Tag: Nature Photography

Divine Madness

Divine Madness

IMG_1702The sharp click of metal on metal as my cleats clipped into the pedal reverberated in the foggy air–silence broken for a moment as I pushed off, leaving the mundane, the grounded ones in whirling flight. Half bird, half coyote I spun into the pre-dawn light.

IMG_1729The drive down to the park was spent listening to one song played and repeated as I let the music and lyrics fill my mind. I rode with no soundtrack today except the lingering lyrics echoing within my mind and heart.

IMG_1743“Shining light of mercy…coming of the day. Shooting star of promise…the lantern on the way. Picture in the locket, love so near and far. Song your mother’s singing, firefly in a jar…..Coltrane in the 60’s, Blind Willie lost in time….Mahalia, like an angel, the hymns of human kind. Bouquet of forgiveness, the healing of the heart. Redemption of misfortune and the madness of the world. Madness of the world. Love of peace alighting. One moment making sense. Love crashing through the barricade, love reaching through the fence. The Christmas Eve ceasefire, wind beneath a bird. Inebriated choir and the madness of the world. Madness of the World. Madness of the World. Paint brush hittin’ canvas, the dancin’ in the rain. Flannery O’Conner, word on every page. Kindness of a stranger, Prodigal’s return. The absence of all anger and the Madness of the World….The Madness of the World. The letter from your father, the weight of every word. The love that keeps you singing; the sublime, the absurd. The ancients and the mystics, minstrel in the park. Soothers and the sayers, healing ancient scars. Those who came before us, those we’re never heard. Babies breath on my neck, madness of the world. Madness of the world….madness, oh madness, madness of the world.” Will Kimbrough from Mercyland Vol 2.

IMG_1716The first time I heard this song, tears came as my heart opened. Every time I listen the same thing happens…even listening to it on repeat. It mirrors my feelings and probably those of many of us struggling to make sense of this world.

IMG_1739Choosing to pay attention to behaviors human’s choose to practice toward each other, animals, plants, sacred places brings so much grief and sadness we can be overwhelmed. But then the fog is lit by colors of the rising sun….”Shining light of mercy…” or birds surround me as I pedal through their woods….”wind beneath a bird…..” Bursting out in laughter at the rays of light bursting through pine limbs in the fog…”coming of the day….” I realize beauty helps me rise above the sadness…”shooting star of promise…”

IMG_1705Without beauty of landscape and heart, the madness of the world would devour us. But somehow, amid the insanity of darkness we see inklings of light and they lift us above the quicksand of sadness to flight.

IMG_1743Will’s song brings tears because amid awareness of climate change and ocean acidification, social injustices and meanness, we can still find the sweetness of love and laughter. It’s a healing waltz as we dance in the schizophrenic reality of life. I think he reminds us that we can survive and even thrive in a world of madness by being mindful of beauty walking shoulder-to-shoulder with darkness.


Check out Will Kimbrough‘s body of work. Find his song, Madness of the World, on Mercyland: Hymns for the Rest of Us, Volume 2



More Wild Than Not

More Wild Than Not

_TSL4572Blinking letters on the large, portable sign made me snarl: Controlled Burn Gulf State Park. I felt my bicycle wiggle on the rack. Dang it! Well, the park is over 6000 acres. Maybe the Backcountry Trail is open. 

Being the eternal optimist, I parked and pedaled from park headquarters to the trail entry but sure enough, it was closed. Optimism pushed me onward and I continued along the park road until an old trail that runs behind the campground intersected it. My hybrid bicycle got its first taste of real trail riding as marsh grass, flowers and birds enriched the leisurely pedal through Bear Creek Trail. Then on through the campground before the sun had risen and at the end of the road, another blockade to the Backcountry Trail. As I stopped to read the burn date a ranger pulled up and suggested the Peninsula Trail that runs along Fort Morgan Road. Not backcountry but not highway either. Good alternative. Right?

_TSL7713Crossing the large intersection of Highway 59 and Highway 180, even with crosswalk buttons, created anxiety within me. Riding with distracted drivers is my least favorite way to cycle. And just about everyone who crosses the Intracoastal Waterway Bridge is distracted by something. Those of us who live here think that a switch automatically turns off in people’s brains when they cross that bridge.

After safely navigating the busy intersection there was a never-ending series of smaller intersections along the ‘trail.’ Huge grocery store, bank, apartments, residences, gas station. I felt myself wanting to hide and go deeper in the woods and avoid developed areas. Many of the intersections had 8 x 8 wooden posts in the center of both sides of the trail to keep vehicles from entering the trail. There wasn’t opportunity to surrender to nature’s embrace like I do when riding the Backcountry Trail. I was just trying to avoid hitting huge posts, cars and avoid getting hit by cars.

Doe taken in Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountain National Park...can't get photographs while I am cycling.

During moments away from crossroads, I felt what animals must feel when dealing with loss of habitat. Forced to interact with the human species, they have to avoid being crushed without the ability to read signs or understand traffic rules. On a visceral level I felt a kinship with raccoons, deer, opossums, snakes, birds, foxes, bobcats, turtles and the other species who live on the island or any place where habitat is destroyed for development.

