Tag: Nature Photography

Paradise Right Here*

Paradise Right Here*

SimoneLipscomb (1)It was still dark as I pulled onto the highway and turned east. There, in the lightening sky hung venus while Dreamer’s Sky, Will Kimbrough’s song on the new Willie Sugarcapps CD eased me into the morning. The last sea turtle patrol of the season begins here, in my car, with music carrying me toward the Gulf of Mexico.

A turn south and another song, another turn east and there’s Venus again with Anthony Crawford‘s song, Love Be Good to Me, sweetly sung by Savana Lee Crawford. The planet of love and these lyrics…..”Love be good to me, Fill my heart again. Love, can you still hear me calling out to you?…..Everything happens in its own time.”

SimoneLipscombAnother turn south and more wonderful music. Grayson Capps, Love, surrounds me with soulful words and notes. And finally, a turn west at the beach and the full moon hangs in a perfect square notch in a massive cloud as Will Kimbrough’s, Paradise Right Here, begins to play. For less than a breath the moon is cradled by the towering cloud and then it disappears.

The words of the song touched me deeply the first time I heard it at the Frog Pond. Tears streamed down my face as I listened to Will’s lyrics. Today, they touched me again as I thought of daily abuses to our planet that take more of the paradise away….the paradise that literally is in the palm of our hand, as Will sings. It is totally up to us if it remains or is destroyed.

MagnoliaSophiaI reach the beginning of my sea turtle patrol at the edge of the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge and grab my camera as I exit the car. The full moon is still bright in the sky and the sun not yet risen. As I reach the water’s edge my faithful dolphin friend swims up and we journey east, toward the rising sun. He, swimming just offshore, and me, walking close to the water’s edge. The past several Sunday’s we have shared the sunrise together and the thought of not seeing him next Sunday saddens me.

_TSL5715The sky is in full sunrise celebration with crazy clouds and colors of phenomenal beauty. Joy leaps up within me as I frolic along the shore which seems to excite my cetacean buddy. As Will sings, “I’m glad to be alive and I’m thankful for this paradise right here, paradise right here. Right here, by the warm inviting water, right now with my bare feet in the sand, right here share it with your sons and daughters, paradise in the palm of your hand. Paradise in the palm of your hand. Paradise in the palm of your hand.”

_TSL5769So grateful for the paradise of this shoreline, the Alabama coast and the greater Gulf of Mexico….all life here…and hopeful that we can make it even better with efforts to be good stewards and approach our walk on this planet with love and compassion for all life.

_TSL5711The end of my walk neared and I saw two of my teammates approaching from their section. We celebrated the beauty of the morning and a successful patrol season and sea turtles. We remembered our loggerhead friends who lure us out each Sunday morning from May 1st through August 31st to chase the sunrise and re-discovered paradise…in the palm of our hand.

_TSL5808*Paradise Right Here is Willie Sugarcapps new CD title and the title of Will Kimbrough‘s fantastic song. Check it out!

Moving Beyond Fear

Moving Beyond Fear

SimoneLipscomb (11)As is the usual case when cycling, I went into a meditative state and allowed the miles, humidity, heat, green tunnel of the trail and my mind to meld. Thoughts and ideas surfaced and I began to tug on a string of thoughts on fear.

We see fear daily…people carrying guns openly into schools and grocery stores; people destroying the Ocean, land, wildlife and human health to grab more money, more profit at any cost; humans lashing out at others because they look different, practice a different religion, live in a different country, come from a different culture; killing snakes, huge granddaddy alligators, rhinos, lions, whales, dolphins…an endless list.

SimoneLipscomb (15)So how does all of this relate to fear?

Many years ago I read the statement: What is not love is fear (ACIM). This statement has bounced around in my mind and heart for over thirty years and each time I chew on it, it seems more true. Here’s a short list of other ideas on this:

1. “There is no fear where love exists. Rather, perfect love banishes fear, for fear involves punishment and the person who lives in fear has not been perfected in love.” I John 4.18 (ISV)

2. “When you don’t choose love you choose fear. To transcend fear, we must move somewhere else emotionally; we must move into love.” Elisabeth Kubler-Ross & David Kessler

3. “There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.” John Lennon

SimoneLipscomb (12)4. “Love is the only antidote to fear.” John O’Donohue

5. “Fearlessness is not only possible, it is the ultimate joy. When you touch non-fear, you are free.” Thich Nhat Hanh

6. “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” Plato

7. “Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here.” Marianne Williamson
8. “Hate is the consequence of fear; we fear something before we hate it.” Cyril Connolly
SimoneLipscomb (3)
I grew up shooting guns in a family with guns and still enjoy shooting my pistols at the range, so please don’t mistake me as a person that is anti-gun; however, I can only draw one conclusion from grown men wanting to open carry semi-automatic rifles into grocery stores and schools–they are afraid. Sadly, much of the fear is created in their own mind. A few weeks ago an image blazed through social media of men wearing their semi-automatic rifles into a grocery stores…really? Is it that scary to purchase ice cream these days? Or veggies? Has the beer aisle been invaded by prohibitionists? Open carrying your big guns in schools? Doesn’t that only generate more fear…especially in the children who are trying to focus on learning? (Sigh). As I pedaled the only conclusion I came to was…they are afraid.
SimoneLipscomb (4)The mega-corporations that trash our planet and all life on it…aren’t they fearful of not having enough? The profit-at-any-cost mentality has at its roots a fear of not having enough money…or power.

