Category: EcoSpirituality

Wisdom of the River

Wisdom of the River

The River knows exactly how to be itself. It doesn’t need to think about its purpose or life mission. It simply surrenders, each moment, to the path before it.

It doesn’t fret over which way to go, which turn to take. It follows the flow of its own strength, whether a small trickle or a raging force, and is satisfied with the result of trusting itself.

The River nourishes many, provides homes for many, creates beauty for many who witness it; but, it never boasts about all the good it does. It flows in humility, in the joy of its own unfolding.

Walking in Remembrance

Walking in Remembrance

Smoky Mountains by Simone Lipscomb

About a month ago, I hiked nine miles. A week later, I hiked 10.5 miles. It sort of seemed like a deal because I usually walk 5 miles every other day, but was wanting to increase the length of my walks. There was some residual fatigue the next day and soreness, but overall I was okay.

Days later I woke up thinking of the people of this land, that were forced to march from here to Oklahoma after having watched their homes destroyed, families killed—more horrors than I can imagine. The Removal. Seems my hiking isn’t a deal at all. There’s simply no way to compare hiking for pleasure and being forced to march over 1000 miles as captives…with little food or clothing that protects from the cold weather.

The US Federal Government had a mission to displace Native Americans as the white population expanded. The goal focused on removing them from Indian Country, west beyond the Mississippi River. The Indian Removal Act of 1830, signed by President Andrew Jackson, sealed the fate of many tribes but perhaps the most well-known displacement was that of the Kituwah people (whites called them Cherokee). Their forced march west of 16,000 people resulted in the death of over 4000 tribal members—The Trail of Tears. 

As a child, this historical fact profoundly affected me, horrified me, and planted within me a deep love and respect for People of Kituwah. Every time my family was here on vacation, I was at peace, but leaving upset me horribly. I never wanted to leave the mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, and diverse plant life. This felt like home to me. I grieved for those that were forcibly removed.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park….Kitawah Lands photograph by Simone Lipscomb

I ended up living in the Piedmont of North Carolina for many years and eventually moved to Asheville for several years. Finally, I found my way to the area I loved so deeply as a child and now live within a few miles of the Kituwah Mother Town. This move started opening inner doors to ancestral healing that continues to expand. My family, like all caucasians, were immigrants, also displaced but for other reasons.

Carlisle Indian Industrial School circa 1900 Pennsylvania

Early this autumn, I was at the Rooted in the Mountains Symposium at Western Carolina University. I listened to two sisters—Roseanna Belt and Sarah Sneed—tell the story of their mother’s experience in boarding school. Native American children were taken from families in an attempt to further destroy tribal sovereignty and expand colonization. The boarding school efforts by the government was also a forced removal, a destruction of families. 

Connemara, Ireland by Simone Lipscomb

At this same time, a friend from the UK was releasing her new book on her great, great, great grandmother’s life and her forced removal from Ireland to the industrial slums of London. Nicola and her husband Jason produced a short film on Nicola’s journey to learn about her ancestor’s life and beautifully presented a very sobering history of farmers being forced from their homes in the UK and in Ireland as the wealthy claimed the land. So many histories of ancestral trauma…all over the world.

The Great Famine in Ireland, also called The Great Hunger, was a period where one million people died and another two million emigrated. It forever changed the country. A potato blight was a root cause, but the UK government did little to alleviate their Irish citizen’s precarious situation. Britain’s government placed artificially high taxes on bread and took a laissez-faire approach to the suffering of the Irish. Hundreds of thousands of Irish tenant farmers and workers were evicted. Those able to work were sent to workhouses. “The impoverished Irish peasantry, lacking the money to purchase the foods their farms produced, continued throughout the famine to export grain, meat, and other high-quality foods to Britain….the attitude among many British was that the crisis was a predictable and not-unwelcome corrective to high birth rates in the preceding decades.” (Britannica) 

