Tag: Alabama Coast

Freedom to Be

Freedom to Be

Last night I met a six year old boy who created a camera out of driftwood. He instructed me to push a button on it and anything I photographed would come to life. It took him only a few moments to invent this magical tool.

I was photographing him and his parents at the beach. The hour-and-a-half we spent together was fun and enjoyable but the true gift was much more than this.

So many times society takes creative souls through a deadening process. Trying to keep someone in a small realm of acceptable norms kills the creative spirit within us….and makes us think we are not okay because we are different. And let’s face it, we’re all unique and ‘different’ at our core.

I’m sure many who read this understand what it’s like to think differently or express yourself differently. I have met a great number of people who have lived their entire lives in emotional pain because they are ‘different.’ Their creative genius can be lost…and that’s a loss for all of us.

This youngster was such a light and could imagine inventing something from anything. I ‘saw’ him as a young adult creating solutions to problems on our planet or inventing brilliant new things never before conceptualized…so powerful was his ability to invent. Major credit goes to his parents who champion him and his amazing inventive skills.

He inspired me to give myself permission to create with wild abandon and imagine my life in ways I’ve dared not even dream. I’ve spent today reflecting on freedom and wholeness and self-permission.

It was ‘just’ a photo shoot that almost didn’t happen…but what a loss it would have been to miss meeting these beautiful souls. How grateful I feel for this old soul in a young boy’s body reminding me to gift myself with the freedom to be.

I felt inspired to make a logo for the new magical camera…to maybe inspire him to keep creating.

(A special thank you to this wonderful family for giving me permission to share their images).

Home in the Sky

Home in the Sky

Arriving just before sunset….

Sometimes it’s easy to dwell in the littleness of life…or even get stuck there. When we feel stress or anxiety the tendency is to curl up in our little space with a blanket and binge-watch crappy television. At least that’s what I do sometimes. As the mind focuses on the chaos of (fill in the ______) it seems safer to be small because the chaos feels so big.

The Perseid Meteor event pulled me out of my little bubble and an amazing gift unfolded as I found myself immersed in the present–not in my head chasing mental rabbits down endless holes.

Friends of mine have a beach house in a relatively dark section of beach and they allow me to go there to photograph the night sky. Last evening found me standing in white, soft sand wondering if the heavy cloud cover would remain as darkness fell. “I came here to see meteors,” I exclaimed.

Maybe it was the polite way I asked for a window to see stars or just a weird beach phenomena….but a pathway to the stars opened and a bank of clouds held just east of Mars to allow viewing of the vast night sky.

After tiring of standing and craning my neck with the tripod, I adjusted the legs to a short extension and laid on the sand under the tripod. With my cable release wrapped around a tripod leg, I could lay on my back, watch stars, take long exposures and adjust the settings from a most relaxed point of view.

Taking long exposures with my camera always brings me to a place of stillness as 20, 25, 30 seconds pass. I can’t move or walk away….just have to stand (or in my case laying) in stillness as the heavens expand overhead.

There was one amazing shooting star with a bright sprinkle of star dust that trailed over the Gulf of Mexico and there were smaller ones that zipped quickly through the night sky…and that was amazing. But the real show for me was the Milky Way as it emerged from the darkening sky.

The Earth Mother supported me in my rest and opening to the endless depths of space and stars and I felt layers of worries fall away as I focused on the bigness of the Universe. Bigness….such an understatement.

By surrendering to something greater than me, I found profound peace. Allowing the depth of the Universe to touch me and awaken me, I found home again….in the sky….in myself….beyond….beyond….beyond.

The Face of What’s Happening

The Face of What’s Happening

Do you dare look? Can you bear the grief? Sea turtle nearly decapitated by propeller. Children ripped from their parents. Whales dead full of plastic. This takes courage friends. To deny our grief is to make ourselves sick. The planet is suffering. All life is suffering. So what can we do?

The face of suffering is evident every day whether we watch the news or read it or listen on the radio. From every direction we are made aware of the destruction. Perhaps our natural inclination is to look away, but not because we don’t care. Perhaps, as Joanna Macy says, it’s because we don’t know what to do with our grief and we feel overwhelmed.

