Tag: Gulf State Park

Making Lemonade

Making Lemonade

My Nikon had been sitting on my desk since the Florida Springs dive trip. I felt so bad for it, all alone…waiting for a play date, I decided to do my Sunday morning beach walk this morning since Sunday was rained out. It was before 5am when I ran upstairs and grabbed my camera and tripod. Cool. The tripod bracket is already on the camera. That will save time.

When shooting sunrise, I like to begin while it’s still completely dark. With long exposures very nice effects result. About half way to the beach I wondered why my tripod bracket was on the camera. When did I use the tripod? Not on the dive trip. Hmmm.

The sky was still subdued but there were pink clouds mocking me as I hurriedly drove the last few curves on Highway 135. By the time I ran to the water’s edge most of the pink was gone. Whatever, I’ll just do some long exposures with the rough water…that will be nice.

When I attempted to attach my camera to the ball head on my tripod I noticed the plate on my camera was actually for my underwater housing….NOT the tripod. Well    just    freak.

I played with purposely moving the camera and had such fun.

Not to be deterred, I started shooting and balancing the camera on the tripod for long exposures and they did okay. No big deal…just not as long as I wanted.

About 10 minutes into the shoot I realized I hadn’t cleared my memory card…my large memory card that was nearly full. And for some reason, Lightroom and my D800 don’t play nice when I don’t want to import everything on the card. And with images that are very large in size….jeez. I didn’t want to even think about the fussing that would go on between the Adobe product, the Apple product and me later. Gawd. Next time I think about shooting, I’ll pack everything the night before….duh.

Too late now. Light was brightening and that’s not what I want when playing with motion and color and wide angle.

I finally had enough concrete and geometric fluffy water shots so put my tripod in the car. I could at least get in a good walk on the beach.

The rough water of the past few days had deposited huge amounts of plants from Mobile Bay along the beaches. I felt bad about leaving my usual trash bag at home for collecting garbage but there was so much plastic and other human-created debris I could have filled up a pick-up truck…or small dump truck. (I did remove plastic bags and a mylar balloon….deadly items for sea turtles and other animals that might eat it).

Regardless, I played with my 14-24mm lens. Each time I use it I remember how much I enjoy the lens…its beautiful crispness, the ability to get very close to objects for interesting wide angle shots. It was a sweet reminder.

I could have given up after leaving my bracket at home or paused to erase (one-by-one) the many photographs from diving weeks ago so I wouldn’t lose the ones already taken this morning….but then missed the perfect light. However, I worked with the circumstances that presented and came away with not only a nice walk and a few good images, but with a valuable reminder: Work with what I have, celebrate the day regardless.

Perhaps too often I allow the glitches of the day define the day. No need to do that. Keep squeezing the day for every bit of sweetness I can find.

Lasting Treasure

Lasting Treasure

Some times I find myself working too hard to figure things out. That’s been the case with my feeling of stuck-ness that has lasted for five years. Sure I’ve written books, taken really nice photographs resulting from amazing travels, possibly even contributed to the awakening happening on our planet…but I’ve just not been able to find a steady rhythm of forward momentum. For an Aries, a trail-blazer, it’s almost unbearable. Shouldn’t I be doing SOMETHING more!?!?

I came across some guidance the other day that basically said I need time to withdraw and contemplate after the breakup of a relationship I thought was my happily-ever-after. (That break-up was over five years ago). It said to rest and grow strong, retreat from life. I was reminded of The Hermit, the archetype that withdraws and consolidates and visualizes the pattern of destiny, the Will of the Spirit.

It’s not a daily sadness or even missing him but a daily remembering of the good times when two people vow to share their lives. I’ve done the healing of grief and sadness but haven’t been able to move out of the stuck place. So in meditation I asked what I was missing in the situation, thus the guidance. How does one create a new vision of life when the path seemed so beautiful and clear with another person? Or job….or home….or child…or planet.

Then I thought, it’s not just ‘him.’ I planned on the the ocean and rivers and mountains and shores being healthy…dolphins, whales, sea turtles, manatees….I’m not just trying to find a way forward from a man I loved, I am trying to find footing on a planet that is in peril. What if everything I have taken for granted and loved deeply disappears? This is the big existential question looming and creating a major pause in my skipping along the merry path. It’s more than just a man…isn’t it always?

Thirty-two years ago I consciously stepped on to a spiritual path seeking truth and searching for meaning. There have been so many times along the way I wished I could forget what I had learned about myself, about the world around me and return to ignorant bliss; however, somewhere along the way I realized clearing out the old ‘yuck’ and healing old, unhealthy patterns of behavior was slowly allowing me to experience deeper joy, stronger peace that lasted longer with each step up the ladder. As my wholeness increased I became more aligned with work that held meaning and felt inspired by my heart.

