Tag: Nature’s Teachings

Threads

Threads

He stood at the edge of the swamp–antlers upright, eyes staring at me. It was the briefest of glances but I still remember the steam rising from the murky water and streaming from his nostrils as he sniffed and snorted. Magnificent, strong, ruler of his domain, the encounter with the buck has remained burned into my memory…in my heart….and every time I pedal past that gap in the trees I glance to see if he is there. Five years ago…and he’s still there in my mind.

After slowly awakening this morning, I picked up my iPad to check email and realized that for over six years I have opened email in the morning expecting a message. A message from him. I didn’t realize that simple act of finger touching glass was an act of hope. Why this came to consciousness today I don’t know. There is no pining away or waiting for him…I go on with life…so it was a surprise that there’s still the hope lingering….hanging like a thread. I had no idea…

Years pass yet there are imprints…people, animals, places…that simply don’t fade or lose their importance. The connection I have with Nature is like that…and those threads, once pulled, take me to humpback whales, elk, coyotes, dolphins, manatees, tiny reef fish, sea turtles, sunrises, sunsets, purple mountains, cliffs and seascapes, rocks. Once pulled, these threads always lead me back home–to my soul, my true self–the little girl who talked to nature spirits and animals.

And that’s where I find myself these days….embracing that nature child whose wisdom is intact, who knows that Oneness isn’t just a flaky idea, who still hugs trees and talks to whales and dolphins and manatees….and spirits that few others feel.

The Magical Nature Child…all roads lead home to Her. Every thread of memory weaves the tapestry of life that is Her playground, Her sacred realm. This then is where compassion and kindness reside and love for all life is treasured. This then is the place of beauty and sacredness for all life…it’s where instinctual wisdom blooms like a lotus blossom every time I sink my toes in the mud.

Sunset

Sunset

A few decades ago I stood on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico and listened to Her through the waves and wind. “I feel like I should be here helping you,” I said aloud. You will know when to return. With that answer, I returned to the Piedmont of North Carolina.

April 20, 2010 I was leading a night dive in Curacao, 50 miles off the coast of Venezuela, and tasted an oily flavor in the air I was breathing. I stopped and surfaced and asked others if they had similar experiences with their tanks….none were noted. I continued leading the dive being very cautious and diving relatively shallow just to be safe.

Upon returning to the Atlanta airport two days later, I learned of the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. The night of the dive was the night the rig exploded and sank…and the nightmare of the largest oil spill in US history began. Sitting in the airport I remembered the sea’s answer…You will know when to return.

And so, for the next year I spent a week of nearly every month back at the Alabama coast documenting and writing about the disaster. I traveled back and forth from Asheville, where I lived at the time. And finally, the work led me to live along the coast.

Within a couple weeks of moving here I found sea turtle volunteer opportunities and a bit later, manatee volunteer training and volunteering. Both became very important in my life. But after six years here, and two children’s books and two photography-inspirational books, it felt like my work here was coming to a pause….a long pause….a very long pause and I knew it was time to open to the next chapter.

The sunset….oh, yes. The sunset.

I walked along the beach a couple nights ago and found myself at the water’s edge asking Her permission to wrap up the work here and move back to the mountains. Well done, daughter. Return to the mountains to be nurtured in the lush green and fresh running waters, I felt more than heard.

Nearing the end of the walk I was on the boardwalk leaving the beach when the western horizon drew my attention. Perhaps a pause before leaving wouldn’t hurt.

Little-by-little the most amazing sunset I have ever seen began to illuminate the sky. My heart opened with deep gratitude. I have witnessed such sadness here….oil covering animals and beaches–the smell burning my eyes and throat years ago and recently a critically endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle and a huge loggerhead sea turtle washed ashore dead on my last two sea turtle patrols. But the sky reminded me of the gift of beauty that has also been experienced during my six years here.

It seemed to be a thank-you…a gift that will remain burned into my memory.

As I write this my dog is running in his sleep as he lays beside me on the bed. He’s off adventuring in his dreams. I welcome the next adventure as I don my hiking boots and walk into the welcoming arms of the oldest mountains on the planet…camera in hand, note pad ready and heart open.

Returning Home

Returning Home

I was watching the movie, Hostiles, and heard myself saying out-loud tearfully, “I have to return. I have to go back!” A Native American elder was returning to his home as a dying wish after incarceration by the US government.

Since I was a child the Appalachian Mountains have called me. When my parents asked my brother and me where we wanted to go on vacation I’d prompt my brother to say…the MOUNTAINS! He didn’t….but I tried. Anything to get back there…to spend time in those sacred and most-ancient mountains on the planet. I remember feeling so at home there and so much myself…so connected to the land and my own bones. Then the leaving….was heart-rending.

I lived there for six years and loved it but felt called to the shores of my birth where I’ve spent six years healing and connecting with energies needed to finish the process of preparing me for the next step in the journey.

Any time an impending move is explored, there are questions and ponderings. Before I put my energy 100% behind something as big as this, I want to be sure. So last night before bed I asked to be given a sign pointing me to where I feel called.

After not sleeping much I checked email during the night and found an email from a dear friend referring to my move to the Asheville area. And then tonight….the movie and the message directly from my soul, “I have to return! I have to go back!”

I don’t know how life works…how we feel ancestral connections so strongly and why our bones vibrate with some places so strongly. I can only surrender to the dance of my heart’s rhythm and the song of my soul as it guides me gently back, back, back to those ancient mountains.

