Chasing Sunrise…Backcountry Communion

Chasing Sunrise…Backcountry Communion

Today I attended Hugh’s celebration of life service and wanted to share this post from last autumn. Thank you Hugh for giving me an opportunity to learn about being a caretaker from one of the best I’ve ever known! Happy trails my friend.SimoneLipscomb (1) Soft, puffy, pale pink clouds hung in the eastern sky as I drove towards the Gulf. Each county road took me closer to the beach and as dawn approached, the clouds evolved from bashful beauties to loud expressions of color painting the sky with creative exuberance.

SimoneLipscombIt was still a bit dark to ride and the lake was close by so I crossed my fingers and drove to a spillway at the lake. I arrived for the most intense sunrise these fifty-something eyes have ever seen. Having only my iPhone, I clicked away hoping that it would do justice to the beauty. I could feel my Nikon weeping from the confines of its soft case at home.

SimoneLipscomb (10)I spent the first ten miles of the ride in the afterglow of profound color that ignited my heart with gratitude. Every live oak tree seemed to reach out with gnarly, twisted branches to greet me. Blazing stars with their arched, purple fronds exploded in joyful dance in the soft breeze. Brilliant red cardinal flowers seemed to emit sounds of color through their tiny trumpet-shaped blossoms.

SimoneLipscomb (7)As I pedaled and stayed present with the beauty enfolding me, I realized the only thing that separates us from nature–from all life–is our distracted minds. If we pay attention, are mindful and aware of life around us, it pays attention.

A group of four folks and I passed four times in my twenty miles and on the last pass one of the guys waved and said, “Hey, Simone!” Helmets, sunglasses…I don’t know who it was but his greeting created bubbles of gratitude for this beautiful park and trail where so many people enjoy nature–Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail.

SimoneLipscomb (6)When I was in high school I worked for Hugh at the park. After college I was hired as the naturalist in the state park. I witnessed Hugh stand guard over the park while politics and development seemed to want to tear it to shreds. He was a mentor to me and his ability to work well with people kept many of the takers from taking too much from this special land.

He’s not well these days and I know that at some point he will take the journey across the abyss to that other place….like all of us will some day. I hope the sky is as beautiful when he makes his journey as it was this morning. And whenever he goes, I hope he goes knowing that he is loved and appreciated for all he has done in his decades of dedication to Gulf State Park. Anyone who rides the trails there knows his name. I only hope they know what a very special person he is.

SimoneLipscomb (4)Chase a sunrise soon. Greet the flowers with your full attention. Let the Universe know you are aware of It and It will commune with you.

Paradise Right Here*

Paradise Right Here*

SimoneLipscomb (1)It was still dark as I pulled onto the highway and turned east. There, in the lightening sky hung venus while Dreamer’s Sky, Will Kimbrough’s song on the new Willie Sugarcapps CD eased me into the morning. The last sea turtle patrol of the season begins here, in my car, with music carrying me toward the Gulf of Mexico.

A turn south and another song, another turn east and there’s Venus again with Anthony Crawford‘s song, Love Be Good to Me, sweetly sung by Savana Lee Crawford. The planet of love and these lyrics…..”Love be good to me, Fill my heart again. Love, can you still hear me calling out to you?…..Everything happens in its own time.”

SimoneLipscombAnother turn south and more wonderful music. Grayson Capps, Love, surrounds me with soulful words and notes. And finally, a turn west at the beach and the full moon hangs in a perfect square notch in a massive cloud as Will Kimbrough’s, Paradise Right Here, begins to play. For less than a breath the moon is cradled by the towering cloud and then it disappears.

The words of the song touched me deeply the first time I heard it at the Frog Pond. Tears streamed down my face as I listened to Will’s lyrics. Today, they touched me again as I thought of daily abuses to our planet that take more of the paradise away….the paradise that literally is in the palm of our hand, as Will sings. It is totally up to us if it remains or is destroyed.

MagnoliaSophiaI reach the beginning of my sea turtle patrol at the edge of the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge and grab my camera as I exit the car. The full moon is still bright in the sky and the sun not yet risen. As I reach the water’s edge my faithful dolphin friend swims up and we journey east, toward the rising sun. He, swimming just offshore, and me, walking close to the water’s edge. The past several Sunday’s we have shared the sunrise together and the thought of not seeing him next Sunday saddens me.

_TSL5715The sky is in full sunrise celebration with crazy clouds and colors of phenomenal beauty. Joy leaps up within me as I frolic along the shore which seems to excite my cetacean buddy. As Will sings, “I’m glad to be alive and I’m thankful for this paradise right here, paradise right here. Right here, by the warm inviting water, right now with my bare feet in the sand, right here share it with your sons and daughters, paradise in the palm of your hand. Paradise in the palm of your hand. Paradise in the palm of your hand.”

