Tag: BEAUTY

Cathedral of Sunrise

Cathedral of Sunrise

_TSL1819Sea turtle patrol is one of my favorite summer volunteer efforts. Actually, it’s more than that. It’s my time in the cathedral of sunrise on the shore. Every venture onto the white sand to look for mother sea turtle tracks is an opportunity to commune with the sea, sky, sand and wildlife found in and around the saltwater.

_TSL1820And while all of that communing is incredible, amazing, relaxing, and awe-inspiring, time on the beach, with no other humans, gives me time to commune with my deepest self. It’s almost as good as being underwater on scuba or in the water with humpback whales or manatees.

_TSL1893Nature is my cathedral. It’s where I see Spirit manifested so powerfully, so beautifully. The dance of life is so evident here where saltwater meets earth…the convergence zone of watery existence and land-based living. The sound of the surf is the hymn for this time of contemplation and celebration.

_TSL1900Finding a mother sea turtle’s tracks is a bonus, the proverbial icing on the cake. Each encounter with great blue herons, sanderlings, willets, dolphins, tiny just-hatched mullet, crabs, coquina shells, sand, sea, sunrise, clouds…always gifts that are received with a grateful heart.

Enfolded

Enfolded

SimoneLipscomb 7The full moon hanging low in the pre-dawn sky lit the cool, white sand of the wildlife refuge. The path led me along the boundary of a nesting area of least terns down to the edge of the Gulf. Crisp air caressed my face and a slight breeze stirred, barely discernible.

SimoneLipscomb 4 (1)The still-hidden sun created a kaleidoscope of color in the east as the moon set in the western sky. Balance. Perfect balance.

SimoneLipscomb 4I paused a moment, thankful for the quiet beauty that created such peace. The reflections created by nature opened a doorway for inner reflection and in those moments, before my sea turtle patrol began, my breath traveled deeper….deeper, deeper into the depths of inner stillness.

SimoneLipscomb 5Walking in balance, in peace, the colors of the dawn greeted my hungry eyes. Metallic turquoise and deep orange danced in the gathering light upon the surface of the sea. My heart sang with pure joy.

SimoneLipscomb 3The rhythm of all life pulsed in harmony and was felt with every beat of my heart. As the birth of the day quickened, a blanket of pink spread throughout the sky and I felt completely enfolded in peace and light.

 

 

First Contact

First Contact

28 March 2015

First afternoon with humpback whales.

SimoneLipscomb (176)(Silence)

WOW!

I’m sitting on the bow of the mothership listening to the sound of waves gently kissing the sides of the metal hull. Eighty miles offshore and nearly flat calm seas.

(Silence).

WOW!

SimoneLipscomb (230)I’m not sure there are words to describe the amazing experience. I’ll have to invent them.

This morning, while having breakfast, we saw humpbacks from a distance and were amazed. Truly. When three massive adults are rowdy within ten yards of the tender boat…well…just OH! MY! GOD! Thank you!!

SimoneLipscomb (182)The action was so quick…so very quick…I hardly had time to take it in. But at one point I just stopped and emotions arose. Trying to balance on a moving boat while manually focusing a heavy lens with moving whales is challenging. Very challenging. The auto-focus is too slow so I had to anticipate where they would surface, focus and wait.

SimoneLipscomb (179)Hearing the blow was amazing and one was so close I could hear the trumpet sound he was making with his exhalation. It’s a high-low sound like a raspy voice, a grunt almost. He was working hard, swimming fast to keep up with the female, calf and her escort. Just being close enough to hear that sound was amazing. It feels permanently tattooed on my soul.

Another wonderful moment was being so close we could see the white of their fins directly under us and see bubble streams as they surfaced. WOW!

SimoneLipscomb (164)
Rowdy Group…notice the whale has a mouth-full of water. They do this supposedly to make themselves look bigger to the other male.

There were several mother whales with juveniles but none were interested in us visiting them in the water. But it was okay. I want time to integrate this afternoon’s experiences.

(Silence).

WOW!

