Tag: MANATEES

Walk Open

Walk Open

There’s a guy where I bike and hike that walks with his palms facing forward. We usually walk with the back of our hands facing out so this unique difference captured my attention and I began experimenting.

What I noticed was my entire body opened as I simply rotated my thumbs outward as I walked. It felt as if I was unlocking an inner door. Such a simple act yielded appreciable results.

As I practiced I felt an immediate receptivity at my core. I began to sense a beautiful eye within my heart. The green of the trees was greener. The sounds of rushing water became more musical. Birdsong was sweeter. It felt like a more natural state of being…to walk exposed with mind, spirit and body.

Now as I’m walking, paddle boarding, sitting in my car or doing whatever I can simply think of opening my core and feel the connection to all life…to everything.

There are reasons we close ourselves. Good reasons. Trauma. Abuse. Emotional overwhelm. Meanness. Fear. We don’t want to walk around totally unprotected from behavior of strangers, friends or family.

As I child of maybe eight or nine years old, I was watching a Disney program. There was an old mountain man who lived in a one-room shack. He had a mule. He saved for a long time to purchase a pane of glass for a window he had kept shuttered. He wanted to bring light to his cabin. He finally was able to purchase the glass and immediately after installing it, his mule kicked a bucket and broke the glass. My little heart broke open and I started crying. My dad looked at me and laughed and asked, “Why are you crying?” “It’s sad,” I replied. “It’s only a show,” he said. It didn’t change the fact that I felt sadness and compassion for the old man. But I learned that it was risky to feel those things. I could be made fun of or judged.

We learn to close down to our emotional truths. We are ‘taught’ how to do this our entire lives by how others witness and respond to our emotions. It’s a painful process. And sadly, they teach us how to close down but rarely does anyone teach us how to open back up.

To live with emotional intelligence is to gently close when we need to take care of ourselves but to open again to feel the beauty of life when it’s safe. And that’s the problem. When we close ourselves we don’t feel the abuse or pain emotionally but when we remain closed we don’t feel the beauty…we don’t allow anything to affect us.

Many year ago I was visiting the Alabama coast while I was residing in the Greensboro, North Carolina area. Things had been really tough for me. Very difficult. I was on the beach and was talking out loud to the Universe: ‘Why do I even bother to heal my life? Nobody cares. Most people never even bother to look inside and try to improve themselves. Why am I putting myself through such misery? Why even bother? Can’t I just forget being conscious and go back to blissful ignorance?’ Suddenly the sunset sky turned lavender and orange and I heard a voice within say very clearly: You clear out the inner blocks to being open so you can really see and experience moments such as this fully.

If we walk open, we invite life to touch us. We risk being affected by what we experience. I wonder if the root of the world’s problems doesn’t begin with refusing to allow anything to impact us.

We have all witnessed ourselves and others say, If it isn’t happening to me, I’m not concerned. When I worked in a retail outdoor clothing store near the Gulf Coast I expressed concern about a hurricane that was heading into the northern Gulf of Mexico to a customer. She said worriedly, “Oh, NO! Where is it going to hit?” I replied, “It’s east of here by about 100 miles.” Her reply, “Then I don’t care. It doesn’t affect me.” That storm was Hurricane Michael. It did horrendous damage but it didn’t touch her life so she didn’t care. But she’s not an exception. Unfortunately this seems to be the norm with far too many.

After documenting the Gulf Oil Spill for a year, I was completely shut down. Before the oil arrived on Alabama beaches I remember driving down the Fort Morgan Peninsula and seeing booms anchored in the saltwater marshes. I photographed the small, floating lines of buys and got back into my car. An unearthly scream erupted from my depths. NOOOOOOOO!!!! 

I sobbed and wailed. From that moment through the following year, I had to shut down emotionally to document what I felt called to witness. The inner voice that called me was so strong I couldn’t look away; but, to be there I had to shut down a feeling response….except for anger. I felt that strongly. It’s like rescue workers who extricate people out of car wrecks or collapsed buildings…they have work to do and later can deal with the trauma of witnessing such horrendous and sad events.

