Category: Eco-Spirituality

The Flow

The Flow

Sometimes I stand at the edge of flowing water and am overwhelmed that it flows….and flows….and flows….and flows. It’s easy if I walk by with just an appreciative glance and continue on my way. But when I take the time to allow the flow to move me…move within me…I am inevitably drawn to the idea of this universal flow of life that is constant, ever-offering itself to us. Every moment. Every day. On and on and on. And sometimes it feels as if it’s just too much to take in, to receive.

Waterfalls especially remind me of the universal flow of abundance. The ones with a high flow volume seem to invite me to open deeper and present the question, Can you open more…and then a little more…and how about just a little bit more. As I stand at the base of the falls where the water is perpetually pounding the rocks below, I think of the flow of abundance of Life Force and Love available to all of us and often discover a bit of discomfort at my inability to open and receive. 

The other day I was wading up Bradley Fork creek and in one place the water was rushing a bit faster. I had to stop, not so much because it was faster water but because I thought of that endless flow of energy, illustrated by the creek’s flow, and it felt overwhelming for just a moment. Wow…this flow…it’s always flowing…can I stand in the middle of it? Can I open to it and be part of it?

Do I expect the Source to dry up? When I discover it never stops can I take in the goodness, the perpetual flow of Life presenting itself to me?

I suspect we are a cynical people. Blasted with bad news in a non-stop media circus that makes huge amounts of money on delivering the sad, the bad and the ugly we are programmed to expect a flow of negative experience and have hardened defenses erected to protect our beautiful selves from this onslaught of misery. 

When the flow of goodness and joy and life-enhancing experiences come our way, we might miss them or even block them if our defenses detect an intruder into our lives. So we might walk past the waterfall rather than stop and see if that Life Force can open the crevices in our defenses and risk feeling….anything.

Maybe this is just a personal experience and unique only to me…but I doubt it. 

I sit here this morning reflecting on the many times flowing water has challenged me, scared me. You cannot stop the flow. You cannot fight the flow; you must work with it. If you fall into whitewater you must surrender to the flow, look downstream, keep your feet up and ride the river…wait for an eddy. Perhaps it’s the surrender part that scares me. Letting go of control…..

If I open myself to the flow of Life it will carry me but what if I don’t want to go there? What if it takes me places that are frightening? Or….what if it takes me to incredible experiences of love and joy? When we surrender we let go of control. We trust the flow of goodness and ride the flow, become the river. 

Trying to control life keeps us from experiencing it. That’s what flowing water teaches me. I’m not suggesting we literally jump into a waterfall to gain understanding of this principle but I am suggesting allowing the waterfall to assist us in trusting the flow, opening to it and allowing it to carry us to new understanding of living. Of freedom.

Beyond the Fish

Beyond the Fish

A trout dinner gifted to me by a friend visiting from coastal Alabama is to blame. This trout changed the course of my life. We sat on my front porch enjoying delicious fish from the Bistro in Bryson City after a nice walk at Deep Creek and chatted about life and women traveling and the sort of things middle-aged wild women talk about when they gather. But the trout, now a part of my body, began speaking to me. 

Around that same time my neighbors and I went to Forney Creek and hiked. They are fly fishers and have grand times on the many, many creeks and rivers here in the far western corner of the North Carolina mountains. The beauty of that creek was profound…one of those places that takes a while to allow the depth of its magnificence to sink in. As we sat on the boulders of the creek eating lunch, I observed her listening to the water but not so much with her ears as with her other senses. She was in tune with it, a part of it. There was a shift in her energy as she sat with that creek, a deepening. I wondered if her love of fly fishing didn’t have more to do with the connection to the water and beauty as much as to the fish.

After those two experiences something in me asked the question: why don’t you try fly fishing? That same ‘voice’ asked me that same sort of question many years ago about scuba diving. Following through with training led to amazing adventures with Nature and people that totally changed my life and led to me become an instructor and cave diver and underwater photographer. So when I hear that ‘voice’ I pay attention.

The stimulus money bankrolled the gear and I still had some cash left to pay for essentials…dog and cat food…for a few months. Then I started watching fly fishing videos and reading and did this for many weeks with one casting session in the driveway.

My springtime walks to Deep Creek and Smokemont and other places in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park became wildflower pilgrimages as well as something else. There was some sort of magic happening around the water. I would stop and watch everything…the water movement, the still pools, the insects flying over the water, the shade….everything began to merge into a beautiful whole as the many aspects of the creeks were observed. I found myself dropping into a deeper stillness and my focus was perfectly present. You don’t have to pick up a rod to begin. For me the beginning was learning to pay attention, to let the creeks teach me.

Only then was I ready to pick up a rod. I needed a class as videos and books only go so far; however, nobody was offering classes due to Covid. The shop in Townsend, Tennessee where I bought most of my gear, Little River Outfitters, suggested Trout Zone Anglers and they connected me with a guide who was willing to instruct. So we booked a six hour trip on Bradley Fork and the Oconoluftee River.

After Travis took me through the steps of setting up gear, he took the time to show me larvae on the rocks and explained the insects that lived part of their life cycle in the creek or around it and how their lives were intertwined with the fish. As we stood in the creek looking at insect larvae casings I realized that fly fishing was learning about the entire ecosystem. It wasn’t about catching fish…at least not for me. It was going to teach me how to truly learn the connections of life in a mountain creek…to learn more about Oneness. How life is truly interdependent.

