Tag: Gulf of Mexico

Cleaning Up Our Mess

Cleaning Up Our Mess

On September 15th my mom and I participated in the 25th Annual Coastal Cleanup. We chose to walk the beach at the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. In that 1.5 miles of beach we found: 34 plastic bags, 4 balloons, 12 plastic bottles, 4 pieces of glass, 4 aluminum cans, 33 plastic lids, 2 bits of fishing line, 2 pieces of cording, 1 large plastic battery case, 2 cigarette lighters, 1 tobacco wrapper, 1 condom, 2 chap stick containers, 1 plastic baby wipe carton, 1 plastic hair care bottle, 13 pieces of styrofoam, 5 food wrappers, 2 plastic pull tags, 2 plastic straws, 1 chair, 1 set of plastic flags, 4 rope pieces, 1 large tire, 2 plastic oil containers, 1 plastic deodorant container, 1 plastic grate, 1 large plastic drain pipe, 4 pieces of rubber and 1 rubber glove.

Since 1987 61,513 volunteers have removed 1,169,844 pounds of debris on 3,917 miles of coast and/or shoreline In Alabama. The Ocean Conservancy compiles data from all over the world to identify the general sources of debris and activities related to it. Last year about 600,000 volunteers collected more than 9 million pounds of trash from 20,000 miles of coastline worldwide.

We could look at these totals of trash and berate ourselves for being such a trashy species. Or….we can look at this effort as not only a way to clean up our mess but also to raise awareness about environmental stewardship. It may have started with a handful of tree huggers but the event has grown into an opportunity for scout troops, churches, and families to join together, spend a few hours on a coastline and show love for the planet by being responsible stewards.

Gone are the days when we have the luxury to say, I didn’t do it so why should I clean it up? We grow together as a human family when we move beyond that narrow view into an expansive view of pitching in to help the planet, which ultimately helps us all.

Merrily, Merrily…Life is But a Dream

Merrily, Merrily…Life is But a Dream

This morning the wind was painting the clear blue sky with wisps of white–feathery clouds that floated overhead as I paddled my SUP board. While I heard evidence of humans, I saw no one. The sounds of traffic faded and my focus became the splashing of water droplets when they jumped as my paddle sliced the surface of the Magnolia River.

My mind needed time to slow down and process everything that has happened in the past two weeks…this entire summer. Cooler temperatures and lower humidity, heralds of seasonal changes, prompted me to reflect as I paddled.

When Hurricane Isaac passed south of our coast, we really didn’t have much to complain about compared to those who weathered a direct hit. But it did pose a problem for some very special beings, still incubating in their eggs buried under the white sand beside the Gulf.

As the waves roared to heights of twelve feet and the frothy water churned, the beach slowly disappeared along the Alabama Gulf Coast. Not all of it, but enough to begin to wash away sea turtle nests–loggerheads protected under the Endangered Species Act. As soon as Little Lagoon Pass bridge re-opened a few of us went to check on the unhatched nests. One was washing away as I crested the dune. I found a baby half out of her shell, washed on top of the dune. My heart sank. Two other team members arrived and we collected unhatched eggs and egg shells. Because of flooding, the babies were coming too soon but were coming never-the-less because they have a reflex that takes over when their nest is flooded. They were emergency hatching.

With howling wind and driving rain and waves that were shaking the beach, these premie turtles were making a break for it. Emotions within me were scattered just as the egg shells were after waves had eaten the nest and dispersed them. But there was no time to stop and connect with feelings because of the work necessary to save these babies. And we saved as many as possible. The experience left me raw and unhinged.

But today….this beautiful pre-autumnal morning–there was time to allow a space for everything I have experienced this summer. Joyous births of hundreds of sea turtles over the course of the past few months, connecting with nature-lovers and people who put wildlife first, night skies filled with shooting stars, laughter and more all drifted effortlessly through my mind. And challenges I’ve had surfaced as well. But everything that floated through my mind  lazily moved by just as a piece of driftwood or leaf blown by the slight breeze.
This summer I’ve immersed myself so deeply with nature that trying to fit into a world of humans and machines has been challenging. I’ve wanted to simply allow nature to take me and teach me  the instinctual wisdom that many of us (as humans) have forgotten.

Sea turtles have called to me for many years. I’ve collected art–like a raku turtle hatchling that sits on my desk or the art tattooed on my body–and named my business, Turtle Island Adventures, and had experiences with them while diving or walking along the shore. All of this feels like bread crumbs along my Path, leading me to this point….this place of remembering.

The language of the wind, the Earth’s heart beat, star energy and the ancient instinctual wisdom of sea turtles has filled my summer and I’ve never felt so in sync with my purpose. If I could have dreamed up this life, I can think of few things I would add to the experiences unfolding….maybe world peace and renewable energy instead of fossil fuels….two more things to dream up. Will you join me?

