Tag: Nature Photography

Uphill Just Got Easier

Uphill Just Got Easier

Moving from coastal flatlands to the mountains has certainly challenged my ability to cycle. In fact, I haven’t even ridden my road cycle since arriving here in the Smoky Mountains in late November. And that bike is my sweetheart. There aren’t really designated bike lanes or worse, flat places in which to ride. Nothing comes close to that blistering 33 foot elevation I’d experience while riding through Gulf State Park.  Or the 77 foot high bridge. No, here the elevations are in hundreds of feet. There’s even a chart for the Blue Ridge Parkway of elevation gain per section…and it’s not exactly a comforting document to behold.

The intimidating road cycling here prompted me to invest in a mountain bike. It has been years since I did off-road cycling but I figured I could at least break into elevations on the trails before trying the roads. Where I’d ride 20 miles and know I could have gone many more in the flatlands, if I make it 6 or 8 miles on my mountain bike I feel a nice accomplishment.

But yesterday I had a breakthrough and I think it’s a breakthrough that applies most wonderfully to the rest of my life. It seems simple but it made an incredible difference in my ability to pedal up some challenging hills.

On the usual 8 mile ride I do on a wide, gravel trail there are a few hills that prompt me to get off and walk my bike. Even in the lowest gear my legs protest too much. When I attempted them yesterday, I noticed I was energetically pushing myself up rather than staying centered over my bike with my attention and energy. When I brought my focus into the exact present moment and location in space, I found my bike was moving up the hill with much less effort and pain.

That may sound weird but it happened on several hills and I was able to continue pedaling up inclines that had previously caused me to give up and walk up. After the first success, I begin to fine-tune my attention and recreate it with other hills.

In the frustrating bike-walks, the moment I gave up I noticed my energy and attention was focused far up the hill and it seemed impossible to continue. In fact, my first ride there a rider was pushing up the hardest hill and so that outcome seemed normal. It’s what my mind accepted as true and right. But then I read a review on the trails at Deep Creek and the writer said the cycling was easy there. WHAT!?! As compared to what? Cycling up Clingman’s Dome?

But that came to mind as I was pedaling. How can I make this easier?My body took over and basically said…watch this.It was as simple as pulling my energy back to the exact place where my body was working. I had been directing my attention and thus my energy far up the hill and leaving less of me to actually pedal.

It’s difficult to accomplish one task if my mind is elsewhere. But if I give it my full attention, without focusing on the final outcome, I have more energy available to complete the task in front of me.

We are taught to live in the future, to always focus on ‘down the road’ to create a life of success and affluence. To support ourselves we are taught we must always think of the future. Yet when we do this we often miss the true beauty and richness of life. If our energy is tossed out into some unknown place far ahead, our daily lives can be more difficult because less of our self is present to create, live.

My goal is to make it up the hill but to do so I have to be totally present and keep my energy right here with me to make the effort less difficult. That’s what my bicycle teaches me. I can’t thrive in daily life if I am constantly worried about the future, if my focus is on some imaginary moment down the road of life when everything comes together. That place comes along organically by the everyday present moments of attention given to the quality of life in the here and now.

Struggle increases when we project our energy outside of ourselves to force an outcome. When we ease off and just stay present, life changes…for the better even though it still requires effort.

My road bike just had a tune-up. She’s ready to ride some off-the-beaten-path paved roads….am I? I’m getting there. Definitely…getting there.

 

Antlers

Antlers

As I was walking down the mountain this morning I thought about the little herd of white-tailed does that live here. It’s always a joy to see them. Once I was standing under a tree watching a hooded warbler sing and heard a sharp and powerful snort and foot stamp. I turned in time to see a big doe bound off through the woods.

As I continued walking this morning my mind wandered to the bucks and their antlers and then to the elk that live nearby and their gigantic antlers. White-tailed bucks begin growing theirs in late March and continue to grow them until August. They have the fastest growing bone, some growing 200 inches in 120 days. And then…they fall off in January or February.

As I thought about that process, I felt a sort of kinship with those guys. Growing, growing, growing…then bam. Gone! Then start over…growing, growing, growing. It seemed all too familiar for the cycles of life humans grow through. Not so much the physical but the emotional and spiritual cycles. Relationships…double ugh. Talk about cycles.

It was a bit depressing thinking of the continuing, spiraling cycles of growth. Seriously. What’s the point if we keep repeating the same lessons and re-visiting the same old stuff? The same questions revolving in and out of our minds…blah, blah, blah.

I was walking along a gravel road where I live, surrounded by green…trees, wildflowers…and mountains. And as I paused to be present with all the bountiful beauty, I heard clear as a bell, The cycles in Nature are the point. Being present with the cycles is the entire point of it all. Not going anywhere in particular in life but being present with whatever is happening.

So…there’s no destination. Nowhere to be. Nothing to escape from or go to. Every morning awaken, arise, live, rest. Really?, I asked.

How are you present with yourself in every moment? With the regular, day-to-day existence. Without the need to escape or numb out or run…this is where you find the point of power and mastery. 

Antlers…who knew they held such wisdom.

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writing and photographs copyright Simone Lipscomb

Deepening with a Sense of Place

Deepening with a Sense of Place

There are over 500 hiking trails within an hour of where I live…or so I’ve read. At first, the stay at home order challenged me as I was walking or mountain biking nearly every day at Deep Creek, part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was a very short drive and the waterfalls, creek, forest…a wonderland of beauty. I missed that.

