Category: Eco-Spirituality

I Let Go of Cave Diving

I Let Go of Cave Diving

It took a while. In fact, it took several years. But this week, I finally let go of cave diving. 

I hadn’t been cave diving in a while, after enjoying it for nearly 100 cave dives. But diving in an overhead environment requires honed skills, not occasional dips into underwater caves. Unless you do it often, it’s really not safe. So, I finally listed a set of double steel tanks on a social media scuba page and sold them within an hour or so which led to selling my regulators, deco regulator and my reels. They went quickly after so many years of pondering the question: Should I let go?

Today, after dropping off the set of tanks to a buyer in Hickory, I drove on to Winston-Salem to see my friends Van and Patti. Van was my Intro, Apprentice, and Full Cave instructor as well as a dear friend through the years…but I hadn’t seen either of them in a while. He had contacted me about someone giving him fly rods that he was bringing to me to donate to Wading Women, a fly fishing program I’m planning for women that want to be empowered through wading and fly fishing. It’s rather odd that my friend, my instructor, was there in person after I released my last piece of cave diving gear, waiting with fly fishing gear for the program. 

And on the way home, I stopped in Asheville to visit my friends Laleah and Bill. Bill had already gifted me with some really nice fly fishing gear he was no longer using. Today, he passed along salt water fly fishing gear, as I’m starting to plan some trips to salt flats, back bays, and other coastal places. The gear is amazing. And I am so grateful.

Today felt like such a powerful day of letting go and opening to whatever is coming next. And it must involve fly fishing. I was gifted with 9 older model fiberglass fly rods and reels that are epically retro as well as 7 very nice salt water rods and more reels that I can sort in my travel-fatigued brain tonight. So I’m in a place of ‘what just happened?’  I’m almost in shock that the act of letting go of something I loved so much opens the door to new adventures in teaching fly fishing and deepening my experience by playing in salt water with fly rods. 

Here’s the other thing….every single time my mind starts coming up with doubts or negative self-talk about the idea of Wading Women, I get signs that I’m on the right path. Today, it feels as if Wading Women reached out and grabbed my shirt collar and said, “Hey, do you still doubt that this is the right direction? Do you? Are you paying attention?” 

Yes!! I’m paying attention. I won’t fear letting go and letting doors close. New doors are opening and they are opening in a BIG way! 

Van was there at the beginning of my cave diving journey and today, he was there at the end of it. But, he came confirming the next step. How cool is that? It’s probably been 15 years since I’ve seen Van and Patti, but it was so sweet to connect with them again. And to visit with Bill and Laleah on my way home to my mountain paradise. 

What an amazing day of friends, closing doors, opening doors, and the way forward being shown to me so very clearly. I am deeply grateful.

Sometimes it takes letting go to clear the way for something new and wonderful to be birthed.

Got To Be Real

Got To Be Real

It had been a lovely day of wading. Several brookies and a rainbow danced with me. I helped a bat get back to his tree, found three spools of expensive tippet in the water, and enjoyed the green bursting out everywhere in the mountain forest. 

As I was finishing my hike, I glanced across the field, behind the old church, and saw a wedding happening. The white dress, bride’s maids…the whole thing. My car was parked along the dirt road, past the dressed up folks at the wedding. I was wet wading so was soggy up to my knees, had on a muted green jacket and a baseball cap. Scrambling up and down banks, slipping on wet rocks…doesn’t lend itself to fancy dress.

(Photo by David Knapp)

Normally, I’m happy as can be in my fishing clothes. But today, I noticed something happening within me as I contemplated walking out in the open, past the wedding party. I noticed I started walking with my head down and feeling self-conscious. What am I feeling, I asked myself. The answer came immediately…shame.

My brother and me enjoying dirty feet and freshly caught fish.

It was like my entire life flashed in my mind and I saw how hard it was for me to be myself growing up, which was a jeans and tee shirt girl with skinned knees nearly all the time. It wasn’t any better moving into my teen years when expectations to conform to social pressure were high. I never fit into the girlie mode yet feared if I was myself, I wouldn’t be accepted. But I still wore jeans, avoided the ‘in-crowd’ and always felt like I didn’t fit in. 

I’ve always been fierce in standing up for myself…what to wear, how to be in the world…30-something Simone

Feeling that way helped me grow to love solitude. I could be myself when it was just me and my horse or my dog. I could dress however I wanted to, ride on the dirt road and open my heart to the sky and fields, free from the pressure but grievously aware I didn’t fit in, hardly anywhere. Anywhere except with Nature.

