Tag: Underwater Photography

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.
A Call to Opening

A Call to Opening

Amid the pain and suffering we are called to open our hearts and minds. Within the cloud of grief and sadness, the only thing that will save us is opening….allowing the emotions to flow through with the breath.

Breathing in I feel the pain and suffering of the world. Breathing out I see this moving through my heart and out into the world, now transformed into compassion, kindness, love.

Have the courage to look upon the face of what’s happening, to feel the emotions of grief, frustration, anger and let them move through the conscious intention of transforming through love.

Keep breathing. Keep opening. Keep loving.

Let our collective mantra be Go in Peace, Go in Compassion, Go in Kindness, Go in Love. Allow these words to move through our hearts out into the world…over and over and over.

Vision of the Path

Vision of the Path

It’s easy to write about beauty and adventures into underwater places. That’s my happy place…the blissful realm where I feel more myself than when walking on two legs and land-bound. But when I find myself feeling consistently stuck, it’s not so easy to put into words the experience of knowing the gifts I have to give are not being fully utilized, especially when our society needs more expression of beauty and especially more expression of Ocean beauty. After all, the Ocean is our life-source.

Recently I read an article where photographer and writer Cristina Mittermeier was interviewed. She said, “But I think the thing that I was most afraid of was becoming the most mediocre version of myself.”  I realized that’s where I’m stuck….in this mediocre me. And this terrifies me because I see the incredible need our planet has for everyone that feels the call to help, to step forward…to leap forward and give the best of themselves.

It’s interesting to share the feeling of being stuck with friends. Most want to talk me out of my feelings, convince me otherwise by listing what I do. In a conversation with one of my precious friends last night, she was listing my accomplishments and I felt anger….I know what I do….but I feel stuck! Her beautiful supportive words cannot erase my experience, my knowing that I can do so much more…the feeling of being not quite where I know I can be is very challenging to wrestle with and I expect many of us feel this way.

I want to help! I want to show the world the beauty of the Ocean! The fragility of it. The delicate balance we dance when we ignore the warning signs. So where are the open doors? And why am I stuck? Finally….understanding is dawning.

Years ago I met a guy. We ‘clicked’ and the vision of my path included him…in a very powerful way. We went on dive trips, shared cycling adventures, and he was the biggest believer in my path and work I had ever known. He saw me and the work I felt called to do like no other. The path, the vision I held so strongly, was us moving forward together.

Five years have passed since we last saw each other and there have been Ocean adventures with humpback whales, sea lions, whale sharks, dolphins…incredible encounters…and these experiences have led to books and presentations and the work going out into the world. And that’s awesome! But the feeling of being stuck continued until last night when I realized I had not updated the vision of my path. In some way I was attempting to live now with an outdated script.

It’s like operating your computer with an old operating system. The new input can’t work in the old system. At some point you have to remember to update the OS and reboot. Then all the new information coming in can work smoothly, effortlessly.

I wonder how many of us operate with old visions of what we want for our lives. When something works and we feel the power of it and set the course for our lives energy rushes in to fill the dream with power. Sometimes…and perhaps many times….we forget to update our vision, our dreams, when circumstances change. We forget to update the operating system. And then the ‘computer’ freezes.

One of my favorite writers said if you believe what you are doing is really powerful, the thought forms you construct will come clear and be highly dynamic. If you have no real faith in what you are doing, your thought forms will have no clear outline. Dion Fortune wrote this during World War II when meditation groups joined together to keep Hitler from invading England….before quantum physics told us that our thoughts are impulses of energy that affect our lives in a powerful way.

Perhaps I depended on my best friend, husband, partner and dive buddy to keep me on track by his incredible support. When that was gone I was lost. And that’s exactly how my path has felt….like I was space-walking with no gravity to pull me toward a destination.

The solution? First, realize that I needed a new vision. Then, commit fully to what I believe in and believe in myself and the vision of my life….the new vision I am creating. What about you? What is the vision for your life? When is the last time you uploaded a newer version and rebooted your life? Let’s do it and get on with the work at hand. We’ve got a lot to do.

