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.

The Tower Crumbles

The Tower Crumbles

The other night in meditation, a very strong vision came and I watched with discomfort as the Tower I stood on with my white horse started to crumble. But it wasn’t crumbling from any outer force. It was falling apart because the horse and I were striking it. The white horse reared up and used both front feet to begin the destruction and I slid off her back and grabbed a sledge hammer and aided her. Then I saw my child self and teenage self arrive and begin to work with us. There came a point when the energy was so intense the three parts of myself were hitting each other and the guide intervened and reminded us not to turn on each other. Then as the Tower fell, the horse took the three of us to safety on her back. The ground turned to boiling lava so the horse flew us to safety…a green pasture beside a clear stream. The edge collapsed and we went into the water where we were washed clean.

It wasn’t the most peaceful meditation. It was more of a journey into the reality of what is happening not just in my life but with all of us. The old paradigm is crumbling and the process is scary and filled with danger. We even turn on others we care about in the process of dismantling the old way of living.

Today I was opening boxes I packed nearly a year ago when I had a near-sale of my home and the buyers were pushing me to get out quickly. When they ghosted, I never bothered to unpack. So I decided to open all the boxes and get rid of more stuff…if I haven’t used it why keep it?

I came to a box of books on the Ocean, whales and dolphins…some of my most precious books. When I started looking at them I stopped and hugged the box to me and wept deeply for my cetacean brothers and sisters and our beautiful seas and all life that hangs in a very precarious place. I allowed myself to feel the grief and be with feelings of great sadness.

What a strange time to be alive. We are watching the old paradigm be challenged every day and it rears up and shows its abusive self…but we are collectively taking it down….piece by piece.

It’s a time of intense emotions and fears and great anger at what is being done to innocent children and wildlife and wild places. Ultimately compassion and kindness and a deep, fierce love and devotion is what is needed. The kind of love that stands up and says…NO MORE! We are experiencing the old paradigm die within ourselves and in the world around us.

This is a time when we need to forge bonds of love and compassion and reach out to those experiencing difficulties….and who isn’t these days? It’s not a time to isolate ourselves even though we might need time alone to access stillness and inner silence. A phone call, a visit, an email or text….are you okay, friend?

The new is found within the old so as we witness and feel the old falling away, let us be mindful of the seeds of new awaiting nurturing so they can take root and grow and thrive. Water those new seeds, give attention to what you wish to create.

Stay hydrated, rest, take time to be still and quiet, eat well, talk to friends who understand, talk to a life/spiritual coach, be outdoors, get a massage, take a salt bath. Take loving care for you are birthing a new world from within yourself.

The Underlying Current

The Underlying Current

“The spirit of Walter Anderson thanks you.” This comment, while I was documenting the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in 2010, meant more than any other. It fueled me to keep going when the fumes, death and poisoning of sea creatures weighed me down with unbearable grief.

Part of mural from The Little Room, by Walter Inglis Anderson

Having a background as a state park naturalist and lover of the natural world, Walter Inglis Anderson’s words, drawings and paintings inspired me to connect deeply with elements of nature–not just animals, land and sea, but spatially through geometries of light and shadow.

Decades since his book, The Horn Island Logs, was published I have written and photographed many wondrous places and creatures in nature but more importantly, I have interacted with mountains, coasts, humpback whales, dolphins, sea lions, waterfalls, trees…I connect with much more than form, on a deep level.

I’m not concerned with only the technical aspects of a good photograph. I want to connect with the essence behind form. When I am in nature…underwater or in a forest….I simply show up and ask to be shown the light behind the physical manifestation. I have no agenda other than to be an observer wherever I find myself…with a camera, notepad or stripped of anything but my heart and mind to receive whatever gift is offered.

A while ago someone sent me information about an application for an exhibit at Walter Anderson Museum of Art. I’m not one to apply for exhibits and competitions, but the intention of the exhibit spoke to me so I applied. The subject was the human connection to water and I knew the exact image I would submit.

A small group of us were on a photography trip to Bimini to photograph  a friendly, resident pod of spotted dolphins. At some point during one of our days with the pod I stopped, as is often the case, to drink in the beauty of color, light and form. My friend Susan was preparing to photograph approaching dolphins. The reflections and light were surreal and I lifted my heavy, underwater housing and fired off one shot. The dolphins were so fast and Susan was swimming fast so there was one chance to capture what I felt as I communed with the sea and Her creatures.

That shot now hangs in the Water, Water exhibit at Walter Anderson Museum of Art (WAMA).

I was excited for it to be chosen yet it felt almost destined. Even as I applied I fully expected that image to be part of the exhibit…very unlike my usual low expectations. But the real magic for me was when I delivered the print.