At one point on the small boat, when we were so close to the whales, I thought I had never felt so comfortable in my skin. (Sigh).

SimoneLipscomb (168)As I sit trying to gather my thoughts about my first close encounter with humpbacks I look into the soft, blue sky filled with wispy, white clouds. I see humpbacks in every cloud formation. One cloud looks like a spinal column, like vertebra of a massive sky whale. I wonder if I breathed too much fishy whale breath and am hallucinating.

What could be better than snuggling in the bow of the big boat, gazing upwards and finding cetacean cloud forms gazing down at me? Whale angels flying around the sky with long, flowing, graceful pectoral fins, stretching to the edges of the Universe.

SimoneLipscomb (34)The water was so clear today and so calm. I feel such gratitude just to be close to the whales, to see them in the distance as they blow or breach or lob tail or fin slap. What is this strange magic here on the Silver Bank? I feel inebriated with wild, white-breathed whale blows.

I sense myself changing rapidly as I become one with the Ocean and Her singers, the voice of the Sea. The only thing to do is surrender to it, let go and be in the salt-water flow.

——

Whale Notes: A Rowdy Group is a group of whales that includes a female and possibly a calf, her escort and at least one challenger (male). They move very fast and get very physical with one another. The explosive power in these massive animals is truly mind-blowing. Humpback males are 45 to 50 feet in length. Females are 50 to 55 feet in length but size varies just as it does in humans. Adults weigh between 25 and 40 TONS! Calves are born about 15 feet in length and weigh around a ton.

Photography Notes: Surface shots are with a Nikon D300, a Nikon 70-200mm lens with a 2x converter. Some of these images are at 600mm. Very few are cropped…the whales were so close in some shots I couldn’t frame their entire fluke (tail) in the image. The auto-focus function was far too slow so I manually focused all surface shots. This was undoubtedly the most difficult and challenging shooting I’ve ever done. Trying to keep the camera and lens dry, balance in a moving boat while manually focusing on fast-moving whales was tough. I was delighted that many of my shots were actually in focus…and quite surprised. I would focus on where I guessed the whale would surface and had my shutter on continuous fire. I set the lowest aperture (5.6 with the converter) and let the camera choose the shutter speed which worked very, very well.

Entry One from the Whale Diary can be found at this link.

 

Finding Eden

Finding Eden

IMG_8881Two days ago I passed the tunnel. Actually, it was a large culvert, partially filled with water, that goes under a road but it called out to me. I thought about it then but paddled on, intent on getting a good, physical workout.

Today, I paddled my SUP board for serenity, to find balance, to find center. The wind wasn’t as intense as before but it was still moving the water and me around enough that quiet, still channels were my goal.

IMG_8876The tunnel….so inviting. I paddled past it, to the end of the canal, and turned around. I almost decided against paddling through but the emerald green on the other side called to something deep within and so I slowly glided into the darkness.

Once inside, I felt contained and safe and marvelously happy. The verdant reflections on the other side called me onward and after pausing to take a couple of photographs, I slowly moved forward, reluctant to emerge as the feeling of containment was medicine. Big medicine.

It’s been a wild week. Intensely, insanely wild. Off-the-charts, ape-s*@t crazy wild. Was it only Monday–two days ago– I was emerging from a shower to awaken me at 4.30am and thought I should check my email in case news of a potential trip arrived. It did. And so I had to arrange air fare before leaving for Crystal River so I could be assured of a place on a humpback whale trip. A spot had opened up.

Then I wanted to order a hydrophone so I can record the singing of my whale brothers and so on the way south I was talking with sound-folks and trying to get everything ordered that would work with my current nature-sound recording equipment.

SimoneLipscomb (17)But back up a moment. Just days before I was invited to photograph the release of a manatee that I had helped rescue in the Magnolia River on January 4th. I felt lucky just to attend and watch quietly from the shore. Never did I imagine I would be asked to photograph Magnolia’s release. So of course, I had quite a buzz going from that upcoming event.

