Tag: Magnolia River

Let Your Little Light Shine

Let Your Little Light Shine

Many of our wonderful, big-hearted town folk. Photo by….Jody’s camera…who took it?

Joni Mitchell sings in her song Shine, “Oh, let your little light shine….Shine on rising oceans and evaporating seas, Shine on our Frankenstein technologies…Shine on science with its tunnel vision, Shine on fertile farmland Buried under subdivisions…Let your little light shine…Let your little light shine…Shine on the dazzling darkness That restores us in deep sleep, Shine on what we throw away And what we keep…Shine on good earth, good air, good water And a safe place For kids to play, Shine on bombs exploding  Half a mile away…Shine on good humor…Shine on good will…Those seekers of mental health Craving simplicity They traveled inward Past themselves…May all their little lights shine.”

A veterinarian from Audubon Zoo checks our manatee friend with rescuers. Photo by Simone

This song played today as I cleaned gear from yesterday’s community effort of support to our manatee friends that have lost their way this winter and journeyed to the Magnolia River springs instead of to central Florida springs. That navigational mistake is costly as it most certainly leads to death from cold-stress unless they make it to the warmer springs of Florida on their own or by assistance through rescue.

Photo by Ted (I’m sorry…I lost track of who took this photo) please message me and I will add your correct name.

The details of the recovery of the smaller, weaker manatee or the capture and escape of the larger, healthier manatee are not as important tonight, as the love that was generated from the coming together of the community of volunteers from Magnolia Springs, Alabama…my home town. Those upset or angry about the rescue didn’t dampen the spirit of unity that grew as the day progressed. What a beautiful sight to see such caring, loving people with open hearts show up to lend support through dragging nets, parking cars, carrying gear, smiling from shore, taking photographs, asking questions to learn more about manatees.

Photo by Jody Moore.

I always question interfering with wild animals as the rescues can easily turn into recoveries, but this endangered species cannot survive here during the winter months due to cold water and the deadly consequences that it presents to manatees. So if we do nothing, they die. If we try to save them they may die. It’s a constant inner struggle for me yet with the proper rescue team and equipment, rescues can happen and animals can be saved. And when it comes to an endangered species, every animal counts.

IMG_7747Thank you dear neighbors for letting your light shine. Thanks for opening your hearts.  I know there is sadness about the small manatee that died. It was very sick. But I think of what a strong spirit he or she must have had to bring all of us together in such a beautiful and strong way. While we mourn the loss of this precious one, we can celebrate the beautiful gift it gave to each of us who had our heart open enough to receive it.

Our friend passed away shortly after being brought to shore. Surrounded by love generated by his strong spirit.
Our friend passed away shortly after being brought to shore….surrounded by love from our community, generated by his strong spirit. Photo by Simone

Oh, let your little light shine….Shine on manatees struggling in the cold A warm spring to enfold, Shine on rescue workers coming to their aid In Magnolia waters shine, never fade…Let you little light shine. Oh, let your little light shine.




All Creatures Great and Small

All Creatures Great and Small

About to head out on my SUP board to look for our manatee friend

Gusts were bringing in the cold front and chilly temperatures  as I stood barefoot on my SUP board. What am I doing out here? They can’t find a facility to take the animal so why paddle out? Why look? Immediately my heart poured forth a chorus of reasons: We need to document locations; I want this creature to know humans care; I don’t want it to suffer alone; it doesn’t matter that the rehab facility doesn’t want to receive a sick animal today….

A very large manatee at Homosassa Springs State Park.
A very large manatee at Homosassa Springs State Park.

On and on I slowly paddled, scanning the river from one side to the other….looking for a small nose at the surface, the shadow of a manatee, the tail-print of a swimming manatee…so in hope of finding this small one alive still, surviving in a 58 degree river, a river far too cold to dwell if you are a manatee that should be in the Florida springs.

As I moved silently through the water I contemplated the inner push to be here with heavy clouds hanging close and a 52 degree air temperature with 22 mph gusts of wind. Why does my heart call me so?

I took this image yesterday afternoon after jumping into a river neighbor's canoe and drifting near the manatee
I took this image yesterday afternoon after jumping into a river neighbor’s canoe and drifting near the manatee
Another image of our lost manatee friend...
Another image of our lost manatee friend…

They’re precious…they’re endangered….they are innocents….they are gentle….they are my brothers and sisters.

Self-portrait of my leg and fin as a young manatee plays with my drysuit in a Florida spring
Self-portrait of my leg and fin as a young manatee plays with my drysuit in a Florida spring

Human-generated interference has caused this gentle species to become endangered. Maybe 5000 are left on the planet….over 800 lost last year alone. One fifth of the population wiped out by red-tide, an overgrowth of algae caused by human-generated pollution. Boat strikes…local fishermen in Crystal River calling them speed bumps, a cruel name assigned to them because the boaters don’t want to use idle speed in King’s Bay, a haven for wintering manatees….and the tears flowed.

I cannot change the fact that humans have created a real mess on the planet, especially in regards to water pollution, over-fishing, creating environments no longer capable of supporting healthy marine life. The past is done and there’s not magic wand to undo it.