Bonaire, N.A. photograph by Simone Lipscomb

Several years ago I was driving a small truck in a remote area of Slagbaii National Park in Bonaire, photographing the beautiful scenery. The dirt road winds through desert along the Caribbean Sea for many miles. As I was driving, I saw an old man walking. He flagged me down and asked if he could ride to his friend’s house in town. I was by myself, but it felt okay so I said, “Sure.” Before he got in he looked me in the eyes and said, “Are you Dutch?” I answered, “No.” “Are you American?” he asked. “Yes.” This sort of scared me as Americans aren’t always liked in other countries. “You’re not Dutch?” he asked again. “No, sir. I’m not Dutch.” “Okay, then. I’ll ride with you,” he replied.

He got in the truck and began to tell me his story. As a child, a native child of the Caribbean island, the Dutch forced him from his family, put him in boarding school, punished him for speaking his native language. Same story Roseanna and Sarah told, just a different geographic location. As an elder, he resided in a shack in the desert to avoid the Dutch, so deeply was he traumatized by colonization.

Admittedly, I cannot understand this kind of cruel, heartless treatment of humans. And sadly, the trauma doesn’t end with the generation that experienced it, as evidenced by the study of genetics, specifically epigenetics. 

Epigenetics studies how trauma can affect the way genes work. This can be passed down for generations. Unlike changes in genetics, epigenetic changes are reversible because they don’t change the DNA sequence, but can change how the body reads a DNA sequence (CDC).

Each of us has the capacity to carry ancestral trauma. It can be triggered by current events and we can react without understanding our physical or emotional reaction. 

Photo of Simone by David Knapp

A few months ago, I set the intention to heal ancestral trauma that keeps me from realizing my hopes and dreams. I had a surge of unsettled, chaotic energy and emotions arise for the next few days. I tried to sort out a method of healing and started looking outside myself, but finally listened to inner guidance that suggested I connect deeper with the land consciously. As I begin practicing this while walking, I began to understand that the way ‘they’ have colonized us is to remove us from the land. Either forcibly, as with the People of Kituwah, starvation as with Irish people, or even with marketing schemes that begin to uproot us from the land and connect us to ‘stuff’ they are selling to make profits…as ‘they’ destroy the environment to create junk we don’t even need.

Our task is to find ways to reconnect to the land, to our ancestors.

In a global sense, aren’t we all orphans, ripped from the land? Once we lose our roots, we are lost, at least until we begin to heal. Once the deep connection to the land is lost, we become open to conforming to whatever ‘they’ want for us. Lost, malleable. Colonized. While there are varying depths of trauma, the common experience we share is a loss of connection with the land.

Self-portrait…connecting to the land and sea.

When we touch the land with tenderness and feel our hearts open to it, we become aware of the Oneness of everything. We regain connection to ourselves and each other…all life. Once our hands find the rich soil, we begin to shed old traumas and reclaim our wholeness for not only ourselves, but for our ancestors and descendants as well. When we come home to the land, the sea, the rivers….we begin to heal. And when we do this consciously and with intention, the healing goes deep.

Clingman’s Dome area, photograph by Simone Lipscomb

When I walk the trails of this land, where the Kituwah People lived for thousands of years before white explorers arrived, I think of them and remember. I think of the people of Ireland and England. I think of the elder from Bonaire. I think of my ancestors that emigrated from Hungary. May we connect with the land and heal…and remember.

Water Water Water

Water Water Water

Be careful what you wish for. Yesterday, I walked in the rain for 4 ½ miles and loved it so much I made a comment on social media that it was one of my favorite things. I think the rain listened.

Today, I wasn’t expecting rain while hiking and wading during fly fishing. But I did go prepared with my GoreTex jacket.

As soon as I parked, the rain started. While I geared-up, it kept coming. As I walked the two and a half miles up the trail…more rain. And even though GoreTex is breathable, sweat was rolling down my back. Water was rolling off my jacket. The sky was opening up and it was glorious.

It poured. It sprinkled. But one thing it didn’t do was stop.

And neither did I.

