Tag: Cycling

Rainbows in the Desert

Rainbows in the Desert

Composite image. Base layer....Desert in Iraq provided by Ray Cooke...thanks!
Composite image. Base layer….Desert in Iraq provided by Ray Cooke…thanks!

Even with music filling my head through the ear buds, I could hear the rain as the large drops splatted on the paved trail. As the drops hit my bare arms and legs there was a delightful little smack. Blessed rain. As I pedaled on the path, every drop felt as if it was washing away dust from a dry, red desert.

IMG_5160The past few weeks of hate have withered my spirit. Like a fertile land in a time of severe drought, my soul thirsted for peace, love, joy. Yesterday’s sea turtle patrol gifted me with bountiful clouds, colors and a warm breeze as I walked. Medicine.

Then as I was driving to the back country trail before dawn, the building clouds gave me pause. The taller, the more likely they would produce lightning. I monitored them all the way to Gulf Shores and they appeared benign so before there was light to show the way, I began cycling.

A chuck-will’s-widow sang to me as I started. So clear and loud was the song.

1Light increased as I pushed on. Cottontail rabbits munched breakfast along the side of the trail. Birds sleepily flittered from their roosts to begin their search for breakfast. Through arching branches of live oak trees I could see colors illuminate the cloud tops.

6If there ever was a celebration of light and shape, it was this morning with the clouds showing off with multidimensional growth and outrageous hues. In the far west, exactly opposite of the rising sun, fingers of pastel pink light emitted from a central point of origin. What mysterious generator of light could create such a phenomenon? So soft, so subtle were the rays of light my phone camera couldn’t capture them.

31Grooving to happy music and singing along, I saw the wall of water falling from the sky and heading my way. JOY! FUN! A sensory treat of cold, fat rain drops against my hot skin along with sound effects– SPLAT! SPLAT! SPLAT!  as each drop smacked the pavement or my skin. A rainbow appeared over the Gulf amidst the gathering clouds. YEAH! A rainbow!

After reaching the end of a trail I turned around and eventually pedaled out of the rain. I intersected with another trail and rode it until it ended. After turning around I noticed a beautiful sheet of rainbow rain falling across the forest. The softness of the colors and their shimmering, gentle glow created a burst of laughter from within. Those lucky trees…all that rainbow rain!

5Eventually I turned onto a trail that would take me to my car. Before long I came upon clear puddles of water on the trail. Large drops were still dripping from dark green, waxy live oak tree leaves. Rainbow raindrops from the cascading shower seen from the distance.

simonedrawingAs I pedaled I imagined the soft, pastel colors splashing on me from the puddles and from above. Cleansed with rainbow energy. Renewed. Filled with nature’s sweetness. At peace once again. Joyful once again.

My soul felt so desert-like and then rainbows appeared three days in a row reminding me….it’s all okay.

Around the Bend….

Around the Bend….

“What I love most about rivers is:
You can’t step in the same river twice
The water’s always changing, always flowing
But people, I guess, can’t live like that
We all must pay a price
To be safe, we lose our chance of ever knowing
What’s around the riverbend
Waiting just around the riverbend”

–Disney’s Pocahontas

IMG_4340The year was 2002. Lots of stressful craziness was happening in my life and without warning I met a man who changed my life for the better. I remember thinking of the song from Pocahontas often. You never know what’s around the river bend. Something wonderful can happen in one moment and life changes forever. 

In April I visited a dear mentor and friend in Atlanta from the UK. She shared how she loves life, even with the aches and pains of an 87 year old, she loves the adventure of life because you never know what’s going to happen that will suddenly change everything for the better. I thought of the Pocahontas song as we chatted.

IMG_4343Today I was on the backcountry trail by 6am. At 6.33am I received a telephone call from our sea turtle team leaders. We have a nest! Of course, I was at the furtherest point from my car on the trail unless I wanted to exit onto the beach road and cycle to the nest location. Since I refuse to ride in traffic, I opted to be safe and head back to my car.