Portrait of a friend and a human friend.
Portrait of a friend and a human friend.

But we can care now.

I stopped at a dock and chatted with a river elder who had seen the small manatee yesterday. I gave him the hotline number and asked him to call if he or his wife spotted our friend. Maybe a Christmas miracle will happen and the stars will align and rescue can be made before pneumonia kills this friend…this little brother or sister.

Mother and large calf....
Mother and large calf….

A few hours later…….

The faces of love....
The faces of love….

I sit in my car in front of the Piggly Wiggly, tears streaming down my face, watching cars head south toward the beach. Gray clouds hang close, the wind picks up flags of yellow, red, blue and green and makes them tug against tethers. The flags remind me of the tugging of my heart to stay open…to care. I reflect back to the cashier who yelled, ‘Merry Christmas!’…the alcohol-hazed man wandering in the aisles…the helpful clerk who directed me to the pesto…the child cashing in pennies….the grandfather who bragged on his cute granddaughter…the classmates I haven’t seen in over 30 years…the smartly dressed…the ragged….the lost and sick manatee….the pelican fishing upriver…the red fish…the great blue heron…we all come from cosmic Source…we are Love…we are Light. We are One.

SimoneLipscombA friend once told me that there is a price that comes with having an open heart:  We feel.

A manatee kissing a human...
A manatee kissing a human…

To all my brothers and sisters….creatures great and small….may this time of light and love open our hearts to each other so that we may know connection….to you, to Source, to our own hearts.

A manatee holding a human's hand....
A manatee holding a human’s hand….
Who Squealed Louder?

Who Squealed Louder?

photo 3A balmy 97% humidity made it feel as if I was paddling my SUP board through water instead of on water. So close to the consistency of liquid was the atmosphere that I was soon drenched as I got into my fitness groove.

No air stirred, and the reflective river’s surface was only broken by mullet, alligator gar and bumblebees. Two of these flying wonders were upside down creating small ripples. I love bees and always stop and lend a paddle blade to rescue them so the two fat-bodied, pollen-toting creatures flew off to gather more pollen after a little help. I then continued downriver.

photo 2It was a hot paddle even though I started at 7am. But the playlist for the morning kept me going and before long I had paddled past the ski course, my 2.5 mile mark, and turned around. I faced the sun on my return paddle and it felt like I was being steamed alive. As fast as I drank water, I sweated it out of my body. My focus narrowed to simply getting back upriver and into the shade of the narrow part of the waterway.

Alligator gars were popping the surface as they came up for air. They can breathe underwater or at the surface and in the summer I see them from my paddle board as they pop up to breathe. I’ve had close encounters with them before and one time a large one (four feet long) surfaced at my left foot and I screamed like a kid. Since my board moves through the water silently I find myself too close often.

On-line photo
On-line photo

Today I had a particularly interesting encounter with this living fossil fish species. I was digging in, paddling hard. Jackson Browne was playing on my iPod and I was singing along…of course. “Fountain of sorrow….” and BUMP! My board was knocked. I squealed at the same time the gar squealed. I swear…I wasn’t suffering from heat stroke. The fish squealed! Either that or her armored, jagged, diamond shaped ganoid scales, that are nearly impenetrable, scraped the bottom of board and made the high-pitched sound. Or perhaps it was that double-row of sharp teeth. Regardless, I heard two squeals and can only claim one as my own.

It gave me a good laugh and brought me out of fine voice form momentarily. But I quickly recovered and went back to sweating, singing, paddling and groovin’ on this fine, summer morning on the Magnolia River.

My playlist you ask? It’s listed below in no particular order:

musicnotesriverFountain of Sorrow, Jackson Browne; Keep Breathing, Ingrid Michaelson; There Will Be a Light, Ben Harper; Never Alone, Lady Antebellum & Jim Brickman; Brothers & Sisters, Coldplay; Get On Your Boots, U2; Love Someone, Jason Mraz; Best Friend, Jason Mraz; Love is the Solution, Will Kimbrough; Sugar, Sugarcane Jane; My Someday, Brigitte Demeyer; Blessed Are the Brokenhearted, Jill Johnson; Washboard Lisa, Grayson Capps; Go in Peace, Sam Baker; Lift Your Spirit, Aloe Blacc; Ocean Soul, David Wilcox; God Bless, Lisa Carver; Mercy Now, Mary Gauthier; Singing Me Home, Lady Antebellum; Lost, Jay-Z & Coldplay; Knockin’, Carolina Chocolate Drops; Gypsy Train, Willie Sugarcapps; Not Alone, Ben Taylor; People of Love, Snatam Kaur; Surround Me, Ben Taylor; A Couple Hundred Miracles, Will Kimbrough; Running on Sunshine, Jesus Jackson; Beautiful, Akon, Colby O’Donis, Kardinal Offishall; Make You Feel My Love, Adele; The Whole Enchilada, Keb’ Mo’; Belief, John Mayer; …and more that I can’t remember.


Making Peace with the River

Making Peace with the River

photo 3The only ripples on the surface of the water were those created by mullet, alligator gars and other fish schooling. The mirror-like river seemed to breathe peace. A few months ago it was a raging torrent that brought terrible destruction that created fear and chaos but today it invited me to reconnect, to dance…to renew friendship.