Nearly six miles of wading and hiking and casting was Medicine for me today. I wish I could come up with a word that described how much I love being in the creek, engaging fully with the life of that place, the energies that reside there and interact with me as I breathe with them.

I’m not the only one loving the rain.

Alas, I’ll just have to keep returning and exploring just how I can describe something so beneficial to me…in every way. Hopefully, it’s beneficial to Nature as we deepen our understanding of each other.



Words take me to a linear part of my brain and I want to stay in the fullness of the experience— watery curves of water flowing over stone; crashing sound of white water finding itself after falling.

Agitation, due to separation from wading mountain streams in lush forests, is resolved. Other things kept me from these sacred experiences, these holy times with Nature. But it couldn’t be helped.

Today, after nearly a month apart from my Beloveds, I waded again. My soul drank deeply from living waters flowing through an ancient river, an ancient creek. My entire body is re-set as is my energy and mind and emotions. 

I’m back with myself after 62 degree water caressed my legs and feet for three hours. It feels good to be home in my body once again. And to remember….

Rhodo Hell

Rhodo Hell

The old timers called them rhododendron hells. Today I found out exactly why that is as I crawled through one with fishing gear. Thank goodness for cave diving training and experience. And I’m not kidding. At one point I couldn’t go forward, or sideways and backwards wasn’t looking too promising. But let’s start at the beginning.

I arrived at the parking lot just before two sets of two fly fishers were heading up the trail. One guy asked the other group where they were fishing. (And no….nobody asked me. I guess my camo hoodie was working well for me. Or they weren’t taking a woman fly fisher serious). Whatever the case, I listened as they described where they were going. And I decided to take my time and fish up the creek, from the lower portion at the parking area, to give them time to do whatever they were going to do.

At one place, instead of exiting the creek at the usual spot, I decided to continue past the familiar exit to wade and fish pockets. The water level made it perfectly suited for wading and wading and wading. Much easier than exiting on a creek bank with no trail. The wading was awesome but I wanted to push further up the trail, so after 200 yards or so, I saw an egress point and took it.

That set the tone for the day. It lit a fire for adventure in me….why not just enter and wade instead of popping in and out of favorite spots!?! Maybe there were new favorite spots to discover!

I knew the guys said they were headed up, as they gave each other an approximate place of entry. In order to avoid both sets of fly fishers, I decided to enter a little lower than my favorite place, and just keep wading. The thing about this place is…once you commit to wading upstream, you pretty much have to keep going or turn around and backtrack downstream. The reason? The trail and the creek are sometimes level with each other and sometimes the trail goes up a steep slope, leaving the creek far below. I knew about how far my favorite spot was, so I committed. I kept wading.

A few trout gave a shove or push of interest, but it wasn’t great fishing. The scenery, however, was amazing and beautiful so I was happy….until I saw a new can of Copenhagen tobacco ‘dip’ swirling in a eddy. Seriously!?! Somebody had to have dropped it recently. And then….I saw the wet footprint!

OH, NO! I was fishing behind one of the teams and knew that the fish would be spooked. It’s a small creek. I looked towards the trail. I was already in an area where the trail was far above the creek. I looked back…no way! Too far to backtrack.

So I continued. It became more of a scouting expedition for future fishing. I continued to cast, but knew it was pretty much just casting practice.

Eventually, I smelled smoke and glanced down at a nearby rock. Dripping wet boot print. I looked upstream and there they were. The bank was crazy-steep so I continued on, stowing the line and fly and just trying to catch up and go around them without messing up their fishing.

But they weren’t at all friendly when I said I wasn’t trying to cut them off. Great. I just wanted to go around them and not fish. They didn’t budge, didn’t reply. Nice, guys. 

There was a huge strainer to the right of the guys. A pile of logs that was 12 feet high isn’t safe to crawl over and the bank around it was jammed with rhododendron. Since they wouldn’t even acknowledge my request to go around them on the other side of the creek, I decided to crawl through the thick growth of twisted branches and exit the creek, rather than just stand there and watch them fish until they moved on. 

