Tag: Alabama Coast

Finding Home: The Life of Stella Sea Turtle

Finding Home: The Life of Stella Sea Turtle

It’s always fun to see a project come together. The latest is another children’s book about sea turtles. It’s illustrated by my pal Linda-Bell Schorer and we are donating a portion of each book sold to the Friends of Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge for sea turtle conservation on public lands.

If you love sea turtles, children and public lands I invite you to support this project by pre-ordering the book and/or sponsoring the project. We raise all printing costs before going to press so order now to help the project move forward for an early-December release.

Thank you as always for supporting the work of my heart. Visit the info/order page.

Going Home

Going Home

One of my favorite experiences as a wildlife photographer is to be present when an animal that has been hospitalized and rehabilitated is released. This loggerhead sea turtle would stop and dig her  beak into the sand and wait for something to register. While I don’t have a reptilian brain I guessed she was getting her bearings using her sense of smell. Can you imagine after being captured–injured and sick–after living in such a magnificent place as the Gulf of Mexico…dealing with confinement? And then that glorious moment when you realize you have made it home. Home! What a celebration…for everyone.

Where Wild Can Breathe

Where Wild Can Breathe

The Gulf of Mexico called me this morning. Come walk with me. So before sunrise I parked my car and set bare feet upon white sand.

The state park is squeezed on all sides by real estate–expensive real estate. And the former governor…the one forced to resign over shady dealings….set in motion construction of a monument to himself in the form of a convention center and hotel on state park property. Yes, there had been one there before it literally fell apart from repeated bashings from the sea and salty winds. But there is a glut of condos on the beach now and a convention center nearby and a new one being built just north.  But I digress….

Walking along the beach in the state park is a nice respite from walking in front of condos that form a wall of concrete along the Gulf Coast. Little jewels like Gulf State Park, Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge and the Gulf Islands National Sea Shore give  wildlife a chance to exist. They allow human’s wild spirits a place to spread out and connect with something greater than ourselves.

This morning I spent time contemplating the fate of our planet. We’re the self-absorbed animals of the planet…the only species willing to destroy our own habitat in order to amass wealth and power that lead to a non-future created by our destructive actions. Such a bizarre species.

It’s weird to witness the current, strange goings-on where decades of effort invested in protecting fragile areas, sacred areas, is being wiped away  in a few months and these amazing places are going to the highest bidder to exploit. Have we forgotten the past?

Remember Erie Canal catching on fire because there was so much pollution in it? Or smog so horrible you couldn’t see in cities like Los Angeles and New York? It’s easy to forget the things we depend on for survival….things like clean air and water. Unregulated corporations and their push for profit-at-any-cost nearly destroyed us. We shouldn’t forget this. Ever.

And yet there is a huge push to roll-back environmental protections and demolish agencies charged to enforce them. And agencies tracking our changing climate. Some people have forgotten our past, our history and how lack of concern, compassion and common sense destroys wildlife and human health.

Places like parks and seashores set aside and protected feed our souls. They remind us of beauty and invite us to walk in beauty….with beauty…and help us be mindful the interconnectedness of all life.

When I visited Johnson Beach–part of Gulf Islands National Seashore–after visiting Gulf State Park this morning, I felt a noticeable difference. It’s protected from development. There’s no hotel on the beach or fishing pier. The only structures seen are wooden boardwalks to protect the dunes, a pavilion area and a narrow roadway that is frequently covered with sand as the beach reclaims it for its own.

In Johnson Beach one can park and walk beyond the road, beyond most human comings and goings, and breathe deeper, fuller. A release of the spirit occurs when we stop looking at watches or cell phones and allow wild beauty to pull us completely into the present moment.

As I stood on the beach there this morning, near a loggerhead sea turtle crawl, I noticed a lightness of energy and freedom that is missing in places overshadowed by high-rise condos or surf shops or tee shirt stores. We need places where wild can breathe deeper and fuller, where nothing comes between nature and humanity.

Rainbow & Dolphin

Rainbow & Dolphin

Photo-bombed by a great blue heron on a time exposure…I actually like it.

There are no guarantees with clouds and light at sunrise…or anytime. But for me to actually plan to be at the beach before sunrise and thus load my gear with the correct bracket attached to my camera, for tripod use, the night before…I admit I was expecting something wonderful.

One could possibly say I am a bit spoiled. I live twenty minutes from the white-sand beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. What some people thrill at seeing once a year I see every day if I choose. So granted, I have no reason to complain.

But the light was really sickly this morning. Seriously, I might have mumbled more than once. It was yellowy, pale, cuckoo light and I was expecting orange, red, salmon….anything but snot yellow.

Honestly, I woke up in a weird mood. I might have hissed at the car driving 25 mph when I was trying to hurry. Just sayin’….I wasn’t in my best happy space.

