Tag: Alabama Coast

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.

In Love with the World

In Love with the World

There can be a tendency to shut down as we move through life. Experiences that generate fear are at the bottom of a closed heart. In a Course in Miracles there’s a very famous quote that says, “What is not love is fear.” This seems more true with each passing day.

When I documented the Gulf Oil Spill for a year I found myself unable to function very well in almost every other aspect of my life because I was so traumatized by what I saw and experienced. At the time my closing down was a self-preservation tactic. And so it is, especially with childhood trauma or in times of disaster or immediate loss. We close down to be able to function.

It took a week with like-minded people under Joanna Macy’s guidance for me to begin to unravel the tight shroud of protection I had woven around myself.  A week of learning and healing with Joanna and 30 other folks dedicated to working on helping the planet was a jump-start back to an open heart and more effective living.

Life has rocked along since then with major life-changes occurring including a move back home from the mountains of North Carolina to the beloved Gulf Coast. Since returning home I worked five seasons as a sea turtle volunteer and helped in a manatee rescue near my home. I’ve written and produced three books and am working on two more now. I have traveled and visited with humpback whales, dolphins, sea lions and manatees. I’ve visited the Sea of Cortez twice. But even with all the creative energy experienced, it has felt like there’s something missing.

I’ve spent time exploring the missing piece and have gradually come to realize that my time as a ‘hermit’ is coming to an end. I’ve hidden from the world, in a way, and spent time in deep contemplation and while that’s good, I have kept the world at arm’s length. It can be a crazy, schizo world after all.

The planet is working very hard to balance itself.  Increasing temperature and pollution is accelerating changes that were long and slow in the past. We’re seeing the climate change in one lifetime in what should take millennia and seeing species go extinct daily. Cancer rates are outrageous because of toxins humans have added to the environment. It’s a lot to take in and process….especially if you are one inclined to enjoy sanity. Thus, the withdrawal on my part.

So after this extended time of retreat I find myself wanting to move out into the world. And one of the ideas that has presented is traveling throughout our beautiful country sharing my body of work about the beauty of the Ocean of saltwater that surrounds all land forms on this water planet…the perfect metaphor for the Ocean of Love in which we all exist.

A little teardrop camper, a vehicle to pull it and me and Buddy visiting places and people….connecting Ocean-to-Ocean on this amazing continent. Video presentations, workshops and book sales are just the beginning. Look for it some day. I want to spread love and light and champion the amazing Ocean planet on which we live and encourage people to join together in understanding and connecting with each other and nature. Why? Because I am in love with the world, after all.

Buddy Experiences Moonlight Madness…Painting
Making Lemonade

Making Lemonade

My Nikon had been sitting on my desk since the Florida Springs dive trip. I felt so bad for it, all alone…waiting for a play date, I decided to do my Sunday morning beach walk this morning since Sunday was rained out. It was before 5am when I ran upstairs and grabbed my camera and tripod. Cool. The tripod bracket is already on the camera. That will save time.

When shooting sunrise, I like to begin while it’s still completely dark. With long exposures very nice effects result. About half way to the beach I wondered why my tripod bracket was on the camera. When did I use the tripod? Not on the dive trip. Hmmm.

The sky was still subdued but there were pink clouds mocking me as I hurriedly drove the last few curves on Highway 135. By the time I ran to the water’s edge most of the pink was gone. Whatever, I’ll just do some long exposures with the rough water…that will be nice.

When I attempted to attach my camera to the ball head on my tripod I noticed the plate on my camera was actually for my underwater housing….NOT the tripod. Well    just    freak.

I played with purposely moving the camera and had such fun.

Not to be deterred, I started shooting and balancing the camera on the tripod for long exposures and they did okay. No big deal…just not as long as I wanted.

About 10 minutes into the shoot I realized I hadn’t cleared my memory card…my large memory card that was nearly full. And for some reason, Lightroom and my D800 don’t play nice when I don’t want to import everything on the card. And with images that are very large in size….jeez. I didn’t want to even think about the fussing that would go on between the Adobe product, the Apple product and me later. Gawd. Next time I think about shooting, I’ll pack everything the night before….duh.

Too late now. Light was brightening and that’s not what I want when playing with motion and color and wide angle.

I finally had enough concrete and geometric fluffy water shots so put my tripod in the car. I could at least get in a good walk on the beach.

The rough water of the past few days had deposited huge amounts of plants from Mobile Bay along the beaches. I felt bad about leaving my usual trash bag at home for collecting garbage but there was so much plastic and other human-created debris I could have filled up a pick-up truck…or small dump truck. (I did remove plastic bags and a mylar balloon….deadly items for sea turtles and other animals that might eat it).

Regardless, I played with my 14-24mm lens. Each time I use it I remember how much I enjoy the lens…its beautiful crispness, the ability to get very close to objects for interesting wide angle shots. It was a sweet reminder.

I could have given up after leaving my bracket at home or paused to erase (one-by-one) the many photographs from diving weeks ago so I wouldn’t lose the ones already taken this morning….but then missed the perfect light. However, I worked with the circumstances that presented and came away with not only a nice walk and a few good images, but with a valuable reminder: Work with what I have, celebrate the day regardless.

Perhaps too often I allow the glitches of the day define the day. No need to do that. Keep squeezing the day for every bit of sweetness I can find.

