Tag: Nature Photography

On Being a Flute

On Being a Flute

YouTube recommended a video this morning that gave me pause. It was a TEDx talk by a woman who talked about the Universe giving us signs. She ended the talk by sharing a story about finding a book in the middle of the street that was an answer to a request she made for a sign. It was called The Singing Flute, a story about a little Finnish girl. Ulla happened to be Finnish and was studying flute at Julliard.

Besides being an inspiring talk, there was another reason it spoke to me and was indeed a sign for me…in a profound way.

In September 2017 I visited Ireland and spent a couple of days after a retreat by myself with the wild elemental spirits of the sea and land on Inis Mor, an island off the west coast of Ireland. On one of the many days I did a pre-dawn hike up to an ancient stone fort, I wandered to a place where part of a fence was removed and the supporting pipes were left standing.

As I stood high above the Atlantic Ocean with a strong wind blowing, there came an eerie flute-like sound. Nobody was around so I wondered what it might be. Finally I noticed the holes drilled in the fence post pipes and realized the wind was playing the pipes. I still get goosebumps when I think of that moment.

Later that day I wrote, “As I walked up the steep hill to this ancient fortification all my walls crumbled and I became an open channel for spirit to move through; a flute for the winds of heaven to play and bring beautiful music to the world.”

As I play the Irish wind instruments in my collection, I always think back to that moment when the wind played the pipes high above the ocean. The expanse of blue sea, ancient stone fort and green grass is once again all around me and I feel myself open, allowing the winds of heaven to move through me.

The retreat made me realize I was at a threshold that I began moving through the year before during a journey to northern England. Thresholds are times of change and I felt it coming back in 2016 as I stood within sacred stone circles. I would never have guessed that I would still be at that threshold…waiting.

Much inner work has been done during this time but forward movement is simply not happening (selling my home, relocating). The waiting has been, at times, excruciatingly painful. Feeling stuck, caught in the fallow time of pause, feeling that I am somewhat lost in my life.

A few days ago I realized the reason of my angst is that I no longer have a dream. For many, many years I made a promise to myself and the Universe that if I ever had the money I would dedicate myself full-time to documenting the beauty of the planet and would share that with others to encourage them to care and be good planetary stewards. Years ago I sold property and did very well on the sale so followed through on my promise. The outcome has been a large body of work–photographs, writing, videos, books…all a labor of pure love for our planet.

But that circle is closing. Not that I won’t continue that work but it is shifting. Not long ago I heard, in meditation, that a deepening of what I offer to others will occur. I don’t know the exact form but it will involve helping others deepen their connection to Mother Earth, thus to themselves. Retreats? Sacred travel? Teaching? Somehow using my gift of communication and being a bridge between nature and humanity. The beginning of a new dream is forming, but it’s not clear yet…so I have felt a bit lost and uncertain of the next step.

Kabir wrote, “The flute of the Infinite is played without ceasing, and its sound is love. When love renounces all limits, it reaches truth.” It’s time to renounce all limits…with love for the planet, all life…for myself.

The video that popped up as a recommendation this morning reminded me that there is a definite path rising up and to trust completely in this truth. My task now is to remain open and centered in love…to continue to follow my heart, even when I’m not sure where it is leading.

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.
Our Lady

Our Lady

(Internet image of Notre Dame burning)

Images from Paris flooded social media earlier this week as Notre Dame burned. I wept, not from having a personal relationship with the structure, but because something so grand that holds such meaning for so many was on fire. Or so I thought.

(Painting by Donna O’Neal)

Then I thought–Our Lady….the translation of Notre Dame. And I wept for the Divine Feminine that has been so cast aside.

And then…Our Lady, Mother Earth came to mind and heart and I cried harder…tears of grief as we watch our Earth Mother become more polluted, abused, raped and Her children….human children in cages in the USA, dying whales, dolphins, manatees, wolves. The tears continued to flow and since then I’ve been in a place of deep grief.

Sometimes it is difficult to look at all of this and stay with it. It’s easier to turn away, to pretend everything is just peachy. But my dear sisters and brothers Our Lady, Mother Earth, is suffering greatly and humans are perpetrating the abuses.

(Tiny chapel ruin on the Island of Inis Mor, Ireland)

Just a few days after the fire, over $1 Billion has been raised. Let that sink in for a moment. The Catholic Church is one of the richest organizations on the planet with art collections alone that could finance the rebuilding…but I won’t even go there. Over a billion dollars in donations for a beloved cathedral in a few days.

