Tag: Nature Photography

Sometimes Life is…Amazing

Sometimes Life is…Amazing

The smoke detector went off at 2:42am this morning. Just little beeps that indicate the need for a new battery. I wasn’t sleeping well anyway but had drifted off just as the blasted thing started acting out. The ceiling is too high to reach with a baseball bat and the ladder is outside…in the cold…in the dark. And I don’t have the proper replacement battery.

Obviously I’m not supposed to sleep. I’ve been putting off writing this because I truly can’t piece it all together in a single blog post, can I? How can I take two years of intense growth with the aim of returning to the mountains and all that it entailed into a single entry?

The summary? It’s truly amazing how everything came together after a really difficult and challenging period of inner clearing. If you wish to know more, read on. If you just want to look at the pictures, enjoy. This is to honor the Path. And the incredible journey that ensues when a person dares to step onto It.

Even back then I knew change was coming. I felt it. And as usual, I see things that will happen in the future and think that it means now. When it means a lot later than now. Here’s the jest of the entire two years–trust the Path and the places it takes you with unyielding faith. Do your inner work and wait on the right timing.

After my home had been on the market a while, I had a contract and a few months later they had a contract on their home but the deal involved no less than six closings happening. Any bobble and the entire thing would collapse…but that never happens…right?

When I came up to look at homes again I was directed, by a cousin and another cousin, to look into an area I had considered in passing as my favorite place as a child…the area around Cherokee, NC. I had looked for over a year in the Asheville and Black Mountain areas and wasn’t feeling it. The growth and crowded conditions and high prices were all turn-offs for me. Nothing felt right.

So once my buyers had a contract it all started to be clear…I needed to look where I had always dreamed of living. I found a home and everything was aligned. Finally.

Until a week or so from closing and my buyer’s buyers pulled out of the deal because of a three day delay in closing.  And then my buyers backed out. My home was packed. I had just purchased a new vehicle. Had quit my part time job. And quite honestly this broke me apart….or open…it was stressful (like a bomb going off in your life is stressful).

So I cycled to stay sane and when I realized I was pushing myself too hard I started walking on the beach before sunrise. I couldn’t eat. I was in freak-out mode. How can this happen?

I had the thought that I should just look for a job and rent a home in the mountains as I didn’t have a mortgage but dismissed it. Later that day my friend Rose called and said she was standing there washing dishes…I think or was it me washing dishes when she called…and had the thought to call me and suggest I look for a job and go ahead and move. Okay….that was good confirmation.

So I looked at the tribal website and found a teaching position that closed that very day so I had to work hard to get everything submitted. I also applied for other jobs as a children’s therapist with a private agency. And then I let go.

Then, the next week I got three calls to show my home, one from a couple who had seen it months previously. And they made an offer and we agreed on a deal. The house I had a contract on in Sylva had a new buyer by that time so I knew that wasn’t my home but I had to return to the area to find a home.

On the home-buying trip I had an interview scheduled for a children’s therapist position in Sylva. I hadn’t heard anything from the Cherokee tribal human resources.

I was supposed to stay with a friend in Sylva but that didn’t work out so I called and stayed in Cherokee that first night. I awoke before sunrise the day of the interview and decided to dress for the interview, check out early and go up to my favorite sunrise overlook in the Smoky Mountain National Park.

When I got there I stood outside and looked out over the layers of mountains and sky and asked to be shown where to go and what to do…I asked to be given clarity. And the entire drive back down to Cherokee I kept hearing, the therapist job is not what you want. I decided to do the polite and keep the interview appointment anyway.

I was walking around the visitor center in the national park and my phone rang. The person that was supposed to interview me had double-booked herself and couldn’t see me after all. I just started laughing and got a few stares from wary visitors.

After a hearty breakfast in Cherokee I returned to the visitor center and changed into jeans and hiking boots and spent the morning walking around my favorite places. One is a pull-off in the national park and I walked down by the river and said a prayer: Show me where I can be of service, where my gifts and talents can be used.

As I was pulling out of the parking lot back at the visitor center a bit later, I got a call about the teaching position on the Reservation. That was a quick answer. But I still had a house to find.

In reality, the house found me…and the land. It’s a quirky cabin style home with one tiny closet and a master bedroom that is too small. So I inhabit the expansive loft as a bedroom and office and one basement bedroom is being converted into a storage closet.

As I sit at the dining table, the view is of the national park. And the view is exactly where I said that prayer for clarity…looking back at me.

I start the teaching job in four days.

A great cycling shop has given me connections to my love of cycling and has helped me re-connect with mountain biking…the technology with mountain bikes has changed so much since I had one 15 years ago it’s mind-blowing. Everyone is so nice and helpful…thank you Motion Makers!!

There’s a favorite bathroom stall at Lowe’s now and I think they are about to offer me my own marked parking spot.

I installed bi-fold doors today where the ghetto curtain hung to hide the washer and dryer. I nearly poisoned myself and four animal companions with fumes from stain…and got up at 1am to remove the doors and place them on the front porch without caring if the cold messed up the stain.

The fire alarm needs a battery and I have to haul a big ladder upstairs to make this happen. And return to Lowe’s for batteries. Why would I go anywhere else?

But here’s the thing–when I sit down to eat I am the view looking back at itself. This area is what I saw that morning and so many other mornings when I photographed the sunrise from the park. This place  is part of the layers of lavender and pink, this is where my prayers carried to that morning.