I hadn’t thought about any of this in decades until I noticed shame arise when I was faced with dressed-up people in the field I was about to walk through. Of course, now I realize I was dressed appropriately to be in a national park, out in the woods…hindsight, you know. 

I reflected on my life as a kid and teen a bit after that moment of shame arose. The definition of shame is the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous done by oneself.* As if the way I dressed or the fact that I loved horses and dogs and being outside was somehow ridiculous because most kids didn’t do that…no, most girls didn’t do that. 

Yes, I wore a cowgirl outfit as a kid and loved my grandmother Wenzel who grew flowers and had puppies.

How much pain we go through being real. By the time many of us are adults, so many protective layers have been applied that we hardly know ourselves. If we are courageous enough to strip away those layers and be real, I suspect we’ll discover light that would illuminate the world.

I still love dogs…

The solitude I cultivated as a teenager has blossomed into a deeply spiritual practice. As I wade and hike and cast, I open myself to Life…and it is so good. And to the girl with skinned knees, the teen riding her horse in jeans and a tee shirt, and the 60-something year old woman wearing fishing clothes, I say this: your beauty shines bright, keep your heart open, and never, ever be anything other than yourself. When who we really are is embraced and encouraged, magic happens. 

(One of the reasons I am creating Wading Women is to empower women to claim the wildness within, to enjoy Nature without feeling a need to fit in or conform to anyone else’s expectations. And to fill their lives with their wonderful, shiny hearts.)


Counting Days, Not Fish

Counting Days, Not Fish

Today was a special anniversary. Another year has passed since I started fly fishing. I spent 67 days fishing during this time period and each one filled me with profound beauty. Each day deepened my friendship with the creeks, rivers, rocks, trees, trout…and insects. 

The beautiful insects trout feed on have captured my heart. Their life stories are incredible with some staying in a nymph stage underwater over a year before emerging into their final form. A few days as a graceful, winged creature and then they mate and die. Such profound symbolism. 

I had a lovely mayfly hang out on my sweater for a while as I waded upstream today. Yellow sallies were everywhere, their tiny yellow bodies fluttering like fairies. There were so many insects hatching I had to keep my mouth closed, which was difficult as I kept laughing out loud at the multitudes of flying beauties. Many times my dry fly was floating alongside just-hatched mayflies as they dried their wings before launching into flight.

My heaven. Every part of the ecosystem in harmony with each other. Bliss-in-action. And while it’s fun catching and releasing trout, it’s the place they live in that keeps me coming back. Water. Wild, wonderful, clear, cold water.

Today I hiked and waded nearly 5 miles. Two very fat and sassy fish danced with me—a rainbow and a brown trout. The brown surprised and delighted me as this particular creek is typically a rainbow and brook trout stream…or  maybe the browns just don’t show themselves that much for me.

What a thrill to invest my days in such beautiful places. With an open heart, I say THANK YOU! I don’t care how many fish I catch, but I do care how many days I get to spend in this magical place observing the seasons and cycles of Nature as an active part of it.

Oneness…on Earth Day

Oneness…on Earth Day

The only other time I experienced such merging with Oneness was when I was doing yoga on deck of a live aboard dive boat, 90 miles off the coast of the Dominican Republic. It was before sunrise. The moon was bright but so were the stars. As I did every morning, I awakened before sunrise and spent time on the open deck with the sea, stars, and the whales.

That particular morning, I was doing a moving meditation with yoga on a moored, gently rocking large dive boat. It was a dedication to my life’s path and my heart was opening in a big way. All of a sudden, I heard the exhalations of humpback whales alongside the boat. They were so close, I could smell their fishy breath. The more I opened my heart and surrendered, the closer they came until their misty breath was illuminated by the moon light as it drifted across my skin.

I found myself entering a purple flame and in that energy, I experienced sweet Oneness. There was no separation between me and anything. The whales, stars, moon, sea, breeze and I swam within the purple flame.

Friday night’s music….lead to Saturday’s opening

Saturday, I was at a workshop with Sean Johnson and the Wild Lotus Band. We spent three hours in community engaging in stories and music, all celebrating Earth Day. The night before, I attended an event with them at AyurPrana Listening Room in Asheville. That was a much larger event but powerful with singing and heart-centered music. That started the opening process, I’m certain.