Mural painting by Walter Inglis Anderson in Community Center, Ocean Springs, MS

When I dropped off the print,  Bea–one of the museum employees– invited me to look around. I went to the Community Center, attached to the museum, that was filled with a mural painted by Walter Anderson many years ago. It was as if the spirit of Walter swept around me and I begin remembering how deeply his work influenced me over 30 years ago, when I first viewed the room.

Mural painting by Walter Inglis Anderson, Community Center in Ocean Springs, MS

Tears filled my eyes as a part of me seemed to slip back into full embodiment of this life, this present moment where my art somehow interacted with his art and a circle was closed…like everything finally made sense.

Mural painting by Walter Anderson, The Little Room

During the two-night opening of the exhibit I listened as John Anderson, Walter’s son, shared about his relationship with his father and about his dad’s work. I was taken to a greater understanding of myself as I listened and was able to chat with John and share how his dad’s work influenced me.

John said his dad was shunned, a sort of outcast in the Ocean Springs community because he isolated himself and lived on Horn Island. It resonated with me. So deeply am I connected to nature and the energy behind it all that I rarely feel as if I fit in with this consumer-driven world. I could happily spend my days and nights exploring woodlands and shores, climbing trails on mountains…so profoundly does solitude appeal to me. It’s only in the quiet and solitary ways of observance that I feel home in my skin.

Another new exhibit at WAMA focuses on Walter as Artist, Naturalist & Mystic. Yes! was the only word that came to mind as I reflected on my own life.

I remembered a morning surrounded by humpback whales in the pre-dawn darkness anchored 90 miles off the Dominican Republic. Fishy exhalations of the whales were illuminated in the moonlight and kissed my skin as they drifted in the warm air. As I did morning yoga the whales came closer and closer to the boat. I felt myself open to the Universe, ocean and whales–there was no separation, only perfect communion.  Since then I have known that communion to be as sacred and holy as any experience. It is my touchstone to purpose and presence here on this magnificent Ocean Planet.

There was no conscious memory of how Walter Anderson influenced me, but as I reflect back after viewing his murals and sketches from Horn island, it was as if he was a silent mentor riding an underlying current with me on the journey with whales, dolphins, sea lions, manatees. It is like he has been encouraging me simply from his audacity to do what called him to life.

Who knows how this life journey works. Something guided a friend (can’t remember who) to send me information on the exhibit. And the entire process brought me full circle to a place where I felt the spirit of Walter Anderson saying, “Well done.”

Mural painting by Walter Inglis Anderson in The Little Room

To have such deep love for the planet and all Her creatures and witness the destruction of so much is nearly unbearable. I only hope my work–through words, images, painting–helps connect human animals to that which they are part of–even if they have forgotten. May we all remember…and fall back in love with that from which we come.

Unaware my friend ‘Auntie’ Eydie was taking my photo, the unposed, pure love of his work shines through…in The Little Room.
Reunion at the Pub

Reunion at the Pub

Today my friend Gabriela and I made the journey to a local pub….unfortunately it wasn’t in Ireland…but it was Irish. We celebrated the anniversary of our journey to the west coast of Ireland last year. A year ago we were packing to go….today we were both sharing how we miss Ireland every single day.

In the walk back through time via my journal, I read about Fanore Beach…”We hit the tide just right and could photograph the sky reflected in tidal pools. The rivulets reminded me of watery veins–and how the sea is in my blood…in all of our blood.”

We drove north afterwards and stopped by a store/post office. The clerk had a freshly made Brigid’s Cross. I commented on it and told her we planned our trip to coincide with Brigid’s Day. She gifted me with the cross. She said her sister made it and she would get another one. I was moved to tears as Brigid was such a powerful healing force when I visited Ireland months earlier. That cross still sits on my altar and reminds me of kindness and Ireland.

Later we visited the Poulnabrone Dolmen, a portal tomb from the Neolithic Period….4200 BC to 2900 BC. Being February, there were not many people. I wanted to play my new Irish whistle after photographing the site. It was very windy and a rain/sleet storm blew in quickly. Everyone left and I was there…alone but not really. I sensed a strong presence there. I stayed behind determined to offer music to those that rested there. The wind made playing very challenging but as I played with my heart, under sleet and heavy rain clouds, the rain stopped.

I watched as the sun split the clouds. The sky turned amazing blue and I was able to capture delicious images of the structure. In the photographs it appears as though the clouds are being pushed away from the top of the stone….a clearing of sorts. I felt it was a thank you for the music, or my attempt at music, and good intentions.