SimoneLipscomb (1)The truth of Oneness came to mind. I realized the pain experienced by humans when wild places are destroyed is because we are part of the woods, the beaches, the Ocean…when it is raped, we feel it. We experience the loss of beauty and safety. As our planet suffers more and more abuse, those of us paying attention feel the heartbreak, the grief and we’re not only grieving for a random place of beauty, we are grieving for the loss of ourselves.

_TSL1820In my first book, Sharks On My Fin Tips (2008), I wrote about instinctual wisdom and oneness. Here’s an excerpt from my book that describes an experience on a night dive: “I looked up and saw the light of the bright, full moon shimmering on the surface and filtering through the clear, turquoise water in wild, geometric patterns. I became so enraptured by the play of moonlight in the water and on the white sand that I settled into an open sandy area on the ocean floor and laid down, belly against Earth….I closed my eyes and listened to the sounds of the ocean…the clicking of shrimp and creatures moving through the sand. Darkness enclosed me. The weight of the entire Atlantic Ocean pushed against me as Earth cradled me. Time no longer held meaning for me as I lay prostrate in an act of worship. All I knew in that moment was utter and complete peace and contentment….in those moments, life as I had known it was transcended. I was one with everything around me.”

_TSL4846Edward Abbey in his book Desert Solitaire (1968), wrote: “Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself….The love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth, the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only home we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need–if only we had the eyes to see. Original sin, the true original sin, is the blind destruction for the sake of greed of this natural paradise which lies all around us…we need wilderness whether or not we ever set foot in it. We need a refuge even though we may never need to go there. We need the possibility of escape as surely as we need hope; without it the life of the cities would drive all men into crime or drugs or psychoanalysis.”

_TSL7671John Muir in his book John of the Mountains (1938) wrote: “When I first came down to the city from my mountain home, I began to wither, and wish instinctively for the vital woods and high sky. Yet I lingered month after month, plodding at ‘duty.’ At length I chanced to see a lovely goldenrod in bloom in a weedy spot alongside one of the less frequented sidewalks there. Suddenly I was aware of the ending of summer and fled. Then, once away, I saw how shrunken and lean I was, and how glad I was I had gone.”

_TSL7070Even though I live in a rural area of Coastal Alabama and spend my happiest hours cycling the Backcountry Trail or paddling my SUP board on the river, my travels are most happily spent in wild areas. The Sea of Cortez gifted me with two weeks of wildness this summer that nourished me to great depths. I didn’t know how agitated and angry I had become by ignoring the part of me that yearns for deep connection with wild places. Today, while cycling, I was reminded how connecting with nature is much more than simply being outside.

_TSL5199From my trip to the Midriff Islands in the Sea of Cortez: “Little cumulus clouds dot the sky, their edges lit as silver from the gathering light. The warm glow of the sun, orange and golden in hue, set the edge of advancing clouds a-light, flaming softly toward the Baja Peninsula. 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? Perhaps the most important experience on this journey has been to visit those unspoiled places where Spirit and Nature commune without human intervention. The experience has unleashed an amazing amount of energy within me. The challenge is to keep it moving and free as I return to what we call civilization.”

Photograph of me and sea lion friend taken by Tracey Bennett.
Photograph of me and sea lion friend taken by Tracey Bennett.

The lesson learned while cycling today is that I am more wild than not. While I may live in a nice home and enjoy modern conveniences, my heart is wild and most happy among those places where nature is free and unrestrained.

_TSL5697Richard Jefferies wrote a small book entitled, The Story of My Heart. “I burn life like a torch. The hot light shot back from the sea scorches my cheek–my life is burning in me. The soul throbs like the sea for a larger life.”


REvolution of Love

REvolution of Love

_TSL7676The moist, cool breeze enveloped me as I pedaled through the live oaks and pines of the woods. Goldenrods and asters, still heavy with pre-dawn dew,  nodded as gentle stirrings from the draft touched their delicate petals.

During the past few months I have started a practice of acknowledging beauty whenever I am outdoors. It’s simple. As I approach a flower, tree, body of water, land formation, animal I open my heart and mind and say thank you. Not a rote or meaningless practice but one of reverence where I make a conscious connection. I feel a conscious, return flow of appreciation…dare I say it…love. The outcome has been an increased capacity for joy.

_TSL7712While this has enhanced my life, it has brought other realizations. It feels like a revolution of love happening in my mind and heart…right there on the trail as I cycle.

In the process of my daily practice with nature, there has been an increased awareness of what human connection is intended to do for us and that has created an evolutionary awakening for me. Dare I claim spiritual evolution? An evolution of consciousness?

_TSL7177Without an easy or eloquent transition into explanation of the learning that has happened in my life I’ll jump right in: What if the purpose of a soul mate is simply to help us open and enhance the connection to our Higher Self.

When me meet someone we resonate with we feel the spark, the connection, so it’s easy to ‘fall’ for someone. But when we do fall, we give our power to them…the power to make us happy or sad, joyful, miserable depending on how they respond to what we think they should do for us. That first glimmer of recognition can easily turn into manipulative, possessive behavior…more, more, more we whine. Rather than allow them to help us open more to Spirit, Source, the Universe, we become fixated on them as the source of our happiness and joy and fail to see that they are a facilitator that helps open a pathway to the Universe…God…whatever your description is of the Creative Intelligence.

