Tag: Alabama Coast

Tilting at Windmills

Tilting at Windmills

Pablo Picasso's Don Quixote
Pablo Picasso’s Don Quixote

“Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them. With their spoils we shall begin to be rich for this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the face of the earth is a service God will bless.” Thus spoke Don Quixote in the novel written in the early 1600’s.

Equipment removing tar mats from Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge Summer 2010
Equipment removing tar mats from Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge Summer 2010

There are times when I feel very much like Don Quixote. He might not have doubted his sanity but I doubt mine as I work to bring light to the environmental issues facing all of us. It feels like an unrealistic, impractical or even impossible goal. It may be noble but sometimes it seems completely unrealistic and perhaps even delusional.

SimoneLipscomb (7)The goal I set for myself is to be a bridge between nature and humanity. A bridge that raises awareness, increases communication and ultimately helps human and non-human life.

SimoneLipscomb (1)I believe the only way to help the planet is to help humans connect with…fall in love with…nature. This love will create compassion, care and wise stewardship. But there are days when it just feels as if the windmills…or oil rigs…or congressmen…or CEO’s…..really are hulking giants that will continue to destroy our Ocean planet…no matter how many crazy people like me write, photograph, document, sing or raise awareness through positive action.

SimoneLipscomb (5)There is no Sancho friend on this journey with me so at times the journey seems lonely. Yet today, as I cycled through the backcountry of Gulf State Park, I was reminded that humans are a part of nature. Every plant, animal, insect…everything is connected like diamonds in a web. So therefore, I am never alone. And neither are you. Perhaps our greatest error is to think we are separate, alone, divorced from that which sustains us.

SimoneLipscomb (10)For the past nine years I have dedicated my life to working full-time to help people connect with nature through writing, photography and videography. Living off of retirement funds and investing in equipment, book publication and travel to document unique places or species and to present programs to anyone who will listen, I have many times doubted my sanity. Why not just relax and forget this work?

SimoneLipscomb (8)Because…..Love knows no boundaries. I came into this life to make a positive difference and even if I’m tilting at those proverbial windmills, at least I am doing something.

SimoneLipscomb (9)
Latest version of the cover of my new book

The past couple of days have been challenging and pesky doubts have arisen. But when I checked my mailbox today I had another partner for my new book, Manatee Mindfulness, with a note from my friend that said, “You’re doing great work Simone! Rock on!”

Perhaps I’m not delusional after all. I’m thankful for the reminder from sweet friends! And from nature that reminded me today of the web of life that connects all life to this Ocean planet. We are always connected, never alone.

Enfolded

Enfolded

SimoneLipscomb 7The full moon hanging low in the pre-dawn sky lit the cool, white sand of the wildlife refuge. The path led me along the boundary of a nesting area of least terns down to the edge of the Gulf. Crisp air caressed my face and a slight breeze stirred, barely discernible.

SimoneLipscomb 4 (1)The still-hidden sun created a kaleidoscope of color in the east as the moon set in the western sky. Balance. Perfect balance.

SimoneLipscomb 4I paused a moment, thankful for the quiet beauty that created such peace. The reflections created by nature opened a doorway for inner reflection and in those moments, before my sea turtle patrol began, my breath traveled deeper….deeper, deeper into the depths of inner stillness.

SimoneLipscomb 5Walking in balance, in peace, the colors of the dawn greeted my hungry eyes. Metallic turquoise and deep orange danced in the gathering light upon the surface of the sea. My heart sang with pure joy.

SimoneLipscomb 3The rhythm of all life pulsed in harmony and was felt with every beat of my heart. As the birth of the day quickened, a blanket of pink spread throughout the sky and I felt completely enfolded in peace and light.

 

 

The Jewels of Alabama

The Jewels of Alabama

SimoneLipscomb (8)Today as I was cycling through the backcountry of Gulf State Park, I reflected on how much this beautiful conservation area has meant to me throughout my life. The recent threat to close the majority of Alabama State Parks by the governor prompted an inner exploration of how the park’s past and mine are interwoven.

SimoneLipscomb (5)It was such a lovely morning with blue sky, low humidity  and temperatures in the 70’s. Pedaling through live oak forests, pine forests, marshes and swamps I felt so fortunate to be able to live close enough to enjoy the trails. And I thought how people who live near parks scheduled to close will lose their special places that perhaps they have enjoyed throughout their lifetime.

