Night Before Christmas….From the Reef

Night Before Christmas….From the Reef

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Night Before Christmas…Turtle Island Style

Adapted by Simone Lipscomb

From Clement Clarke Moore’s Poem

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through Coral Park

Not a fish was stirring, not even a shark.

The stockings were hung on the brain coral with care,

In hopes that Santa Loggerhead soon would be there;


The Parrotfish were nestled in cocoon beds,

While visions of candied algae swam in their heads;

And daddy under his coral ledge, and I in my gap,

Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap,

When out from the deep there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from the reef to see what was the matter.

_TSL6508Away to the drop-off I swam a fast clip,

Right through Tube Sponges and over Sea Whips.

The moon on the breast of sand, white like snow,

Gave the luster of mid-day to objects below,

When, what my wondering eyes saw from the dark,

A Giant Clam and eight big Bull Sharks,

With an ancient old driver, who looked well-fed,

I knew for certain, it was Santa Loggerhead.

More rapid than Barracuda’s his coursers they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

_TSL1657“Now Billy! Now Bruzer! Now, Bobby and Barry!

On Betty! On Beatrice! On Emily and Mary!

To the top of the reef! To the top of the wall!

Now dash away! Dash away Dash away all.”

As palm leaves that before the wild hurricanes fly,

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,

So up to the reef-top the bully’s did tow,

A clam full of goodies and Santa Loggerhead, Oh!

And then in a twinkling, I heard on the reef

The gnashing and gnawing of all those shark’s teeth.

_TSL7226As I drew in my head, and was turning around,

Down the reef Santa Loggerhead swam with a bound.

He was old and wrinkled from head to flipper,

His shell full of barnacles, but he couldn’t look hipper.

A bundle of goodies he had flung on his back,

And he looked like a diver just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled, so ancient and wise!

His head was enormous, his shell a huge size!

His beaked mouth was strong, I’m here to tell,

His overall look was really quite swell.

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The stump of a Tube Sponge he held in his beak,

And Blue Chromis encircled his head like a wreath;

He had a broad shell and quite a round belly,

That shook, when he laughed like a Cannonball Jelly.

SimoneLipscomb (25)He was ancient and huge, a right jolly old elf,

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a turn of his head,

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,

And laying a flipper aside of his nose,

And giving a nod, off the reef he rose;

SimoneLipscomb (1)He sprang to his clam sleigh, to his team said, “GO!”

And away they all swam like a five knot flow.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he swam out of sight,

“Happy holidays to all, and to all a good night.”





SimoneLipscomb (5)There’s an old joke that goes: How can you tell a happy motorcycle rider? She’s the one with bugs in her teeth. As I was cycling in the pre-dawn darkness I remembered the joke. I was laughing, smiling and rejoicing in the dark, quiet stillness and wondered if I had a collection of bugs in my teeth.

Birds were just awakening and were surprised by my whirling by in a blur of neon green, headlamp and red-flashing taillight. There was pure magic in the swampy woods and live oak forests before the sun arose and dissipated the gentle energy of the inky night. How could I not smile…or laugh out loud at the depth of beauty?

Deeper into the woods, deeper inside myself I went until there seemed to be no separation. At one point it was as if I took off dark glasses, so clearly did I see and connect with the energy of the backcountry. I thought of  a verse of scripture that goes something like…Now we see through a glass, darkly; someday we shall see clearly. For a brief moment I saw the Oneness, the lack of separation of this body, my consciousness, my energy field and that of the forest. I felt the deep joy that comes with the experience.

_TSL7676Through the marsh I pedaled with its beautiful openness barely illuminated by the rosy-orange sky. Breathing in….breathing out…the beauty filling me, my love and gratitude going into the marsh…the tall grass, flowers, water, creatures.

Then a turn to the left and a bird flew across the trail and I saw the bird as a musical note.  All of creation is part of one harmonious chord. How lovely this planetary song, I thought.

DSC_8937Onward I moved and the realization came: When a species is threatened or in danger of extinction, the musical note it holds in the whole dims and fades and if that species disappears, there is a minor tone instead of a clear tone and the planetary music sounds mournful. The more species that die off, the more minor the key, the sadder the music of our ocean-planet home.