_TSL5769So grateful for the paradise of this shoreline, the Alabama coast and the greater Gulf of Mexico….all life here…and hopeful that we can make it even better with efforts to be good stewards and approach our walk on this planet with love and compassion for all life.

_TSL5711The end of my walk neared and I saw two of my teammates approaching from their section. We celebrated the beauty of the morning and a successful patrol season and sea turtles. We remembered our loggerhead friends who lure us out each Sunday morning from May 1st through August 31st to chase the sunrise and re-discovered paradise…in the palm of our hand.

_TSL5808*Paradise Right Here is Willie Sugarcapps new CD title and the title of Will Kimbrough‘s fantastic song. Check it out!

Iguana Moon

Iguana Moon

SimoneLipscomb (32)The full moon called me to the sea. It was early this morning, before the sun peeked out from the eastern horizon on the far side of the island.

As I approached the steps to go down to the seaside patio, the moon glade of silver light on Ocean was so strong and powerful it was as if I was descending the stairs of Poseidon’s temple into the watery realm and could have continued on that silver path to reach the island across the way to places of magic and wonder beyond and beneath the surface.

Where are my mermaid scales? My tail? I feel so trapped by this mortal body.

SimoneLipscomb (19)Clouds passed in front of the brilliant moon and I sat drinking in her light with my eyes. So powerful is the pull of the moon’s magic…that fat, perfectly round orb. It weaves a spell with the sea to forever bind my soul to saltwater and the Mysteries contained beneath the surface.

Even as the gray of pre-dawn light began to overtake the darkness, the moon’s light illuminated the western sky and glowed brightly over Klein Bonaire. The sound of waves gently kissing the shore reminded me of the inner cycles, the coming and going, the building and diminishing of this flesh-bound existence.

SimoneLipscomb (6)As the moon faded and daylight grew, the iguana family awakened and began staring at me. Yes…of course. I’ll go get breakfast.

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SimoneLipscomb (18)I returned with honeydew melon and my camera. The container of melon was rushed as soon as I placed it on the concrete so I sat and chatted with my spiked-out friends as they breakfasted. They struck a few poses as my camera sat beside them so I got some really detailed shots of their best iguana-selves.

SimoneLipscomb (22)Once finished, they all turned to face the sea. I’ve noticed they do this and have wondered…what is the reason? Today I might have figured it out. A guy who swims laps each morning between two resorts passed and they all rushed to watch him. They either expect him to become dinner some day or they are telling secret iguana jokes about him. Either way it’s pretty hilarious stuff. Iguanas…what are you gonna do with them?

This shore, the elements of salt, sea, moon, tides…wildlife like my octopus friends, sea turtle friends, tarpon friends…the porcupine fish that actually got to know me and follows me when I dive….the squid that liked playing with my dome port….all of these things create a love affair with this place that will beckon me to return again and again.

SimoneLipscomb (1)As I sat on the concrete conversing with the iguanas during breakfast, I reflected back to a conversation with a girl and her family at dinner last night. After listening to some of my wildlife stories she said, “Simone, you know why the animals come to you don’t you? It’s because you love them so much.” Tears came as my heart melted. Yes, sweet friend. This is true. This is why I write and do photography and visit schoolchildren… to share about the Ocean and all Her magnificent creatures I love so deeply, so much.

The Sea, Beatitudes and Dawn

The Sea, Beatitudes and Dawn

SimoneLipscomb (1)Sweet bird song awakens me and draws me outdoors. The sweet, salty air and soft waves reach out to me and I walk with paper and pen in hand toward the sea.

Beside the broken concrete, a reminder of the power of the Ocean, I sit. There is just enough light to see ink on the page. The wind is whipping around the corner of the pink sea wall and I wish I had worn my lightweight jacket.

The sea is rolling this morning, even here between Klein Bonaire and the main island. Shore birds are just awaking. A gull flew by, silent in her passing. A small heron follows her. Just now a tern shrieked and dove for breakfast.

A wispy, white cloud in the shape of an angel or sea gull hangs to the south. I face west, watching the gathering light illuminate the sandy edge of Klein Bonaire.

Within a few feet of me two tidal crabs walk, in their crab-like march, to their chosen breakfast spot. The iguana family are late-risers and must have had a long night as they are still asleep, safely curled up under the broken concrete.

More crabs are waking and walking from their night’s rest to breakfast. A fisherman putt-putts by in a small boat. It’s legal to line fish for locals in the National Marine Sanctuary but I feel sad to think about my fish friends becoming dinner for a two-legged species. So few large grouper are here these days.