SimoneLipscomb (9)My first memory of Gulf State Park was swimming in Lake Shelby as a toddler. The dark, tea-colored water always scared me, even with my trusty rubber ducky. It’s still a popular place to cool off on a hot summer day.

State Park Naturalist with one of my favorite winter friends who appreciated my love of organic foods.
Me as Gulf State Park Naturalist with one of my favorite winter friends who appreciated my love of organic foods.

My summer jobs in high school and college were at Gulf State Park with the naturalist program, at the campground and at park headquarters. After completing my undergraduate studies at Auburn I was hired as park naturalist. My passion was educating people about the beauty and sacredness of over 4000 acres of land and water, protected from encroaching development. But my frustration grew as money, greed and politics were always placed over conservation and protection, even with a great park superintendent trying to maintain balance.

SimoneLipscomb (12)When my daughter was born we lived in Gulf Shores and enjoyed the beaches, lakes and trails even when she was very young. And after moving away, I always wanted to visit the park and take her so she would know it…know its treasures.

Emily at Lake Shelby
Emily at Lake Shelby

So many memories of the park are connected with my daughter. Much of what I wanted to pass along to her as an environmental ethic began in this state park.

I took Emily and Kevin's engagement photographs in the park
I took Emily and Kevin’s engagement photographs in the park

Many milestones of my life have been celebrated at this beautiful place and today, as I pedaled through forests of live oaks and white sand, I remembered many wonderful times with joy…tempered with sadness for people who could lose their special state parks due to the governor robbing them…robbing us…of some of the most sacred places in our state.

SimoneLipscomb (14)John Muir said, “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”  “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”

He was born in 1838 and worked his entire life to create protected areas such as Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Mt. Rainer and Sequoia. I have thought of him often after discovering the plans the governor has for our state parks. How long will voting residents allow this kind of behavior to continue? Perhaps his next move is to open public jewels such as our parks for fracking….or worse.

SimoneLipscomb (21)“When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money.” Cree Proverb. We think it’s not possible. We deny that it could ever happen. But it is happening and the assault is being led by people we elect to serve us and to protect our resources.

Gulf State Park Summer 2010
Gulf State Park Summer 2010

Note: Today it was reported that the governor has put a stay on closing the parks May 1st. A stay of execution? He is looking for funds in other areas. Why….WHY!!! is conservation always the very first department to be de-funded? In the grand ‘scheme’ of things it makes absolutely no sense. 

Five Years Later

Five Years Later

Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, Summer 2010
Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, Summer 2010

I stood on the shore of the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, early summer 2010 with tears streaming down my face. I had just called the hotline to report oil on the pristine, sugar-white sand. I thought that finally people would awaken and forge a new path of care and love for this Ocean planet. Five years have passed and the fervor to find and extract oil, at any cost, has escalated. And there are more spills worldwide, more toxic wastes generated by fracking operations and more earthquakes near fracking zones. The Atlantic coast is being opened to offshore drilling. The Arctic is open for drilling. Politicians are systematically trying to dismantle protected areas in states and federal lands.

Gulf of Mexico today
Gulf of Mexico today

As I sit on the sandy, Gulf beach watching the chocolate-colored waves, at least there is no benzene smell or globs of fizzing crude oil washing ashore. The dark water is from recent heavy rains. The salt breeze carries the smell of incense, an offering to the spirits of this magnificent body of water. I ask for forgiveness on behalf of all humans.

Common Loon resting on the beach this afternoon
Common Loon resting on the beach this afternoon

I reflect on John Muir’s life, one that was dedicated to preserving sacred places of unparalleled natural beauty and the success that came from his unrelenting love of nature. He saw the Divine in nature and viewed it as a direct reflection of God. Places like Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon, Mt. Rainer, Petrified Forest are a small sample of areas Muir helped preserve. He petitioned Congress for a National Park bill and in 1890 it passed.

Photograph Summer 2010...Shell Oil
Photograph Summer 2010…Shell Oil

“The radiance in some places is so great as to be fairly dazzling, keen lance rays of every color flashing, sparkling in glorious abundance, joining the plants in their fine, brave beauty-work–every crystal, every flower a window opening into heaven, a mirror reflecting the Creator.” John Muir.