Lasting Treasure

Lasting Treasure

Some times I find myself working too hard to figure things out. That’s been the case with my feeling of stuck-ness that has lasted for five years. Sure I’ve written books, taken really nice photographs resulting from amazing travels, possibly even contributed to the awakening happening on our planet…but I’ve just not been able to find a steady rhythm of forward momentum. For an Aries, a trail-blazer, it’s almost unbearable. Shouldn’t I be doing SOMETHING more!?!?

I came across some guidance the other day that basically said I need time to withdraw and contemplate after the breakup of a relationship I thought was my happily-ever-after. (That break-up was over five years ago). It said to rest and grow strong, retreat from life. I was reminded of The Hermit, the archetype that withdraws and consolidates and visualizes the pattern of destiny, the Will of the Spirit.

It’s not a daily sadness or even missing him but a daily remembering of the good times when two people vow to share their lives. I’ve done the healing of grief and sadness but haven’t been able to move out of the stuck place. So in meditation I asked what I was missing in the situation, thus the guidance. How does one create a new vision of life when the path seemed so beautiful and clear with another person? Or job….or home….or child…or planet.

Then I thought, it’s not just ‘him.’ I planned on the the ocean and rivers and mountains and shores being healthy…dolphins, whales, sea turtles, manatees….I’m not just trying to find a way forward from a man I loved, I am trying to find footing on a planet that is in peril. What if everything I have taken for granted and loved deeply disappears? This is the big existential question looming and creating a major pause in my skipping along the merry path. It’s more than just a man…isn’t it always?

Thirty-two years ago I consciously stepped on to a spiritual path seeking truth and searching for meaning. There have been so many times along the way I wished I could forget what I had learned about myself, about the world around me and return to ignorant bliss; however, somewhere along the way I realized clearing out the old ‘yuck’ and healing old, unhealthy patterns of behavior was slowly allowing me to experience deeper joy, stronger peace that lasted longer with each step up the ladder. As my wholeness increased I became more aligned with work that held meaning and felt inspired by my heart.

Photograph Summer 2010…Shell Oil

When the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill occurred I was living in Asheville with my husband. That moment….April 20th, 2010…called me to service. It was my personal wake-up call/invitation to fully commit my time and resources to raising awareness of the beauty of nature and the brokenness that exists between humans and nature…and the importance of restoring the awareness of Oneness of all life. Oddly enough, that was the beginning of the end of my marriage….the unraveling had started but it was the deep call to service that ultimately pulled us apart…him to Iraq, me to coastal Alabama.

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

I reported the oil when it first washed ashore in the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf of Mexico. I sat there and wept as waves of chocolate-colored, benzene-smelling crude oil and dispersant made landfall on the sugar white beaches. My world fell apart. I couldn’t believe humans could do this to a planet. It’s one thing to see it reported on the news and quite another to smell it, feel it, and watch the destructiveness as it creeps along killing everything it its path.

Gulf State Park Summer 2010

I haven’t broken my relationship with nature but humans have, as a whole, broken the bond of Oneness, the realization that whatever we do to nature, we do to ourselves.

How does one move forward with the awareness of such brokenness?

Perhaps it begins by taking time to listen to the Path of Destiny, to form a new vision by taking a break. By asking what the Will of Spirit is preparing as I surrender more to my heart’s calling.

While cycling this morning a David Wilcox song (Deeper Still) came on my playlist and the lyrics really spoke to me, not just about my former beloved but about the path of service. Often these thoughts come…Have I wasted my time and resources? Am I on the right trajectory? What was I thinking? This song was my answer…. In this life the love you give becomes the only lasting treasure.”

In the tears you gave to me
I found a river to an ocean.
Concrete sky and a stone cold sea
Came to where the emptiness cracked open.

Then all my fears came crashing through
And met the fire of my sorrow.
But I found my strength in forgiving you.
I never even knew how far my heart could go.

I live my life beyond each death
From the deeper well of trust.
To know that when there’s nothing left
You will always have what you gave to love.

In this life the love you give
Becomes the only lasting treasure.
So that what you lose will be what you win.
A well that echoes down too deep to measure.

Every bit of love I have given along my path is my greatest treasure….a well too deep to measure.

Chasing Sunrise

Chasing Sunrise

The route has been the same for a few years now. If I time it right, the orange orb rising over the swamp greets me as I traverse the cross-over trail. And if I’m really lucky, there is mist hovering over the area.  I am a creature of habit.

Now there are many new trails over previously inaccessible areas. And the Gulf of Mexico wonders where I’ve been all these months. Where did you go? she whispers in Her waves as they kiss the shore.

So many choices now. Which way to go?

First, I answer Her call. Straight to salt water before the sun arises from slumber. Sometimes She is rowdy and throws Herself on white sand and other times She is metallic turquoise and barely moves, containing her energy. But every day Her voice whispers advice or leads me deeper into silence.

And then the sun calls me and I do something not previously done….I ride into the Light.

I realized last week that for years I have planned my rides so that I don’t have face the sun…who wants to stare into the sun when there are other ways and routes that prevent this? But sunrise over the marsh, elevated on the boardwalk is exquisite. The Light calls me to face it….to turn towards it and allow it to bathe me in its glow.

I used to want to observe the sun as it peeked over the swamp. Now I want it to wrap around me, shine upon me and fill me…so every day I cycle I chase sunrise.

 I have started a line of shirts called, Follow the Light. The first one is now available for purchase. The sale of these tees supports my work and allows me to do more of what my heart calls me to do. This design is available in white unisex sizes or ladies v-neck rocking a modern cut and design. Support the work but above all, Follow the Light!

There is a limited number available on this first production.

Purchase here or send me a message to purchase.