Category: Eco-Spirituality

This is Living

This is Living

The air temperature suddenly drops. I wonder if there is a thunderstorm approaching. The canopy of greens makes it impossible for me to see the sky. The stereo of rushing water in riffles downstream and in a small rapid upstream make it impossible to hear anything else. Dapples of sunlight are still creating light diamonds on the 60 degree water…I’m gonna wade more.

The hike to my entry point was graced with a elk cow, standing alone in the green forest. She guarded the gateway, the threshold, into that other realm of rocks, water, ferns, trees, and trout.

As I wade, memories of a recent casting lesson from a favorite mentor at LRO seem to click in and suddenly my casts are smooth, the fly floats and gently kisses the surface and multiple times my rod bends as wild trout teach me the arts of balance and patience. Their multi-colored bodies glisten in the creek water as they come close and then flip off the barbless hook. Better than having to handle them to remove the hook and release them. We find an agreeable way to be together…my teachers in trout form.

Because of the easy creek slope, I find myself wading without having to exit around rapids. The water level is perfect: low enough to make it safe in deeper areas but high enough to provide great habitat for trout. Fly fishing opens me to flow—of water, line, breath. It turns me inside out and brings out the profound calm of my deep, inner water and gives healing in ways nothing else has…except maybe scuba.

Nearly four hours pass and I still wade upstream. The only word that comes close to describing the experience is magic. But wait…was that thunder? I can’t tell but decide to exit the creek and see if I can glimpse the sky. I move closer to the meadow and there are some dark gray clouds in the distance. I decide to head back up the trail, toward my car just in case. 

About a quarter mile from my exit point, I find another beautiful area that begs for a dry fly. I climb down the rocky bank and toss a fly and sure enough, a beautiful rainbow trout finds me whispering words of gratitude as I gently remove the hook that is barely even engaged with the fish. I wade up and up and up more. I lose track of time but notice the sun is no longer visible. I pay closer attention to sounds…is that thunder again?

I remain in a state of Oneness and bliss as I continue to wade and cast. I munch on dark chocolate, cheese, and almonds. I stop and filter water to drink. And then continue wading, celebrating beauty.

The exit point comes and goes, I continue on, but the fish have disappeared. I think it might be time to go, they are urging me back to my car. And then…BOOM! Yes, it’s time.

I reel in the line and stow the fly. Backtracking to an easy egress point doesn’t take long and then I’m only a quarter mile above my car.

As I emerge from the cover of woods, dark clouds are mixing with white, puffy clouds. I set a steady pace across the meadow and breakdown the gear within minutes. By the time I drive past the overlook, rain is blanketing the next ridge over and skies are dark.

Deep calm envelopes me still. The trout do this to me…they demand I find my deep center. The rocks demand I be grounded. The water demands I stay alert. Words escape me now, hours later, as I try to express how I feel…still embraced in the flow, still in that place of calm, deep water within the depths of my being. A wood thrush is in the woods, just outside my home. The flute-like, sweet song makes me smile.

Oh, yes. I love experiencing a life where there is no need to escape for a vacation. This is living. This is bliss.

Fun on the Fly

Fun on the Fly

As twilight descends, yellow mayflies swarm around me. They had been hatching throughout the 5 mile walk/wade, but just as light fades the little faery-like beings begin to swarm.

Recently, I decided to combine my daily walk with fly fishing. I’ve always been a morning hiker, cycler or whatever outdoor urge calls, but lately I’ve been drawn to twilight, that mysterious threshold between light and dark, where the mystery of the creek is experienced.

The air temperature is 72 when I start walking. Unencumbered by wading pants (but wearing hiking pants), the hike is so much more pleasant. When I first step into the 60 degree water after walking 25 minutes, it feels magnificent. Fish are jumping…no, leaping out of the creek. Insects are falling from limbs and emerging out of the water. And so it goes for the entire three hours.

At one pool, a big brown trout leaps after my fly and makes me squeal. I know she’s probably still laughing her trout laugh. A little farther on, a trout leaps. I cast to the trout and it grabs the fly and spits it out before I can even react. But how much fun! Serious fun.

It’s challenging to describe the peaceful spirit that hovers over the forest and creek as the day begins to end. Light is warm and inviting. Cool air caresses my face with tenderness. Everything seems to exist in a deep harmony. 

As I stand at the shallow edge of a deep hole, I feel the energy of water as it chills my feet and lower legs. Wet wading…the absolute best way to fly fish because the connection to the fish and forest deepens for me with no separation between my body and the body of water.

Nearly everyone else is home eating dinner or tending to kids or whatever. I find profound balance comes from this quiet time, with hardly anyone else around…well, except for the trout and insects. 

