Tag: Nature Photography

Sanctuary

Sanctuary

_TSL0997The clock proclaimed sunrise but heavy clouds hung close so dawn’s light was slow to brighten the day. Silently I slipped into the water, wrapped in my dry suit and holding my heavy, underwater camera equipment. With a slow and quiet frog kick I moved toward the narrow opening of the spring.

A manatee exiting the clear water paused in passing, watched me for a few moments and then moved forward in her glacial, flowing pace. Low light and particulate matter in the open water made a shot impossible but communion was exchanged and was sweet.

As I approached the spring, a manatee laid sleeping on the white, sandy bottom. I carefully avoided splashing and went around him and into the clear water of the freshwater spring.

_TSL1000Ten manatees of various sizes lay asleep on the bottom, huddled together in a common area. I glided away from them toward the back of the small spring and turned to face them from a distance. I took a few photographs as the light increased and then felt drawn into their meditation, into their group mind of stillness and dreaming warm, saltwater dreams.

_TSL1057In the quiet, peaceful water temple I closed my eyes and floated effortlessly with heart and mind open. The beauty of their being touched my core. No thoughts, just sensations enveloped me. Cool water on my face and neck; gravity-free except for the heavy camera rig in my hands; muscles relaxed; gentle floating….total surrender and release of all stress, tension…of everything except that moment of manatee mind.

_TSL1041One woman, ten sirens of the sea communing in perfect harmony caused time to disappear. We joined in that glorious, timeless dimension of stillness and quiet.

The moments of harmony with my sisters and brothers were some of the sweetest I have ever experienced.

_TSL1061After several minutes I opened my eyes and noticed my open heart and calm mind. I said a silent prayer of gratitude for the gift of this encounter then took several photographs, hoping to be able to translate, through art, the experience that so powerfully touched my core.

Slowly, quietly I moved around the side of the rock wall toward the exit. I turned before leaving to offer my thanks to the manatees and witnessed several slowly rise from their resting place on the bottom to the surface to take a deep, full breath. So in-tune in their sleep, their meditation they breathed in unison. Humans have much to learn from these gentle beings.

 

_TSL1092Throughout King’s Bay and Crystal River there are official sanctuaries or areas set aside where manatees can rest without human interference. Heavy fines and penalties are imposed on anyone entering these designated safe-zones. Today in the small, clear spring, I found my own place of peace, my own sanctuary.

Image of a juvenile taken yesterday in Three Sister's Springs
Image of a juvenile taken the day before in Three Sister’s Springs
Back In, Buddy

Back In, Buddy

_TSL1657My fist pounded the sandy bottom of the deep Ocean as a huge wave of energy arose within me: I am here! Come to me! This message went out to the illusive and slippery ideas and opportunities I have been pursuing. Deep peace, first experienced when the Mother Humpback and her baby floated just feet below me last year in the Atlantic Ocean, returned. Oh, this is peace, I remembered.

Gradually, waking awareness returned as I surfaced from the deep meditation. Finally, I got it! For months I have been ‘hearing’ to be still and listen to the silence but monkey mind has tossed me around like a feather in a hurricane. What is the best way to activate monkey mind? Ask it to be still….to listen. NOOOOO!!!! It screams!

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This image was taken while visiting St. Kitts. The monkeys would sit and scream at each other and race to get rum drinks left by beach-goers who abandoned their drinks while swimming.

In my personal journey the quest over the past few months has been to listen for clues regarding the next step in my life’s work. The wonderful mind took the assignment like a monkey running for unattended rum drinks on the beach at St. Kitts. Daily meditations, until this morning, yielded the awareness that stillness and silence was an open invitation for monkey mind to run screaming. During meditations and daily life, my mind was still searching and pursuing the what-when-how of life with crazy intensity. Where was the stillness? The silence?

SimoneLipscombThe past two days were almost unbearable with my mind digging up fears with amazing ability. This morning as I sat down to meditate I simply said…ENOUGH! I lit the candles, cleared the space and set the intention. Since last March I have focused my meditations on the Ocean and a particular humpback whale I connected with. This morning, like many over the past months, she took me deep into blue water and showed me a large, simple pearl on the Ocean floor. My mind took off running but the whale mother called my focus back to the pearl. “Stop chasing after ideas and sit still,” she beckoned. I followed her direction and let go.

_TSL1690It’s time to stop letting my mind chase ideas, directions, possibilities. It is time to be still and quiet and open.