SimoneLipscomb (4)Fishermen that call manatees ‘speed-bumps’ and lobby to have them de-listed from the endangered species list are, at the foundation, afraid that they won’t get to the fish quick enough, that somebody else will get more than them, that an animal as gentle and sweet as manatee should, God forbid, have rights to live in their own watery realm safely.

There are some that physically attack others who are different. Think of women that have been abused, gay individuals who have been tortured, black people, Native Americans…what could possibly be at the basis of the horrendous acts of violence? If you pull the thread long enough, fear is at the foundation. Fear of losing control of another you consider ‘property,’ or fear of your own sexuality, or fear that individuals with different colored skin will ‘take-over.’

Every scenario I pondered as I pedaled, came to one basic foundational cause: fear.

SimoneLipscomb (81)So what is the answer? How can we collective move past this to stop the violence born of fear?

As is often the case when pondering a lingering question, I found a random movie on Netflix. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World’s basic storyline is a comet is going to hit the earth and it’s the story of how people deal with an impending global disaster. I noticed three ways people dealt with it: 1) Violence and anarchy; 2) Survivalist mode; 3) Love and peace.

We are living at a time when some humans alive now could see the end of civilization as we know it. There are countless ways this is progressing so there’s no need to go into those. But how we choose to deal with these stressful times is the same as the movie: 1) More violence against the earth and each other; 2) Defensive/survivalist actions; 3) Love and peace.

At the end of the movie the female lead character whispers to the male lead, Steve Carrell, “I thought we would end up saving each other.” He replies, “We did.” The comet hits and everything turns to light.

SimoneLipscomb (3)Isn’t that the answer? Love each other, love life, and we transform into light. We save each other.

Perhaps the only way we will make true, lasting, planetary change is to move beyond fear and find a way for love to blossom. Each of us…individually…can excavate the fears within our own hearts and minds. If we are serious about creating a better world, the change begins within ourselves.

photo 6“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” Rumi.


Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday!

Loggerhead sea turtle hatchling from a few years ago....
Loggerhead sea turtle hatchling from a few years ago….

The stars twinkled brightly and the majestic sweep of the Milky Way hung in the heavens over the Gulf of Mexico. I sat away from the crowd gathered and gazed into that un-ending cosmos whose majesty fills me with awe.

The sand at the nest site had been sinking steadily and underground sounds almost constant since our team began arriving at 7pm. Beach visitors were drawn to the imminent event–the hatching of a nest of loggerhead sea turtles.

Our awesome tech genius team member constructed a system of monitoring that allows people with smartphones to watch via infrared video and to listen via an FM radio signal. It helps us monitor the nest without disturbing the hard-working babies and gives everyone who wishes it an intimate and lovely connection to one of nature’s most incredible miracles.

The din of happy and celebratory visitors started to wear on me as I treasure these hatchings for the Great Mystery they convey. Thus, I found myself alone in the midst of many humans, unplugged from gadgets and gazing at stars. Anchored in the beauty of the night and the impending crawl of baby sea turtles to the sea, I touched that place of deep peace within.

Then, after three hours since our arrival at the nest, the first baby began the long walk to the Gulf. I walked alongside and made sure none of the feet trampled her if she strayed. At the end of the light-shielding trench the two-foot drop had been made into a sand slide and I watched as the little loggerhead slid down and took her first swim into the mighty sea.

Phosphorescent bits lit the sand and twinkled, mirroring the stars spread in the vast sky. Children, with noses as close as was allowed, gazed in the darkness at the tiny forms making their way to their Mother…the Great Mother of us all.

One-by-one, 66 of the 115 eggs laid and magically transformed in 54 days to living beings, were embraced by the sea.

After the main boil occurred and I was driving home in the late hour before midnight and reflected on the day. What was this strange timing of events that brought the birth of these sea turtles and the birth of my newest endeavor of planetary love to the same birth date? Shipment of the book came three weeks early. Due the end of August, I received a notice last week they would be shipped on August 7th. Then yesterday morning…the 7th…I got a call from the shipping company saying they were being delivered that day. It seemed determined to arrive on August 7th. Like the baby turtles….some force unknown and little-understood triggered their hatching…and the arrival of the book.

