Tag: conscious change

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.



I was about four hours into a very labor-intensive project. As dust swirled around me in my basement workshop, I stopped and looked at the many pieces of wood laying on the work bench, floor and the cutting table. What if this doesn’t turn out like I envision? My aching neck and shoulders grumbled and I recognized the risk: It could be a flop.

The project began as a desire to abstain from the commercialism of Christmas. After several years of not having a tree or decorating, I really wanted to bring lights and celebration into my home. There were excuses: Nobody every comes to my house anyway, so why bother? Or, It’s too much trouble, bah humbug! I think it was just a time in my life where I wasn’t feeling it. But now, I’m calling my passion back in, lighting up my life again.

I’m not sure how the idea of building a tree from scrap lumber started. It was a glimmer of a thought on a Saturday morning during breakfast and by lunch, dust was flying and I was wondering if I was wasting a perfectly wonderful rainy day. 

It took a lot of thinking and figuring how to design it so it could be disassembled and stored, and yet be sturdy. And a favorite way I create is to challenge myself by not buying anything for projects. How can I create something using materials and supplies I already have on hand?

During that dusty pause, I realized the project was much more than building a Christmas tree. It reminded me of dreams and life and passions. We never know if an idea we have or the path we take will lead to success, yet if we engage in life and take the risk to dream and infuse our dream with passion, we are actively engaging in the process of living, of being alive. 

As I looked at the stacks of wood pieces, I wondered if they would become the object of beauty I envisioned or firewood. Likewise, will my dreams and all the energy and time I’ve devoted to them become dust or will they flourish some day? 

We can’t answer those questions in the middle of it all. We can only keep creating, keep feeding our passion into our dreams and take the risk to continue on the path we build as we move through life.

I’m inviting light back into my life this holiday season and actively engaging in celebrating with childlike wonder. If nobody else sees the Tree of Life I built or the many lights winding around my stair banisters and fir tree that grew a few miles from here on the mountain slope, it’s okay. I see the lights and smell the wonderful fir smell and I’m nurturing the kid in me who loves Christmas and the adult in me that understands and honors the Solstice. It’s time to nourish my dreams once more.

How I built the Tree of Life:

I started by gathering all the scrap lumber I had. I used a slab of oak for the base and drilled a hole using a Forstner bit. I added a piece of 2 x 4 and also drilled a hole and matched it to the base and screwed them together. I used an old wooden handle as a dowel and sawed to proper length (finished the length sawing after I assembled). I used pieces of 1 x 6 boards for the cross pieces and cut them to length using a skill saw and then used my fabulous cordless jigsaw to create funky shapes with curves and angles. Each of these pieces also had a center hole drilled. I used a longer piece of 1 x 2 inch board for the spaces, each needing the center hole as well. I painted everything after doing basic sketches on the cross boards. I use a funky folk artsy style. In a little over 8 hours, I had the tree cut out, did a test assembly, took it apart and painted it and put a semi-gloss clear coat on it. I woke up the next morning with a lingering dream of how to design the star. I created it after breakfast using a piece of 2 x 4 drilled in the vertical end so it would sit on top of the dowel. I cut the star out of a square piece of plywood. I drilled onto the 2 x 4 before painting just in case anything cracked or broke. Once I had it screwed together, I painted the star. I ended up with about 10 hours of hard work in this project. I’m super-happy with the outcome. It’s fun and happy and makes me smile.

Seeking a Renewed Vision

Seeking a Renewed Vision

Standing in front of my altar, candle burning, invitation to the Ancestors whispered, I centered myself and asked for assistance. “Renew my Vision, help me connect with that which calls me to service. Guide me, please.”

For many years I had such a clear and powerful vision to document and share Beauty. I traveled to underwater realms, to amazing places like the west coast of Ireland, the Lake District of England, Bonaire…always seeking the Sacred to connect with and then share with others. 

