Z & Coldplay; Knockin’, Carolina Chocolate Drops; Gypsy Train, Willie Sugarcapps; Not Alone, Ben Taylor; People of Love, Snatam Kaur; Surround Me, Ben Taylor; A Couple Hundred Miracles, Will Kimbrough; Running on Sunshine, Jesus Jackson; Beautiful, Akon, Colby O’Donis, Kardinal Offishall; Make You Feel My Love, Adele; The Whole Enchilada, Keb’ Mo’; Belief, John Mayer; …and more that I can’t remember.


Making a Difference

Making a Difference

simonelipscomb (7)Several weeks ago I met my friend in the Smoky Mountains for an afternoon photography shoot. As we drove through Cades Cove we caught up with each other and shared a bit about our lives. We are both committed to our paths and want to make a difference in the world and shared our frustration at not really knowing how to do that or if what we are doing is really positively impacting the world.

A friend in Japan has been exploring how she wants to work to help make the world a better place and is frustrated as to how she can do this. She has volunteered in an elephant sanctuary and in the past has worked with marine mammal rescue but she, like others I know, wants to make a difference every day.

Over the past couple of days another friend and I have been in contact about the desire to make a difference in the world. It feels like the HID light was just turned on deep in an underwater cave. His clarity encouraged me.

A funk, for lack of a better word, has been dominating my life for the past several months. I am not sure of the origin of this downward turn. There is so much negative everything happening and the environmental issues coupled with atrocities humans perpetuate on each other have made it difficult to know what to do. After working with vigor and with passion documenting the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and before that, in creating books of beauty and inspiration, all with the goal of making a difference, I find hundreds of books in boxes in my home…their message of beauty and hope sitting tucked away from the world. A perfect metaphor of how I feel. Despondency and feeling a loss as to what I’m really supposed to be doing with my life has been the question that occupies my mind.

simonelipscomb (5)The heart-friend I recently wrote of retired from over thirty years of service to his community. He was a leader as a firefighter and trained in many disciplines so he could be excellent in his work. Rookies and seasoned firefighters alike looked up to him and his valuable skills. His career of rescue work is truly inspiring. Upon retirement he wasn’t doing what he wanted to do…making a difference. It was a terrible adjustment for him as his heart is huge and his intention of service matches the size of his heart. It wasn’t until he followed his path to serve in a war-torn country that he once-again fulfilled, in his mind, his goal. He has found what he was looking for–making a difference.

We follow little breadcrumb thoughts which lead us to decisions. We act on these decisions and make changes in our lives–some are huge, some are small. We direct our energy toward the slow-growing momentum and then hope for the best. But how do we know our efforts really are making a difference? How do we maintain trust in ourselves and in our decisions? Here’s a cave-diving analogy.

Photo by Ed Jackson
Photo by Ed Jackson of me and my buddy Ray and his light in the distance

When cave diving a diver knows that caves are dark. It seems a silly statement but I cannot count the number of times I’ve been asked the question: Are underwater caves really dark? Think of the darkest, inkiest, blackest darkness and then think of it as flowing and moving around you. Yes…underwater caves are dark. So a diver takes redundant equipment into a cave–air and light. Three lights are required equipment–a primary light and two back-up lights. The primary is a very bright, strong light and the back-up lights are smaller and always contain fresh batteries.

Photo by Ed Jackson
Photo by Ed Jackson…Yes, that’s me diving with my buddy, Ray, behind me.

So if I’m diving in a cave and for some reason my primary light fails, out comes a back-up light. If that fails, out comes the other back-up light. If we apply the analogy of cave diving to our lives, think of our life’s path as the primary light. We are born, we develop and learn and find our way to our path. A natural light is emitted from it as we progress. But there comes a time when we lose faith in our path, we find ourselves far from those we love, and who love us, we retire, or move to a new area, and that light wavers and then blinks out. We are left in the dark.

It’s not a happy place, this darkness. It’s difficult to orient ourselves, find our way. Which way do we go? Where is the line? Which tunnel is the way home?

Photo by Ed Jackson
Photo by Ed Jackson….I miss these caves!!!

When this happens we can contact a friend, one of our back-up lights, to help light our way. Sometimes the path we tread must have light from another source. When our own light seems dim, there are others who can help us see the path we have chosen. Their light can help us stay true and move forward when we have lost faith in what we do. We may come to a side tunnel in our underwater cave and the extra light may be necessary to see which way leads us home.

Some may think the primary light in cave diving is the most important but ask any cave diver who has had to deploy a back-up light or two. Those little lights are the real life-savers.

I am grateful for my heart-friend that reminded me to keep working on my path of service. His light encouraged me to stay with it, even when it feels like I am not making a difference. Sometimes I stumble along in darkness and then a ray of light comes forward to illuminate the way.

simonelipscomb (6)May we all be lights unto each other.

Thanks for reading. Please comment or share as you see fit. 





bonaire (37)I just finished watching a series called, Long Way Down, about two guys that ride motorcycles from Scotland to Cape Town, South Africa. They go through several African countries and I must say, it touched me deeply.

I don’t really understand it. I don’t ride motorcycles even though I gave it my best attempt several years ago. But there was something about the sense of adventure and going new places and meeting strangers that became friends…and the animals! And landscape!

bonaire (5)I think it’s time for another trip. Probably won’t be Africa but who knows? I long for somewhere beautiful, new and different…a true adventure. Something that will push me out of my comfort zone and take me to a place of wonder and natural beauty.

So I’m contemplating new vistas and places that are calling to my soul…and my camera. I wonder…where will it be?

simone (8)