SimoneLipscomb copyIt may not seem like a big deal to anyone but me. But as I sat on the beach last night, gazing into the sky and pondering the timing of events in life, it held meaning for me. The birth of Manatee Mindfulness shares a birthday with 72 loggerhead sea turtle friends (more came after I left). I can’t help but launch this book into the world with tremendous joy and celebration.

Welcome to the world baby turtles! Welcome to the world wildlife book….may you spread joy, love, compassion and wisdom to everyone you meet…just like the sea turtles who share your birthday.

SimoneLipscombTo order your copy of Manatee Mindfulness and Other Wildlife Wisdom use PayPal and send $16 plus $4.95 shipping (US….other countries contact me for shipping) to simonelipscomb@me.com  The book arrived so early it’s not on my website yet…but soon I’ll have my website updated so you can order there where shipping and tax will be calculated for you. Thanks!!


Sea of Cortez–Whale Sharks!

Sea of Cortez–Whale Sharks!

Friday: Whale Shark Day!
Friday: Whale Shark Day!

Thursday and Friday

We moved a bit north to Isla Sal Si Puedes. One of the dive masters said it means ‘get out while you can.’ How comforting. I miss Capilla de la Mar. Leaving the remote island means we are headed back to civilization.

This mountain island where we anchor is less jagged with smoother, greenish slopes. The softness of the terrain is a nice change and beaches are here, which is also a difference from other islands we have seen.

The warm glow of the sun–orange and golden in hue–set the edge of advancing clouds on fire. The cerulean sky provides the canvas on which this masterpiece is composed. Where else but immersed in nature can one find such beauty while being kissed by the wind?

Chilly temperatures on the first dive but the past two days we had 86 degree water. On the first dive I cannot get my macro lens to focus on the giant jawfish so after watching them for a while I gently lift away and find a starfish crawling over the sand. I spend the next ten minutes hovering quietly, watching a starfish walk about four or five inches. It is perhaps the most relaxing experience of the trip.

SimoneLipscomb (1)On board, between dives, my mind wanders. Perhaps the most important experience on this journey has been to visit these unspoiled places where Spirit and Nature commune with very little human intervention. The experience has unleashed an amazing amount of energy within me. The challenge is to keep it moving and freed as I return to what we call civilization…although I think it’s far from civilized living.

I write a short, humorous story on the giant jawfish and a children’s poem on starfish and then do a couple more dives. We have a nice dinner and then we head for the bay where whale sharks live.

IMG_0400I awaken before dawn and am on the upper deck by 5am. I am not ready to see the lights of civilization even though this is a small village. The twinkling lights of Bahia de los Angeles in the darkness sadden me. The wildness fades and human habitation begins. One more day, I think.

This bay and the surrounding mountains are exquisitely beautiful. Faint orange and gold luminescence of the dawn brighten the sky behind steep, towering cliffs. Flat, calm water reflects the fiery warmth of solar hues.

SimoneLipscombSmoke lies heavy in the air and creates a hazy wall between our anchorage and the village. Oh, that there would always be that smoke-screen barrier between raw nature and human chaos.

Pelicans are feeding in the quiet bay, their wings softly shushing past before they dive again and again for breakfast.

The gathering light reflects on the rock face of the mountain across the bay and now it too glows with magnificence. Definition of the cracks and folds in its face become more pronounced as the light builds.

Capilla de la Mar….my name for the island where I will live as a sea lion if given a chance.

I have decided that if I have an opportunity to return, after this life, as an animal I will be a sea lion living on Capilla de la Mar. It’s beautiful, there is plenty of fish, I will have many companions and will see few humans.

_TSL5389Whale shark day. Our group begins as six, adds three briefly and then ends with four of us. We are the ones who pretended not to hear the dive masters as we floated after the dives and explored the edges of the rocky shore snorkeling…after handing our scuba gear up to the panga captain. We are the four that had to be begged to get out of the water after each dive. The ones who begged our mothers for just five more minutes of play time. It was the same with whale sharks.

_TSL5498Tons of fun and a great workout! Whales sharks appear to be moseying along, gently and slowly moving their tales back and forth. When the dive masters told us we would have to swim to keep up, we had absolutely no clue what that meant. Especially considering three of the four of us were pushing huge cameras through the water.

_TSL5394Whale sharks are awesomely cool and completely unconcerned with humans. Even when I was eye-to-eye with them or swimming just inches behind them, they paid absolutely no attention to me or the others. I was so closely behind one twice that if she had paused, I would have been slapped in the face with her gigantic tale…providing I couldn’t slam on my ‘brakes.’ There isn’t a connection like sea lions or whales or dolphins make with snorkelers or divers when there is recognition and sometimes interaction. These sharks, these huge plankton feeders, basically ignore us.