Connemara Ireland

I knew, when I moved back to the mountains of North Carolina, that my life was shifting. A few months later, the pandemic exploded and the sensed shift became a whopping reality.

There was no social circle here as I hadn’t had time to connect with others but it didn’t matter anyway because we had to isolate. It was quite strange and yet perfect for me. I simply went deeper with Nature, thus deeper with myself. I had no option but to get really familiar with myself; thus, my connection with Nature became more real and delicious than I’d ever experienced.

And, as I wasn’t employed at the time, I studied and learned to fly a drone and took the FAA Part 107 exam to fly the drone commercially…but mostly I was thrilled just to FLY! And do something to enrich my mind and find other ways to experience and see Nature.

Flying the drone became a wonderful way to experience Nature in a new and expansive way.

So last week, when I ask for renewed Vision, I was expecting something to come rushing into my life that would give me some grand way forward. Instead, I got a dump truck load of firewood delivered and nearly every piece had to be split at least once, if not three or four times in order to fit in my little wood stove.

I got this pile of wood, plus had to split over half the wood from last season and restack it.

After a couple afternoons spent splitting wood, I got up the next morning and stood at my altar, lit the candle and said, What about that Vision, y’all? As clearly as a beloved elder standing next to me I heard, Chop wood. Carry water. I laughed out loud. The prayer was answered in a most unexpected way.

‘Before enlightenment? Chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment? Chop wood, carry water.’ This Zen koan emphasizes the idea that although it appears nothing has really changed from the outer appearance, everything has changed on the inner experience.

Still mind, active body.

While chopping the mountain of wood, my body was busy. Yet as I used the maul, I felt my mind come into focus and stillness. Thankfully so, as it kept me safe while using a heavy, sharp object for multiple hours and days.

Part of the new wood, all stacked and ready for cold weather.

As I tended plants during twilight today, I smelled the wondrous smell of freshly split wood and admired the large abundance of stacked wood. I realized that this is actually living. It may not be on the awe-inspiring scale of traveling and diving and doing underwater photography and being in the water with humpback whales, dolphins, sea lions, and sea turtles, but this is actually where life is mastered—the day-to-day tasks that ground us into our life.

Castlerigg Stone Circle, Kewick, England

I’ve always been active and enjoyed physically and mentally challenging tasks….diving, cave diving, fly fishing in remote areas near where I live, far up wild creeks. Or hiking in Ireland or Canyon de Chelly, up remote trails in winter. Or visiting standing stone circles in northern England to connect with ancient energies. Such glorious and amazing adventures.

Cave diving in Mexico

But what of the mundane tasks of buying groceries, pulling weeds, cleaning house, cooking…chopping wood. Embracing these duties as ways to grow instead of burdens to endure can change our lives.

I didn’t receive a peek into some exotic adventure awaiting me in far away lands and with insanely cool creatures; however, I did glimpse the exotic adventure of fully embodying my everyday life right here in these Smoky Mountains…and it’s really quite amazing. And I am grateful.

Rainbows Call Me Home

Rainbows Call Me Home

I slept later than intended so was a bit concerned about a 9am start to wading a favorite section of a local river. When I pulled into the parking area, nobody else appeared to be fishing so I decided to just go with the little intuitive nudge that called me there.

It was difficult to settle down. I felt out of my body–not grounded–as I begin wading up the river. Dodging overly-deep holes, limbs caught underwater, slick areas when I just wasn’t all ‘there’ made me a bit anxious. White water itself is cause to be fully present, but given the challenge of these mountain waters, I wanted feel more grounded in the experience.

Fish started taking the dry fly and that’s what finally brought me into the moment. It was as if they were saying, Hey you! You better pay attention!! Normally, when I’m feeling a bit ‘off,’ I don’t catch fish, but today the fish were ready to dance with me and forced me to really tune into the rhythm, the vibe.