Never would I have imagined during that time of breaking open that I would feel so very grateful the domino deal fell apart and I lost money from a home offer in Sylva. As I felt the intensity of fear and disappointment and loss I could never have imagined how incredibly perfect everything would be as it comes together. I fully expect to meet a nice guy soon that loves cycling and diving and dogs and cats. And the way it’s going there will be bluebirds and butterflies hovering over his head.

I’m only ten minutes to work and the national park. The little house, in all its quirkiness, is already very dear to me. Buddy’s fence is ordered. The cats screened porch is in the works. And I have a job working with children…always my heart returns to the young as they are our greatest hope.

How can things go from being so completely messed up to being so incredibly wonderful? Perhaps we need to allow ourselves to break open, to unravel a bit for then the light can reach those dark, scary places and the healing goes deeper and opens us up to exactly what we dreamed of as children…what’s been waiting all along.

So many people have supported me during this journey and for that I am deeply grateful. There has also been support in the realm of Spirit that has been unwavering and as steady as a drumbeat. Thank you. I feel that beat in my bones calling me home.


P.S. The smoke detector never made another peep…or beep after I started writing.

When Miracles Happen…Preview

When Miracles Happen…Preview

Never in my wildest dreams would I have dreamed that this view, from my favorite sunrise overlook in the Smoky Mountain National Park, would be where I am now living. I remember being in awe of the pink and lavender sunrise and writing about it.

Now, many years later, I sit at my computer looking out a window across to the point where this image was taken. To the far left from where I sit is Clingman’s Dome but to the near left is the overlook where my favorite image of the Smoky Mountains was taken.

It’s been just over a week since the move and every day I am discovering more delightful and deep synchronicities that led me here. During the past two months there have been miracles that make my jaw drop but for now I’ll just say I’m here. Where I belong. It took a while with a lot of ups and downs but I’m here. And grateful to the depths of my being.

Right now the fog that was at higher elevations when I started writing this has settled into the valley. Like the fog, I’ll settle and write more later in the week but I want to allow the words to come and right now I’m still rather speechless. And grateful. Profoundly grateful.

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.

As the World Burns

As the World Burns

Grief. That hardly begins to describe the feelings associated with what’s happening to our beloved planet. Now the Amazon Rainforest burns…after a 60% increase in deforestation by humans that began in June. The new president in Brazil has set a course to dismantle environmental protections and has encouraged for-profit destruction. Many fires there have even been associated with the government as a way to get rid the Amazon indigenous people. Genocide to further profits—not a new idea, right United States of America? Freedom to exploit and all….

I think of the incredible biodiversity in the Amazon…plants, animals and a weather system that forms there and operates like magic. Well, until the trees are gone and the lungs of the planet are gone. My heart is so heavy with grief but I am determined to feel it, to feel the loss of precious and sacred places, animals, people.

I read a comment on social media this morning—someone suggested this will be the wake-up call for the world. I wrote that same idea when I was documenting the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill nearly ten years ago. And it’s only gotten worse. I thought then that the world would awaken and a new effort to strengthen environmental laws would provide greater planetary health—for all life. Never in my wildest nightmares could I have predicted the downward spiral that is happening.

The USA isn’t the only country with an administration hell-bent on destroying the environment. Brazil’s administration is doing the same thing. And the mind-blowing aspect is that we know for certainthat reversing environmental protections will create lasting negative consequences that will forever alter and destroy the very things we need to survive. How is it that voters have allowed this? I am truly aghast.

Every day more news about greater destruction is shared. The profit-at-any-cost crowd licks their lips at lessening environmental regulations. The rapture folks think it’s a foregone conclusion that the end of the world is near so why bother…even when they were ‘charged’ to be good stewards. Tree huggers make social media posts pointing fingers. Scientists keep publishing and warning. It seems we are in a vicious cycle of insanity.

And this is what we have accepted as the new normal. As the world burns those of us who care sit here in a daze of frustration, grief, anger. I suspect post traumatic stress disorder will have a new name because it’s not post or after…it’s ongoing. How about we call it what it is: Global Traumatic Stress Disorder.

What can we do? Isn’t that the knife that continually twists within us? I have decided to rarely use lights in my home. Every switch that is off is less coal burned. As I sit in a darkened home at night I think about our planet and send love to Her. But what more can we do? We can vote…but honestly, another two years and what more damage can we expect and what will be left? We can stay informed….but that comes with the risk of more trauma…and yet we must stay informed and help inform others.

The schizophrenia of this is that people continue on as if everything is fine. It’s like a sort of Hunger Games world of fake, extravagant ‘living’ and then there’s the reality of everything falling apart. Or it’s like the Matrix movies where humans live in a simulated reality while their bodies are used by thought-capable machines for energy.

People often comment on how positive my writing is or how good it makes them feel. Some days its challenging to find the beauty yet perhaps our greatest edge of growth comes when we are able to know the truth of what is happening and stay grounded in the beauty that still exists in a sunrise, a flower blossom, a dog’s tail wag, and the human heart.

It is said that grief is an indication of how much we love. Let us remember to open our hearts with love to our planet, to each other and be mindful every moment of how our lives affect the planet with every action we take…or don’t take.

One of the benefits of staying with the grief, keeping a heart open to the losses occurring, is it’s open for everyone and everything. It isn’t prejudice about which place or person or animal to love. Once opened to the depths it takes to remain open with these days of challenge, it is open. Perhaps that’s the lesson we are all to learn.

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.

—-

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!