Over the past 14 years of diving, I have witnessed a steady decline of large fish everywhere. But this morning, right now, I want to celebrate what is here and send love and gratitude to all Ocean life for it is the Ocean that gives most of our oxygen, that truly is the lifeblood of the planet. Without a healthy Ocean, life as we know it is unsustainable.

The angel seagull cloud has dispersed now and glows with a soft peach color. The turquoise and indigo water is brighter now and a soft line of peach-colored haze stretches across the southern sky. To the north, gray clouds hang over the mountains.

More terns are hunting now, flying and hovering, then diving over schools of small fish. The surface of the water ripples with thousands of tiny finned wonders. Something for which to be grateful and happy.

As the gray, pre-dawn light lifts, it’s as if my inner vision clears and mysteries I’ve never known are revealed. I cannot form words about them so must be content to know and trust the wisdom is kept and understood on some deep, visceral level.

A snowy egret just flew past, no doubt finding her perfect breakfasting location. Thousands of gnats are flying in great streams within inches of my face. It’s almost disorienting. Thankfully they don’t bite.

It’s easy to lapse into deep contemplation as the energy of sunrise wraps itself like a blanket around me. So many questions….and yet it seems pointless to engage in internal dialogue. In this eternal moment, everything is in balance. Peace, calm permeates my being and I realize there are no questions…not really. There is just an Ocean of Love.

That’s what it comes down to really. Love is the force that creates this magnificent world. The only thing that disrupts the balance is fear.

The Beatitudes come to mind and for a brief moment I see clearly how human fear is what destroys beauty. The continual drive for more at any cost has, at its base, an intense fear of lack. If we step away from fear and remember the wisdom found in the Beatitudes, we can live in a world of peace and balance….harmony…love.

Small silver-white clouds now dot the sky above me. As I sit with the breeze playing with my hair and chilling my bare skin, I feel a distinct impression of a long-time friend walking down the stairs to my left. So strong is this feeling that I turn to see if he’s there. Perhaps not in body, but in spirit he joins me in the silence and we sit quietly and watch the celebration of life unfold with the dawn.

A whirlwind from beside the step picks up a large, dried leaf and tosses it toward me…a reminder that love never dies, it simply changes form and evolves into higher expression.

I walk up the steps and as I reach the top the golden light of dawn kisses my cheeks. And I smile with deep knowing and understanding.


The Beatitudes….happiness with a focus on love and humility rather than force and exaction. A call for spirituality and compassion. This is the answer that came this morning and one that can heal our world…no matter what religion you practice or don’t practice or if you believe in God, Allah, a higher power, Great Spirit or any named deity.

Blessed are……

…The poor in spirit: for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

…Those who mourn: for they will be comforted.

…The meek: for they will inherit the Earth.

…Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they will be filled.

…The merciful: for they will be shown mercy.

…The pure in heart: for they will see God.

…The peacemakers: for they will be called Children of God.

…Those who are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.


Professor Octopus

Professor Octopus

Vase sponge.
Vase sponge and coral.

Third day of Advanced Mermaid Training. The Beast (new housing and strobes) and I are getting along very well and even though its strobe arms appear to be a wild octopus out of the water, under water they behave quite well.

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Trumpet fish is master of disguise.

Today’s lessons were all about adjusting the octopus-like arms of the strobes, adjusting the direction of light, adjusting aperture to create the desired effects and learning ways to hold the heavy housing and strobes and more efficiently and safely enter and exit the water on shore dives. And enjoying being underwater…of course.

Relaxing at the entry.

The sandy beaches with no loose coral to slip on and a gentle-sloping bottom sure made it easier to get myself in and out of the water independently. That felt like a major accomplishment.

SimoneLipscomb (15)On the second dive I felt such bliss…slowly drifting along, communing with the Ocean and all life on the reef. I was completely relaxed and in harmony with the underwater world, my gear and myself. I think this is a key to every mermaid’s happiness and success.

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Professor Octopus demonstrating a perfect sea dance move.

Later, on the third dive of the day, I was completing a solo portion of the dive and spied a large octopus hunting. I got a couple of good shots and am very happy with them; however, a fish photo-bombed the best shot. But no worries. Mermaid Happiness Rulebook, Chapter One, Paragraph one states: “Sea creatures will be drawn to you so never, ever scold one for coming to say hello. Be gracious with every interaction of all sea creatures.”

This fish did a perfect photo-bomb when I was taking the octopus photograph.
This fish did a perfect photo-bomb when I was taking the octopus photograph.

I feel very joyful to have this week to reconnect with my most favorite island and all the friends who live under the sea here.

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Blissed out in mermaid mode.