I can’t remember who referred me to Joanna Macy, but spending a week with her and 30 other people, after my year’s commitment to the coast, opened me back up in a safe environment where my peers and I held space for each other to grieve and feel the depths of our emotions.

It took me a very long time to reopen to joy and pleasure. The most amazing healers for me have been wildlife…manatees, humpback whales, sea lions, dolphins. Photographing them in their environment became profound sessions of healing and deep connection that opened me to love at a level to which I had never known.

As we open to beauty around us–receptive and exposed–we begin to see the beauty of our own presence as we come into deep communion with Nature. We discover ourselves to be part of the amazing whole. In our wisdom, we closed ourselves for protection so our psyches wouldn’t become overwhelmed. Now, let us remember what it feels like to be open…present…in profound compassion for ourselves and the world, which is really the same.

Rumi wrote, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all of the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” Walk open, dear pilgrim. Walk open.

 

The Great Pause

The Great Pause

The other day as I was walking up the mountain in my solitary reverie, the idea of time arose as I wondered what day it was. Many humorous comments have been recently made by individuals suddenly removed from daily schedules about not knowing what day it is. I found myself not caring whether it was Monday or Thursday, April or March or May. I have never liked schedules or boxes as I call them. If I am free to follow the sun and stars, the weather, the chill or warmth of the air, I am most happy. Following the ebb and flow of tides, the changing of seasons seems a more natural way to be in the world. Plug me into a schedule that defies natural rhythm and I begin to get weird and jittery.

I understand that many do not appreciate that kind of relationship with time. Humans have so constrained most everything to fit into days, hours, minutes that when those structures are removed a sort of ‘lost in space’ occurs. Even time off from work is tightly orchestrated and kids have teams and lessons after school that keep them and their parents in a constant frenzy of scheduled time.

Joanna Macy wrote, “People of today relate to time in a way that is surely unique in history. The technologies and economic forces unleashed by the Industrial Growth Society radically alter our experience of time, subjecting us to frenetic speeds and severing our felt connection with past and future generations….the technologies require decisions made at lightning speed for short-term goals, cutting us off from nature’s rhythms.”

During my walking contemplation, I felt my body attune to the rhythm of Nature–spring…morning light…blooms…moving water…cool air…unfurling leaves. During this experience where the entire world has slowed down, I find myself relieved and hopeful. Perhaps we, as a collective, will remember the rhythms of Nature and open to the truth that we are part of the whole and will be happier and healthier by paying closer attention to these sacred rhythms.

Joanna writes, “This peculiar relation to time is inherently destructive of the quality and value of our lives, and of the living body of Earth. And it will intensify because the Industrial Growth Society is accelerating toward its own collapse.” But the good news is this is a time of great potential that she calls The Great Turning.

We are the ancestors of future generations that can, at this moment, steer a saner course for our planet. The Great Turning, as Joanna calls it, has three parts including slowing damage to Earth and all life, transforming foundations of common life and a fundamental shift in values and world view. Isn’t this where we find ourselves these days?

This is what gives me hope.

For as long as I can remember in this life I have known there would be something that would stop the world and make us face the path of destruction we have been on with industrialization. It is my deep hope that we will make a collective effort during this time of pause to reconnect with natural rhythms of life and recognize what is truly valuable and important and what isn’t.

To all the children

To the children who swim beneath

The waves of the sea, to those who live in

The soils of the Earth, to the children of the flowers

In the meadows and the trees in the forest, to

All those children who roam over the land

And the winged ones who fly with the winds,

To the human children too, that all the children

May go together into the future…

–Thomas Berry

 

 

My Manifesto

My Manifesto

I’ve never been one to give much credence to manifestos. They are sort of like…ooohh, look at me….I have something to say. And I find that most of us have something to say but nobody really pays much attention except to their own voices in their heads. Everything else just goes through their filters of who they accept as okay and who isn’t and they look for everything possible to uphold their belief about themselves and others. Oh, there’s the evidence that she IS crazy.