Add to that the humpback trip, finding a flight, ordering equipment, paying for the humpie trip and attending to all the details that trip involves while focusing on photographing the release of a manatee and documenting the Alabama Manatee Sighting Network’s tagging efforts….I think brain-fried is possibly as accurate a description as I can find.

And not sleeping well thrown into the mix..it has been an incredibly intense few days.

SimoneLipscomb (26)Magnolia’s release went well but within a few minutes time I was trying to stay clear of the manatee yet photograph and video her release and acclimation to the spring, try not to run over Sea World photographers who were running after the manatee and remember to adjust the settings on my camera when she went into a very bright part of the spring while clearing my snorkel, remembering to make sure the GoPro was actually underwater….you get the idea. Not easy but rewarding. And feel so grateful for the invitation. Profoundly grateful…thank you Ivan.

SimoneLipscomb (27)Rush back to hotel and try to pull video footage for the wildlife refuge and media here and in Alabama along with still images…..cram lunch so sweetly provided by the Sea Lab folks and then go out with three of the researchers into the Gulf tracking one of their manatees. Actually two but we won’t count the first one which led us on a very long, bumpy ride around grass beds resulting in Cas not being found. But finding Brody on the way back to the boat ramp and getting observation data on him. Late night…grunge dinner and hoped for sleep that was put off by insane partiers next door who had security called on them by their grumpy, tired neighbor.

IMG_8849Early morning to Homosassa River to track Cas with the gals from the Sea Lab. The tracking wasn’t working so well but we did hear his ping so we knew we were close. I spotted the satellite tag at the entrance to a canal and he was there with several friends exhibiting, shall we say, playful cavorting.

SimoneLipscomb (18)Kayla did an amazing job switching out his tag considering she had manatees on top of him, rolling on him and playing with the belt as she worked to attach a temporary tag, remove the old tag, attach a new tag and then remove the temporary tag. I watched in the water from a distance and had manatees swimming under my legs, nibbling my exposed ankles as I stood in shoulder-deep water, swirl around me checking me out. I got some very good photo ID shots of a very scarred manatee that made my heart hurt.

SimoneLipscomb (12)After observing Cas and his friends for a while longer from the boat, we headed back and were at the hotel by 1pm. I said goodbye and sat in my room looking at images and processing them, checking emails and social media. I was so exhausted I couldn’t think straight then realized by 3pm that I had forgotten to eat.

Food helped revive me and I went back to the room to rest a while and ready myself for another SUP board paddle. I read an article on recent solar flares and a solar storm that was disrupting all sorts of human-related activities including sleep, health, radio signals and creating a lot of challenges for humans. Who knows how it affects animals.

And yesterday was the final of seven squares between Pluto and Uranus that began in 2012. Pluto is the bringer of change. My friend Steffan says, “Pluto is like the irresistible force, sweeping all before it. The only beneficial approach to this planet’s energies is to move in the direction it indicates. To do otherwise is to invite disaster.” Amen to that.

After reading the articles on Pluto and the solar storm, I thought back to the recent flurry of activity in my life and remembered that at the first of the year, in my new year’s eve meditation, I felt a strong wave of change coming into my life and knew this year was a year of intense and positive expression of my life’s work. January 1st found me in my dry suit helping with the rescue of a very sick manatee that died after being captured. But as I looked around at the large crowd of volunteers gathered on new year’s day, I knew that the meditation just hours before, was already coming true.

SimoneLipscomb (20)My life is quiet and lived in near solitude. My greatest love is to be in nature and to document the beauty I find there. I feel more animal than human and find animals so much easier to communicate with yet humans are the ones who hold the key to creating lasting, positive change. I knew this year was about putting myself and my work out into the world. It scared me as I looked around at the crowd gathered on new year’s day as I had asked them to come…and they responded with heart’s full of love. Why scared? Because I knew I could no longer hide and stay secluded in my quiet, peaceful world. I had to engage with others of my own species.

The adjustment hasn’t been easy. I have surrendered myself to the work, asking Spirit to open doors and promising to step through when they open. This all got going strongly just a few weeks after Magnolia was rescued on January 4th in Crystal River…where I met a marine biologist and his wife who invited me to Tonga. That was the trip I wrote about that started with a rainbow sky so powerful as I arrived in Crystal River that I had to stop just to take it in…and yes…and pulling up to Follow That Dream Parkway as the rainbow surrounded me.

