Tag: Gulf Oil Spill

The Paths We Tread

The Paths We Tread

During this long Threshold experience there has been much time to reflect on this juncture in life. For over two years there has been intense consideration but in reality the question Why am I here? has echoed for many years.

I have followed my heart, followed the guidance I feel, and it led me on a fascinating journey. It started while in high school working at a local state park in environmental education which progressed to attending college and majoring in Outdoor Recreation Administration which led to seven years working as a state park naturalist which led me to deeper discovery in life when I had an awakening that took me away from everything familiar at age twenty-five.

Because self-reflection was so useful for my own inner growth, I choose to attend graduate school majoring in Counseling which led me to work in the fields of addictions, children and adolescent therapy and family therapy. To be an effective therapist I kept going deeper which led me to massage and bodywork.

The deep healing I experienced as I went further into my depths was so profound I wanted to be able to offer that to others so that led me to massage school, Reiki master training, Polarity Therapy Training and all of that was so profound so I worked for ten years as a massage and bodywork therapist.

But the part of the path that was missing in my work was nature. I spent a lot of time in nature—hiking, cycling, paddling, diving—but my work was indoors and there wasn’t a connection with nature and healing in the work I offered people.

I always promised that if I ever had the financial support I would stop working indoors and dedicate my life to connecting people with nature. Then I inherited a large piece of land, sold it and was able to fulfill that promise.

I stopped ‘working’ for a living and started giving for living. I photographed beautiful places—both on land and underwater—met amazing creatures that allowed me entry into their realm and through these amazing experiences kept journals and wrote about the inner transformation that happened every time I submerged into underwater caves, made contact with humpback whales underwater, swam with dolphins pushing against me in their pod, witnessed lavender mountain sunrises, saw the birth of baby sea turtles, had manatees rest their heads on my shoulder…amazing experiences happened when I stepped out in faith to fulfill the promise of helping connect nature and humans.

During this time I spent a year documenting the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. I traveled from the mountains of North Carolina to the Gulf Coast each month and spent a week photographing and creating videos of seven beaches from Fort Morgan, Alabama to Ft. Pickens, Florida.

Several books were produced, mostly by my own financing, ranging from a child’s book on the Gulf Oil Spill, children’s books on sea turtles and manatees to short essays on profound interactions with ocean wildlife complete with photographs I took. One of my books—the most-sold one—was created by listening to the wisdom animals shared…Manatee Mindfulness and Other Wildlife Wisdom.

A lot has resulted from fulfilling that promise and now the time comes for another leap. Guidance has been to go deeper with Nature, to connect people with the wisdom teachings of wildlife. During one meditation I heard, You went out and connected with the animals and places, now you must teach what you learned to those willing to listen.

Not the most specific instructions but I did begin writing a course in self-study called, Deepening with Nature, which will  eventually become an e-book people can download and use for their own deepening experiences. The other piece will be workshops and retreats designed to help people connect deeper with Nature and each other.

During this time of pause to let go of the old and clear out space for the new, ample time for reflection has put some interesting experiences in my path.

One has been delving into the last few years of Freddie Mercury’s musical career and while I respect and generally adore Freddie Mercury and his music, it is the final years of his writing and singing that have touched me deeply. His love of opera motivated him to follow his passion to write and perform duets with opera diva Monserrat Caballe.

His advancing illness eventually kept him from performing yet he was determined to go into the studio and record tracks that his band mates in Queen could finish after his death. He knew he would never hear the final music yet the songs were coming through him and he wanted to give them to the world.

The album the band released four years after his death contains some of the songs he left behind with his piano and voice. Other tracks were recorded by the other members of Queen and then mixed. It is some of the most moving music I’ve ever heard, especially knowing how it was created and with passion not only from Freddie but his friends who added their instruments and voices…and love.

Can you imagine the loyalty for your path to keep going, to keep sharing under such hardship? He inspires me every day to listen deeply to that which wants to be birthed through me.

Another recent experience that has been helpful is a book I just finished today by a cave diving instructor of mine, Jill Heinerth. Her new book, Into the Planet, is about her life as a cave diver—and very much worth reading. (I couldn’t put it down).

As I read her stories, her passion and vision was so evident. I heard myself asking, What is my vision? What is my passion? I love to cave dive but there is no way I would ever explore and go through the hardships required to do that sort of work. And yet, I have done deep exploring…within myself.