But this cluster of a house closing and moving has brought up enough fear to shake me to my core and make me wish I was anywhere but here, in this skin and bone experience. Not just regarding my own personal challenges but for the planet. I keep hearing to write my own manifesto. Maybe a last word of an old life that helps open the doorway to the new one. I’m ready for that crossing. That Threshold has been looming for over three years or 59 years or lifetimes. I don’t really know. Regardless, here goes.

I am so freaking angry at humanity and wish I wasn’t a human. The shame I feel from being part of a species that is hell-bent on destroying itself is huge. It isn’t only the miserable leadership of this country (USA) that is taking us backwards at warp speed….racism, environmental lack-of-protection, elitism, corruption…it’s happening in many places on the planet. The gains so many worked for so diligently for so many decades have been lost in nearly three years. Three years. Three years of insanity supported by politicians who don’t have the guts to stand up to a maniac because greed is their guiding light. There is no moral compass in this country where such bigotry, hatred and nihilism is encouraged and fueled by leadership.

I don’t want to live in this insanity. Enough.

There are those in my life that think they know what’s best for me. If I only got a ‘real’ job I’d be just fine. As if me having a job would fix any of the woes of the world…or fix the angst in me.

I worked for six months for an international company and found how insidious their practices are regarding the environment yet they wanted the lowly workers, earning less than $10 an hour, to ‘sell’ how great they were environmentally….while thousands and thousands of plastic hangers get trashed every year at just one store and plastic bags wrap every shirt, pants, hat, coat, vest….plastic that doesn’t get recycled. Yes….by all means let me just get a job to solve my problems. It only opened my eyes wider to the insanity of this world based on greed and profit at any cost.

I’ve never felt like I fit in and have felt I am at least one step off from the rest of humanity. My goal has been to connect people with Nature in an effort to preserve at least some parts of the planet and Her species. While my efforts have been sincere and well-received, they have never supported me financially. So I’m left either selling my soul to corporate America or watching my finances swirl down the drain as I try to make a difference.

While sports figures earn millions each year and politicians income increases from bribes, sponsorships and other illegalities, people that are really trying to make a difference…non-profits, artists, conservationists, environmentalists, social workers, teachers….are scraping by. It’s very warped and messed up.

In my travels I have connected deeply to the land and sea, to humpback whales, manatees, dolphins, sea lions. I have felt the immense power of the sea and wanted to kiss the ground upon release from a storm-tossed boat. I have sensed the stillness of the sea that reflected the heavens so perfectly it was difficult to tell where the sea stopped and the sky began.

There are no regrets about my traveling to other countries such as England and Ireland where in stone circles or other ancient, sacred places I have awakened to deeper levels of my soul and the vast connection to Earth and Stars and Sea. Each journey has gifted me with something priceless. Had I grasped my money in fear, I would have never had those experiences.

I have watched an octopus dance with me, had squid explore the dome port on my underwater housing. Had manatees kiss me. Humpback whales, after spending three separate weeks with them, have taught me how intelligent they are and how caring and loving they are to their young…they broke me open to love like I had never known before. And they began calling me when I was only a teen through their song. They have been a guiding force for me and the kinship we share is profound and on the level of soul.

Diving in the veins and life-blood of the planet has been a gift like no other. Being inside Her….within Her beauty changed me, altered my perception of what is truly important.

The beauty I have witnessed has inspired me to share with others, to help awaken them to this incredible planet upon which we live. And yet it doesn’t bring an income to me. I never figured out how to commercialize beauty and love and depth of soul. I hope I never do.

For the past three years there has been an intense dismantling of my life…or 59 years or whatever. But these past three years have been a true letting go…letting go….letting go. And now, poised to finally pass through the Threshold, a block appears and threatens to stop my forward progress. The fury and fear I feel about this is absolute. The deep, hard work of the soul and clearing the personality has exhausted me in ways I cannot begin to describe but here I stand ready–after this long, hard journey–to leap. And a glitch stops everything and makes me go deeper still when I thought I had reached the bottom of it.