Home…ultimately it is the Self, not an outward geographic location. And yet there are places that urge us inward and support and nurture that journey of the Pilgrim…the Fool’s travels on the Tree of Life…the Spiritual Warrior’s Empty-Handed Leap into the Void.

I. AM. READY.

Home in the Sky

Home in the Sky

Arriving just before sunset….

Sometimes it’s easy to dwell in the littleness of life…or even get stuck there. When we feel stress or anxiety the tendency is to curl up in our little space with a blanket and binge-watch crappy television. At least that’s what I do sometimes. As the mind focuses on the chaos of (fill in the ______) it seems safer to be small because the chaos feels so big.

The Perseid Meteor event pulled me out of my little bubble and an amazing gift unfolded as I found myself immersed in the present–not in my head chasing mental rabbits down endless holes.

Friends of mine have a beach house in a relatively dark section of beach and they allow me to go there to photograph the night sky. Last evening found me standing in white, soft sand wondering if the heavy cloud cover would remain as darkness fell. “I came here to see meteors,” I exclaimed.

Maybe it was the polite way I asked for a window to see stars or just a weird beach phenomena….but a pathway to the stars opened and a bank of clouds held just east of Mars to allow viewing of the vast night sky.

After tiring of standing and craning my neck with the tripod, I adjusted the legs to a short extension and laid on the sand under the tripod. With my cable release wrapped around a tripod leg, I could lay on my back, watch stars, take long exposures and adjust the settings from a most relaxed point of view.

Taking long exposures with my camera always brings me to a place of stillness as 20, 25, 30 seconds pass. I can’t move or walk away….just have to stand (or in my case laying) in stillness as the heavens expand overhead.

There was one amazing shooting star with a bright sprinkle of star dust that trailed over the Gulf of Mexico and there were smaller ones that zipped quickly through the night sky…and that was amazing. But the real show for me was the Milky Way as it emerged from the darkening sky.

The Earth Mother supported me in my rest and opening to the endless depths of space and stars and I felt layers of worries fall away as I focused on the bigness of the Universe. Bigness….such an understatement.

By surrendering to something greater than me, I found profound peace. Allowing the depth of the Universe to touch me and awaken me, I found home again….in the sky….in myself….beyond….beyond….beyond.

A Grieving Planet

A Grieving Planet

Tahlequah gave birth July 24 to a calf who only lived one half-hour. Since then, she has been carrying her baby for a week, refusing to let go. This grieving ritual is being witnessed by her pod….and the world. She’s become the focus of our collective grief that goes far beyond her baby’s death. Tahlequah is the matriarch leading us all in a planetary grief ritual.

J-Pod is starving. Not enough salmon. Orcas–endangered whales– this pod has become another reminder of the crisis in which we find ourselves.

Loggerhead Hatchling

Each of us is alive at this time to bear witness to this decline in global well-being of all life and health. Overpopulation of humans stretches resources to a breaking point coupled with reckless exploitation of fossil fuels and use of toxic chemicals…no need to review the many ways humans are failing our own life support system.

For too long we have viewed this sacred Earth as a resource to exploit. Surely we cannot be surprised at the rapid changes created by our careless behaviors.

Many of us feel helpless as we stand witness to an administration that values money and power with absolutely no regard to compassion and love–the very basic tenants of what the great masters have taught us. The empathic ones are especially suffering because we feel the intense suffering of many species, including humans.

So what can we do?

I suggest that instead of turning away from our pain and grief we join Tahlequah as she mourns. Shed tears for her loss, the loss of salmon that feed her pod, pollutants they carry in their bodies, health of humans in decline, separation of children from families, polar bears loss of vital hunting ice, penguins loss of snow, sea turtles and manatees dying of toxic red tide, out-of-control forest fires destroying many areas of the planet, plastic pollution….

Increase practices that help maintain balance….walks in nature, yoga, prayer, meditation, drumming, singing, dancing, creating art.

Join with others to strengthen these efforts. Connecting with others of like-mind and intention is a powerful antidote to the feeling of helplessness. For example, the drum circle that meets at my home has increased our meeting frequency to help us through this challenging time.

Stop watching the news and read it from a trusted source (such as NPR). Unplug from social media one day a week (or more). Refrain from practicing hate and stop giving your energy to those in power who thrive on attention…any kind of attention.

When you feel despair at the state of the world remember there are others who feel it, too. There are others whose hearts are breaking with sadness over Tahlequah’s loss and cry when they see an injured bird or a lost dog or cat. Or who mourn the loss of species, decline in ocean health….Reach out to others. Join together in compassion and love. Work together.

Celebrate beauty! Let us be mindful of this amazing, profound beauty still abounding even as species die and other landscapes crumble. Rejoicing in what is still beautiful cultivates appreciation that ripples outward from your heart and mind to others. Share beauty on social media and express it through art, writing, dancing, speaking…let us help each other remember.

Mostly importantly, please remember you are not alone in your grief and sadness…and outrage. As we cultivate unity and the qualities of compassion and love I suspect the shifts we have longed for will emerge. Every other way has failed….perhaps its time to give peace a chance*…. and love….and compassion. The reign of anger and hatred is over only when we choose something different.

*John Lennon….Give Peace a Chance. All we are saying is give peace a chance. All we are saying is give peace a chance.