Dancing with Light and Clouds

Dancing with Light and Clouds

_TSL2215I awoke a little before 3am and wrote about a dream I had. Once I finished writing it was after 3.30am and sleep never returned. I heard rumbles of thunder in the distance and decided to get up, grab my camera and tripod and go to the beach for a stormy sunrise shoot. Our turtle team had a sea turtle nest to process later in the early morning hours so why not go early?

_TSL2236When I arrived at the beach it was as if a trapdoor opened and water poured from the sky. According to my radar app it wouldn’t last long so I waited and attached my tripod bracket to the camera as the rain passed through. I wore my GoreTex rain jacket to protect my camera if the heavy clouds offshore changed direction and headed my way.

_TSL2248It was barely light as I walked through wet sand. Lightning was streaking and touching the horizon but according to Spark, my lightning app, it was over 13 miles offshore. The light, clouds and smooth surface of the Gulf soon had all of my attention and I hurriedly attached camera to tripod and began a dance with light and clouds.

_TSL2365The orange-gold light in the eastern sky was softened by low clouds. To the south heavy clouds, nearly touching the surface of the water, created layers of grays, blues, whites with hints of orange. I’ve had friends shooting with me ask what settings I used to achieve certain results and its difficult for me to answer because I don’t think in terms of f-stops and shutter speed. I think about light and saturation of color. I feel the shot I want to capture and simply adjust my camera settings to achieve the emotion I want to share.

_TSL2301The artistry of photography, for me anyway, is to connect with a place or animal and notice the emotion I feel from the connection. From this connection I want to create an image that translates the connection…the emotion…to the photograph and ultimately to viewers.

I do not want to just take good photographs. The experience is why I do it…the connection draws me back to the same places again and again. I go deeper into the essence of the place and myself. I focus on the flow of energy between the place, animals that live there and self.


_TSL2252Dancing with light and color is much better than getting a full night of sleep.

Finding Peace

Finding Peace

SimoneLipscomb (8)Jesse Norman’s beautiful voice blended with the strings as she sang Vier latest Lieder: IV. Im Abendrot. During breakfast I had been reading Thousand Mile Song about…well, what else…whales. Lately I have immersed myself in all things whale, from scientific to spiritual in an effort to gain understanding of their wisdom.

SimoneLipscomb (106)Since spending a week with humpback whales in March my life hasn’t been the same. As I sat on the top deck of the large boat making its way back to land after being moored 80 miles offshore, I watched humpbacks. Already filled with emotion and listening to Whales Alive, I spotted a large pectoral fin rise up out of the water and slap over and over again. With each slap I cried harder. My entire life had been leading me to humpbacks and now I was leaving them. Yet the large whale lazily slapping her 15 foot pectoral fin created a communion between us that I will always remember.

SimoneLipscomb (39)Integrating the many powerful moments with humpbacks into my daily has been difficult. After such a life-changing experience how can I return to land, to life without their magnificent presence?

SimoneLipscomb (7)Recently I have made progress by spending time in meditation… listening… connecting. Reading more about quantum physics and understanding that we really are One with all life has helped me bring a deeper awareness of humpback whales and all of nature into my mind. The deep, profound peace I experienced with a mother humpback and her calf is returning as I spend time in stillness and silence….listening.

SimoneLipscomb (67)This morning, the sweet music called me to embody the mother humpback in movement. My excessively long arms became pectoral fins and I made peace with my body and the fact that sleeves are rarely long enough. As a humpback whale my graceful, long ‘arms’ would give me the ability to breach and turn and call to lovers with powerful slaps on the water’s surface.

SimoneLipscomb (81)As I moved gently and slowly with the music, allowing the essence of the whale to fill me, tears flowed and profound peace enveloped me. My relationship with humpbacks continues to unfold and their beauty and wisdom guides me as I surrender…opening deeper, deeper into the stillness of my own being.

Tilting at Windmills

Tilting at Windmills

Pablo Picasso's Don Quixote
Pablo Picasso’s Don Quixote

“Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them. With their spoils we shall begin to be rich for this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the face of the earth is a service God will bless.” Thus spoke Don Quixote in the novel written in the early 1600’s.

Equipment removing tar mats from Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge Summer 2010
Equipment removing tar mats from Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge Summer 2010

There are times when I feel very much like Don Quixote. He might not have doubted his sanity but I doubt mine as I work to bring light to the environmental issues facing all of us. It feels like an unrealistic, impractical or even impossible goal. It may be noble but sometimes it seems completely unrealistic and perhaps even delusional.

SimoneLipscomb (7)The goal I set for myself is to be a bridge between nature and humanity. A bridge that raises awareness, increases communication and ultimately helps human and non-human life.

SimoneLipscomb (1)I believe the only way to help the planet is to help humans connect with…fall in love with…nature. This love will create compassion, care and wise stewardship. But there are days when it just feels as if the windmills…or oil rigs…or congressmen…or CEO’s…..really are hulking giants that will continue to destroy our Ocean planet…no matter how many crazy people like me write, photograph, document, sing or raise awareness through positive action.

SimoneLipscomb (5)There is no Sancho friend on this journey with me so at times the journey seems lonely. Yet today, as I cycled through the backcountry of Gulf State Park, I was reminded that humans are a part of nature. Every plant, animal, insect…everything is connected like diamonds in a web. So therefore, I am never alone. And neither are you. Perhaps our greatest error is to think we are separate, alone, divorced from that which sustains us.

SimoneLipscomb (10)For the past nine years I have dedicated my life to working full-time to help people connect with nature through writing, photography and videography. Living off of retirement funds and investing in equipment, book publication and travel to document unique places or species and to present programs to anyone who will listen, I have many times doubted my sanity. Why not just relax and forget this work?