I imagined pulling on a large cord that is connected to a gong…the kind that sounds when someone arrives home to a large estate or manor. I….am….here! No longer will I chase after anything. This is me. I am here. By claiming integration of myself I create space for the Universe to fill life with everything needed.

On the way out the door to yoga I grabbed a banana to honor the incredible monkey mind that has worked so very hard. When I arrived at class Augusta announced the theme of our practice would be Coming Home to Ourselves. That’s how the Universe works. When I awakened this morning I thought about skipping class, so much had monkey mind worn on me this week. Thankfully the breakthrough in meditation opened the door to the next step. And yoga practice opened the door to embodying the truth of coming home to myself.

FullSizeRender 3As Buddy Hobbs, my puppy friend, and I walked through the beautiful live oak forest in the nearby state park this afternoon, I realized how Buddy’s puppy energy is like my monkey mind. Working to teach him how to follow instructions, to listen, to settle into his body is exactly what I’m doing to train my outrageous mind. Admittedly, he’s a much better student than my unruly mind at times. As we walked under moss-draped branches I began giving him a command… “Back in” with the intention of helping him come back into himself rather than pull against the leash. Come back in your body, Buddy. And as I said, “Back in” I made sure I was fully at home in my body….with mind centered and present. And….he got it! Come back, Buddy. Embody yourself. I suppose I was saying it as much to myself as I was to my canine kid.

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Life’s Compass

Life’s Compass

SimoneLipscombWho Am I? Why am I here? These are common questions asked by those intent on discovering deeper meaning in life…those who search for a clearer reflection of the true self.

This time of stillness and listening during the past several weeks has produced many breadcrumbs that have led to a clearer vision for my path. Memories have surfaced, people have sent comments and reflections on my work and realizations during moments of openness and surrender during yoga classes have yielded much guidance. One memory in particular is working powerfully in my heart and mind.

_TSL7666My mom and I were in a grocery store when I was very young. One of her friends greeted her and commented on what a beautiful child I was. Wow, I thought. I am beautiful. After the woman walked away I asked my mom what that meant. I cannot remember exactly what my mother said but it was an encouragement to not take the woman’s comment to heart. She didn’t want me to be conceited or stuck on outer expressions of beauty. That’s the take-away now but then I remember being confused about this word: Beauty. It was a defining moment in my life.

_TSL7676I never thought of myself as beautiful through childhood, teenage, young adult years and even now….I didn’t want to be stuck-up or conceited..still don’t. But mostly, I didn’t want Beauty to be defined by something outside of myself. I wanted people to see me and love me for what was/is inside my heart. I always wanted boys, men, to see the real me, not the outer package….. so…..there wasn’t much dating. I didn’t focus on the outer expression of beauty…didn’t care about make-up or cosmetics or fashion because that seemed a pale expression of the beauty I found by turning inward and experiencing the fire of my heart that is pure and loving and kind or by connecting with the nature, especially animals.

DSC_8937That meeting, over 50 years ago, brought forth my life’s quest to explore the concept of beauty. What is it? Where is it? Is it in me? Is it in Nature?  I deeply remember the encounter yet my memory might be different from the actual event. What is significant is how it affected my life.

Isn’t it amazing how one seemingly insignificant event can be a turning point in our life’s path. It was as if that moment was the cue needed to lead me on my quest, my path, for this lifetime. And I didn’t realize it until recently as I paused in stillness for weeks and simply allowed my path to unwind to the point where I could be clear before moving forward.

_TSL0484A few days ago I attended and photographed a workshop by Ibiyinka Alao.* In his presentation on art he said this: “An artist is a person with a hole in their heart that’s equal in size to the universe outside of them. Every time I paint a picture, I am filling this hole.” I paused and lowered my camera when he said this. It is exactly how I feel when I am hovering underwater with humpback whale mothers and babes or am nose-to-nose with a curious manatee….or standing in the warm sand at sunset experiencing the transcendental moment where my open heart meets the heart of the Ocean. If I can capture the emotions I feel during these moments and translate them, with images and writing, to others I am totally at one with my Path. When I create these translations, I feel my heart filling and reaching out to the Universe with openness and love. That is Beauty…to me.

SimoneLipscomb (3)My passion for experiencing and documenting Beauty is my life’s work. My life’s compass was set from that encounter so long ago. Gratitude for that defining moment is strong and I thank my mother for prompting me to go on the search for beauty.