As I paddled my SUP board, the carbon fiber blade sliced through liquid reflections of clouds and I felt emotions arise that took me back to that scary night when the docile river became a viciously flowing white-water river that raced through yards, homes…though lives. I realized my reluctance to paddle these many weeks since then was due to resentment or distrust I had towards the river. I had trusted it completely and then it seemed to go berserk.

SimoneLipscomb (6)Of course, it’s irrational to resent a force of nature. It wasn’t responsible for paving over acres of land in nearby towns that causes water to run off the surface rather than soak into the ground. This quaint waterway didn’t cause two feet of rain to fall in 24 hours nor did it fill itself in with sediment from development erosion. The river didn’t do any of this….it’s just a river that reacted to an event.

As I pondered the resentment and distrust I felt, I realized how closely the river mirrors my life. Recently I’ve been journeying deep within to simply listen to what I say to myself, what thoughts I think and repeat. It has not been easy. I have felt the effects of a near silent destructive force of negative self-talk. As well, my perfectionism has been a dark force in life that, at times, feels like a ton of baggage that weighs down some of my most creative ideas and endeavors.

SimoneLipscomb (31)While I want to feel that calm, beautiful peace within, there are times when it feels like a river raging through my innermost calm. Sometimes a little extra force is good but when it becomes destructive it isn’t good or beneficial.

Perhaps it takes an inner storm every once in a while to clear out what’s no longer serving the higher purpose of life; however, it’s probably much wiser to avoid creating situations that produce such intensive experiences. For instance, don’t pave over or ignore emotions as they tend to build up and become bigger than if allowed regular expression. Don’t ignore the negative self-talk that can quite literally keep us stuck, mired in self-doubt and fear. And maybe most important…be kind and compassionate to ourselves.

Today as I paddled in the early-morning calm, I made peace with the river; I made peace with myself.

Loving the Earth

Loving the Earth

photoLoving the Earth: Creating a Conscious Relationship with Our Planet

A slight breezed carried my SUP board downriver as I stopped paddling to watch a pair of bald eagles drag their talons along the surface of the water. Nearby great egrets crowned cypress trees, their white plumage dazzling against the background of blue sky. A mullet splashed in the mud-tinted water of the Magnolia River and brought my attention back from sky to earth. As my gaze turned downward a brown pelican folded her wings, as if in prayer, and dropped from the sky close to my board. All around life expressed in a beautiful ballet of balance with this lone patron admiring the dance. Bliss seemed shared by all but perhaps it might be better named communion.

Osprey...image taken in Florida last winter

One never knows what will be the call that brings us to our heart’s work. While I loved nature since childhood, I never felt the commitment…the calling…to dedicate my life’s work to it until the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. It felt as if everything in life stopped so I could focus entirely on the Gulf Coast and the amazing life in our coastal ecosystems. During the first days of oil washing ashore I remember thinking the end of the world had arrived. How could this happen?

This should never happen anywhere on our beautiful planet...let's unite in love and compassion and create the world we want to live in and leave for generations to come.

It’s easier to believe everything is okay than to pay attention to what’s really happening. I shared my book containing oil spill images with a cousin the other day that lives in Pensacola and she was shocked to see the reality I documented. There are people who live in Gulf Shores who still believe it wasn’t bad…that there wasn’t oil mixed with dispersant and it wasn’t fizzing in tidal pools of tiny fish gasping to their last breath. I know because I saw it first hand and stood on the beach weeping for every life I saw pass.

simonelipscomb (18)The most difficult thing I have ever experienced was witnessing the spill and its effects on innocent life which included small children playing in oily waters…so polluted that the benzene burned my eyes and throat. Video and photographs in my library document everything I saw but they can never share the true experience of grief beyond anything I’ve known.

A friend and mentor reminded me, during the first year of the spill, that there was a reason I was being called to witness the horror even though I might not understand why. Over four years have passed and I am more convinced that the only way to heal our broken planet is to heal our relationship with It and to heal our relationship with each other. That means healing our own lives.

SimoneLipscomb (8)The only solution I have found is to practice love…love as compassion…love as respect…love in the purest form of opening to surrender, to service.

When wild animals make contact with me I always feel so blessed...so fortunate...so joyful!

Love for the planet requires opening the self. When we risk the deep opening of human heart to planetary heart we know the elation of unspeakable joy, of the heart’s expanding in answer to beauty. We also know the experience of grief and heartbreak when places, wildlife and humans we love are destroyed or profoundly injured.

One of my favorite places to celebrate life is under the Salt Pier on the island of Bonaire

Celebrating the beauty of the Magnolia River and other places of natural beauty relieves the grief that comes from being aware of the trials our planet is experiencing. There is resilience in nature and my hope is we will practice better stewardship before a non-reversible tipping point is reached.

SimoneLipscomb (25)As I remain engaged with nature’s rhythms through simple, daily observation and intention, I am drawn more deeply into partnership with the Earth. If we collectively open our hearts to loving this sacred planet, we can create a bond with each other that will transform darkness and create positive, lasting change.