After over an hour walking and shooting and thinking it was a complete waste of effort, I stopped and had a serious talk with myself. What’s happening, Simone? You’re at the BEACH! This is your happy place. I paused a moment and realized my mind had been wandering…wondering…about the future. I was so caught up in fear-based musings I was missing the present moment.

I just wanted to take something more than frustration from my time on the beach, I whined. Nature always gifts me with a little jewel to ponder and take with me….Okay, so what do I need to do? I know I’m caught in a mind-spin. 

A very clear inner voice said, Be gentle with yourself.

Oh, yeah. That. I thought. (Sigh).

A chant came to mind….I will be gentle with myself, I will love myself for I am child of the Goddess. I started singing out loud as I walked and glanced up from the sand to see a rainbow blob hanging over the end of the long fishing pier. Hey, that’s cool! That’s a nice gift!

Rainbow blob

I stopped and watched the glowing colors for a while as I continued singing. Suddenly a dolphin appeared. It was swimming offshore and as I strengthened my voice, it made a bee-line for the shore where I stood. Okay, I get it! I get it! Be gentle with myself, love myself and just…WOW!

I stood and watched the dolphin surfing in waves breaking over the sand bar for a while and began clapping a rhythm of joy and celebration. Thank you for the reminder! Thank you sister!

It felt as if the dark, snot-colored clouds lifted as I walked with rainbow and dolphin energy surrounding me, lifting me from distraction to being fully present with the beauty all around me. I received the gift, but first had to find the present.

…And with some extra processing in Lightroom I came away with some images that I didn’t hate. You never know what gifts await when engaging with the eternal now moment.

 

We’re All Connected

We’re All Connected

We’re All Connected….We’ve often heard the phrase but I wonder if there’s much pause to consider it. Really consider it.

Recently I was invited to embark on a morning’s exploration into the Mobile Delta. As I was riding in Jimbo Meador’s custom made eco-tour boat with my friend Brenda, I thought about the idea…the fact..that we are all connected as the enormity of the Delta unfolded.

The cool wind eased the early June humidity as we skimmed along the surface under the Bay Way, the nearly eight mile bridge that connects Baldwin and Mobile counties. To the south was Mobile Bay and in every other direction stretched the massive delta, second in size only to the Mississippi River Delta. I imagined the massive amounts of water coming through the rivers that make up the Delta…Tombigbee, Alabama, Mobile, Middle, Blakeley, Tensaw, Apalachee, Raft, Spanish. Reaching far into Alabama and neighboring states, everything that happens in watersheds north of the Delta, happens here…ends up in Mobile Bay…the Gulf of Mexico…the Atlantic Ocean…and will eventually circulate in ocean currents all over this water planet.

The 500 plant species, 300 bird species, 126 fish species, 46 mammal species, 69 reptile species, 30 amphibian species and any human that consumes these species is affected by what happens north of the Delta. Pollutants, toxins, fertilizers that create nutrient blooms, introduced invasive species, drought, floods….all of these things impact all life in the watersheds below it.

Brenda removing the balloon from the water.

Past Blakeley State Park we found a mylar, helium-filled (well…at one time it was helium-filled) ballon someone had released. Luckily this one didn’t end up in a leatherback sea turtle’s gut or the string wrapped around a great blue heron’s legs or around osprey’s wings. This was a simple example of how what one person does somewhere else affects life…or has the potential to negatively affect other life. (Please blow bubbles…don’t release balloons).

It might be easy to forget this biodiverse area is impacted by anything as it’s so vast. It’s 45 miles long, 6 to 16 miles wide, 300 square miles with 20,000 acres of open water, 10,000 acres of marsh, 70,000 acres of swamp and 85,000 acres of forest. But the water–the lifeblood of our planet–originates far, far away from the coastal wonder.

The drone of insects, the rusty, laughing voices of common gallinules and croaking bull frogs serenaded us after we stopped in the Tensaw River. Dragonflies flitted and landed all around us. Alligators sulked by dropping underwater if we spotted them. Such richness of life was present and all due to the interconnectedness of life, not just in our coastal community, but throughout our entire state and into others as well. These thoughts drifted in and out as I photographed and then sat quietly absorbing the magic of mud, water and sky.

Jimbo Meador, guide at 17 Turtles Outfitters

Humans have a tendency to claim ownership, to protect territory…mine, mine, mine. But this isn’t a logical or intelligent way to view life on this planet. Who’s to say what life form is more important than another? Or what area is more worthy of protection than another? We are so keen on dividing and labeling everything that we often forget the complete and total Oneness of all Creation. This, I propose, is our greatest failure.

I suggest two cures. One, go out into a vast area near your home…wherever it is…and ponder the water flow, the life that exists and how it is connected to other areas. Secondly, take time every day to stop outside and feel your feet on the ground and breathe, connecting the sky and the earth through you. Take five minutes a day and plant yourself on the Earth.

The only way we will find success, joy, peace….is when we understand fully that we are all connected. Take it outside everyday for five minutes…or more…and see what changes occur in your life.