IMG_1705Likewise if a place is destroyed the particular note it vibrated in the whole chord is gone and the music is more distorted. Imagine the planetary vibration, once in perfect harmonious accord, changed with each act of violence, each act of destruction. Eventually the chord, the vibration can dissemble into distorted chaos.

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Brent Durand took this image of me diving in the Sea of Cortez. My deepest meditations are underwater while diving. Harmony…ah!

The resolution to this disharmony, this destruction, is to vibrate our hearts with love and to act from a place of compassion. As the vibration of the planet changes, humans can restore balance and harmony with the intention of love and by concrete, daily practices of recycling, using less fossil fuel, buying less ‘stuff,’ supporting organic farming, re-purposing articles, helping neighbors, helping animals, meditation, self-healing…..

_TSL3873Light of the rising sun began to illuminate tree branches, spanish moss, and autumn flowers. Palmetto fronds reached toward the light, palms wide open to receive, ‘fingers’ releasing gratitude skyward. They are an example for us. Hearts open to receive, hands giving love back to the whole by our actions, thoughts and the daily intentions we hold. Planetary harmony is in our hands.

Two white-tailed deer stood alongside the trail as I neared the end of my ride. They peacefully watched me approach and moved off as I quietly pedaled past. Such beauty. Such harmony. Such gratitude.


Divine Madness

Divine Madness

IMG_1702The sharp click of metal on metal as my cleats clipped into the pedal reverberated in the foggy air–silence broken for a moment as I pushed off, leaving the mundane, the grounded ones in whirling flight. Half bird, half coyote I spun into the pre-dawn light.

IMG_1729The drive down to the park was spent listening to one song played and repeated as I let the music and lyrics fill my mind. I rode with no soundtrack today except the lingering lyrics echoing within my mind and heart.

IMG_1743“Shining light of mercy…coming of the day. Shooting star of promise…the lantern on the way. Picture in the locket, love so near and far. Song your mother’s singing, firefly in a jar…..Coltrane in the 60’s, Blind Willie lost in time….Mahalia, like an angel, the hymns of human kind. Bouquet of forgiveness, the healing of the heart. Redemption of misfortune and the madness of the world. Madness of the world. Love of peace alighting. One moment making sense. Love crashing through the barricade, love reaching through the fence. The Christmas Eve ceasefire, wind beneath a bird. Inebriated choir and the madness of the world. Madness of the World. Madness of the World. Paint brush hittin’ canvas, the dancin’ in the rain. Flannery O’Conner, word on every page. Kindness of a stranger, Prodigal’s return. The absence of all anger and the Madness of the World….The Madness of the World. The letter from your father, the weight of every word. The love that keeps you singing; the sublime, the absurd. The ancients and the mystics, minstrel in the park. Soothers and the sayers, healing ancient scars. Those who came before us, those we’re never heard. Babies breath on my neck, madness of the world. Madness of the world….madness, oh madness, madness of the world.” Will Kimbrough from Mercyland Vol 2.

IMG_1716The first time I heard this song, tears came as my heart opened. Every time I listen the same thing happens…even listening to it on repeat. It mirrors my feelings and probably those of many of us struggling to make sense of this world.

IMG_1739Choosing to pay attention to behaviors human’s choose to practice toward each other, animals, plants, sacred places brings so much grief and sadness we can be overwhelmed. But then the fog is lit by colors of the rising sun….”Shining light of mercy…” or birds surround me as I pedal through their woods….”wind beneath a bird…..” Bursting out in laughter at the rays of light bursting through pine limbs in the fog…”coming of the day….” I realize beauty helps me rise above the sadness…”shooting star of promise…”

IMG_1705Without beauty of landscape and heart, the madness of the world would devour us. But somehow, amid the insanity of darkness we see inklings of light and they lift us above the quicksand of sadness to flight.

IMG_1743Will’s song brings tears because amid awareness of climate change and ocean acidification, social injustices and meanness, we can still find the sweetness of love and laughter. It’s a healing waltz as we dance in the schizophrenic reality of life. I think he reminds us that we can survive and even thrive in a world of madness by being mindful of beauty walking shoulder-to-shoulder with darkness.