Photograph Summer 2010…Shell Oil

When the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill occurred I was living in Asheville with my husband. That moment….April 20th, 2010…called me to service. It was my personal wake-up call/invitation to fully commit my time and resources to raising awareness of the beauty of nature and the brokenness that exists between humans and nature…and the importance of restoring the awareness of Oneness of all life. Oddly enough, that was the beginning of the end of my marriage….the unraveling had started but it was the deep call to service that ultimately pulled us apart…him to Iraq, me to coastal Alabama.

Photograph I took Summer 2010. It reminds me of a woman’s body and so I call it the Rape of Mother Earth

I reported the oil when it first washed ashore in the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf of Mexico. I sat there and wept as waves of chocolate-colored, benzene-smelling crude oil and dispersant made landfall on the sugar white beaches. My world fell apart. I couldn’t believe humans could do this to a planet. It’s one thing to see it reported on the news and quite another to smell it, feel it, and watch the destructiveness as it creeps along killing everything it its path.

Gulf State Park Summer 2010

I haven’t broken my relationship with nature but humans have, as a whole, broken the bond of Oneness, the realization that whatever we do to nature, we do to ourselves.

How does one move forward with the awareness of such brokenness?

Perhaps it begins by taking time to listen to the Path of Destiny, to form a new vision by taking a break. By asking what the Will of Spirit is preparing as I surrender more to my heart’s calling.

While cycling this morning a David Wilcox song (Deeper Still) came on my playlist and the lyrics really spoke to me, not just about my former beloved but about the path of service. Often these thoughts come…Have I wasted my time and resources? Am I on the right trajectory? What was I thinking? This song was my answer…. In this life the love you give becomes the only lasting treasure.”

In the tears you gave to me
I found a river to an ocean.
Concrete sky and a stone cold sea
Came to where the emptiness cracked open.

Then all my fears came crashing through
And met the fire of my sorrow.
But I found my strength in forgiving you.
I never even knew how far my heart could go.

I live my life beyond each death
From the deeper well of trust.
To know that when there’s nothing left
You will always have what you gave to love.

In this life the love you give
Becomes the only lasting treasure.
So that what you lose will be what you win.
A well that echoes down too deep to measure.

Every bit of love I have given along my path is my greatest treasure….a well too deep to measure.

You Open Me

You Open Me

The Gulf has been calling me lately and so my cycling mornings have included a visit to Her as the sun rises over the sugar-white sand dunes. This morning on my journey to Her, a song came on my playlist that took me deeper into the magic of the morning.

“So sublime, this meeting, you and I. So beautiful that sparkle in your eye.” Just as I passed a freshwater canal leading to the big lake in the state park the sparkle of the Divine reflected off of the water’s surface. I stopped to take in the moment and breathe deeply with Her.

“I see you. You see me. Makes me realize how tragically rare and wonderful is this scene. I treasure this moment however long. It’s teaching me maybe I don’t need to be so strong….You open me….You open me….You open me.”

As I continued listening and humming along, my heart opened and tears came. How precious is this moment….this time in relationship with Mother Earth, the physical expression of the Divine. I broke open. The thought came, we never really know how much we love someone until they are gone from our lives. And then…we never really know how much we love this planet until it begins to die….bit by beautiful bit.

Over the boardwalk my tires thumped until I reached the beach. Metallic turquoise water and soft, pink skies reached out to me and I laughed out loud at the sacred beauty.

“I love that you are a being, magically. It’s so lonely sometimes being me. It’s what we all wish for and need. So precious this moment, to be seen….devastatingly beautiful….humanity.  You open me…you open me…..you open me.”

I pushed the replay button and stood feeling the cool air kissing me as the music played. “I treasure this moment however long. It’s teaching me maybe I don’t need to be so strong.” And as I sang along, two dolphins appeared within a few feet of the shoreline.  I walked my bike on the soft sand to the water’s edge and stood laughing with unbounded joy as the dolphins continued feeding a bit further offshore.

As I clapped and sang my gratitude they jumped completely out of the water three times. “You open me…you open me…you open me. Sita ram….sita ram….sita ram.”

Sita ram is a mantra that invokes the energy of the divine couple, a perfect balance of masculine and feminine energy, a balance of the left and right sides of the brain. As I stood watching the dolphins swim west, I found deep calm and balance as I opened to Mother Ocean, Mother Earth and the sacred dance we share.

You Open Me…a lovely song by Jim Beckwith performed by him and Hans Christian that helps me open to the magnificent beauty of our Ocean Planet….and the light that shines through all willing to be a channel.

Comfortably Numb

Comfortably Numb

FullSizeRender 2“Hello, Is anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me. Is there anyone at home?….