But then, as I walked the quiet little mountain where I reside, I began to make friends with it and the wildlife and trees here. I know where the hooded warblers hang out. The northern parula has one little area he inhabits and loudly proclaims his territory. The wood thrush lives near me.

And now, since I’ve started flying the drone most every day, I have come to know the mountains and valleys here, in this little dot on the planet. There are two places I fly. One near my home in a meadow and the other is my driveway. The driveway is a straight-up and down flight. And sometimes I want to explore further yet every time I fly up, I see my friends. The mountain ridge across the valley…national park, Clingman’s Dome…those big friends. But the smaller ones here are showing me their secrets.

For instance, one particular mountain–just northwest of where I fly from my driveway—seems to attract fog. It seems to send out the call to the fog tiptoeing upslope. Today, the mountain valley in front of my home had a small rainbow or fogbow. There’s something very sweet about knowing the place where you live. And perhaps, to truly live in a place there must be some level of intimacy that develops.

The park is open again but I haven’t visited. I don’t want to miss a morning walk here…are the hooded warblers still in their respective places? Is the northern parula still here? Oh, look! There are now three fire pink flowers shyly peeking out from the lush green foilage and only two days ago there was one. These are my friends. The mountains and valleys are my pals. There is a deepening sense of Oneness within my heart as I really open myself to this green dot on this blue planet.

I’ll return to ride and walk in the national park. But first, let me deepen my acquaintance with life here in the place I live.

A New Perspective

A New Perspective

It had been a rainy, cool day. Gray skies. Rain. Rain. Rain. The blueberry bushes in the garden must have grown three inches in one day. Each time I looked out the window, more green. It was the kind of day that lures me into an easy nap. Drop, drop, drop on the metal roof. Low light. A bit chilly so perfect sinking-into-the-puffy-recliner-reading weather.

I woke from the doze around 7.15pm and began watching a video of two therapists that are doing a weekly chat about life in these strange times of viral storms. Actually, to be honest…I call it a viral shitstorm. But that’s another story.

Several days of rain had put a damper…literally…on flying my drone and I hadn’t expected a break in the weather but as I watched the video, I glanced out the window….no wind…no rain…still 30 minutes before sunset. I quickly checked the app that gives me cloud base information, wind, gusts, temperature, satellite info for GPS, precipitation, cloud cover, visibility, wind direction, sunrise/sunset…and whatever else I need to know before flying. Good to go!

I paused the video, ran upstairs and grabbed my case with drone, controller, licenses, permits, batteries and all the stuff necessary for safe flying. Just a quick up and down in the driveway would at least give me a bit of airtime.

I kept the flight altitude to only 85 feet…just above the treetops. There were clouds but I was far under them per FAA guidelines. The clouds had interesting shapes which was encouraging for photography and there were small areas of fog in the valley below so that added to my growing hope for interesting images.

And then…as the drone hovered directly overhead (I live at 2100 feet elevation) the sky began to do something amazing. It appeared that a spiral of clouds was coming out of the sun. And then wispy, thin fog tendrils began to creep over the mountain below the clouds. It takes hardly any time for fog to creep over mountain tops and more than once I have witnessed fog climb that particular nearby mountain and create a sea of white below the peak.

The light just before sunset, just before sunrise is always the sweetest. But that day it was the spiraling clouds, the creeping fog and the gray light that had me standing in my pajamas and fluffy slippers with my mouth hanging open and the words…oh…my…GOD! coming from a deep place of inner awe.

Flying a drone gives a new perspective, a new way to learn about the place in which I live. It helps me rise above everyday attitude as I gain altitude. I love it when Nature gifts me with a phenomena that renders me nearly speechless or a place that cannot be described in words.

 

What Have We Learned?

What Have We Learned?

It’s been ten years today.

I was leading a night dive in Curacao and surfaced, tasting oil in my air tank. None of the others on the dive had that issue. And my air proved to be fine…but I tasted oil.

I hadn’t been watching the news, was unplugged from social media. Didn’t know until two days later, when I was in the Atlanta airport, that the BP Deepwater Horizon had exploded on April 20, 2010. Eleven men were killed and on the 22nd the rig sank.

After documenting the oil spill for a year on the Alabama Gulf Coast, I thought it would be the wake-up event that would shake the world. I was wrong. Completely wrong. As soon as the well was capped…which wasn’t soon–85 days, 16 hours and 25 minutes–that mile-deep gusher polluted the Gulf of Mexico.

Chemical dispersants were used that made the spill MUCH worse than letting the oil float to the surface for removal. I watched tide pools of fizzing oily water along the beach and witnessed the destruction first-hand.

My heart broke open. I felt grief beyond anything I had known. I felt anger. I felt shame at being human and part of the problem. And now, ten years later, I feel rather hopeless because there wasn’t an awakening…for some of us, sure. But overall…now regulations are fewer and more lax thanks to the current USA administration…worse than before the spill.

We have an even greater opportunity to awaken on a worldwide level with a tiny virus making a huge impact. My greatest fear is we will not take advantage of this opportunity to make major changes that will improve the health of all life on planet Earth…and that would be the saddest of all outcomes. With such a high death toll my prayer is that it will fuel a world-wide awakening to positive change so these deaths will not have been in vain.

I wasn’t going to write about the oil spill disaster today but how could I not? It was an awakening for me and I will never be the same. Which is a good thing because I won’t go back to sleep…ever.

How did that disaster affect you? Change you? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

P.S. I don’t know why I tasted oil in the air that night in Curacao but I suspect on some level I sensed what happened. We are One, connected to all life. Perhaps my cetacean self got the message loud and clear.