Check out Will Kimbrough‘s body of work. Find his song, Madness of the World, on Mercyland: Hymns for the Rest of Us, Volume 2



More Wild Than Not

More Wild Than Not

_TSL4572Blinking letters on the large, portable sign made me snarl: Controlled Burn Gulf State Park. I felt my bicycle wiggle on the rack. Dang it! Well, the park is over 6000 acres. Maybe the Backcountry Trail is open. 

Being the eternal optimist, I parked and pedaled from park headquarters to the trail entry but sure enough, it was closed. Optimism pushed me onward and I continued along the park road until an old trail that runs behind the campground intersected it. My hybrid bicycle got its first taste of real trail riding as marsh grass, flowers and birds enriched the leisurely pedal through Bear Creek Trail. Then on through the campground before the sun had risen and at the end of the road, another blockade to the Backcountry Trail. As I stopped to read the burn date a ranger pulled up and suggested the Peninsula Trail that runs along Fort Morgan Road. Not backcountry but not highway either. Good alternative. Right?

_TSL7713Crossing the large intersection of Highway 59 and Highway 180, even with crosswalk buttons, created anxiety within me. Riding with distracted drivers is my least favorite way to cycle. And just about everyone who crosses the Intracoastal Waterway Bridge is distracted by something. Those of us who live here think that a switch automatically turns off in people’s brains when they cross that bridge.

After safely navigating the busy intersection there was a never-ending series of smaller intersections along the ‘trail.’ Huge grocery store, bank, apartments, residences, gas station. I felt myself wanting to hide and go deeper in the woods and avoid developed areas. Many of the intersections had 8 x 8 wooden posts in the center of both sides of the trail to keep vehicles from entering the trail. There wasn’t opportunity to surrender to nature’s embrace like I do when riding the Backcountry Trail. I was just trying to avoid hitting huge posts, cars and avoid getting hit by cars.

Doe taken in Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountain National Park...can't get photographs while I am cycling.

During moments away from crossroads, I felt what animals must feel when dealing with loss of habitat. Forced to interact with the human species, they have to avoid being crushed without the ability to read signs or understand traffic rules. On a visceral level I felt a kinship with raccoons, deer, opossums, snakes, birds, foxes, bobcats, turtles and the other species who live on the island or any place where habitat is destroyed for development.

SimoneLipscomb (1)The truth of Oneness came to mind. I realized the pain experienced by humans when wild places are destroyed is because we are part of the woods, the beaches, the Ocean…when it is raped, we feel it. We experience the loss of beauty and safety. As our planet suffers more and more abuse, those of us paying attention feel the heartbreak, the grief and we’re not only grieving for a random place of beauty, we are grieving for the loss of ourselves.

_TSL1820In my first book, Sharks On My Fin Tips (2008), I wrote about instinctual wisdom and oneness. Here’s an excerpt from my book that describes an experience on a night dive: “I looked up and saw the light of the bright, full moon shimmering on the surface and filtering through the clear, turquoise water in wild, geometric patterns. I became so enraptured by the play of moonlight in the water and on the white sand that I settled into an open sandy area on the ocean floor and laid down, belly against Earth….I closed my eyes and listened to the sounds of the ocean…the clicking of shrimp and creatures moving through the sand. Darkness enclosed me. The weight of the entire Atlantic Ocean pushed against me as Earth cradled me. Time no longer held meaning for me as I lay prostrate in an act of worship. All I knew in that moment was utter and complete peace and contentment….in those moments, life as I had known it was transcended. I was one with everything around me.”

_TSL4846Edward Abbey in his book Desert Solitaire (1968), wrote: “Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself….The love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth, the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only home we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need–if only we had the eyes to see. Original sin, the true original sin, is the blind destruction for the sake of greed of this natural paradise which lies all around us…we need wilderness whether or not we ever set foot in it. We need a refuge even though we may never need to go there. We need the possibility of escape as surely as we need hope; without it the life of the cities would drive all men into crime or drugs or psychoanalysis.”

_TSL7671John Muir in his book John of the Mountains (1938) wrote: “When I first came down to the city from my mountain home, I began to wither, and wish instinctively for the vital woods and high sky. Yet I lingered month after month, plodding at ‘duty.’ At length I chanced to see a lovely goldenrod in bloom in a weedy spot alongside one of the less frequented sidewalks there. Suddenly I was aware of the ending of summer and fled. Then, once away, I saw how shrunken and lean I was, and how glad I was I had gone.”