SimoneLipscomb (30)Somehow that connection with Rich and his family and the rainbow experience opened doors that have continued to fly open. New camera housing for my D800, another manatee visit a couple weeks ago, meeting Ivan at the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge who has helped with photographic opportunities, the humpback trip to the Dominican Republic, the two tagging trips with the Sea Lab. Finally, after so many years of very diligent, hard and sometimes frustrating work, a shift is happening. It feels like I was laying a very deep and strong foundation for a long, long time and now the structure is beginning to be built. And from where I stand it’s pretty amazing to see.

SimoneLipscomb (29)The passion I have, the love that runs so deep within for our Ocean Planet and all life here is at times very painful to experience for I see not only the beauty but the destruction. Documenting the oil spill helped me refocus on what is right and good and beautiful with our planet and so that’s my journey, my focus…my intention with every breath.

All of this forward movement in just a few months has been quite overwhelming. For three years after I moved back to the Alabama coast I felt as if I was awaiting instructions. It was maddening for me to sit and feel I was being told to wait…be still…be patient. But I had no other choice. And now I have three books lined up to produce. The first one is laid out and a Kickstarter campaign is about to launch to fund the printing of it. The second one is a children’s book on manatees and the third one has a title and I know the subject but am not yet sharing details…but I can say it’s about working together to generate positive change.

IMG_8886So after all of this, especially the intensity of the past three days, I found myself exhausted mentally and physically this afternoon but determined to get out on my board and just breathe with the wind and find that magical rhythm of stroke, pull, glide…stroke, pull, glide.

So the tunnel that called me was really a birth canal of sorts. When I emerged on the other side it was as if I entered another realm of green and water. The canal rested along side an alley sort of road and I could hear the sounds of traffic nearby but on the other side was palm trees, thick vegetation and wet, dense mats of lushness. It was surreal to slowly glide through the tucked-away surprise.

IMG_8892For me, it was Eden. I felt myself drop into a deep inner stillness where my core connected with nature strongly. Time evaporated into the warm air and once again I was in that sacred space where there is no separation between nature and me.

During the past couple of weeks I have met some of the nicest people who share a love of wildlife, the environment and humans, too. It feels as if my family is growing with brothers and sisters whose hearts are shiny and open. I am profoundly grateful…beyond words grateful.

I am ready.

 

Water & Light

Water & Light

SimoneLipscomb (68)Translating nature’s beauty is why I do what I do. The reason I do this is two fold. First, it is what makes my heart sing. Second, if I can help others see the beauty of nature perhaps it will inspire them be good stewards of our water planet.

SimoneLipscomb (55)The recent scattering of manatees from the warm water springs has given me an opportunity to capture the beauty of their watery home. I have paid closer attention to the subtle beauty of the underwater world of fresh water springs.

SimoneLipscomb (48)Previously, through cave diving, I’ve been into the earth and felt the strength of springs as they push the life-blood of the planet through limestone; however, I’ve never taken the time to explore the open water around the springs. The past two days have given me the opportunity to explore little ‘caverns’ of dark roots and the secrets they have shared touch my life gently. It’s as though the beauty here is shy, bashful. Manatees are the rock stars yet surrounding them is an amazing wonderland.

SimoneLipscomb (31)Perhaps when we are open, we find bliss in other ways than those expected. Communing with tiny fish hiding among roots created joy within me. As I floated perfectly still on the surface, camera extended in front of me, fish came over to say hello in their fishy way. Gaining the trust of wild animals, whether manatees or fish, creates such peace within me.

SimoneLipscomb (60)Instead of feeling disappointed by not seeing manatees, I feel profound peace. They are out feeding after a long, cold winter. I am exploring realms of water and light. There is something to be said for simply going with the flow and allowing the day to bring beauty.

SimoneLipscomb (17)Open mind. Open heart. Bliss.