Tag: Gulf of Mexico

The Art of Nature

The Art of Nature

I stood in awe as waves crashed in shallow waters. Their foamy beauty rose and crested and curled as the momentum carried them into powerful, moving forms of art.

The wind was strong, in fact sometimes so strong I had to brace myself. I had to use care to protect my camera from blowing sea spray and rain but I couldn’t leave, such was the magnetism of the constantly-changing art formations.

Standing on the pier gave the perfect view of waves close-up and in the distance. Sometimes I would focus on a single wave and track its birth, growth and death. It was like I was shown some mystery of nature as the process continued again and again and the details of it froze in my photograph frames.

Long sets of waves captured my attention as well and the relationship of swells was revealed as I watched, mesmerized by the intense display. The energy was so strong I finally had to leave because I was exhausted from standing in strong winds that seemed to strip me of gravity.

I wasn’t alone on the pier as other people stood along the rails transfixed by the large waves. I think we all need to experience something larger than ourselves. In a strange way it made me feel more at ease, more at home in my own skin to witness something so much bigger and stronger than me.

I wonder if we don’t need more experiences with nature where we understand that in the end, nature will always have the last ‘word.’ We need the perspective that we aren’t in control, that we have to live with conditions around us. It’s very humbling and I suspect most humans in our culture could use a little less ego and a lot more humility.

Yesterday and this morning along the Alabama Gulf Coast it was beautiful to witness the power of nature’s art. It is a different story for all those in the main path of the storm. My heart goes out to all life forms who are still experiencing suffering and loss as I write this.

______

It’s unusual to see a major hurricane make landfall during the day. Perhaps we needed to witness the fury and power and realize that as we contribute to warming the atmosphere through fossil fuels, we are part of the problem that feeds huge storms such as this.

 

Push the Sun

Push the Sun

Awaiting sunrise, my impatience began to urge, shove, plead with, cajole the orange orb to kiss the horizon so I could get back to my cycling. Seriously….when has it ever taken so long for the sun to peek above the sea.

I checked Siri….she said, in her Irish accent, Sunrise is at 6.35 am this morning. Five more minutes. I think I heard her add,  What’s the hurry, Simone?

The eastern sky had been growing lighter for half an hour as I pedaled to the beach. I stood in sock-feet on the wet sand after removing my cleats….who can walk in cleats on regular ground much less soft, squishy sand? My socks were getting soaked, it was getting hotter and still the sun hid below the horizon.

The sun took its time and left me with no choice but to relax and enjoy the nearly deserted shore. Usually I enjoy the pause…the wait…but not today. Not this week or this month. I am so ready….

My intuition and sense of change is usually a few months ahead of the actual happening so I always go through this insanely frustrating experience before a big change. Once I know change is coming, I’m ready to leap and continue on with life. But it rarely happens like that for me.

Rise, dammit! Why won’t you show yourself so I can continue on? The perfect mirror to my process wasn’t lost on me. Whatever, I mumbled as I stood in increasingly wet socks. Just take your own sweet time sunshine. I’ve got all freaking day.

I can laugh at my silliness from the dry carpet and comfortable desk as I write this and I might have laughed at myself on the beach. In my willingness to listen and be open to the depth of the lesson I asked Mother Earth….What do you want me to know?

Her reply came through waves softly kissing the sand and the glow of orange light on tidal pools. You don’t have to be in control of everything. You can let go. I realize I am afraid everything will fall apart if I let go…..so I must let go.

We develop ways to cope with life that become more of a hinderance than a help as we progress through life. David Wilcox wrote a song that popped into my awareness as I typed….The song is Slipping Through My Fist. It sat in my heart and mind and answered the message from Mother Earth. Here are the lyrics.

“I have drifted down a ways along the shoreline
I just watched these ropes give way where they were tied
I could have reached out quick
When the ropes first slipped, if I had tried
But I was wondering where the wind was trying to take me
Overnight, if I never did resist
What strange breezes make a sailor want to let it come to this
With lines untied, slipping through my fist
It is downhill all the way to the ocean
So of course the river always wants to flow
The river’s been here longer
It’s older and stronger and knows where to go
I guess I’m wondering where the river’s trying to take me
Overnight, if I never did resist
What strange breezes make a sailor want to, let it come to this
With lines untied, slipping through my fist
This is where I played as a baby
This is where I ran as a child
This is where my dad
Took the last breath he had and smiled
I guess I’m wondering where this place is trying to take me
Overnight, if I never did resist
What strange breezes make a sailor want to, let it come to this
With lines untied, slipping through my fist
With lines untied, slipping through my fist.”
Sunset

Sunset

A few decades ago I stood on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico and listened to Her through the waves and wind. “I feel like I should be here helping you,” I said aloud. You will know when to return. With that answer, I returned to the Piedmont of North Carolina.

April 20, 2010 I was leading a night dive in Curacao, 50 miles off the coast of Venezuela, and tasted an oily flavor in the air I was breathing. I stopped and surfaced and asked others if they had similar experiences with their tanks….none were noted. I continued leading the dive being very cautious and diving relatively shallow just to be safe.

Upon returning to the Atlanta airport two days later, I learned of the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. The night of the dive was the night the rig exploded and sank…and the nightmare of the largest oil spill in US history began. Sitting in the airport I remembered the sea’s answer…You will know when to return.

And so, for the next year I spent a week of nearly every month back at the Alabama coast documenting and writing about the disaster. I traveled back and forth from Asheville, where I lived at the time. And finally, the work led me to live along the coast.

