Tag: gratitude

Morning Courtyard Dance

Morning Courtyard Dance

simone (4)Warm air, heavy with the scent of jasmine, wrapped around me as I entered the courtyard. It had only been four days but during that short time so much had changed.

The wall of jasmine was the most obvious change as its delicious smell mixed with gardenia created a mood-altering experience through scent. And as much as I wanted to explore, communion with the river came first.

RIVER2 (3)Layers of humid air hung heavy over the water as my board sliced through the mirror-slick surface. My body longed for movement after traveling and sitting so much over the long weekend. I amped up the pace and had a great workout, during which I discovered the osprey babies I have been monitoring had hatched. Mama Osprey was feeding them as I paddled under their nest atop the high pole. This morning my river prayers were of thanksgiving for these new lives.

Upon returning home, I walked out to my garden and saw baby jalapeño peppers, baby tomatoes, and baby satsumas hanging green and full of potential. Growth was the theme of return to my beloved home.

After communing with my plant friends I turned on my favorite classical music in the speakers outside and glided around the courtyard greeting the beauty exploding everywhere. Such life!

simonelipscomb (2)The grandmother oak tree in the center stood watching and when I finished, she called to me. I laid my hands on her rough bark and felt her strength as I offered up a prayer of gratitude for the opportunity to celebrate the day with a morning courtyard dance.

Dawn in the Mist

Dawn in the Mist

simonelipscombThe cows were still asleep as I crept out to the fence to capture the mist of the gathering light. Being barely aware myself, there really weren’t  words or thoughts in my mind….just the undeniable feeling of gratitude.

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Of Light and Trees

Of Light and Trees

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Just after six this morning I raised the shade on my window. Heavy mist from the cow pond next door had first rays of light peeking through it and even though I complained, I threw on a jacket and pants, grabbed my camera and tripod and shoved my flip flops on my chilly feet. The cats were in disbelief that I exited the house prior to their feeding, prior to coffee or crossword puzzle or Facebook…I think they thought the world had ended and walked around in confused circles, tails aloft as if flipping me the proverbial cat ‘bird.’

simonelipscomb (22)But sunrise doesn’t wait on anyone. Light can’t be asked to pause while I grab coffee. Dawn comes and in order to witness it we must meet it, face to face.

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With temperatures in the fifties my toes didn’t complain that much and before long they were forgotten. First light always delights me and nearly as often frustrates me. Trying to get the exact right exposure with extreme light and shadow can be challenging. But what fun, what pleasure standing under live oak trees, their massive branches spreading overhead and surrounding me with their greatness.

simonelipscomb (29)New green of the spring illuminated with pre-dawn light nearly caused me to do back-flips. Instead I simply stood and whispered thank-yous.

simonelipscomb (8)And it made me remember a visit to Somerset several years ago. I waked before sunrise and strolled to Glastonbury Tor for a dawn visit. I wasn’t disappointed then either.

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A Wild Heart

A Wild Heart

Nothing is more vital than a wild heart. When we lose that, we’ve lost our connection to the untamed, the unruly….the undomesticated part of ourself. And when that happens, the planet suffers.

simone (7)Yesterday I met Sampson.

I walked into the conference room and high up on a shelf, he perched. At first I wasn’t sure if he was alive as I wasn’t expecting a bobcat to be…ummm…there. But he was very much alive.

simone (8)Sampson is a northern bobcat that was ‘owned’ by humans who had him declawed and kept as a pet. They ran into problems with his ‘wild’ behaviors and there were permitting issues so he was surrendered to a wildlife rescue group in Ft. Walton Beach who now provide a home for him. He doesn’t like to be outdoors but rather lives in the administrative part of their building.

Stanley Kubrick, my orange tabby companion
Stanley Kubrick, my orange tabby companion…can’t you see the 

resemblance When I looked into this beautiful bobcat’s eyes I immediately saw my orange cat Stanley reflected back through the thread of wildness that remains very present in Sampson. Only it was like Stanley with his superhero powers turned up to full force.

simone (10)There was no where to hide from his searching eyes. When they locked with mine I understood that his wild wisdom is still intact even though he lives indoors. It was a bit unnerving to have my own wildness, my own worthiness to be evaluated. It was as if I was exposed, open to his scrutiny with no tree or rock or pretense to hide behind. He nailed me.

simone (6)Sampson allowed me to photograph his greatness and then came down to my level and allowed me to stroke him and ‘love’ him. I was being accepted into his clan. And when I sat at the conference table, he jumped up and walked to me and head-butted or bunted my forehead when I lowered my head to his. Cats (domestic and wild) have facial pheromones that they deposit on other cats, people, objects as a way to mark something as safe. According to one vet, it is like leaving a signal of comfort and safety….trusting the person or environment.

