Tag: Gulf of Mexico

Waiting

Waiting

As I was cycling today I dropped into inner stillness. As I pedaled and pondered, realization dawned. The angst over the past several months is rooted in a feeling of concern that we will wake up too late.

When I was studying Outdoor Recreation and Resource Management at Auburn many years ago, the curriculum took me on a journey through the great conservationist’s efforts. I read of John Muir who journeyed on foot through the wilds of the Sierra Nevada and Alaska. I read about his walk from Indiana to the Florida Keys in 1867. Through his diary entries the sacred beauty he experienced in Nature as well as the heartbreak he felt at the destruction of vast lands to fill pockets of the wealthy was evident. His writings heavily influenced the creation of places we now know as Yosemite National Park, Sequoia, Mount Rainer, Petrified Forest, Grand Canyon and more.

Film maker Ken Burns had this to say about him: “As we got to know him he ascended to the pantheon of the highest individuals in our country; I’m talking about the level of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Thomas Jefferson and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Jackie Robinson–people who have had a transformational effect on who we are.” Muir’s writings inspired Teddy Roosevelt to create conservation programs and the first national monument…Yosemite National Park.

As I reflect on his life, John Muir reminds me that one person can indeed make a huge difference. Activism, people caring enough to be involved in whatever way their passion leads them is what makes a country great. Not hate, not violence. Love….for places, people…whatever the heart whispers.

And then after lunch I read where the new US government administration wants to allow oil and gas drilling in these sacred lands that John Muir lovingly championed in the late 1800’s. I was torn between wanting to: 1) Scream at the greedy individuals ‘leading’ our country into darkness; 2) Express shock at their unapologetic push to deregulate protection for our environment; and 3) Sit and wait for inspiration to come so I might be a person that makes a difference.

“There is nothing more eloquent in Nature than a mountain stream, and this is the first I ever saw. Its banks are luxuriantly peopled with rare and lovely flowers and overarching trees, making one of Nature’s coolest and most hospitable places. Every tree, every flower, every ripple and eddy of this lovely stream seemed solemnly to feel the presence of the great Creator.” Muir wrote this September 12, 1867 about a branch of the Clinch River in the Cumberland Mountains.

He wrote this about the Oneness of all life. “There is not a fragment in all nature, for every relative fragment of one thing is a full harmonious unit in itself. All together form the one grand palimpsest of the world.”

“Muir was a quintessential romantic frontier figure. Unarmed, carrying only a few crusts of bread, a tin cup, a small portion of tea, a notebook and a few scientific instruments, Muir walked into the vastness of the Sierras to search out truths. Single-minded, he did not hesitate to challenge the accepted authorities and their explanations regarding the wilderness he loved; he formulated his own theories and carefully searched out the evidence….he was an activist. He not only explored the west and wrote about its beauties–he fought for their protection….In the forests and national parks he helped to preserve, he gave the natural world back to the people of America.” Frank E. Buske wrote this in the introduction to Wilderness Essays.

Why are we so willing to have our sacred lands–set aside because of their beauty and uniqueness–raped and ravaged by greedy politicians and their backers? My heart is breaking as each day brings a new onslaught of attacks against our environment and the places held most sacred by those who saw this great country before it was developed. When we fail to remember history, we are destined to be destroyed by ourselves.

While I have screamed–and quite honestly scared my dog and cats and quite possibly the neighbors–and I have expressed shock to my friends and companions, today I find myself more at peace with waiting…for inspiration, the right door opening, the right phone call that leads to opportunity to share my work with more people.

I long to wander like Muir and connect with the magnificence of Nature and feel first-hand the spark of the Divine that lives within all life. And like him, write with passion to inspire others to care. And with my cameras capture the essence of life that shines so brightly if we take the time to see it in a flower, a stream, a dolphin, a frog, a mountain.

It may seem as if I am doing nothing sometimes but this pause reminds me: I am like an arrow being slowly drawn through a bow. With steady determination and a sense of purpose my work will find its mark. Let us remember that everything we do makes a difference. We are part of the solution. Let us rise up to protect that which we love.

Where Wild Can Breathe

Where Wild Can Breathe

The Gulf of Mexico called me this morning. Come walk with me. So before sunrise I parked my car and set bare feet upon white sand.