Last night I dreamed I was helping a sea turtle whose throat had been slit. This morning, on sea turtle nest patrol, I came upon a critically endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle whose neck had been nearly severed from an apparent propeller strike. Even in my dreams they reach out asking for help. And so today, I share this turtle’s story and use it to illustrate the bigger story happening in the world and with every one of us.

So how can we look upon the face of suffering and death and survive the grief? If you are paying attention, you are probably sad and maybe even depressed. And I’m guessing you feel grief. The answer is to feel it. Have the courage to look and feel the emotions and then allow them to move out of your beautiful heart into the world. Don’t be afraid of the grief and likewise, don’t be afraid of your own depth of caring, love and compassion.

I sat beside the turtle’s body after patrol was done. I sang her a song and thanked her for bringing such beauty into the world. The odor of rotting flesh covered my hands and the wind blew her death smell over me as I wept openly. Not just for her passing but for the opportunity to love. What an amazing time to be alive, when every person’s love and compassion is needed so very much.

Loggerhead Hatchling

If you think you can’t make a difference, or the pain of what’s happening is simply too much to bear, allow the strength of that which you love pour through you as grace. That’s what Joanna Macy reminded our on-line group last week. Breathe in the strength of the turtle species that have survived for so long and let that strength pour through as grace to move out through your heart into the world….or the whales….or children removed from parents….or whatever it is that you love deeply. Work with your grief and let it motivate you to love deeper and fuller.

And let me know if you want to work on this together. Thanks to training with Joanna years ago in a week-long retreat, I have some ideas as to how we can come together and stay sane as the chaos of uncertainty shakes us. Always happy to bring a group together to further more love, compassion and grace in this world. (Email Simone)

 

 

Emotional Honesty

Emotional Honesty

Lately in meditation I have received the same message repeatedly….be emotionally honest. I’ve shrugged off the idea because who wants to hear it? I don’t even want to. But with the recent suicide of Anthony Bourdain I thought perhaps it’s exactly what people need to hear…so they wouldn’t feel alone in their pain.

For the past twelve years I have dedicated my life to documenting and sharing beauty…and destruction…of our beautiful planet. The Deepwater Horizon Disaster awakened me to get serious about the work and after a year spent documenting seven beaches along the Alabama coast I was an emotional wreck. I was angry and broken-hearted. I saw people turn away once the well was capped….and I thought that event would awaken humanity to rise up and be planetary stewards.

When people ‘went back to sleep’ I was so frustrated. So angry. Still brokenhearted.

In an effort to heal my brokenness, I attended a week-long intensive with Joanna Macy. She’s an eco-philosopher, Buddhist scholar and created a body of work called, The Work That Reconnects. I found, during that week of healing, a strong desire to document beauty. People don’t turn away from beauty…maybe that would help generate planetary stewardship.

I returned to North Carolina determined to continue the work in a bigger way….write more, create more books, take more photographs, travel to experience beauty and power of the planet and its wildlife. My energy went into opening my heart more, my mind more and listening deeper to Nature, the Ocean…to Life.

Good things have come of that but when people comment positively about the work and say, It’s so cool that the work supports you financially….well, I smile and say….It doesn’t.  Everything I have has gone into the work and I’ve made leaps of faith that would scare the strongest soul. I’ve never been ‘in’ the work to make money…but rather to give to the planet my heart, mind, talents. All of who I am and what I have is ear-marked for Mother Earth.

Living on the edge like this has allowed me to experience joy, wonder, gratitude, as well as fear and anxiety…society says, Play it safe, but my Path says, Leap.

Some might say I am reckless with financial resources because I don’t abide by the societal ‘rule’ of fear-based actions and penny-pinching until you die. I’m all-in. How could I hold back, selfishly guarding something that’s not really mine to begin with?