Several times while connecting with nature in Ireland, I had immediate experiences returned after I wished the spirits well. It felt as if the Shining Ones were right there, barely hidden by a thin veil. I wrote a message I heard from them in my journal, “You are one with us…Ta’ tu’ ar cheann linn.”

After Gabriela and I parted this afternoon, in Alabama, I realized that seeing her brought such joy and sadness….joy because she’s an awesome person and friend and she reminds me of Ireland and sadness because she reminds me of Ireland. It was a while before we saw each other after we returned last year. I felt the need to withdraw but never understood until today. I noticed I felt like I did when I was a child and left the Smoky Mountains….withdrawn, sad, didn’t want to leave …I had emotional pain every time I left those sacred mountains. It’s the same with Ireland. Today, as we sat in the Irish pub in Pensacola, all the great memories of our travels last February came back and I cherish them, even when remembering makes me miss Ireland even more.

I suspect each of us has a place or places that speak strongly to our hearts. The mountains of North Carolina have spoken to me since childhood. Celtic spirituality has spoken to me since my teenage years and has remained the basis of my deep connection to Nature and God. It lead me to Ireland.

It is my wish that everyone connect strongly with a place…a place they can visit and return to….maybe live in even….and allow that place to touch their hearts deeply, profoundly. When we open to connections such as this, we open to wholeness and a profound sense of being alive and at one with all life.





A Living Landscape

A Living Landscape

John O’Donohue often wrote or spoke about the Irish way of experiencing the landscape. Long ago the goddess Eriu, was sovereign over Her land. The modern name Eire evolved from the name of the goddess. So people of Ireland have a long history of living in sacred relationship with the landscape.

When I visited Ireland in September 2017 and again last February, I was amazed at how present the spirits of the land and sea were with me. I simply had to cast a thought or feeling out to nature and was immediately enveloped with a deep connection to the place. Since returning, I have puzzled over this phenomena.

For example, one of the places my friend and I stayed was a newer holiday home development. It was near Clifden on the west coast and on a small river. The energy felt ‘off’ there. Like something was amiss….not dangerous or seedy but like there was imbalance.

The morning after sleeping the only night there, I walked out along the edge of the forest overlooking the river. It snowed during the night so it was quite lovely. I took my newly purchased Low D Irish Whistle and stood along the woodland and played it with the intention of gratitude for the spirits there. As soon as I began I felt the energy shift and it was as if the spirits were peeking out from hiding places.

I kept playing with the same intention and started looking around and saw, buried beneath snow and brambles, trash from the construction that had been tossed over the edge. It was an obvious disconnection from the beauty and disrespect for the spirits of the land. With ease I sensed their appreciation for someone noticing and remembering them. I wept in the cold, freezing snow as I sensed the return flow of gratitude.

It wasn’t until I was finishing my newest book, The Stone Hut, I realized the answer to a question that haunted me since I first returned from Ireland. The question was this: How can I connect so effortlessly with the energies of nature in Ireland and here, in the United States, it’s like they are guarded, wary and often unwilling to connect. Understanding finally dawned as I watched John O’Donohue’s video, A Celtic Pilgrimage, for the ga-zillionth time.

Irish people have had a genuine love and appreciation for a living landscape that goes back literally ages. For some reason, the deep immersion of writing about ancient Ireland in my book and O’Donohue’s explanation helped me understand that in the US, the land here has been ‘conquered’ and put to use with little care or concern. It’s the anthesis of walking into a living landscape….it’s walking into open space and nothing more–empty space ready for development and building and conquering.

I suspect this is the fundamental problem with the US as we see the terrible darkness emerge from the collective unconscious of our foundation. We can blame a government administration but in reality I offer that the true difficulty lies in the way in which this country was began….conquering of sovereign, native people–with deep respect for the land–by invaders that declared themselves lord over every tree, animal, river, and rock.

No wonder the spirits of the land are hesitant to connect with humans. Centuries of two-legged domination would make the most beautiful of spirits wary…rightly so.

I have longed to return to Ireland, to live there along the west coast. The amazing spiritual energy is still very much intact–a rarity in this increasingly manic world. What I discovered, in writing The Stone Hut, was a call to wholeness within myself from which all relationships can be birthed. I don’t know if I’ll ever live there, but wherever I live I will be more conscious of what I bring to the living landscape and what I can do to cherish and protect it and all life there.

My first thought, in writing this blog, was it was a way to procrastinate the tedious process of formatting my book for E-book reading. While it began as that, it unfolded into something I have wanted to piece together and express for a very long time.

Look for my new e-book, The Stone Hut, coming very soon. It’s a story that crosses time and place set in ancient and modern-day Ireland. Archetypal characters take readers beyond the two characters to the realm of soul.