Too often we fail to give ourselves credit for the intense, challenging, courageous work we do when we make the commitment to grow. The awakening that happened when I was 25 years old was the first major leap inward. It was my introduction to ‘cave diving’ within the cave that is me. And even though I am a certified open water diver/instructor and certified cave diver and side-mount cave diver, the most incredible experiences from my life have been the ones where I unearth treasures buried deep within myself.

Usually experiences in nature have prompted the inner leaps and treasure hunts. Each outer leap of challenge such as learning to scuba dive, learning to cave dive, required mastery of myself. I’m not claiming to be a master in those areas but rather saying they compelled me to learn self-mastery.

It’s not so exciting or adrenaline-pumping to read about someone’s personal, challenging, courageous inner journey through their life but those journeys are just as important as the challenging experiences extreme explorers have that take them to the edge. Anyone that makes the commitment to grow faces many experiences that take them to the edge of what they know and their ability to navigate the dark, uncharted inner realm.

The outer experiences of learning to open-water dive and learning to cave dive compelled me inward, called me deeper as did experiences with humpback whales, manatees, dolphins, sea lions, mountains, streams….my outer ‘lite’ explorations pushed me to depths of connection that forever altered my life and hopefully, by sharing them, the lives of those reading about them or viewing my photographs.

We can stand in awe of what people accomplish in the fulfillment of their life purpose and what they do in the realm of exploration and be inspired by it, but let us not forget our own amazing capacity to take the inner journey that opens us to uncharted landscapes, challenges, battlefields, and heights and depths the soul can reach when given the opportunity to shine through the experience of being human.

I bow to all those brave humans who dare to dive into the depths of themselves, to the very edge of what they know, and press onward through darkness to discover their inner light. You….we…are the ultimate explorers.

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The album that has simply blown me away….Made in Heaven, released by Queen in 1995. When you think of Freddie writing the songs and recording the tracks….and then his band mates finishing it after his death to honor him….I am in awe. And the music is fantastic!

Earth Day Notes from the Oil Spill

Earth Day Notes from the Oil Spill

I started a new painting today and when I opened my work table drawer found a notebook filled with writing from when I documented the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in 2010. I thought about typing them all out but felt images of the scribbles might be more powerful for those interested. It brought many tears as I read it. Some pages are note included as there are personal names and phone numbers of people I met. This is a sampling of the notes that helped me write many blog posts. Hard to believe it has been 9 years….and what has changed?

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You can find videos of my daily documentation of the oil spill on my YouTube channel. There are also MANY beautiful nature videos. Just visit YouTube and search Simone Lipscomb.

The Underlying Current

The Underlying Current

“The spirit of Walter Anderson thanks you.” This comment, while I was documenting the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in 2010, meant more than any other. It fueled me to keep going when the fumes, death and poisoning of sea creatures weighed me down with unbearable grief.

Part of mural from The Little Room, by Walter Inglis Anderson

Having a background as a state park naturalist and lover of the natural world, Walter Inglis Anderson’s words, drawings and paintings inspired me to connect deeply with elements of nature–not just animals, land and sea, but spatially through geometries of light and shadow.

Decades since his book, The Horn Island Logs, was published I have written and photographed many wondrous places and creatures in nature but more importantly, I have interacted with mountains, coasts, humpback whales, dolphins, sea lions, waterfalls, trees…I connect with much more than form, on a deep level.

I’m not concerned with only the technical aspects of a good photograph. I want to connect with the essence behind form. When I am in nature…underwater or in a forest….I simply show up and ask to be shown the light behind the physical manifestation. I have no agenda other than to be an observer wherever I find myself…with a camera, notepad or stripped of anything but my heart and mind to receive whatever gift is offered.

A while ago someone sent me information about an application for an exhibit at Walter Anderson Museum of Art. I’m not one to apply for exhibits and competitions, but the intention of the exhibit spoke to me so I applied. The subject was the human connection to water and I knew the exact image I would submit.

A small group of us were on a photography trip to Bimini to photograph  a friendly, resident pod of spotted dolphins. At some point during one of our days with the pod I stopped, as is often the case, to drink in the beauty of color, light and form. My friend Susan was preparing to photograph approaching dolphins. The reflections and light were surreal and I lifted my heavy, underwater housing and fired off one shot. The dolphins were so fast and Susan was swimming fast so there was one chance to capture what I felt as I communed with the sea and Her creatures.

That shot now hangs in the Water, Water exhibit at Walter Anderson Museum of Art (WAMA).

I was excited for it to be chosen yet it felt almost destined. Even as I applied I fully expected that image to be part of the exhibit…very unlike my usual low expectations. But the real magic for me was when I delivered the print.