Every fear I’ve ever had is awakened as I teeter on a financial precipice. A precipice where the ground upon which I stand gives way, below me is endless depth of Unknown and just across the way is solid ground.

I have moved through my life with trust in the Universe, even when things were at their worst for me personally. And now, after everything had seemingly come together perfectly for this big leap into the next part of my journey, I stand on a precipice knowing I cannot return to how I was–I won’t unpack the boxes and carry on as if nothing has changed–knowing I might not survive if I leap and fall into the Abyss but knowing that the only way forward is to actually step out in faith over the Abyss trusting that if I fall there will be grace in my passing and peace. And if I make it to the other side, there will be grace as well.

Artists….photographers, writers, painters, dancers, composers…are often troubled because we exist to express and share our experience of the world with others, not for profit but because we must express. Our souls call us to this and to try and cram us into a box, into a job that steals our reason for being is torture. But we live in a society where these gifts are undervalued and profit-at-any cost is the norm.

Those that do not have the soul of an artist will never understand the pain we experience when we cannot express ourselves, when we are not supported for our heart’s work. Get a real job is the same as Just kill me. To be at odds with our heart’s work is to not live.

So I say to anyone still reading this, pay attention to the artists…the writers, dancers, photographers, painters, composers. Not just the ones receiving accolades but to all those who have a message to share with the world that comes from their direct experience of beauty…or pain. And support them.

My manifesto wanted to be written. It’s for no one’s benefit but my own, delving into my own feelings of frustration, fear and love for this planet, for the beauty that seems to be disappearing so fast I can scarcely keep up. My manifesto is one of deep and profound grief. Of fear for an uncertain future personally and planetarily.  I don’t want to live in a world without bees and butterflies, without right whales and orcas, without black rhinos and gorillas, without kemp’s ridley sea turtles and orangutans, without love and compassion and common decency. For to live in a world such as this is not to live at all. It’s simply to exist in a living hell.

Vibrations of Nature

Vibrations of Nature

Every night I go outside on the screened porch with my dog and two cats and we sit and listen. The frogs in the pond in the field sing their froggy songs. Insects drone and click and make the branches of the ancient live oak trees come alive. Barred owls call in the branches overhead. The more I let go and just listen, the more relaxed and at peace I feel.

In the mediations on the front porch, with nature’s music in surround sound, I have come to understand that the vibrations of nature are not just beneficial to humans, they are vital to our health and wellbeing.

The frequency of natural sounds helps us drop deeper into connection and oneness with nature…with ourselves. We have forgotten that we are simply another part of nature. And in so doing are literally destroying the planet…and ourselves.

A recent report says up to 1 million species are expected to go extinct soon….out of 8 million species. More than 10% of the species on this planet are expected to soon be extinct. I have tried to avoid this report and yet it keeps coming up on NPR, in articles on social media. I know it’s bad news and could I possibly just pretend one more day that it’s not so bad?

So I go outside at night and listen. With my dog. And the cats. The frogs take me deeper into right relationship with their watery world. The insects bring me into their realm of clicks and drones, almost like dolphins or whales of the sea. The owls call to the primal strength in me. I feel my bones and go deeper…deeper…deeper into nature, into this body which is part of nature.

Tonight I had a vision of my passion and love for the planet growing and spilling out of the pitcher of my heart into a clear stream as it flows and joins with others whose love and passion for the planet is also flowing from their hearts. I saw a clear river that is growing with love for all life and is filled with pure intention. I saw Oneness growing into a wave of love.

We as a species have exhausted the old ideas…war, power, money…none of that works nor will it ever work or be a solution. If we repeat the same behaviors we get the same results. So it’s time my sisters and brothers to start trying something different…I believe an answer is to recognize our connection to everything and everyone else…Oneness. Once we recognize ourself in everything else, we come to value everything….every thing….else.

Go outside and listen to the vibrations of nature….feel them and allow them to take you into the flow. I’ll meet you there.

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.