I cannot help but ask….where is that depth of passion and love for our planet? Why have we turned away and allowed Her to be treated so poorly. Why haven’t we fed the hungry? Or sheltered the homeless? Our Lady burns indeed, with temperatures that increase every year. Sacred art is destroyed on Our Lady…as Native American holy sites are destroyed for mining or oil and gas exploration and production.

In my mind there is no difference between the cathedral of Notre Dame and the cathedral that is wilderness and yet who among us rises up to protect that cathedral. I bear no ill will toward anyone that helps rebuild a beloved structure. I simply wonder why the Earth isn’t treated with the same reverence.

I know why…I know the history and it’s not pretty. I know how the Divine Feminine was cast aside, condemned and how Mother Earth and all who honored Her through spiritual practices were annihilated (or attempts were made to annihilate) and called savages and witches and pagans. But we know now who the real savages are….those that defile and destroy our Mother, Our Lady.

Grief grows every day as I watch while She is defiled and Her children cast aside still. Who will light a candle for Her? Who will stand up and sing songs to Our Lady Mother Earth? Who is willing to devote their hearts to Her healing? Who will join me in the magnificent outdoor cathedrals to raise our hands and voices with love and gratitude for Our Lady Mother Earth?


All photographs by Simone Lipscomb unless otherwise noted. Edited by the sleepy Buddy Hobbs….

The Intelligence Behind it All

The Intelligence Behind it All

Recently I was listening to a talk given by Eckhart Tolle about being present with nature. He said to think about the stillness of trees and then the Intelligence behind the stillness….that Intelligence is the connection we want to make. Something about that really stayed with me.

Since then as I cycle on the back country trails of coastal Alabama, I set the intention to connect with that Intelligence behind the trees, the swamps, the stillness of nature at sunrise. As I pedal, I feel the attention I give to that Intelligence reflected back to me as amazing ‘bigness.’

On my first trip to Ireland in September 2017 I spent a couple days alone on Inis Mor, an island off the west coast, and had an experience that has been challenging to understand. It was my last day there. The next day I was to begin my journey back to the USA. I sat on the rocks overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and poured my heart out, sang and generally expressed gratitude for the wild elemental spirits that awakened me to a deeper connection with nature….with myself.

As I stood to leave, I felt a presence with me that followed me down the hill, past the chapel ruins, onto the small street, back to the bed and breakfast….and even settled into two open seats on the flight back over the Atlantic the next day. I wrote an e-book of ‘fiction’ about it called The Stone Hut but still ponder what it was I felt…and still feel.

After giving attention to the Intelligence, while outdoors and through meditation, I suspect that it was the Intelligence of wild nature found on the western Irish coast. Some might even try to label that Intelligence….God…Universe…Great Spirit…but for me, labeling diminishes It. Without a doubt, it was an immense presence that was easily palpable. And now, as I tune in closer to nature, I find it here…everywhere. I feel it everywhere.

Recent meditations with the Qabalah seem to parallel the experiences I’ve had in nature. To help illustrate here’s a bit of Qabalah info for context.

The Tree of Life or Qabalah has three pillars and ten sephirah or spheres. The diagram, to me, is the best map we have of the process of manifestation into the physical realm of existence. And perhaps the absolute best psychological model of the human experience we have.

In meditations of late I have been working with the Tree via the path of the Lighting Flash of manifestation, or the descent of power… and sitting with the energy of each sphere to see if it has a teaching for me. While I don’t want to get into the depths of Qabalah, as understood from a western esoteric philosophy, it might help to offer a simple explanation…and hopefully tie into the original storyline of this writing on the Intelligence behind nature….behind everything.

The yellow line in the diagram above represents the Lighting Flash or the path of creation. In the most simple terms, Kether is unmanifest potential or as I think of it, Cosmic Soup, where every possibility exists. The image I think of is a gigantic cauldron filled with star dust, stars, galaxies and we take our hand and scoop out an idea, something we wish to create. Kether might be compared to the Tao, where everything exists before it divides into duality.


So in the path of creation, we go from Kether to Chokmah, or the powerhouse sphere of active energy. We might think of this as masculine energy, a very necessary part of creating anything. And across from this sphere is Binah, which I see as a dark cave of enfolding that receives the masculine energy and begins to give it form…not a final product, but the beginnings. Binah represents feminine energy, also a necessary aspect of the creative process. As we continue down the Tree, it culminates in Malkuth…physical manifestation.

Recently I’ve been guided to begin at Kether and sit within the triangle formed by the emanations of Kether, Chokmah and Binah. In essence, I’m sitting within the Supernal Triangle feeling the early process of creation within the Three-in-One, like a Celtic knot of unbroken energy flow.