This is not how I am. I have become comfortably numb. I have become comfortably numb.”

Acres upon acres of wild backcountry are being cleared at Gulf State Park. It’s not just the width of another trail they are clearing. It’s wide swaths of trees, underbrush, ground cover….gone. Little-by-little this jewel of a state park is being turned into a manicured, groomed city park that continues to push wildlife into smaller blocks of land.

 First it was condos. The building boom hit right after Hurricane Frederic in 1979. It’s good for the economy, they said. It will generate jobs, they said. No, we can’t turn the beach front into a national wildlife refuge, there’s too much money to be made, they said. And so we witnessed the taming of the shoreline. Concrete, glass and landscaping that demands hideous amounts of water to survive.

Now that the beaches are nearly full of monuments to human-demand-for-more, the governor of the State of Alabama is building a monument to himself on the state park beach. Drive by and see his legacy…the mountain of sand…the machinery….all hail one of the biggest crooks in the history of Alabama politics.

It’s not just the new trail they are clearing. They leave a buffer of a few trees along the trail and most everything else is being cleared.

Off of Rosemary Dune Trail in the backcountry machines are busy in Gulf State Park. It’s not new trails that concern me, it’s the ridiculous amount of sacred land being cleared to make it appear more manicured? More city-park-like? There’s no reason for this kind of reckless behavior. None. And they are using restoration funds to do this?

The clearing isn’t confined to the trail development (shown here) and clearing, along country road 2 near the tee intersection they are clearing massive amounts of land….prime wildlife habitat.

I stopped to photograph the destruction and as soon as I unclipped from my pedals Sarah McLachian began singing, through my ear buds, the Prayer of Saint Francis….”Make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.”

Simone Lipscomb 6360It wasn’t just tears….it was sobs of grief. Where will the wild things go when humans bent on molding nature to their image and intention manicure it beyond recognition of what it once was?

Simone Lipscomb 6352And we sit by….and allow this destruction to continue. Pink Floyd nailed it….”We have become comfortably numb.”

Simone Lipscomb 6357

Soul Cycling

Soul Cycling

IMG_5022At 5.15am it was still dark outside but it was also cooler with lower humidity than we’ve had lately so the little LED light on the handlebar would have to do. My tactical, super-charged headlamp I usually wear on my helmet was missing in action.

It’s not that I was afraid of the dark. I just didn’t want to run over any snakes that might be warming their beautiful, slithery bodies on the paved trail.

I hadn’t been pedaling for more than a few minutes when a large shape swooped over my head…then another. Large birds but not owls. Perhaps a pair of nighthawks but there was no eerie vocalization. Just two large shapes disturbed by my passing. Sorry to wake you.

IMG_5029During the past couple of weeks after returning from the dolphin adventure I had not cycled. First, a nasty blister on my foot from a fin rubbing…even while wearing my super-cool scuba socks…kept me out of shoes. So no cleats. Then it was hot and so humid in the mornings I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. But I missed the woods, the trails…the wildlife.

IMG_5031Terry Tempest Williams said, “My spiritual life is found in the heart of the wild.” In The Hour of Land she writes of her personal journey with some of our national parks. Her writing resonates with my own journey in nature and especially the state park in which I ride.

During summer breaks from high school and college I worked at Gulf State Park. After earning a degree in Outdoor Recreation and Resource Management, I returned to work there as a state park naturalist.

IMG_5039The 6000 acres of nature are especially important in our area as they contain some of the last undeveloped coastal forests and beaches in the area. But politicians continue to chip away at what’s left of its wildness.

When I cycle there my soul is given opportunity to relax and connect with friends there…bobcats, pine trees, water snakes, alligators, live oak trees, gopher tortoises, egrets, eagles, hawks, osprey, cottontail rabbits, wild hibiscus, morning glories….a seemingly endless gathering of friends.

IMG_5037As I was riding through a pine forest there this morning I thought about how the trees take root, deep into the sandy soil and remain there throughout their lives. I found myself uncomfortable with the idea of being that grounded, that rooted into one place. But then I had an image of the trees being connected to each other and communicating with other pine trees all over the planet.

Not long ago I read an article about how trees not only communicate but send extra nutrients to those in their area that are not well. This was a scientific study, not a new age article. Trees cooperate with each other and send information back and forth, at least in their own forest. I got the impression this morning they ‘chat’ more long distance than we can imagine.

IMG_5025Each time I ride there some aspect of nature teaches me, gives me ideas to ponder. The physical exercise is great; however, it’s the spiritual expansion that keeps me returning even with summer weather that brings humidity, warmer temperatures and potential thunderstorms. Soul cycling is a necessary part of my spiritual practice. I find my truest self in the wilds of this amazing planet.