I shaved 10 minutes off the return trip and got an excellent cardio workout. Thankfully it was sprinkling rain which made for a cool ride.

IMG_4353Just barely over 30 minutes from the alert message, I was pulling up at the nest site on west beach. I took a few photographs of the crawl and teammates finishing up processing the nest and then went down to another section of our beach and took a few photographs of a false crawl.

IMG_4356What an amazing surprise to have not only a nest but a false crawl in the same day! And an added bonus was breakfast with a few team members to celebrate our first nest of the year. I expected to simply cycle and return home to paint another Buddy portrait.

FullSizeRenderOn the way home I called my mother to say good morning and found out one of her squirrel friends had crawled inside a feeder yesterday and was still stuck this morning. I made a detour to free the little goober and said a quick hello to mom and Salty dog before getting back to Buddy and the cats.

IMG_4384WOW! A simple dawn cycling trip had turned into a series of surprising events. Isn’t it amazing! It’s true…we never know what’s just around the bend.

“I look once more
Just around the riverbend
Beyond the shore
Somewhere past the sea
Don’t know what for …
Why do all my dreams extend
Just around the riverbend?
Just around the riverbend …”

IMG_4373

Cottontails, Cardinals and a Cottonmouth

Cottontails, Cardinals and a Cottonmouth

IMG_4299The air was heavy with thick fog hovering over the marsh. Spider webs glowed silver in the pre-dawn light, shining with water droplets. Cottontails were foraging for breakfast and would hop away as I passed. Cycling at dawn is the best.

IMG_4286Through live oak forests, sandy pine forests and marshlands I pedaled into the day. The orange orb of fire hung momentarily over the marsh before gaining altitude in its daily climb……..actually it’s the earth moving isn’t it? (Pause to contemplate). If I think too much about the fact that the earth is spinning on its “axis” the idea of my spinning wheels and feet spinning on the pedals makes too much spinning in my brain. So…the earth seemed to pause before continuing in its rotation giving the impression that the sun had paused. (I think the sun rising is more fun).

Anyway….it was pretty awesome being there and not thinking about what was rotating where.

IMG_4302Cardinals were in abundance peeping from the shelter of small trees along the trail and darting in front of me. Their brilliant flashes of red added sparks of color to the mostly gray light of the foggy morning.

IMG_4294A juvenile cottontail hopped straight up as I pedaled past. A loud, unrestrained laugh echoed from my depths. Several small cottontails breakfasted along the trail and each one received a greeting though not a belly laugh.

The iPod was on shuffle so each change of song was a surprise. As I began the steady climb back to the main road, Prince’s song, Let’s Go Crazy, began to play. It was a great song to help me dig in and push myself as the coastal hill tried to halt my momentum. “Let’s go crazy, let’s go nuts.” Of course I was singing along and pushed replay. On the second time through, as the hill got steeper and my voice got louder….I saw a snake.

IMG_4303Feet clipped in, couldn’t tell what kind due to lack of light, going too fast to stop anyway….”LET’S GO CRAZY….LET’S GO NUTS!!” shouting as I sped by a nice-sized cottonmouth. “WOO HOO! Good MORNING!!” She stayed on her side of the trail, I stayed on mine.

As I rode with the multitudes of cottontails and cardinals, I thought of writing about the ride and wanted a third “C” to use in a blog title. No cougar, no Cat Man,* no cormorant…no “C” anything until Ms. Cottonmouth appeared. Perhaps I shall be a little more discerning in my wishes next time. The moral of the story? Be careful what you wish for….or be specific in your dreams.

____________

IMG_4296*The legend of the Cat Man goes back to when my mother grew up on the island of Gulf Shores. A road (now part of the trail) was called Cat Man Road because of its isolation, wildness and a guy that used to sneak up on couples parking on the roadway at night to enjoy stargazing….um…well, you know.

