Tag: Nature Photography

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!

Just Another Magic Monday

Just Another Magic Monday

The process of giving up television has given the gift of showing just how much it and other mindless past times have separated me from life, from a deeper connection with my Higher Self…the spiritual self…the soul. I have discovered, through this process, that I have used mindless television-watching—even though I didn’t watch that much—to numb myself from life. I used it as a way to cut myself off from a voice within that wanted to come out and sing, speak, play. I had no idea….but then I discovered it wasn’t only television….it was anything that put me on auto-pilot and that included books I had read many times before, favorite movies. As I tracked myself I became more aware of the distractions I used to keep my inner voice quiet.

After culling TV, I recently pulled up a completely mindless book I’ve read several times simply as a pacifier, something to take the edge off, to dampen that inner ‘something’ that wanted to happen. My excuse was, I know there is something calling me but I don’t know what to do. The problem was I was thinking of the solution as being something I had to ‘do’ instead of simply being still and listening.

So this morning the pouring rain and storms kept me off my bicycle. Couldn’t even do front porch yoga due to lightning. What to DO….what to DO!??! That voice within found a way to tap my mind and suggested I dedicate this day to listening and not distracting myself. Why not?

 

I went upstairs to the gathering room where I meditate, where women’s drum circles are held, and dialed into stillness. I began drumming and an inner journey began.

I saw myself inside a shell…something between an egg and a chrysalis. I have been feeling this shell-like structure around me for several days so wasn’t surprised to see it in the meditation. A crack started at the top and went to the bottom, opening the shell. I saw myself with butterfly wings at first, with brilliant colors, and then I morphed into a Pegasus horse with wings that had a slight rainbow tint.

In the journey, I flew from my home in coastal Alabama to a place near Chimney Rock, North Carolina…a wooded place. It was amazing and perfect for me.

When the journey was complete I offered gratitude and went downstairs for lunch. I began researching Pegasus and found his father was Poseidon, god of the sea—that’s rather appropriate for me—and his mother was Medusa, the goddess that had hair made of snakes…and onlookers turned to stone if they looked at her. Pegasus was born from her blood when her head was cut off.

As I looked at the bottom of the search page it listed my search origin location as Chimney Rock, North Carolina. I had been there in the journey, no doubt, but at that particular moment my body and phone were sitting in my home in Magnolia Springs…Alabama.

Then one of the pages about Pegasus had a rainbow background…reminding me of the rainbow colors of myself as Pegasus. Oh, and let’s not forget the walk I did after lunch with my dog Buddy. As we went under a magnolia tree I saw a cicada shell and the freshly hatched insect known as a translucent cicada… with beautiful wings drying in the air. I had the exact same experience in the journey as my wings dried after ‘I’ hatched from the hard shell.

The Bangles song, Manic Monday, came to mind but with a new title: Just Another Magic Monday.It seemed that taking the step to put aside anything that distracts me from inner experiences wanting to be birthed was worth it. Synchronicities were popping like lighting bolts that filled the sky earlier in the day.

How would our lives change if we put the beautiful, sacred self as a priority and stopped trying to cut off its voice…with television, news, social media, mindless books, arguing about who’s right and who’s wrong? Just one morning of doing this resulted in amazing experiences and clarity and…quite honestly…a big dose of WOW!

One other bit of information came to me about Pegasus. He has always been in service to poets. I reflected back to my recent writing about Freddie Mercury and living your life purpose. When I feel most aligned with the reason I came into this life is when I can take an experience and titrate it down into magical words of poetry. So…welcome Pegasus. I think it’s time we work together.

Patrick Kavanagh, an Irish poet, wrote one of my most favorite poems, Pegasus. Perhaps this poem, more than anything, explains the meaning of seeing myself break free as Pegasus in the journey.

 

My soul was an old horse

Offered for sale in twenty fairs.

I offered him to the Church—the buyers

Were little men who feared his unusual airs.

One said: ‘Let him remain unbid

In the wind and rain and hunger

Of sin and we will get him—

With the winkers thrown in—for nothing.’

Then the men of State looked at

What I’d brought for sale.

One minister wondering if

Another horse-body would fit the tail

That he’d kept for sentiment-

The relic of his own soul—

Said, ‘I will graze him in lieu of his labour.’

I let him for a week or more

And he came back a hurdle of bones,

Starved, overworked, in despair.

I nursed him on the roadside grass

To shape him for another fair.

I lowered my price. I stood him where

The broken-winded, spavined stand

And crooked shopkeepers said that he

Might do a season on the land—

But not for high-paid work in towns.

He’d do a tinker, possibly.

I begged, “O make some offer now,

A soul is a poor man’s tragedy.

He’ll draw your dungiest cart,’ I said,

‘Show you short cuts to Mass,

Teach weather lore, at night collect

Bad debts from poor men’s grass.’

And they would not.

Where the Tinkers quarrel I went down

With my horse, my soul.

I cried, ‘Who will bid me half a crown?’

From their rowdy bargaining

Not one turned. ‘Soul,’ I prayed,

‘I have hawked you through the world

Of Church and State and meanest trade.

But this evening, halter off,

Never again will it go on.

On the south side of ditches

There is grazing of the sun.

No more haggling with the world…’

As I said these words he grew

Wings upon his back. Now I may ride him

Every land my imagination knew.