_TSL6830What would it look like to feel the connection with another human, a soul mate, who lights our life with electricity, and simply appreciate that connection as one promoting deeper awakening to our higher purpose? Without wanting ‘more.’ Without manipulating for ‘more.’ Without screaming the mantra, mine, mine, mine.

It may be that most of you, kind readers, have already figured this out but for me it felt like a major leap forward in growth. Could it be that I am becoming (gasp) wise?

Doe taken in Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountain National Park...can't get photographs while I am cycling.

Nature’s healing ways have always promoted balance in my life and lately I realize the inner message received over the past ten years to get outside and connect with nature daily wasn’t just to groove on the flowers or water or critters who might cross my path. My Higher Self has been sending that message as a true pathway to healing, to wholeness.





Floating in Beauty

Floating in Beauty

_TSL6176After my morning workout I knelt beside one of my large crystal singing bowls and began to play it…a dedication to the day, a centering of myself in the present moment. As deep tones vibrated from within the bowl, I felt answering harmonies within me rise up to join in musical celebration.

_TSL6826Visions and visceral memories of floating in the Sea of Cortez immediately came to mind as a gateway opened within me. Blue-footed boobies and cormorants were diving for dinner all around as I floated, arms extended, to open my heart to the gifts surrounding me.

_TSL6444Brilliant, blue sky overhead and salty sea enfolded my body as well as my soul and mind while pure peace and contentment filled every molecule of this earthly form. Nothing else existed but complete and utter beauty. Balance. Harmony.

_TSL6873While floating I glanced over to see a friend floating in the same position of surrender to the beauty of the moment. I’m not sure what he was experiencing but it felt as if both of us were in deep communion with the sea, sky and our deepest self. Sweet communion with life.

_TSL6820Tears formed this morning…tears of total gratitude for the beauty of nature that lifts me to the highest experience of love and harmony. To the sea, the primordial Mother, I am dedicated and offer myself. May I be a child you take joy in sweet Mother…a lover of life, of beauty and harmony.

The Gift of Laughter

The Gift of Laughter

SimoneLipscomb (2)The golden moon glade glittered brilliantly on the smooth sea. Flat, calm with only the slightest stirring of the surface, each ripple was a stair step toward meeting Her. In the distance She hung low in the sky, illuminating the pre-dawn sky. I timidly took a step toward the round, ripe Sea Moon Goddess and as I moved slowly toward Her, I left behind my earthly form and rose up on the wings of light.

_TSL6631An ending to a week of beauty and laughter so profound I feel transformed and more at home in my body than ever before. Each of the brothers and sisters I traveled with brought gifts and one connection in particular sparked a flame of laughter and joy that opened dark, closed places. The flame of light grew through liquid laughter that brought me back to life. Salt water, fresh water, floating fun-filled stories suspended in moments between sea and sky brought joy and laughter that invited me home.

_TSL6322I expected to enjoy diving with sea lions, snorkeling with whale sharks, attempting to capture the beauty of nature through underwater photography. I expected to meet people who would become friends. These expectations became realities.

_TSL6836The biggest surprise was feeling joy and laughter grow within me like a shooting star burning more brilliant with each breath. The number of side-splitting, snorting hilarities were too numerous to count…on the boat, at meals, floating in the pool, standing at the rinse bins.

_TSL7177I didn’t realize how my soul yearned for free and unbridled expression of joy. Too often we lose that connection within that keeps us in touch with our lightness of being.

_TSL7125This is the first trip in years on which I didn’t write extensively and in detail. This time I determined to simply stay present with the experience…watching the sun rise over the mountains, diving with sea lions and giant balls of silver fish, floating head to head with massive whale sharks…be present….be present…breathe.

_TSL7070My regular meditation practice, exercising and other daily rituals were set aside. The only consistent practice I did was to acknowledge beauty, open my heart and mind to it and feel the reciprocal return flow fill me. The more I sent love out to the arid mountains, the sea and creatures of the sea, the more love I felt fill me. This helped move the old, stuck patterns of behavior to a new, lighter expression of life that is all-inclusive of the darkest and lightest parts of myself.

_TSL7357As I fly over the desert of Baja and the Sea of Cortez, I already feel the absence of the physical presence of my new friends…one a brother who feels like another piece of stardust from the home planet. The gifts each one brought to my life are held within, treasures of light and laughter that will continue to transform me.

_TSL6851With a grateful heart full of love I promise myself to remember my happy place, the many happy places discovered on this magical adventure to Baja and the Sea of Cortez.

Los Islotes ShotMany locals say La Paz and Cabo San Lucas are greener than they’ve ever seen due to rain amounts 300% above normal. The many seeds and plants that waited in the dry, hot desert until nourishing rains supported their growth amaze me. There is a new understanding within of how it feels to burst forth in new growth when the right nourishment arrives. Laughter is a priceless gift and those who bring it are angels of light….whether in human or non-human form.