 

In the End…It’s Love

In the End…It’s Love

IMG_4233It was chilly–50 degrees. The sun was not yet peeking over the horizon; however, the pink hues glowing softly in the eastern sky proclaimed sunrise was very near.

The sound of cleats snapping into pedals….metal-on-metal…sounded harsh as the bird song welcoming the day was interrupted.

IMG_4241Freedom! That’s what cycling in perfect conditions feels like to me. Gliding past shades of green coming alive in the ever-brightening day.

IMG_4248Music from my iPod took me deeper inside as I pedaled toward dawn. Almost immediately tears came…for the beauty…for the wounds….for the healing. On and on I pedaled, tears streaming down my cheeks as I greeted rabbits enjoying breakfast along the trail.

_TSL1859Giving my mind and thoughts a break and simply allowing the emotions to surface, clarity emerged. The same openness I felt while practicing yoga with humpback whales a couple months ago was back. Oh, bliss! Those starlit, full-moon pre-dawn encounters with the cosmos, with humpback whales exhaling so close I could see their clouds of breath glowing silver in the moonlight….that week of cosmic consciousness, of open-hearted connection with the Universe vibrated through me again. Sweet life….finally.

_TSL1975It’s been difficult adjusting to life after that week and it seemed the experience was fading more with each day. But I think I found the secret….and I’m willing to share it.

IMG_4230Several days ago someone I treasure popped into my consciousness. I haven’t seen him in over four years but there he was, strong in my mind and heart. This happens from time-to-time and I am never very graceful with it. My mind likes to take over and point out everything wrong with me and him and talk me out of opening my heart so I don’t feel the loss as much, so the grief isn’t so biting. It likes to keep score and list the many ways we both screwed up the very special love we had, how we allowed our unhealed wounds to drive a wedge between us. And so, my mind generally talks me out of opening my heart and that’s that. And I return to the numbness.

IMG_4219But this time was different. Yoga classes are really helping me open my heart and be unafraid to keep it open. So Monday morning I awakened early and took the question of what do I do about these feelings of love toward this man? into meditation. The answer I got was to allow love to move through my heart and let go of ego and see the unconditional, perfect love that is at the core of each of us…and keep my heart open. Not easy because the mind wants to figure everything out and understand it so I don’t have to feel the loss.

Then I went to yoga and Augusta led a heart-opening class that had me begging for child’s pose so I could just pause and weep. But I didn’t collapse into it…I simply allowed the love to flow…along with tears…and kept moving…kept going….kept feeling.

IMG_4246So this week has been challenging. My mind has battled to get out its pen and paper and list the ways we failed each other, the ways fear stopped us from going deeper. But my heart has stepped forward in courage and remained open. Not in a grasping, clinging, demanding way….just open. Which led me to a deep place of cosmic unity. Ahhhh……it’s a sweet place.

This is not just about ‘him.’ As I keep my heart open the unconditional love I feel blossoms into every aspect of my life. I’m not sure its possible to be open-hearted about everything but one person or one issue. I think the language of the heart is quite simple….love or not? Open or closed? If I can courageously keep my heart open about this great loss, imagine how the opening will affect everything.

IMG_4249Today nature reached out and surrounded me with a safe place to simply ride the emotions which led me to the place of cosmic oneness that the whales showed me. This is the place I want to be…not for one relationship but for all relationships…with humans, animals, plants, waters, lands and with my self. This is the secret to maintaining cosmic unity or oneness….keep the heart open to love with courage and without the mind trying to understand. This is a leap of faith into the Unknown…the Spiritual Warrior’s Empty-Handed Leap into the Void. By willing to have an open heart and love others unconditionally, the connection to the Universe is also kept open.

IMG_4216We can view opening, healing within the context of relationship with others but it always comes back to the relationship we have with our self, with the Universe. Love is love is love. In the end…it’s always love that brings healing, that leads us home.

 

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.”