_TSL6508What is your life’s compass? What is the ‘thing’ that brings you back to sanity amidst chaos and fear? What is it that you yearn for more than anything?

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A Most Amazing Year

A Most Amazing Year

SimoneLipscombThis year brought me back to myself. That’s the short of it. Expanded the year’s summary includes rainbows of epic number and proportions, manatee rescues and encounters, humpback whales, whale sharks, sea lions, Dominican Republic-Silverbank, Bonaire, Mid-Riff Islands-Sea of Cortez, La Paz-Sea of Cortez, morning sea turtle nest patrol. It was a year packed full of Ocean and the intention of bridging humans and nature.

DSC_8937I recently read through the journal I kept while anchored 80 miles offshore for a week with humpback whales and noted that I was finally in my body, fully present with myself. That’s what the Ocean and its creatures do for me.

The past few months I’ve reflected on my work and life and what’s next. After taking the time to pause and listen deeply it’s clear that the ‘next step’ is simply deepening the work I’ve been doing and allowing it to expand with my complete attention and commitment.

IMG_1729Friends have shared powerful words with me lately that have touched deep places within me. Two in particular stand out.

Marianne Williamson said this: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world.” And Donna Faulds said, “Do you value your reasons for staying small more than the light shining through the open door?”

_TSL7226On Day Four of the New Year Yoga Challenge my teacher, Augusta, began class with the poem by Donna Faulds. This stayed in my consciousness as we progressed through the class: “Why wait for your awakening?…..Would you hold back when the Beloved beckons?” At one point we were stepping and opening forward and backward into balance poses. As I breathed in and stepped forward it felt as if I was meeting Light and Breath and the quote echoed in my heart, “Would you hold back when the Beloved beckons?” Then the music changed and the song, Marry Me, by Train began to play.

Tears flowed. I don’t pretend to understand the Great Mystery and can only share my experience. Today it felt as if an invitation to step toward It was extended and with every breath, every step and move into balance I said ‘yes‘ to the Sacred Marriage that happens when we are willing to partner with our Higher Self, our truest self…the Divine part of ourselves.

SimoneLipscomb (2)A couple months ago I was in a yoga class being taught by Sean Johnson and he posed a question for us to ponder in Child’s Pose at the beginning: What do you wish to manifest in your life? To be my true self completely, I whispered as tears rolled down my cheeks onto my mat.

_TSL7177As this year winds to a close it’s clear that the theme for me has been coming home to myself. Thanks to manatees, humpback whales, whale sharks, sea lions and friends, this has become a reality.

_TSL6631We were asked to set a one-word intention for the year at the beginning of today’s yoga class. Mine? Light. LIGHT! This new year is all about Light….Laughter and Love.

_TSL4724With gratitude and an open, humble heart I offer my thanks to all who gifted me with wisdom and support: the mother humpback whale who showed me pure peace, the deepest peace I could scarcely imagine; whale sharks whose gentle nature and grace was amplified through their gigantic forms; playful sea lions who reminded me to be outrageously open to fun; Magnolia manatee whose strong spirit strengthened me; the baby manatee and mother who embraced me–literally; friends who brought hours…days…of laughter in La Paz; the dream-team-last-kids-in-the-whale-shark-playground in Bahia de Los Angeles; yoga friends; neighbors; mom for loving my kitties so I could travel; those who supported my new book, Manatee Mindfulness; music friends; and for those mysterious friends whose invisible presence lifts me up….with a grateful heart I bow to you. May all of you and all beings be filled with peace and love.

SimoneLipscomb (15)Happy 2016!

Addendum

Dream January 1st, 2016….4.45am: Amid a scene of judgment and confusion I stepped away and saw light beams coming from everything. They were coming from people, animals, plants and me. Yes, my friends, it’s gonna be a year of Light. Namaste.

Selfie at Sunrise, La Paz, Sea of Cortez
Selfie at Sunrise, La Paz, Sea of Cortez
Reflecting on Bigness

Reflecting on Bigness

DSC_8569“Dance with their bigness,” my friend reminded me. He was referring to a humpback whale trip that is coming up for me in February. I told him how committing to the trip was difficult due to the cost involved but that in meditation, when making the final decision to go or not go, I got a very clear message: look around this meditation space…the entire room is built around humpback energy. Remember the positive change they created in your life and trust your journey.