After the second story, we started singing and I placed my hands on the floor, closing my eyes and imagining I was sending love and gratitude to Mother Earth. After a few minutes, I felt a nudge to begin receiving energy from the Earth with my left hand and opening my heart to allow the energy to move through me and out through my right hand into the Earth, taking with it all the gratitude and love we were generating for our planetary home. 

Tears were flowing and once again I found myself completely immersed in purple energy, like with the whales. There was no separation and all I could do was breathe in and breathe out and hold my hands on the floor. In those moments, only bliss existed, only Oneness. 

It has taken a few days to begin to write about it. How does one write about disappearing into purple energy? 

When the experience began, I was thinking of my favorite creek and the trout there and the moss-covered rocks and trees along the bank…and of course, the water. It felt as if all of those magnificent elements of the creek begin to reach out to me and fill me and took me on a journey into bliss.

This is challenging to write about because it’s not easy to attach words to such powerful experiences. It felt like I would open my eyes and see some sort of spiritual smoke that had toasted my hair or that there would be purple streaks on the floor where my hands had rested. 

It’s also challenging because after such a huge expansion, there will be contraction. We can’t exactly drive our cars or operate other machinery if we’re so open and in a state of bliss. But these states can help us remember. We can experience the bliss of Oneness while in physical form. 

The two times this purple energetic experience happened were related to a deep love for Nature. When I opened myself to this love, I was filled with bliss that lifted me out of the limited constructs of the mind into the reality of complete Oneness. Both times I had to be willing to receive this gift. It isn’t just about giving, it’s about surrendering to receive. 

I wasn’t sure I wanted to share this via a blog. The experience with the whales was shared in my book, Cosmic Whales, Mystical Stories from the Sea. It remains, many years later, a life-changing happening. The change results from a knowing that I’m not alone, that Nature is conscious and wants to connect and that we’re all One with Source. Words are limiting, but they are how we usually communicate; so, I share this with you, dear readers, to encourage us all to surrender to receive and experience Oneness that is beyond religion, skin color, species, element, structure. 

Meet My Friend

Meet My Friend

As I wandered and waded today, I felt a bit off from my usual happy-water-vibe. I couldn’t settle into myself. Couldn’t cast worth anything. I was about to jump on my own case when I heard, like a trickling whisper, The wind is really strong today. It’s okay. It’s very gusty. Just relax and have fun.

So I relaxed and let go of trying to cast perfectly, took off the dropper (nymph fly) and started just playing with a dry fly in the wind. I worked on casting for about an hour. The wind gusted and stopped, gusted and stopped, and I casted and cursed…but only in fun. 

I was in a large (for this creek) area so I could actually do a full back cast. I chose different rocks to target and worked on accuracy in the crazy gusts. I didn’t worry about spooking trout because I was just playing around and practicing and had already cast all over the deeper pool and thought I’d scared any trout into hiding. 

Even with my casting and quickly stripping line in, a trout started rising in all of that madness and eventually took the dry fly, which totally surprised me after that much chaos in its watery realm. You never know when it comes to trout. (That totally blows every bit of advice on being stealthy while casting).

But it’s not the trout I want to introduce to you, kind reader. Today I want to introduce you to one of my best friends.

It is birthed at 3400 feet above sea level, where Chasm Prong and Gulf Prong come together, miles away from its terminal point at Oconaluftee River. Washout Branch and Bearwallow Branch are two of many small waterways that come together to create my friend, each adding their own unique energy to the ever-growing flow as it moves down, down, down.

When I was feeling out of sorts today, I stopped and looked at the wildflowers blooming, the bright green reflections of new tree leaves in its surface, and the moss-covered rocks around the banks and felt so grateful for the friendship we’ve shared over the past few years. 

Sometimes my friend is wild and too crazy to wade in, but days like today, my friend caresses my legs with its 58 degree temperature and makes me feel included, surrounded, part of itself. I can feel discombobulated with crazy monkey-mind shenanigans happening in my head, and my friend calms me, soothes me and points out birdsong nearby…or reminds me that the wind is rather gusty.

The creek has many friends that hang out…trout, bears, birds, wildflowers, snakes, mayflies, trees, moss, rocks…when we all get together it’s a real party.

It’s my sincere hope that all humans can find friends in Nature and visit regularly to have celebrations, dances, and prayer meetings.