_TSL7070Even though I live in a rural area of Coastal Alabama and spend my happiest hours cycling the Backcountry Trail or paddling my SUP board on the river, my travels are most happily spent in wild areas. The Sea of Cortez gifted me with two weeks of wildness this summer that nourished me to great depths. I didn’t know how agitated and angry I had become by ignoring the part of me that yearns for deep connection with wild places. Today, while cycling, I was reminded how connecting with nature is much more than simply being outside.

_TSL5199From my trip to the Midriff Islands in the Sea of Cortez: “Little cumulus clouds dot the sky, their edges lit as silver from the gathering light. The warm glow of the sun, orange and golden in hue, set the edge of advancing clouds a-light, flaming softly toward the Baja Peninsula. The cerulean sky provides the canvas on which this masterpiece is composed. Where else but immersed in nature can one find such beauty while being kissed by the wind? Perhaps the most important experience on this journey has been to visit those unspoiled places where Spirit and Nature commune without human intervention. The experience has unleashed an amazing amount of energy within me. The challenge is to keep it moving and free as I return to what we call civilization.”

Photograph of me and sea lion friend taken by Tracey Bennett.
Photograph of me and sea lion friend taken by Tracey Bennett.

The lesson learned while cycling today is that I am more wild than not. While I may live in a nice home and enjoy modern conveniences, my heart is wild and most happy among those places where nature is free and unrestrained.

_TSL5697Richard Jefferies wrote a small book entitled, The Story of My Heart. “I burn life like a torch. The hot light shot back from the sea scorches my cheek–my life is burning in me. The soul throbs like the sea for a larger life.”


REvolution of Love

REvolution of Love

_TSL7676The moist, cool breeze enveloped me as I pedaled through the live oaks and pines of the woods. Goldenrods and asters, still heavy with pre-dawn dew,  nodded as gentle stirrings from the draft touched their delicate petals.

During the past few months I have started a practice of acknowledging beauty whenever I am outdoors. It’s simple. As I approach a flower, tree, body of water, land formation, animal I open my heart and mind and say thank you. Not a rote or meaningless practice but one of reverence where I make a conscious connection. I feel a conscious, return flow of appreciation…dare I say it…love. The outcome has been an increased capacity for joy.

_TSL7712While this has enhanced my life, it has brought other realizations. It feels like a revolution of love happening in my mind and heart…right there on the trail as I cycle.

In the process of my daily practice with nature, there has been an increased awareness of what human connection is intended to do for us and that has created an evolutionary awakening for me. Dare I claim spiritual evolution? An evolution of consciousness?

_TSL7177Without an easy or eloquent transition into explanation of the learning that has happened in my life I’ll jump right in: What if the purpose of a soul mate is simply to help us open and enhance the connection to our Higher Self.

When me meet someone we resonate with we feel the spark, the connection, so it’s easy to ‘fall’ for someone. But when we do fall, we give our power to them…the power to make us happy or sad, joyful, miserable depending on how they respond to what we think they should do for us. That first glimmer of recognition can easily turn into manipulative, possessive behavior…more, more, more we whine. Rather than allow them to help us open more to Spirit, Source, the Universe, we become fixated on them as the source of our happiness and joy and fail to see that they are a facilitator that helps open a pathway to the Universe…God…whatever your description is of the Creative Intelligence.

_TSL6830What would it look like to feel the connection with another human, a soul mate, who lights our life with electricity, and simply appreciate that connection as one promoting deeper awakening to our higher purpose? Without wanting ‘more.’ Without manipulating for ‘more.’ Without screaming the mantra, mine, mine, mine.

It may be that most of you, kind readers, have already figured this out but for me it felt like a major leap forward in growth. Could it be that I am becoming (gasp) wise?

Doe taken in Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountain National Park...can't get photographs while I am cycling.

Nature’s healing ways have always promoted balance in my life and lately I realize the inner message received over the past ten years to get outside and connect with nature daily wasn’t just to groove on the flowers or water or critters who might cross my path. My Higher Self has been sending that message as a true pathway to healing, to wholeness.