Within a couple weeks of moving here I found sea turtle volunteer opportunities and a bit later, manatee volunteer training and volunteering. Both became very important in my life. But after six years here, and two children’s books and two photography-inspirational books, it felt like my work here was coming to a pause….a long pause….a very long pause and I knew it was time to open to the next chapter.

The sunset….oh, yes. The sunset.

I walked along the beach a couple nights ago and found myself at the water’s edge asking Her permission to wrap up the work here and move back to the mountains. Well done, daughter. Return to the mountains to be nurtured in the lush green and fresh running waters, I felt more than heard.

Nearing the end of the walk I was on the boardwalk leaving the beach when the western horizon drew my attention. Perhaps a pause before leaving wouldn’t hurt.

Little-by-little the most amazing sunset I have ever seen began to illuminate the sky. My heart opened with deep gratitude. I have witnessed such sadness here….oil covering animals and beaches–the smell burning my eyes and throat years ago and recently a critically endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle and a huge loggerhead sea turtle washed ashore dead on my last two sea turtle patrols. But the sky reminded me of the gift of beauty that has also been experienced during my six years here.

It seemed to be a thank-you…a gift that will remain burned into my memory.

As I write this my dog is running in his sleep as he lays beside me on the bed. He’s off adventuring in his dreams. I welcome the next adventure as I don my hiking boots and walk into the welcoming arms of the oldest mountains on the planet…camera in hand, note pad ready and heart open.

Home in the Sky

Home in the Sky

Arriving just before sunset….

Sometimes it’s easy to dwell in the littleness of life…or even get stuck there. When we feel stress or anxiety the tendency is to curl up in our little space with a blanket and binge-watch crappy television. At least that’s what I do sometimes. As the mind focuses on the chaos of (fill in the ______) it seems safer to be small because the chaos feels so big.

The Perseid Meteor event pulled me out of my little bubble and an amazing gift unfolded as I found myself immersed in the present–not in my head chasing mental rabbits down endless holes.

Friends of mine have a beach house in a relatively dark section of beach and they allow me to go there to photograph the night sky. Last evening found me standing in white, soft sand wondering if the heavy cloud cover would remain as darkness fell. “I came here to see meteors,” I exclaimed.

Maybe it was the polite way I asked for a window to see stars or just a weird beach phenomena….but a pathway to the stars opened and a bank of clouds held just east of Mars to allow viewing of the vast night sky.

After tiring of standing and craning my neck with the tripod, I adjusted the legs to a short extension and laid on the sand under the tripod. With my cable release wrapped around a tripod leg, I could lay on my back, watch stars, take long exposures and adjust the settings from a most relaxed point of view.

Taking long exposures with my camera always brings me to a place of stillness as 20, 25, 30 seconds pass. I can’t move or walk away….just have to stand (or in my case laying) in stillness as the heavens expand overhead.

There was one amazing shooting star with a bright sprinkle of star dust that trailed over the Gulf of Mexico and there were smaller ones that zipped quickly through the night sky…and that was amazing. But the real show for me was the Milky Way as it emerged from the darkening sky.

The Earth Mother supported me in my rest and opening to the endless depths of space and stars and I felt layers of worries fall away as I focused on the bigness of the Universe. Bigness….such an understatement.

By surrendering to something greater than me, I found profound peace. Allowing the depth of the Universe to touch me and awaken me, I found home again….in the sky….in myself….beyond….beyond….beyond.

The Face of What’s Happening

The Face of What’s Happening

Do you dare look? Can you bear the grief? Sea turtle nearly decapitated by propeller. Children ripped from their parents. Whales dead full of plastic. This takes courage friends. To deny our grief is to make ourselves sick. The planet is suffering. All life is suffering. So what can we do?

The face of suffering is evident every day whether we watch the news or read it or listen on the radio. From every direction we are made aware of the destruction. Perhaps our natural inclination is to look away, but not because we don’t care. Perhaps, as Joanna Macy says, it’s because we don’t know what to do with our grief and we feel overwhelmed.

Last night I dreamed I was helping a sea turtle whose throat had been slit. This morning, on sea turtle nest patrol, I came upon a critically endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle whose neck had been nearly severed from an apparent propeller strike. Even in my dreams they reach out asking for help. And so today, I share this turtle’s story and use it to illustrate the bigger story happening in the world and with every one of us.

So how can we look upon the face of suffering and death and survive the grief? If you are paying attention, you are probably sad and maybe even depressed. And I’m guessing you feel grief. The answer is to feel it. Have the courage to look and feel the emotions and then allow them to move out of your beautiful heart into the world. Don’t be afraid of the grief and likewise, don’t be afraid of your own depth of caring, love and compassion.

I sat beside the turtle’s body after patrol was done. I sang her a song and thanked her for bringing such beauty into the world. The odor of rotting flesh covered my hands and the wind blew her death smell over me as I wept openly. Not just for her passing but for the opportunity to love. What an amazing time to be alive, when every person’s love and compassion is needed so very much.

Loggerhead Hatchling

If you think you can’t make a difference, or the pain of what’s happening is simply too much to bear, allow the strength of that which you love pour through you as grace. That’s what Joanna Macy reminded our on-line group last week. Breathe in the strength of the turtle species that have survived for so long and let that strength pour through as grace to move out through your heart into the world….or the whales….or children removed from parents….or whatever it is that you love deeply. Work with your grief and let it motivate you to love deeper and fuller.

And let me know if you want to work on this together. Thanks to training with Joanna years ago in a week-long retreat, I have some ideas as to how we can come together and stay sane as the chaos of uncertainty shakes us. Always happy to bring a group together to further more love, compassion and grace in this world. (Email Simone)