SimoneLipscomb (8)Because…..Love knows no boundaries. I came into this life to make a positive difference and even if I’m tilting at those proverbial windmills, at least I am doing something.

SimoneLipscomb (9)
Latest version of the cover of my new book

The past couple of days have been challenging and pesky doubts have arisen. But when I checked my mailbox today I had another partner for my new book, Manatee Mindfulness, with a note from my friend that said, “You’re doing great work Simone! Rock on!”

Perhaps I’m not delusional after all. I’m thankful for the reminder from sweet friends! And from nature that reminded me today of the web of life that connects all life to this Ocean planet. We are always connected, never alone.

Whale Dreamer

Whale Dreamer

SimoneLipscomb (7)Whales are back in my dreams. It all started somewhere in the dark, rainy night when storms passed through washing everything clean. In the dreamtime I found myself at my brother’s barn. A large alligator was strolling by (evidently they do stroll) and decided to come inside the barn with me.

SimoneLipscomb (6)Not fond of close contact with alligators, I picked up a large stick and tried to hit the alligator but the bony, armored plates underneath the thick, lizard skin made the stick bounce off him. Since that didn’t work I simply stopped reacting in fear and began to talk to the alligator. He understood that he and I couldn’t share close quarters and thus moved out of the barn and continued his walk.

SimoneLipscomb (8)I awakened briefly and smiled in that half groggy/half awake place. Fear had been dealt with properly. Perhaps it was the Buddhist studies that helped me communicate with reason instead of knee-jerk fear and violence.

SimoneLipscomb (13)Back in the dreamtime I found myself floating in the Ocean with whales. I was in deep communion with them as I hovered with them, weightless in the salty sea. Peace. Amazing peace.

SimoneLipscomb (9)Another dream segment…but this time with musicians I know. The setting was the upper room of a venue that had very unique ways musicians “played.” Sort of the Circ de Sole of musicians. I didn’t know The Mulligan Brothers could fly or that Willie Sugarcapps could glide with grace across the floor on magic skates. In the dream I was videoing them and posting on Facebook.

SimoneLipscomb (179)Finally, I was back on the Ocean looking for whale blows. Gazing out into the horizon I saw the misty, white exhalation of a humpback whale. It was close enough that I could smell the fishy breath, that salty incense that delighted me a few weeks ago when it enfolded me.

SimoneLipscomb (81)I am not certain how to interpret the musicians “playing” in my dream nor how my future and humpback whales will be interwoven. I am certain of one thing though: I am a whale dreamer.

The Jewels of Alabama

The Jewels of Alabama

SimoneLipscomb (8)Today as I was cycling through the backcountry of Gulf State Park, I reflected on how much this beautiful conservation area has meant to me throughout my life. The recent threat to close the majority of Alabama State Parks by the governor prompted an inner exploration of how the park’s past and mine are interwoven.

SimoneLipscomb (5)It was such a lovely morning with blue sky, low humidity  and temperatures in the 70’s. Pedaling through live oak forests, pine forests, marshes and swamps I felt so fortunate to be able to live close enough to enjoy the trails. And I thought how people who live near parks scheduled to close will lose their special places that perhaps they have enjoyed throughout their lifetime.

SimoneLipscomb (9)My first memory of Gulf State Park was swimming in Lake Shelby as a toddler. The dark, tea-colored water always scared me, even with my trusty rubber ducky. It’s still a popular place to cool off on a hot summer day.

State Park Naturalist with one of my favorite winter friends who appreciated my love of organic foods.
Me as Gulf State Park Naturalist with one of my favorite winter friends who appreciated my love of organic foods.

My summer jobs in high school and college were at Gulf State Park with the naturalist program, at the campground and at park headquarters. After completing my undergraduate studies at Auburn I was hired as park naturalist. My passion was educating people about the beauty and sacredness of over 4000 acres of land and water, protected from encroaching development. But my frustration grew as money, greed and politics were always placed over conservation and protection, even with a great park superintendent trying to maintain balance.

SimoneLipscomb (12)When my daughter was born we lived in Gulf Shores and enjoyed the beaches, lakes and trails even when she was very young. And after moving away, I always wanted to visit the park and take her so she would know it…know its treasures.

Emily at Lake Shelby
Emily at Lake Shelby

So many memories of the park are connected with my daughter. Much of what I wanted to pass along to her as an environmental ethic began in this state park.

I took Emily and Kevin's engagement photographs in the park
I took Emily and Kevin’s engagement photographs in the park

Many milestones of my life have been celebrated at this beautiful place and today, as I pedaled through forests of live oaks and white sand, I remembered many wonderful times with joy…tempered with sadness for people who could lose their special state parks due to the governor robbing them…robbing us…of some of the most sacred places in our state.

SimoneLipscomb (14)John Muir said, “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”  “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”

He was born in 1838 and worked his entire life to create protected areas such as Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Mt. Rainer and Sequoia. I have thought of him often after discovering the plans the governor has for our state parks. How long will voting residents allow this kind of behavior to continue? Perhaps his next move is to open public jewels such as our parks for fracking….or worse.

SimoneLipscomb (21)“When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money.” Cree Proverb. We think it’s not possible. We deny that it could ever happen. But it is happening and the assault is being led by people we elect to serve us and to protect our resources.

Gulf State Park Summer 2010
Gulf State Park Summer 2010

Note: Today it was reported that the governor has put a stay on closing the parks May 1st. A stay of execution? He is looking for funds in other areas. Why….WHY!!! is conservation always the very first department to be de-funded? In the grand ‘scheme’ of things it makes absolutely no sense.