Tag: Nature Photography

Soft Edges

Soft Edges

Curves, circles, spirals. Ambling here and there, led by a turkey track, an elk rub, an otter track. No longer a slave to goals and distances.

How many turkeys? That’s not important.

How far did we walk? Who cares?

Did you see the vine hug the tree or the beaver gnaw?

The elk rub was fresh, the little hemlock victim to raging hormones of the bull.

As I drop into inner stillness I find more curves, less straight lines. Soft edges rather than razors where one slip and I am mortally wounded.

Time is non-existent in the place of soft edges Why do tears flow when I feel this truth?

Rivers and Streams of Consciousness

Rivers and Streams of Consciousness

Standing beside the rushing water I think of the white sands along the Gulf Coast, knowing they came from here in the Appalachian Mountains. The cold, clear water leaps and pushes down, down, down from its source. I attach a thought of love for sea turtles to the water molecules as they tumble toward the Gulf and know that someday those water molecules will reach sea turtles and deliver the thought. And then I ponder the connection we all have with each other, with Source. There is only separation when we imagine it to be so and even then we exist in Oneness whether we believe it or not. Whether we are even aware or not.

Before moving back to the mountains several people questioned me because they know of my love of water. Are you sure you want to leave the waters of the Gulf Coast? I trusted the calling of my heart and find myself surrounded by clear, clean mountain rivers and streams and creeks on a daily basis. There is more contact with water now than I have ever had in my life.

The Tuckaseegee River winds around daily life and is the central river upon which each day flows. It begins in Jackson County above Cullowhee and flows northwesterly into Swain County where it joins the Oconaluftee River before heading through the center of Bryson City. It then enters Fontana Lake then the Little Tennessee River which flows into the Ohio River and finally the Mississippi River…and then the Gulf of Mexico.

The facility where I work is on the bank of the Oconaluftee River. During my breaks I walk along the sidewalk in Cherokee and connect with this beautiful river. It begins as several small creeks join near Newfound Gap and this stream flows south along the base of Mount Kephart. It converges with Kephart Prong, Kanati Fork and Smith Branch to form the Oconaluftee River. It flows south cutting a valley and strengthens when Bradley Fork at Smokemont adds to its flow. It continues its flow along the national park boundary and flows through Cherokee and finally joins the Tuckaseegee River.

These two rivers bring such beauty and joy to daily life. As I drive to Sylva or Bryson City or Cherokee, the Tuckaseegee is constantly flowing and offering magnificent scenery to gaze upon and connect with and the Oconoluftee, a smaller river, provides a fresh recharge during the day or a wonderful place where my dog Buddy and I walk between Cherokee and the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Every day I am surrounded by these two beautiful rivers.

And even the mountain on which I live has a small branch that trickles along the gravel road. Buddy and I have been exploring a bit and find it especially lovely and delightful.

It’s quite odd to realize I am connected to water more in the mountains than I was at the coast. Every day the brilliant, clear energy of moving water crosses my path, surrounds me. And I am reminded that all water is connected and connects us all. What happens where I live now impacts where I lived on the Gulf Coast as the Oconoluftee and Tuckaseegee Rivers carry the happenings here to the beaches where sea turtles lay eggs, where dolphins feed and even where humpback whales give birth and mate in the Atlantic waters near the Dominican Republic.

I feel the connection of water through us all, through all landscapes…through all life. It is life-giving, vital to survival.

It reminds us of the Oneness of life, that all life is connected. What happens here in the Smoky Mountains affects everyone and everything downstream. The same goes for thoughts we think, behaviors and actions we instigate. What we do impacts everything and everyone. Drop a pebble into still water and the ripples eventually effect the entire body of water. So it goes with thoughts and consciousness.

One of my favorite quotes is by John O’Donohue: I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.

In the Flow

In the Flow

I awoke to the news that Ram Das had passed from his physical body. While I wasn’t a devotee, I am a lover of him and his story and life. He tried the quick way of enlightenment through experimentation with hallucinogens yet found beneath the mind-expansion of such substances a vast space that opened through meditation and through love. Or at least that’s my understanding. That’s what titrated out of what I know of him.

When I read the news I searched other related stories and that led me to Krishna Das music, which I enjoy through my yoga practice. And then Girish, who is another favorite. And Sean Johnson…then I pulled out my yoga mat which has had very sporadic use since I moved a month ago.

As I stretched and opened I felt the prayers come forth from deep within. Prayers of love, gratitude, compassion…that’s what yoga is to me. Praying with my body and mind and spirit. Opening. Unfolding. Allowing.

During my asana practice I reflected on the ultimate experience to which I compare all other yoga experiences. I was on a boat anchored 90 miles off the coast of the Dominican Republic surrounded by humpback whales. Magic. Pure Magic.

I arose before sunrise each morning, before putting on the wetsuit and using an underwater camera kit to connect with whales. With yoga mat in hand I climbed to the open deck where stars were brilliant and the moon shimmering on the surface of the ocean. That particular morning as I prayed with my body, mind and spirit the whales came closer…so close that their fishy breath was drifting across me as it glowed in the moonlight.

Affirming the connection to all life, to the stars, the sea, the whales, I felt engulfed in a purple flame and still the humpbacks came closer. We were connected through that spiritual kinship of limitless light.

This morning in the loft I was there, in the ocean with the whales and stars. Gratitude filled me as I sat in stillness. The vision of a white humpback whale swimming in a sky of stars over mountains returned as it has over the past several months preceding the move back to the Appalachians.

The settling in, the anchoring and grounding into my new home progresses and as the final boxes were unpacked this weekend I found myself anxious to deepen my spiritual practice and allow the flow of Universal Laughter to echo through my being.

Go brightly Ram Das. Thank you for reminding me to be here now. Thank you for your dedication to Love. May you dance among the stars surrounded by the essence of Life.

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.