Photograph Summer 2010 Gulf State Park Pier
Photograph Summer 2010 Gulf State Park Pier

“Keep close to Nature’s heart, yourself and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean from the earth-stains of this sordid, gold-seeking crowd in God’s pure air….Don’t lose your freedom and your love of the Earth as God made it.” John Muir.

Photograph I took Summer 2010. It reminds me of a woman's body and so I call it the Rape of Mother Earth
Photograph I took Summer 2010. It reminds me of a woman’s body and so I call it the Rape of Mother Earth

Lately, as I’ve read about seemingly endless assaults on nature and attempts to sell it to the highest bidder for fossil fuel and about sonar testing that deafens cetaceans, sentencing them to death, I have become increasingly disturbed. The grief and despair I felt during the year I documented the oil disaster has been touched and the wound opened again and again.

Photography taken Summer 2010 Orange Beach, Alabama
Photograph taken Summer 2010 Orange Beach, Alabama

I wrote this in August 2010:

“This morning I sat weeping for the birds, oysters, shrimp, crabs….for us all. As I breathed in the stillness of the dawn I felt sadness that we have collectively created such imbalance on this beautiful planet. Inhaling, exhaling…pausing to touch the grief within me….how did it get so messed up?

We have become so dependent on practices that destroy our world, there is no easy way to stop them. The oil industry is woven into the fabric of life in Louisiana along with the Gulf’s bounty. Maybe the problem began when we considered only what could be produced from the Gulf.

But it goes beyond the Gulf Oil Spill Crisis–way beyond to the collective intention to consume, to conquer without regard for what it does to the planet that, quite literally, gives us life. Where did this short-sighted way of thinking begin?

I weep for our ignorance and the destruction it keeps in motion. I weep for political polarization that puts power on a pedestal over compassion and caring. We are lost in fighting battles that pull us apart and weaken us.

When will we stop and breathe together in silence? When we will awaken from our slumber and join hands to work to save our planet, to save ourselves?”

Common Loon friend that shared the beach with me today as I reflected on the past five years
Common Loon friend that shared the beach with me today as I reflected on the past five years

Today, almost five years later, the same questions still haunt my mind every day. When will we stop and breathe together in silence? When we will awaken from our slumber and join hands to work to save our planet, to save ourselves?

Yet there is hope for there are still people who care, who love Nature and understand that humans are part of it, not above it. There are many who understand the necessity for living in balance and who grasp that the mindset of ‘more at any cost’ is no longer a valid way to successfully exist. We sell our own souls when we auction nature to the highest bidder.

Photograph from Summer 2010
Photograph from Summer 2010

So how can we stay positive? Hopeful? By reaching out to each other in love and by treading as gently as possible on this sacred Ocean planet. And practicing simple, yet collectively powerful steps such as these: turn off lights not in use; don’t use disposable plastic bottles; use water sparingly; adjust the thermostat two degrees and save energy and money; recycle; re-use; opt out of the mindset that new electronics must be purchased each time a new version is released; get by with less ‘stuff,’ buy locally-grown foods’ celebrate the beauty of nature each day; participate in efforts to make a positive difference.

Photograph today at Gulf State Park. During the oil disaster this area was saturated with fizzing, oily sludge
Photograph today at Gulf State Park. During the oil disaster this area was saturated with fizzing, oily sludge

Now is not the time to give up. Now is the time to celebrate beauty found in nature and in human hearts everywhere.

Honoring Magnolia & Manatees

Honoring Magnolia & Manatees


Volunteering for the love of manatees is amazing and life-changing experience. Thank you community of Magnolia Springs, Alabama! You are awesome neighbors and friends to manatees. Thank you Sea World Rescue Team, Dauphin Island Sea Lab and US Fish & Wildlife Service. Working together we really can make a positive difference!

To update all the supporters and fans of Magnolia, the manatee rescued on January 4th recovering at Sea World Orlando’s rehabilitation center…she is doing WONDERFUL!! All the prop scars have completely healed and she is eating and gaining weight. There is a rumor that she is showing the staff that Alabama gals know how to eat! For everyone who has sent healing thoughts, prayers, love, happy thoughts and general good wishes to Magnolia…THANK YOU! If she continues to do well there is a good possibility she will be released once the water is warmer.