As I sit in this space I feel the immense energy of creation coming from Chokmah, the driving force that is simply force pushing toward Binah, the enfolding energy that brings order from raw power. We have to learn to sit in this place of stillness with our own unlimited and unmanifested potential. And this is not an easy task.

It feels like sitting in a pressure cooker with the intense, chaotic, raw power of unmanifested energy being hurled toward the container, Binah. As we grow in our lives, the more we are able to receive that raw power, the better we become at creating…or co-creating. But a warning here: In the flow of Intelligence, of that raw, unformed energy, there is just power. Energy. When we receive it, it infuses our talents, gifts, strengths with power….or anything we focus on including anger, fear, hatred. The energy is neutral until we ‘receive’ it and infuse it with our ‘stuff’….whatever our ‘stuff’ is. This is why in the western esoteric studies of the Qabalah I have participated in, much work is done on clearing the personality and resolving wounds and unhealed places within so when we do learn to align with that power, we do so in an ethical, helpful way.

Sometimes it is necessary to sit in stillness and connect with something greater than ourselves. No. At all times, this is necessary but most of us probably forget and jump ahead, foregoing the part where we learn to listen to the amazing Wisdom that is always, always available. Part of our work is to learn to distinguish the voice of ego or personality self from that of a higher self. It is this higher self, that we might call our true self, that has a direct connection to the Intelligence behind all things and perhaps is the ‘part’ of us that is in harmony with It…is One with It.

As I cycled today I heard that the flow of Intelligence is like a river and when we align with it we merge into a Cosmic Union. We allow thoughts to stop and simply open to Wisdom. When we can surrender our ego, our sense of separateness, and allow our consciousness to merge with the Intelligence behind all things, we experience Oneness.

The Eckhart talk on the Intelligence behind trees and these meditations of late are prompting me to reflect and listen. I’ve had visions of leading retreats in the mountains, helping people deepen with nature. I feel myself deepening with nature, with that magnificent, indescribable Intelligence behind all that is.

For many, many years I’ve been drawn deeper into relationship with aspects of nature…Ocean, whales, dolphins, sea lions, sea turtles. And now, I feel Earth calling me…deeper into Her embrace…like gravity calling me home.

Deepening with Nature….this is my personal work and the work I bring to the world. May it continue.


All photographs copyright Simone Lipscomb. Drawing by unknown source.

 

In the Middle of the Night

In the Middle of the Night

Sleep isn’t something I take for granted. Too many nights are interrupted by my inability to turn off the empathic part of me that is tuned in to the energetic pulse of humanity. Tonight, as I found my favorite deep sleep music on youtube, I read many of the comments people posted from all over the world and I felt such a rush of love and a sense of Oneness.

A person from Venezuela wrote how she can’t sleep because of anxiety about her country falling apart, not having food, and civil war. A person from Iran wrote of their long history of poetry…Rumi and Gibran and reminded us that Iran is more than the sum of recent years of political strangeness. A person wrote how anxious and sad they are most of the time and how helpful the music was to them as well as the comments people were writing. There were supportive comments of love and compassion to those suffering. A woman in Turkey shared about her anxiety disorder and her gratitude for the sleep music. A person from North Carolina expressed her gratitude for compassionate people commenting and coming together to support each other. Another person from England wrote how refreshing it was to read such lovely and kind messages.

Canada, Guatemala, Mexico, Algeria, Greece, Australia, Iran, Ireland, United States, England, France, South Africa, Philippines,  Egypt, Brazil, Holland….just some of the places people live that commented with such support and love. For the first time in a long time, I felt such connection to a world that seems to fragment more each day. I realized we have much more in common than we know. If we could remove politics from the equation we’d all be in such a better place….mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. We allow the power-hungry few ruin it for the rest of us.

Many of us have various problems but what we have in common is each other. When we set aside the politics and power grabs and focus on the realm of the heart and soul, we really are the same. At that level it seems absolutely ridiculous not to…lend aid, share food and resources, shelter each other.

The ugliness of how we treat ‘others’ keeps me awake at night….the misunderstandings, the pain we think is unique to us but really is a common experience, the feelings of loneliness in a world where electronic ‘connection’ seems only to isolate us more, a world where destruction of the source of life seems rampant. Perhaps the greatest illusion of all is that there are ‘others.’ What if everyone, everything, was simply a reflection of us? What if everything ‘out there’ was simply a reflection of some common creative force….God, Great Spirit, the Universe, the Tao. What if everything we see as separate is simply another part of ourselves?

In the middle of the night these questions come. Perhaps my sleepless sisters and brothers all over the world are all facets in the same diamond light of Oneness and we’re simply all trying to find our way back Home….to each other….to Source…to greater understanding.

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All photographs copyright Simone Lipscomb.