SimoneLipscomb (4)Allowing my mind to drift back to the first of this year, I thought of the rainbow that filled the sky as I pulled up to Follow That Dream Blvd last year on my way to photograph manatees as I was actually speaking into my voice recorder about following my heart’s calling and the dreams of my life. That one moment defined my entire year. What are the odds of all that coming together at one intersection?

Los Islotes ShotBut isn’t life a series of intersections filled with opportunities and ‘chance’ meetings that change our lives?

Last September I met a friend that helped me find my joy, my laughter. Not long ago he sent a quote that was very helpful to revisit –Marianne Williamson’s writing about our deepest fear is that we are powerful and it is our light that most frightens us…we are children of God and playing small doesn’t serve the world…as we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others. He reminded me again recently that I am on the right path with my creative work…something I have been questioning.

It feels like a time of major change coming in my life and I haven’t really known how to proceed. I’ve been evaluating the work I do and wondering if I’m heading in the ‘right’ direction. This questioning of direction has been ‘up’ for months.

With friends sending me messages of encouragement and reminding me to step into my bigness, to dance the big dance with humpbacks, I decided to read my journal from the humpback trip this past March. The answers I’ve been searching for are written in it, by my hand.

DSC_8937“Rainbow Thursday…

I awakened at 5-ish and went upstairs by 5.30. I sat high on the boat awaiting the dawn. A dark rain cloud was due east so the sun had a difficult time illuminating the sky. A wall of rain began to move toward the boat so I was driven down to the 1st level which is covered but still open.

The rain came…its loud shuuuuuuu sound was beautiful music on the ocean’s surface. I looked out, past the small boats tied behind the mother ship and saw a tail lob…and another…and another and then a baby fluke appeared beside the mother and joined the tail slapping but only occasionally as the baby’s tail was weaker than mamas.

I just said to another passenger…’There has to be a rainbow with the rain and sunrise’ and suddenly a brilliant rainbow appeared in the sky, arched over the whales and the calf breached. And more tail lobbing….

Brilliant rainbow, mother and baby whale, ocean…breaching into the rainbow. Really? Was it really happening?

After the other early-risers–who had witnessed this mind-blowing moment–wandered away, I stepped down on the dive platform so I could see the full arch of the rainbow. The mother and baby were still there but calmer now, coming up to breathe and then resting.

As I stood level with the Ocean, saltwater washing over my feet, I felt the immensity of this vision. Not just the vision of this incredible experience but the vision that guided me here…to this place….to this life.

I felt support of my spiritual family so powerfully…guides, teachers, friends, family…my higher self. The words I heard in my mind were, “Your work is supported, your life is guided. This is the promise–you will always have our support.”

As I sit here writing this, remnants of the rainbow still touch the Ocean and the whale is exhaling with her baby. Their breath-mist carries soft, pastel colors into the sky…the rainbow of their breath…symbol of promise.

I reflect back to the trip to Crystal River and talking into my voice recorder about following my dreams, the intense rainbow over my shoulder and Follow That Dream Blvd, meeting Rich and Deb from Australia and him encouraging me to be with humpbacks…and to come to Tonga to visit his whale research center….and the overwhelming push to get on a waiting list for a humpback trip to the Dominican Republic and within a month having a spot on a trip…this trip.

Mom and baby are still there….at the end of the rainbow. With certainty I know that I am guided, supported and loved beyond anything I can imagine….and I am grateful.” 

DSC_8024In this evening’s meditation the recent messages of supportive friends echoed in my mind. I envisioned myself dancing the big dance with humpback whales and realized they called me home to my Self. They have been calling me for many years and at the beginning of this year, I listened. And my life was changed.

Another friend and I were chatting a couple weeks ago and he clarified a struggle I’ve been having. He said, “Simone, you’ve been trying to figure out the next step in your path using your mind, your intellect. You are more fully committing to the work of your heart so the intellect cannot make sense of it or give you answers. This is a time when to answer the question, what’s next, you must use your heart…allow it to speak and guide you.”

_TSL6508As I reflect on this year and prepare for the next trip around the sun, it is clear I am doing the work of my heart. There isn’t another direction I need to go. The change needed is to simply respect and value the work I do and put all of myself into the vision that has led me thus far. It’s time to step into my bigness.

SimoneLipscomb (157)Let us hold our dreams and the dreams of others as sacred. Let us step together into our bigness and dance with wild abandon into being fully alive.