As I listen to my body after hours spent in the twilight of the creek and forest, I feel such relaxation and peace. My energy is strong yet sweetly in harmony with Nature. Gratitude bubbles up from my depths, the flow within is strong. For the yellow mayflies, the midges, the trout, the creek and rocks, the trees and green plants and lush ferns, the strong body that carries me outdoors and for an open heart that can take it all in…I am grateful.


On a side note, a song I haven’t heard in decades started playing in my mind as I walked, but I could only hear one phrase: Here I am baby, come and take by the hand. I couldn’t remember the group or other lyrics so I sang this to the forest and the creek and the fish for three hours. And even to two other hikers who passed me. Upon returning home, I found the song! UB40 was the reggae group and it’s an awesome tune. Here are some of the lyrics: “I can’t believe that it’s real, The way that you make me feel. The burnin’ deep down inside, The love that I cannot hide. I know it’s you I need, baby, And it makes the world go round. I’m keeping’ you in love with me, baby, Laying all my troubles down. Here I am, baby, come and take me. Here I am, baby, come on and take me. Take me by the hand. Ooh, show me. Here I am baby.”

Seems very fitting to sing this to Nature as I walk in bliss and wonder.



The full moon crested the ridge, as clouds parted, at the end of an amazing evening of music along the French Broad River. I caught glimpses of the total lunar eclipse as I made my way home. An hour and forty-minute drive through the Pisgah National Forest, the rolling hills of Waynesville and finally, toward the Smoky Mountains…where I live, move, and have my being.

That was Sunday night with Grayson Capps and Corky Hughes. Saturday night in Asheville, I witnessed the magic of Will Kimbrough. All three are favorite musicians that are dear to my heart and they live or originated on the Alabama coast. I hadn’t seen them since moving here two and a half years ago. I hadn’t seen any live music during that time because of…you know, the plague.

When I moved from the Gulf Coast, back to the mountains, it had been an insane time of real estate deals falling through at the last moment (my entire house was packed) and then a miraculous deal that pushed everything into ‘go.’ The stress between the two was probably the worst in my life. So when I finally moved, there was a shattering that had taken place.

I realized last night, while surrounded by massive trees and the river and music that echoed from that time to now, that these three friends were bringing back a part of myself that simply hadn’t arrived with the relocation. Will started the delivery on Saturday and Grayson and Corky brought her home.

The other thing I realized last night is how much Nature has opened my heart during these many months spent wading, hiking and communing with rocks, creeks, trees, flowers, and the energies that reside here. Many internal barriers have been laid down as I have expanded and grown clearer, more open.

Thanks to Will, Grayson and Corky for bringing back the part of myself that got left behind on the Gulf Coast. It was time….how wild that they all showed up in the same weekend. I’m so grateful to my soul friends for providing the way.

I arrived home as the eclipse peaked. I think that’s no coincidence.

Rainbow Shaman Trout

Rainbow Shaman Trout

A tunnel of green reflected off the water’s surface as I stood in awe of the beauty: rocks, water, trees. Green. Intense green that shows evidence of life, of living.

As of yesterday, it’s wet wading for me…nothing separating me from liquid bliss. The wader pants are stowed, awaiting cooler temps in autumn. When I gently stepped into the 60 degree water, I felt the chill but soon appreciated the connection of skin to clear mountain creek.

I’ve always thought this particular place is magic. So many times I’ve dropped into an altered state of deep stillness as I communed with the energies of the creek and forest and mountains. Today, I met a trout that was one of the magical beings that reside here…or so it seemed.

I’d been standing about an hour in a favorite pool and finally found a fly the trout liked. I had several strikes within a few minutes and then BAM! A beautiful rainbow trout dove for the bottom. I watched her dive and rub her mouth on the rocks, attempting to shed the tiny, barbless hook. I reached out with the net and kept her in the water. I looked away for a moment to tuck the fly rod under my arm so I could attend to the hook removal. She obviously had other plans.

When I turned back, the fly was left, hooked in the net, and the fish was gone. Gone!

I checked the net and it was fine. The fish was too big to fit through the soft, silicone mesh. I must have tipped the edge under the surface, but honestly, in that moment it seemed as if the trout was a shape-shifting shaman trout.

The shimmering emerald water captured my attention as I paused and pondered the missing fish. I smiled as I wondered if I had slipped into an alternate reality of faeries and gnomes and magical fish. 

Clouds covered the sun and after an hour of standing in chilly water, I needed to warm up. Since I was over two miles up the trail, I decided to head back down in case the storms started early. I stopped at a few places and then decided to hike up the rapids above a favorite deep hole. I didn’t catch anything there, but it’s one of my favorite places. When I get above the little rapid, I feel enclosed by massive rocks, deep water, and green…luminescent green. 