Over the past several months I’ve felt a strong desire to down-size and simplify my life to support my environmental educational/stewardship efforts. When I recently placed my home on the market I developed respiratory crud. As a person accustomed to being healthy and strong, the lengthy illness has tested my patience. Fears have arisen about health coinciding with fears about relocating with a dog and four cats and beginning work in an area that is calling to me….a new community, a new state…everything snowballed into a tangled ball of physical illness, emotional turmoil and spiritual distress.

Nobody promised the journey to wholeness would be easy, that the Path would demand anything less than my complete attention…not only to that which I am called to do but to my self as well. When we ignore the feelings they don’t go away. They build and get stronger.

Uncertainty about my health, home, move, environmental efforts grew. I needed something to help shift and open me.

Last week I joined an online book club with Joanna Macy and many others about her book, Active Hope. As I sat at my computer looking at faces looking back at me through computer screens… people that love and care for the planet….and listening to Joanna share, I felt such a sense of relief. I realized how very alone I have felt in this journey of dedicated work. Yes, there have been people in my life but I’ve never been truthful about the despair I feel for our planet. I keep it superficial because….maybe I felt a strong person makes a good leader. People aren’t always comfortable with emotions. I don’t think that anymore….I suspect powerful leaders are those who are emotionally honest and have the courage to share with others their experience of pain– that are willing to risk opening the heart to reveal truth. Anthony Bourdain’s suicide yesterday really spot-lighted that truth.

So here’s my emotional honesty….I feel despair about humanity’s destruction of our planet. The grief is so strong that I have ‘armored’ myself so I don’t feel grief….which cuts me off from the work and people willing to help. After documenting the oil spill I lost my ability to accept simple pleasures for a few years. My heart breaks every day when I see cruelty. I cannot pretend everything is okay in the world. And…I have a deep and abiding trust that Spirit is guiding me, even when I feel afraid. I am determined to heal whatever needs healing within myself to become whole…for with that wholeness comes the ability to channel more love and light into the world. I am passionately in love with this planet. She is my Beloved. Nothing comes before the work I feel called to do….nothing.

We are not alone. What would happen if we were collectively emotionally honest with each other? What if we didn’t hide our hearts but took the risk to open them?

A parting thought….Joanna said this the other night during our cyber meeting: “Let the strengths of that which we love pour through us as grace.” When we remember we have a dynamic relationship with that which calls us, we feel less alone. When we surrender and allow that strength to move through us we stay centered in our Higher Selves and let ego rest. Joanna also said, “Don’t be afraid of the suffering of your world.”

Let us not turn away from the suffering of our world or ourselves. May we listen with an open heart and mind and open ourselves to the strength of that which calls us.

Hero’s Journey

Hero’s Journey

I have never felt so much at home as I have within the walls of this house, within the embrace of these ancient grandmother oaks. This is where I traveled to come home to myself. This part of my journey was about reclaiming all of myself I had left behind–given away to people and places that no longer embraced the growing and expanding ‘me.’ This is the ground where all parts of my soul decided to return.

Beautiful Live Oak Tree in Courtyard

So now I can, with the deepest gratitude, release this place and step forward onto my path more fully than I’ve ever experienced…ready to move and shake the world a little more with light and love and transformation.

The container we choose….or that calls us…is an important part of our life experience. It’s the chalice that holds our lives as we negotiate the hero’s journey.

In this journey to wholeness we are called to adventure and face trials and tests. We experience dismemberment of our lives–our hopes and dreams–and wander in the desert of our own lives. We sacrifice things we have accumulated….material possessions but also emotions and thoughts that have possessed us. All of this is laid down with love, with gratitude, in order to clear the way for something ‘more.’ We are resurrected and become dancers of the world, masters of our inner world  and our outer lives. And then….then, my friends…we are able to fully embody the light within and do our good work in the world in miraculous ways.

Every threshold along the way offers choice: stay the same or step through and grow into the fullness of being…the fullness of living.

Entry Way

Home is the place that nurtures us, offers rest and rejuvenation. It is the place where roots go deep and drink deeply from the waters of life. For this amazing home, I give thanks and offer it to the next souls seeking peace and joy…and delight.