Hello World*

Hello World*

It’s not the most ideal day to be born but when you are a sea turtle, you deal with whatever comes your way. Just like all wildlife, there isn’t a birth plan that so many mothers and fathers have these days. No scheduling your C-section or induction. If you are a sea turtle hatchling or baby bird or any kind of wild animal, whenever it is your time to be born, you face it and greet the world with everything you have to survive.

Witnessing the birthing of sea turtles has gifted me with this simple fact: I have absolutely no reason to ever whine or complain again. Watching tiny babes crawling into the churning Gulf of Mexico reminds me that challenges in my life are truly small compared to what hatchlings face–especially on a day like today when the sea was high and they had no choice but to follow their instinct to crawl and then swim.

So….to all sea turtle hatchlings entering the Gulf during tropical storm Isaac….Godspeed and swim hard and know that you have a lot of humans sending you love and support as you make your journey.

How can we support each other in our journeys through life?

*Sherry Sander Parks captioned the first picture, Hello World. Sherry is a turtle woman extraordinaire as are many of our team leaders in Share the Beach. THANK YOU ALL!

As Above, So Below

As Above, So Below

After a couple days of rain and storms, the Gulf kicked up a bit and offered a show of light that has me—hours later–still in a state of awe.

First there was the strong wind creating powerful waves and high surf. Then the clouds created a most amazing display of color and shape. For hours the sky went through color-after-color and cloud formations that kept me in perpetual vocalization with statements like, “I can’t believe this sky,” or “This is amazing,” and “Oh, my goodness.” These phrases became a sort of mantra for me as I breathed in golden light seeming to bounce off of every surface of fluffy cloud and every ripple and wave of the sea. I’d take a few photos and put my camera away only to pull it out just moments later.

And all the while waiting for two groups of sea turtles to decide if birth was in their plans for the evening.

Finally, the colors faded and a call came from a nest just down the beach, “Can you ladies come down and give a hand?” So we left our quiet nest and went a few blocks down the beach and joined our team members awaiting the imminent birth of loggerheads while standing under starlight of now-clear skies. And about thirty minutes later, the hole darkened and 78 babies came out in a nearly darkened skyline to crawl toward the rough water of the Gulf.

As a few of us walked along beside these tiny beings near the water I whispered to them to dive deep and let the undertow take them out to sea as the waves were churning. We approached the tideline and the sand lit up with an uprush of water. Phosphorescence in the water! The sand glowed like neon lights as the water receded. And as the little loggerhead flippers touched the sand, it was as if the starlight above was reflected below and the tiny beings flapped and crawled along phosphorescent stars underneath them to dive into their new home, their true home.

Sometimes its difficult to take in so much beauty, such complete beauty. And yet with each breath, I exhale gratitude. Perfect balance, perfect beauty. As above, so below.

Finding Balance in Working with Nature

Finding Balance in Working with Nature

I’m immersed in sea turtle research. Stacks of books lay scattered about my office and every time I open one I learn something new and wonderful about these amazing creatures. There are scientific books with hard science and data, touchy-feely books that embrace the ancient symbols of spirituality that sea turtles embody, and there are a couple of books that fulfill both the language of science and symbology.

Carl Safina, in his book Voyage of the Turtle, writes of leatherback sea turtles, “Their mute plea, as they attempt to carry on as always, is that we will understand, while there’s time, the connections within this water-bound planet.” He’s writing about the shrinking world and the loss of life on the planet.

Being an advocate for wildlife species means going beyond the cold science and hard facts of data and interpreting beyond biology to something greater. What does the species need to survive? What can its potential loss teach humans? This is vital because mainstream humanity will ignore hard facts and scientific studies but will connect on a deeper level where beauty exists. And beauty cannot be measured by tissues samples, counting spent eggs or the dead trapped in a nest.

Yet both sides are vital to preservation and conservation of species. We must have the scientific data so we have estimates of population sizes, health of the species, and genetic tendencies. But ignoring our heart-felt, compassionate connection is what allowed the damage to the planet and wildlife species to be done in the first place.
Years ago physicians were not instructed in wellness or body-mind-spirit of their patients. It was all hard science. Studies show that patients have a better chance of being healthy when their physician treats them as a whole, not just as a physical body. I wonder if wildlife biologists and volunteers approached their work with animals from a holistic approach how the species would respond. Verbal language is not the only valid language and more studies show this, too, is true.

There is a place for science and compassion to dwell side-by-side. A place where the wellbeing of one turtle is as important as 90. Where wolves are seen as vital parts of an ecosystem, not villains and where great white sharks are seen as an important apex predators, not  human-eating-machines.  I believe we can find that balance as we work to heal ourselves and this beautiful water planet. What about you?