Mural painting by Walter Inglis Anderson in Community Center, Ocean Springs, MS

When I dropped off the print,  Bea–one of the museum employees– invited me to look around. I went to the Community Center, attached to the museum, that was filled with a mural painted by Walter Anderson many years ago. It was as if the spirit of Walter swept around me and I begin remembering how deeply his work influenced me over 30 years ago, when I first viewed the room.

Mural painting by Walter Inglis Anderson, Community Center in Ocean Springs, MS

Tears filled my eyes as a part of me seemed to slip back into full embodiment of this life, this present moment where my art somehow interacted with his art and a circle was closed…like everything finally made sense.

Mural painting by Walter Anderson, The Little Room

During the two-night opening of the exhibit I listened as John Anderson, Walter’s son, shared about his relationship with his father and about his dad’s work. I was taken to a greater understanding of myself as I listened and was able to chat with John and share how his dad’s work influenced me.

John said his dad was shunned, a sort of outcast in the Ocean Springs community because he isolated himself and lived on Horn Island. It resonated with me. So deeply am I connected to nature and the energy behind it all that I rarely feel as if I fit in with this consumer-driven world. I could happily spend my days and nights exploring woodlands and shores, climbing trails on mountains…so profoundly does solitude appeal to me. It’s only in the quiet and solitary ways of observance that I feel home in my skin.

Another new exhibit at WAMA focuses on Walter as Artist, Naturalist & Mystic. Yes! was the only word that came to mind as I reflected on my own life.

I remembered a morning surrounded by humpback whales in the pre-dawn darkness anchored 90 miles off the Dominican Republic. Fishy exhalations of the whales were illuminated in the moonlight and kissed my skin as they drifted in the warm air. As I did morning yoga the whales came closer and closer to the boat. I felt myself open to the Universe, ocean and whales–there was no separation, only perfect communion.  Since then I have known that communion to be as sacred and holy as any experience. It is my touchstone to purpose and presence here on this magnificent Ocean Planet.

There was no conscious memory of how Walter Anderson influenced me, but as I reflect back after viewing his murals and sketches from Horn island, it was as if he was a silent mentor riding an underlying current with me on the journey with whales, dolphins, sea lions, manatees. It is like he has been encouraging me simply from his audacity to do what called him to life.

Who knows how this life journey works. Something guided a friend (can’t remember who) to send me information on the exhibit. And the entire process brought me full circle to a place where I felt the spirit of Walter Anderson saying, “Well done.”

Mural painting by Walter Inglis Anderson in The Little Room

To have such deep love for the planet and all Her creatures and witness the destruction of so much is nearly unbearable. I only hope my work–through words, images, painting–helps connect human animals to that which they are part of–even if they have forgotten. May we all remember…and fall back in love with that from which we come.

Unaware my friend ‘Auntie’ Eydie was taking my photo, the unposed, pure love of his work shines through…in The Little Room.
Deepening with Nature

Deepening with Nature

I wrote a friend tonight about the correlation between my connection with nature and feeling at home in myself. Being with humpback whales, spotted dolphins, manatees….all have given me vast experiences of connection to Oneness with the Universe and help take me deeper into relationship with my Self.

Other moments photographing nature in the mountains or in wild places in nature, such as Ireland and England, have opened doorways to inner realms of vast expanse that changed my life. I also realized, as I wrote to her, that I haven’t had a really profound, ah-ha type, nature connection since returning from Ireland last February and that’s partly why I’ve been out of sorts lately.

Connection with nature is my rock, my anchor to deepening the connection to my inner realms. And really, there isn’t an outer and inner anything. It’s all One. The truth is simply this….when I align deeply with nature I feel Oneness, the lines of separation vanish and I am at peace.

I go outside daily and cycle often at sunrise but it’s different to go outside and be outside. What keeps me from being with nature?

Empathic distress probably has a lot to do with my unrest of late. If what I value most is in danger of disappearing, I am at risk for anxiety and stress and separation from Oneness….all of us who love our planet face those same risks…humans, animals, plants….all life is at risk. If the places and animals I love the most deteriorate and disappear, then what? It is a very stressful time to be alive because we see what is at risk–everything.

What is this environmental and social nightmare we are collectively creating?

While I can be active and make socially and environmentally good choices, the most important action I can take is to develop a strong practice that takes me into Oneness, into nature…deep into Nature.

John Muir, my favorite naturalist and nature writer reminds me… “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.”

And Black Elk reminded us, “Crazy Horse dreamed and went into the world where there is nothing but the spirits of all things. That is the real world that is behind this one, and everything we see here is something like a shadow from that one.”