We did catch and release rainbow trout, brown trout and I even caught myself with one of the hooks. But the biggest catch of all was to gain understanding in the interconnectedness of life. And to know that fly fishing goes way beyond the fish.

The Colors

The Colors

I stood on the moss-covered creek bank listening to the sound of flowing cold water. The intense purple of the dwarf crested irises was presented in such exquisite form. I’ve always loved these little flowers but this spring I have marveled at them, danced with them as the cool breeze rustled their velvety petals.

It’s not just the irises that are delighting me. There seems to be more wildflowers this year than I have ever noticed and the passion for seeing them, for being in their presence, for taking selfies with them has grown to the point of single-minded focus on my ambles through the national park.

Of course, the bright green of unfurling leaves excites me and the clear, cold water running over rounded rocks is amazing. But the colors…the colors. It’s a good thing I walk alone; otherwise, I would annoy any companion that had to witness my unbounded joy….oh LOOK! And there…look! OMG! That’s amazing. Oh, that’s a new one!! Yellow…white…purple…pink. Or perhaps the right companion is one who would be dancing with me or at least not stranding there all judgy. 

Today was off-the-scale amazing on my wander through my favorite national park area…maybe because it’s only eight miles from my home. Yesterday I returned to an area where a pink lady’s slipper was spotted a few days ago. I couldn’t find her but upon closer observation saw three blooming lady’s slippers. Then I went back a bit and found her, still not in full bloom. Lady’s slippers!!!! 

I think of these places as holy, sacred woodlands and when I slow down I see more beauty. John Muir once said he didn’t like the word ‘hike’ because if you hiked you had the goal of going from point A to point B and missed so much. He liked the word amble and he ambled all over…walking, meandering through some of the most pristine areas of North America, at the time. So I have adopted his word—amble.

I put aside my goal to walk a certain distance or to add to a list of trails I’ve covered or to be part of a milage club…although I think it’s amazing that people do that. I’ve become a person that walks and stops and absorbs the beauty without pushing for time and distance. A meanderer, a wanderer. That’s not to say I can’t push up a hill or past a rowdy group of annoying tourists…yes, they exist but thankfully not all tourists are annoying. It’s just now I want to be fully present with the surroundings….to see those jewels scattered along the forest floor. 

When we slow down and stop and linger we are able to truly take in the beauty….breathe in the beauty….feel ourselves as part of the living landscape. When we do that we can never feel alone.

Hours after the flower visit, the colors are vibrant in my body–circulating through my blood, swirling out through my exhalations. I drink deeply when the colors are offered and share their magnificent hues with unbridled celebration with others who can see…the colors.

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So Much Magnificence

So Much Magnificence

Chilly morning air, washed clean with an all-day rain yesterday, awakens me to beauty…more beauty. More magnificence. From my perch on the front porch, the far mountain ridge is draped with clouds—moving beings of white mist. Bird song fills the space between here and there…tom turkeys…wood thrush…nut hatches…blue jays…red-bellied woodpeckers…carolina wrens…towhees…and as I write this a hummingbird, the first of the season, buzzes the porch.

Colors of spring creep slowly up the mountain, each day offering a new shade of green or pink or light orange. My favorite color season is spring…the tom turkeys tend to agree as they gobble, gobble, gobble searching for their alluring hens. The near ridge is robed in those sweet spring colors but that far ridge, the one with the dancing cloud, is still winter-bare.

The other day I rode up Highway 441, the road that goes through the Smoky Mountain National Park from Cherokee to Gatlinburg. I started in a lush, green spring and climbed to winter where icicles still clung to cliffs. When the road lowered in elevation it was an amazing rush of colorful leaves that enfolded all who entered that tunnel of green.

Wildflowers this year have been amazing, probably due to a very wet winter. They are thriving and as the lower elevations fade, the upper elevations have yet to see trilliums, lady’s slippers, showy orchis. Spring seems eternal here. 

In spring the trees share their beauty by the daily movement of color up, up, up to higher elevations while in the autumn the colors begin at the highest peaks and slowly move down to lower elevations. It’s a never-ending dance of temperature, moisture, position of the sun…life continues on and on and on.

The sun illuminates the far mountain ridge now as clouds turn golden in their swirling, whirling—dervishes worshipping through sacred dance. The turkeys still gobble for their sweethearts, the wood thrush fluting near the creek below.

Sadness found me this morning as yet another loss of life shocked me. Not her! She’s such a light in this world. I felt a pull to the porch, to Nature…to life. Keep living, keep breathing, keep opening and opening and opening.

I just noticed the red bud starting to bloom as I glanced up and gazed into the woods. The turkeys must be dancing, their gobbling reaching a new frenzy. The sun kisses the closer ridge as it breaks through dark clouds…that green, the green of early morning sunlight, is perhaps the most precious of all the greens.

The magnificence of life reminds me to treasure each moment…the glorious ones filled with springtime magic as well as the sad ones filled with grief. We knew coming into this physical body that it would fade, just as the flowers fade, the trees fall during storms. Perhaps that’s what makes life so incredibly sacred. While we are here we have been gifted with a present so glorious…if only we would remember to notice…the colors of spring as they creep up the mountain…so much magnificence.