We all need a special place in Nature where we feel the magic. Where’s yours?

These butterflies find their magic in a pile of horse poop….you never know where magic will be found.

The Geek in Me

The Geek in Me

After 65 fishing days in the first year of fly fishing, I decided to try some higher performance equipment. Not to catch more fish, but to take myself to another level of skill. Or maybe because I am a gear nerd. A total gear nerd. Fly fishing, cave diving, mountain biking…a total geek about gear. I love activities that use specialized gear.

I’ve been thinking about the upgrade for a while. I haven’t traveled anywhere in almost three years, except to visit my daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter, so my travel budget has been invested in a pastime I enjoy weekly, instead of once a year….or once every three years. (Yes, I realize I am justifying the investment).

After many weeks of pondering and asking advice and reading, I headed over to my favorite fly fishing shop in Townsend, Tennessee, and tried out several rods. It seemed the high-performance rods accentuated, magnified, highlighted all my bad casting habits. It was a bit embarrassing. But Dave, one of my favorite mentors at the store, worked with me and really helped me develop better muscle memory of the right skills. It felt like starting over.

As we stood in the bright sun in a grassy area behind the shop, I cast horribly. Dave gently offered correction. It reminded me how in life we learn unhelpful habits and have to revisit the basics of effective living to mend those habits, so our lives move on a better trajectory. 

Each time the line unfurled behind me in a straight line, I saw how subtle and correct movements of my body made that happen. As we refine our behaviors and thoughts, our lives can move into greater alignment with our Path of Heart. The adjustments we make may be small, but they can have major, positive change in effective living.

I took the new setup to an area not far from the shop, in the national park. An open area…easy to wade. Casting new gear where I usually fish–small, tight creeks lined with rhododendron–felt like inevitable disaster, thus the reason for choosing the open area. I needed more space.

I saw how my old habits are going to be difficult to break, yet the coaching had taken root and I began to implement Dave’s suggestions with some pretty sweet success. But only in terms of casting, not catching fish. Small trout played with the dry flies and one cast had four little rainbows chasing the fly as I retrieved the line. As I stood in the water, some nice-sized trout came toward me and found safety near my wading boots. I’m happy they feel so cuddly towards me, but it doesn’t say much for the dry flies I was casting. 

By giving myself space, I was able to correct old, ineffective habits and begin to build skills that will better serve me. I can’t think of a better metaphor for life.

After an hour and fifteen minutes, I decided to switch to a nymph, or underwater fly. Just as I got the fly tied on, but before I clipped the tag end of tippet, thunder boomed. The heavy, dark clouds I’d been watching, started to create safety concerns.

I reluctantly retreated to the car and after stowing all the gear, the rain began to move through in sheets. I will fish all day in the rain, but lightning is my cue to find shelter. Plus, the major highway across the gap in the national park often closes when bad weather moves through. I didn’t want to have to do a long drive-around should that happen. 

Several years ago, I was at a yoga retreat in Ireland. I walked many miles, over the time I was there, in the rain, wind, and cold. The retreat leader commented that I was so prepared and had figured out the gear I needed for any condition. If you have the right gear, it supports the outdoor experience–hiking, cycling, fishing, paddling. Maybe my being a gear nerd simply reflects the ability to support myself in what I want out of life….growing into a clearer expression of love and kindness.

I don’t see fly fishing and my personal growth and development as separate. The same goes for hiking, cycling, stand-up paddleboarding, nature photography. These experiences are simply part of the way I expand and work through blocks to living fully, to allowing the Medicine that wants to flow through me to have a clearer channel to do so.  Nature is my best teacher and healer.

A friend of mine recently commented that whatever I do, I aim to do it professionally and with perfection. I thought it was a helpful observation and one I’d never considered. But then I remembered my first time in the pool during scuba lessons when I knew I’d become a scuba instructor…and I did become one. Since then, I’ve learned I don’t have to reach that level of professionalism to excel and enjoy a sport or activity. But it does explain my tendency to be a gear nerd. And my love of having the right tools to do a good job whether they are outdoor gear tools or inner tools and skills I develop to live more effectively.

Many thanks to my mentors at Little River Outfitters for always being supportive and welcoming and to Dave for braving the wilds of the grasslands and my backcast to offer some really great coaching. You can’t get that from ordering online or visiting a store that wants to charge you for casting coaching. That’s why it’s worth the drive across the gap, through the peaks, and worth the frustration of getting behind super-slow-driving tourists.