So close with my fisheye I can't get the entire animal in frame...but the details pop!
So close with my fisheye I can’t get the entire animal in frame…but the details pop!

“Swim hard!” is the motto of the day. At one point a few of us stay in the water over an hour watching whale sharks come and go, mobula rays leap from the water in synchronized efforts and generally frolicking in the peaceful bay. I can’t imagine a better way to end the trip. Six hours of non-stop fun.

_TSL5368We kid our dive master later about our asking to be in his group on whale shark day. He knew he would be out with us as long as we could possibly play.

_TSL5409Another night spent motoring back to Rocky Point, Mexico and we arrive at sunrise. Within five hours I am experiencing my first indoor shower in a week and am shaving the saguaro cactus forest from my legs. Soap, shampoo, shaving….seems far too civilized for my raw, wild self.  Yet as a human being, I am rejoining the insanity of what we call civilization….kicking and screaming all the way. Can I just have five more minutes? Please!!


Sea of Cortez I

Sea of Cortez II

Sea of Cortez III

Sea of Cortez IV

Sea of Cortez V

Sea of Cortez–Part Three

Sea of Cortez–Part Three

_TSL5004Monday July 20th

We are motoring south. The engine started at 4am. It’s 7am and we are still near Angel de la Guarda. Two seal gulls are riding on the bow of a panga. A nice way to travel from one place to the next if you are a bird…a smart bird.

The mountain that is this island is persistent in its beauty. More gradual slopes toward the sea on this eastern side of it but still very craggy and tall. Unbelievably tall. The color of rock is more even here with red standing out strongly. There is some striation but not the rainbow colors of the mountains yesterday.

_TSL5006As we draw closer to the southernmost tip of Angel de la Guarda its massive face affects me deeply. Again I am struck with awe…to my core. There is a V in the face that reminds me of open arms.

We move closer and it feels as if we will be consumed by this beautiful mountain. I need to go eat breakfast but find myself unable to leave my perch on the deck. I watch the massive mountain come closer and closer.

Stones and dust fade into wrinkles and colors of earth, sacred Earth, whose face is marked with smile lines created when She laughs at wind, sea lions frolicking and tides kissing Her beautiful self.

These bones bake in the sun and cleanse me in Her reflective glow. Her white-chalk, pock-marked bones  are whiter still from nesting shore birds. Red, pink, salmon, rust, orange, roughened, weathered, ragged by forces beyond control…lay bare these bones.

Layers and layers of color and texture open to elemental forces so powerful only mountains such as this could behold them and manage a wrinkled grin.

_TSL5016The vast, ragged peaks stretch all around me. At first glance they are barren in red, rust and white-stained splendor yet upon closer observation the details emerge. Green patches of life exist in this magical place following lines of finely-ground particles of rock. Tufts of tender, determined vegetation cling to fissures and slides and their roots go deep causing even more breakdown of hard substrate, creating a welcoming home for their offspring. Whether they consciously plan for the future or it it is just the genius of their living matters not.

Only 36 hours after torrential rains fell and already the mountain slopes grow greener. By the hour, these rugged, rocky slopes become robed in verdant softness.

Could it be that I, too, soften as my dry bones greedily suck nourishment from the life-giving waters and the blue heart of the Sea?

_TSL5042A sea lion barks the entire second dive and I learn that they can bark underwater…incessantly. Like a controlling man bellowing at his wife, the males are very protective and territorial with their harem of females. When a female or two escapes his control to play with us I am as happy for the free sea lions as I am for myself witnessing their agile playfulness.

The faces of the female pinnipeds are so sweet. I roll and play underwater and the more I play, the more playful they become. I think how lucky they are that few humans come here to spoil the pristine and peaceful place…and how lucky I feel to be one of the few given the chance to frolic with them.

IMG_0360I’m in the panga now with Juleo…the small-boat captain…while divers are on the night dive. The canopy of stars is brilliant with no light pollution. The Milky Way is breathtaking and grows steadily brighter as the sky darkens. Layers and layers of stars shine like gemstones flickering with stellar fire.

The sea is mostly quiet and still so the black water mirrors the sky as tiny phosphorescent dots drift on the surface. Greenish globs extend into the dark water until they merge with the glade of the crescent moon and disappear into its brilliance.

_TSL5143Nearby the exhalation of a sea lion catches my attention and my heart as she swims around the panga looking at us. Sweet words pour from my heart as I send love her way.

It may take a while to understand how this magnificent sky of stars and galaxies will change me, but without a doubt it will. I feel it deeply in my bones.

The small rock reaching from the sea floor to the heavens, frosted white with bird droppings, is only a silhouette against the setting moon. I, too, reach for the heavens and with a grateful heart bid goodnight to the Sea, stars, moon, krill and sea lions. Sleep well dear ones.


Sea of Cortez–Part One

Sea of Cortez–Part Two