The state park is squeezed on all sides by real estate–expensive real estate. And the former governor…the one forced to resign over shady dealings….set in motion construction of a monument to himself in the form of a convention center and hotel on state park property. Yes, there had been one there before it literally fell apart from repeated bashings from the sea and salty winds. But there is a glut of condos on the beach now and a convention center nearby and a new one being built just north.  But I digress….

Walking along the beach in the state park is a nice respite from walking in front of condos that form a wall of concrete along the Gulf Coast. Little jewels like Gulf State Park, Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge and the Gulf Islands National Sea Shore give  wildlife a chance to exist. They allow human’s wild spirits a place to spread out and connect with something greater than ourselves.

This morning I spent time contemplating the fate of our planet. We’re the self-absorbed animals of the planet…the only species willing to destroy our own habitat in order to amass wealth and power that lead to a non-future created by our destructive actions. Such a bizarre species.

It’s weird to witness the current, strange goings-on where decades of effort invested in protecting fragile areas, sacred areas, is being wiped away  in a few months and these amazing places are going to the highest bidder to exploit. Have we forgotten the past?

Remember Erie Canal catching on fire because there was so much pollution in it? Or smog so horrible you couldn’t see in cities like Los Angeles and New York? It’s easy to forget the things we depend on for survival….things like clean air and water. Unregulated corporations and their push for profit-at-any-cost nearly destroyed us. We shouldn’t forget this. Ever.

And yet there is a huge push to roll-back environmental protections and demolish agencies charged to enforce them. And agencies tracking our changing climate. Some people have forgotten our past, our history and how lack of concern, compassion and common sense destroys wildlife and human health.

Places like parks and seashores set aside and protected feed our souls. They remind us of beauty and invite us to walk in beauty….with beauty…and help us be mindful the interconnectedness of all life.

When I visited Johnson Beach–part of Gulf Islands National Seashore–after visiting Gulf State Park this morning, I felt a noticeable difference. It’s protected from development. There’s no hotel on the beach or fishing pier. The only structures seen are wooden boardwalks to protect the dunes, a pavilion area and a narrow roadway that is frequently covered with sand as the beach reclaims it for its own.

In Johnson Beach one can park and walk beyond the road, beyond most human comings and goings, and breathe deeper, fuller. A release of the spirit occurs when we stop looking at watches or cell phones and allow wild beauty to pull us completely into the present moment.

As I stood on the beach there this morning, near a loggerhead sea turtle crawl, I noticed a lightness of energy and freedom that is missing in places overshadowed by high-rise condos or surf shops or tee shirt stores. We need places where wild can breathe deeper and fuller, where nothing comes between nature and humanity.

Rainbow & Dolphin

Rainbow & Dolphin

Photo-bombed by a great blue heron on a time exposure…I actually like it.

There are no guarantees with clouds and light at sunrise…or anytime. But for me to actually plan to be at the beach before sunrise and thus load my gear with the correct bracket attached to my camera, for tripod use, the night before…I admit I was expecting something wonderful.

One could possibly say I am a bit spoiled. I live twenty minutes from the white-sand beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. What some people thrill at seeing once a year I see every day if I choose. So granted, I have no reason to complain.

But the light was really sickly this morning. Seriously, I might have mumbled more than once. It was yellowy, pale, cuckoo light and I was expecting orange, red, salmon….anything but snot yellow.

Honestly, I woke up in a weird mood. I might have hissed at the car driving 25 mph when I was trying to hurry. Just sayin’….I wasn’t in my best happy space.

After over an hour walking and shooting and thinking it was a complete waste of effort, I stopped and had a serious talk with myself. What’s happening, Simone? You’re at the BEACH! This is your happy place. I paused a moment and realized my mind had been wandering…wondering…about the future. I was so caught up in fear-based musings I was missing the present moment.

I just wanted to take something more than frustration from my time on the beach, I whined. Nature always gifts me with a little jewel to ponder and take with me….Okay, so what do I need to do? I know I’m caught in a mind-spin. 

A very clear inner voice said, Be gentle with yourself.

Oh, yeah. That. I thought. (Sigh).

A chant came to mind….I will be gentle with myself, I will love myself for I am child of the Goddess. I started singing out loud as I walked and glanced up from the sand to see a rainbow blob hanging over the end of the long fishing pier. Hey, that’s cool! That’s a nice gift!