Waiting

Waiting

As I was cycling today I dropped into inner stillness. As I pedaled and pondered, realization dawned. The angst over the past several months is rooted in a feeling of concern that we will wake up too late.

When I was studying Outdoor Recreation and Resource Management at Auburn many years ago, the curriculum took me on a journey through the great conservationist’s efforts. I read of John Muir who journeyed on foot through the wilds of the Sierra Nevada and Alaska. I read about his walk from Indiana to the Florida Keys in 1867. Through his diary entries the sacred beauty he experienced in Nature as well as the heartbreak he felt at the destruction of vast lands to fill pockets of the wealthy was evident. His writings heavily influenced the creation of places we now know as Yosemite National Park, Sequoia, Mount Rainer, Petrified Forest, Grand Canyon and more.

Film maker Ken Burns had this to say about him: “As we got to know him he ascended to the pantheon of the highest individuals in our country; I’m talking about the level of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Thomas Jefferson and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Jackie Robinson–people who have had a transformational effect on who we are.” Muir’s writings inspired Teddy Roosevelt to create conservation programs and the first national monument…Yosemite National Park.

As I reflect on his life, John Muir reminds me that one person can indeed make a huge difference. Activism, people caring enough to be involved in whatever way their passion leads them is what makes a country great. Not hate, not violence. Love….for places, people…whatever the heart whispers.

And then after lunch I read where the new US government administration wants to allow oil and gas drilling in these sacred lands that John Muir lovingly championed in the late 1800’s. I was torn between wanting to: 1) Scream at the greedy individuals ‘leading’ our country into darkness; 2) Express shock at their unapologetic push to deregulate protection for our environment; and 3) Sit and wait for inspiration to come so I might be a person that makes a difference.

“There is nothing more eloquent in Nature than a mountain stream, and this is the first I ever saw. Its banks are luxuriantly peopled with rare and lovely flowers and overarching trees, making one of Nature’s coolest and most hospitable places. Every tree, every flower, every ripple and eddy of this lovely stream seemed solemnly to feel the presence of the great Creator.” Muir wrote this September 12, 1867 about a branch of the Clinch River in the Cumberland Mountains.

He wrote this about the Oneness of all life. “There is not a fragment in all nature, for every relative fragment of one thing is a full harmonious unit in itself. All together form the one grand palimpsest of the world.”

“Muir was a quintessential romantic frontier figure. Unarmed, carrying only a few crusts of bread, a tin cup, a small portion of tea, a notebook and a few scientific instruments, Muir walked into the vastness of the Sierras to search out truths. Single-minded, he did not hesitate to challenge the accepted authorities and their explanations regarding the wilderness he loved; he formulated his own theories and carefully searched out the evidence….he was an activist. He not only explored the west and wrote about its beauties–he fought for their protection….In the forests and national parks he helped to preserve, he gave the natural world back to the people of America.” Frank E. Buske wrote this in the introduction to Wilderness Essays.

Why are we so willing to have our sacred lands–set aside because of their beauty and uniqueness–raped and ravaged by greedy politicians and their backers? My heart is breaking as each day brings a new onslaught of attacks against our environment and the places held most sacred by those who saw this great country before it was developed. When we fail to remember history, we are destined to be destroyed by ourselves.

While I have screamed–and quite honestly scared my dog and cats and quite possibly the neighbors–and I have expressed shock to my friends and companions, today I find myself more at peace with waiting…for inspiration, the right door opening, the right phone call that leads to opportunity to share my work with more people.

I long to wander like Muir and connect with the magnificence of Nature and feel first-hand the spark of the Divine that lives within all life. And like him, write with passion to inspire others to care. And with my cameras capture the essence of life that shines so brightly if we take the time to see it in a flower, a stream, a dolphin, a frog, a mountain.

It may seem as if I am doing nothing sometimes but this pause reminds me: I am like an arrow being slowly drawn through a bow. With steady determination and a sense of purpose my work will find its mark. Let us remember that everything we do makes a difference. We are part of the solution. Let us rise up to protect that which we love.