They have beautiful flowers, but these plants are unforgiving.

First, I took my 9 foot rod apart. At least in two shorter pieces, I’d have a better chance of making it through successfully. Then, I took my net out of the holster at my back and unclipped the wading staff. All the while, I was asking for safe passage from the snake brothers and sisters.

My rod in my left hand, net and wading staff in the right hand, I got on my knees and began the crawl. Rhodo’s don’t just grow straight. Their branches intertwine and create a barrier that goes from the ground to however tall they are….15 feet, 20 feet…or more. 

At one point I couldn’t move. The way forward seemed blocked…meaning I couldn’t crawl forward. The sides were blocked and my fly line caught on a leaf. Great. Just great. I wondered if they’d find my skeleton. No way my satellite communicator would work under the dense cover.

I crawled backwards, unhooked my line and crawled forward. I made it to a bit of an opening where a downed and rotted tree blocked my way. It was getting better and better…if the thought of being stuck in a thicket was appealing. But, I had looked at my Gaia trail map app and knew the trail was close.

After clearing the downed tree debris…there were two trees blocking my path…I finally saw the bank in front of me. It went straight up. I didn’t have a choice. It was up or stuck.

By some miracle of green plant beings, the place I scrambled up had zero poison ivy. None. How was that possible when the entire side of the trail is covered in the plant. I was amazed and side-stepped up the bank, trusting my legs and feet to propel me the final few feet up to the trail.

There were many words said aloud, but they are not words I’d repeat in public. But there were words of gratitude, as well. I made it out of rhodo hell! WOO HOO! Now on to my favorite spot.

As soon as I reassembled my rod, I noticed the tippet and fly were missing. That’s what was holding me up in that tight spot. No worries. I stood at the downstream end of the upstream run and claimed the space, just in case the slightly obnoxious guys arrived before I could get the tippet and fly attached.

But I had the place to myself. Just me and the trout. As soon as I got out from behind the other fly fishers, trout started dancing with me. I fished a while, filtered some water and then ate my chocolate and almonds.

After ‘lunch,’ I pushed on and decided to keep wading above nice pockets I’ve fished before. The fish kept dancing, I kept wading. But this time, I had intel that directed me to exit points.

One day last winter, I left my fly fishing gear at home and hiked the trail. I did several walks from the trail to the creek and if the egress points were good, I’d mark them on my Gaia app. Just in case.

Today, as I waded in magnificent waters and around pools filled with trout, I’d occasionally get out the phone and check the app. Perfect. I knew exactly where I wanted to exit.

This deep pool held several trout who ‘sniffed’ the fly and swam away. Beautiful to watch their intelligence at work.

And finally, after over 5 hours and over 4 miles, I left the creek after saying thank you for a wonderful day. I blew a kiss to the trout and rocks and water and trees and headed across the woodland to the trail.

During the two-mile walk down to my car, I reflected on the day. Epic adventure, no doubt. Rhodo hell….conquered (this time). The guys….one had a red beard with upturned ends of his mustache and with the sun reflecting off his face, he definitely took on the personality of a lesser demon. His gnome side-kick, well….nothing much to say. As my feet carried me downhill, I thought of funny ways to describe them and embellish the story I knew I’d write. Then, when I got to the car, they were at their car, loading their gear.

The gnome and I started talking and we had a nice conversation. And the other guy really wasn’t a devil. They were rather new to fishing and really didn’t know what to do when I said I needed to walk around them….or so they said. We had a nice visit.

Major lessons learned? #1. Scouting and marking egress points is a great idea and next winter, I’ll do more of that at my favorite creeks. #2. Rhodo hells really are hell, so major lesson #1 is a MUST before wading sections I haven’t scouted. #3. Don’t assume people are asses because they appear to be. #4. Persist! Keep crawling. Keep going. Keep wading. Keep climbing. Keep casting. Keep loving this beautiful world!