Rainbow blob

I stopped and watched the glowing colors for a while as I continued singing. Suddenly a dolphin appeared. It was swimming offshore and as I strengthened my voice, it made a bee-line for the shore where I stood. Okay, I get it! I get it! Be gentle with myself, love myself and just…WOW!

I stood and watched the dolphin surfing in waves breaking over the sand bar for a while and began clapping a rhythm of joy and celebration. Thank you for the reminder! Thank you sister!

It felt as if the dark, snot-colored clouds lifted as I walked with rainbow and dolphin energy surrounding me, lifting me from distraction to being fully present with the beauty all around me. I received the gift, but first had to find the present.

…And with some extra processing in Lightroom I came away with some images that I didn’t hate. You never know what gifts await when engaging with the eternal now moment.

 

We’re All Connected

We’re All Connected

We’re All Connected….We’ve often heard the phrase but I wonder if there’s much pause to consider it. Really consider it.

Recently I was invited to embark on a morning’s exploration into the Mobile Delta. As I was riding in Jimbo Meador’s custom made eco-tour boat with my friend Brenda, I thought about the idea…the fact..that we are all connected as the enormity of the Delta unfolded.

The cool wind eased the early June humidity as we skimmed along the surface under the Bay Way, the nearly eight mile bridge that connects Baldwin and Mobile counties. To the south was Mobile Bay and in every other direction stretched the massive delta, second in size only to the Mississippi River Delta. I imagined the massive amounts of water coming through the rivers that make up the Delta…Tombigbee, Alabama, Mobile, Middle, Blakeley, Tensaw, Apalachee, Raft, Spanish. Reaching far into Alabama and neighboring states, everything that happens in watersheds north of the Delta, happens here…ends up in Mobile Bay…the Gulf of Mexico…the Atlantic Ocean…and will eventually circulate in ocean currents all over this water planet.

The 500 plant species, 300 bird species, 126 fish species, 46 mammal species, 69 reptile species, 30 amphibian species and any human that consumes these species is affected by what happens north of the Delta. Pollutants, toxins, fertilizers that create nutrient blooms, introduced invasive species, drought, floods….all of these things impact all life in the watersheds below it.

Brenda removing the balloon from the water.

Past Blakeley State Park we found a mylar, helium-filled (well…at one time it was helium-filled) ballon someone had released. Luckily this one didn’t end up in a leatherback sea turtle’s gut or the string wrapped around a great blue heron’s legs or around osprey’s wings. This was a simple example of how what one person does somewhere else affects life…or has the potential to negatively affect other life. (Please blow bubbles…don’t release balloons).

It might be easy to forget this biodiverse area is impacted by anything as it’s so vast. It’s 45 miles long, 6 to 16 miles wide, 300 square miles with 20,000 acres of open water, 10,000 acres of marsh, 70,000 acres of swamp and 85,000 acres of forest. But the water–the lifeblood of our planet–originates far, far away from the coastal wonder.

The drone of insects, the rusty, laughing voices of common gallinules and croaking bull frogs serenaded us after we stopped in the Tensaw River. Dragonflies flitted and landed all around us. Alligators sulked by dropping underwater if we spotted them. Such richness of life was present and all due to the interconnectedness of life, not just in our coastal community, but throughout our entire state and into others as well. These thoughts drifted in and out as I photographed and then sat quietly absorbing the magic of mud, water and sky.

Jimbo Meador, guide at 17 Turtles Outfitters

Humans have a tendency to claim ownership, to protect territory…mine, mine, mine. But this isn’t a logical or intelligent way to view life on this planet. Who’s to say what life form is more important than another? Or what area is more worthy of protection than another? We are so keen on dividing and labeling everything that we often forget the complete and total Oneness of all Creation. This, I propose, is our greatest failure.

I suggest two cures. One, go out into a vast area near your home…wherever it is…and ponder the water flow, the life that exists and how it is connected to other areas. Secondly, take time every day to stop outside and feel your feet on the ground and breathe, connecting the sky and the earth through you. Take five minutes a day and plant yourself on the Earth.

The only way we will find success, joy, peace….is when we understand fully that we are all connected. Take it outside everyday for five minutes…or more…and see what changes occur in your life.