As I reflect back on my interaction with this amazing animal I realize how grateful I am. To be accepted as a trustworthy friend, or a person of comfort and safety to a wild creature (especially one that has been removed from his natural environment by humans and ‘used’ as a pet) is a gift to me. Given the amount of damage humans do to wild animals and wild places, to find acceptance such as this makes my heart glad…and happy.

simone (11)What is needed on our part to find greater acceptance from wild hearts of the world? What must we do to find ourselves worthy to be accepted by the clan of wild beings that we, in the greater sense, have abandoned? How can we maintain our wildness, like Sampson, even when living in environments that can seem far away from wilderness?

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Whether a bobcat–ripped from his natural home as a baby–or a wild manatee, chooses to bring me into their clan, I am deeply grateful that I am deemed as acceptable, as a trustworthy friend and a human that brings comfort instead of pain and destruction….on some level do they know that I am a champion of their wild hearts?

Really Right Stuff

Really Right Stuff

My manfrotto tripod has allowed me to capture images in low light situations as well as images of myself when there's nobody around to squeeze the shutter
My manfrotto tripod has allowed me to capture images in low light situations as well as images of myself when there’s nobody around to squeeze the shutter and I want to remember that I WAS HERE! In Cornwall, Great Britain

My old Manfrotto tripod has been with me in mountain streams, in the Gulf of Mexico, to Bonaire, the Pacific Northwest, Mexico, in Mobile Bay, Cornwall, Glastonbury….and places in between. During my travels it has supported my camera in low light situations and thus supported the work I do.

Sunset at Gulf of Mexico
Sunset at Gulf of Mexico…the salt water and quartz sand just about finished my poor Manfrotto off….(sigh)

Last summer nearly destroyed my work-horse tripod. I was using it in the Gulf taking photographs of the sunset. Sand and salt water got into every crevice until the legs sounded like a pepper grinder with glass in it when I attempted to adjust them. I took it apart after rinsing it and cleaned it but it has given notice that its days are numbered. Too much irritation from those pesky granules of white quartz sand. One too many trips in checked luggage handled by gorillas who work in the baggage handling black hole of airports (remember those commercials?).

So after much gnashing of teeth I have invested in a Really Right Stuff ball head carbon fiber tripod. Or I have ordered it. New support system on the way! The thing about these tripods is they are the best support you can purchase for cameras….or so they claim. Strong, durable, made in the USA! And with their support, the Nikon D 800 can almost turn flips panning to get those shots I’ve never been able to get before…just because of the incredible support provided.

A good support system allows a photographer to capture images that she can be in...where she doesn't want to forget the place or company
A good support system allows a photographer to capture images that she can be in…where she doesn’t want to forget the company or the place. This was taken at Observatory Beach on the western peninsula of Washington

Support. Isn’t it amazing to receive. The definition of support includes words like sustain, hold up, bear, serve as foundation for, maintain by supplying necessities. Throughout my life there have been definite supporters–believers in my work, my path. Yes…they have even believed in me when I haven’t. When I doubted.

My mother is such a support…a “tripod” in my life that has witnessed my first breath and lived through my cave diving, solo travel abroad and other exploits that have pushed her fear buttons. I really appreciate her. (And no mom, I don’t think of you as the old Manfrotto…smile).

There have been many others as well. And maybe there are taboos on writing about a former husband but I’ve never been one to follow rules. The support that Ray gave me throughout our time together was solid. He was a foundation for helping me gather myself up from a time, many years ago, when I had lost nearly everything. From the beginning he believed in what I came to the planet to do, even when I felt smothered in self-doubt. When my first book was published he gave me a framed copy with the words Dreams Do Come True printed beneath the book. I keep it hanging over my desk as a reminder.

Without support, this image wouldn't have been possible. Ray gazing into the night sky on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Without support, this image wouldn’t have been possible. Ray gazing into the night sky on the Blue Ridge Parkway

While the winds of change blew us apart physically, I know without a doubt that his support over a decade ago, and throughout our relationship, is what made the difference in my life. That is truly the really right stuff. And I remain deeply grateful.