Once I arrived with my whole self, I was able to appreciate the beauty…of the colorful fish, the colors of green moss and trees, the sound of rushing water, the shapes of rocks. The strength of my body, the ability to balance and the successful choosing of a way upstream was part of that beautiful experience.

When I first started wading and was having such a difficult time of ‘arriving,’ I thought perhaps I should have stayed home. But the fish called me to pay attention…to them, the water and rocks, the trees, myself. It ended up being one of the best times in the water this summer.

So what if we are a bit slow coming into communion with Nature, with ourselves. If we simply make the effort, sometimes magic happens and rainbows call us home…to ourselves.

Builder of Dreams

Builder of Dreams

Bull elk…wapiti from last autumn at the Cherokee Mothertown

In the gray light, before sunrise yesterday, I drove past the Cherokee Mothertown. On the sacred mound were two bull elks, sleeping…dreaming their wild elk dreams. Even though I didn’t stop and walk there, the image of those magnificent beings stayed with me all day. 

They remained with me as I walked along the nearby creek and as I worked on tasks and had a meeting online. The misty gray dream-like beings held me in their reality all day.

This photo is pretty ugh….but it was nearly dark, across the creek, with an iPhone.

This morning, as I walked along the creek in the dim light, I saw a large critter in the middle of the creek. It appeared to be a furry bulldozer. At first I thought it was an otter, but it was too big. Upon closer examination, a beautiful beaver emerged from the whitewater. 

I’m like a kid when animals show up in my life, but even my excitement didn’t scare the steadfast beaver as it swam and waded and pushed its way upstream. It never wavered from the journey.

Another low-light, iPhone image that makes me cringe (quality)

How amazing to be so focused and sure of yourself to push on, no matter what. 

Given the two mornings of amazing encounters, I decided to look up the spiritual meaning in my Ted Andrews book. My mouth fell open as I read both the beaver and elk passages.

Bull elk image I took last autumn during rut.

The elk remind me that I’m about to hit my stride and that at the beginning of a new project, to expect a period of growth of four to five years but I’ll have the strength for this new project. Then beaver, builder of dreams, reminds me to act on my dreams and make them a reality…it’s time for action.

Image by David Knapp, of Troutzone Anglers of Simone.

There’s no doubt…I needed to hear this. I’ve been playing with a new dream, one I want to build on for the next….yes, you got it… four or five years. I just spent a month off from my job…a forced layoff so the state university I work for doesn’t have to pay me benefits. I like the work and plan on staying there for the next five years. But it’s not a career or a vocation. 

I’m pretty big into doing what you love and living your dreams. I’ve done that for many years. But now, as I’m in the pre-retirement years, I’m enjoying giving back to the Cherokee tribe through the grants I help administer. I have zero complaints about the work…but it’s not the end-all gift I wish to leave the world sort of work.

So, in this forced layoff, I spent time thinking about what I’d like to do when I’m ready to ‘retire.’ Of course I’ll work, but what do I want to do? 

One of my favorite places to cast and wade

I reflected on the past year and three months…I’ve never grown so much and developed such trust in myself. Why? Fly fishing. Exploring. Wading. Going into the back country of the national park and connecting deeply with water, rocks, otters, trout, trees…it has changed my life. I’d love to share that with people…specifically with women who want to grow. 

Another place that has filled me with wonder.

As Lynette Monterio Musten wrote, “Never in my life had I thought I was capable of this; of being alone, of feeling safe, with myself, of being quiet.” This reflects my experience perfectly and I want to offer this to other women who want to learn how to do this.

I connected with a couple of guide schools and found what they are offering isn’t what I’m wanting to do. I don’t want to be a guide for grip-and-grin tourists. I want to work with women who want to develop their enjoyment of life through interacting with Nature. Guide schools I’ve explored are linear in their approach and that’s what most people are wanting, but I am creating a holistic approach to fly fishing.

My profile photo on FaceBook for the past couple of months….elk are a definite power animal for me.

In my dream, I integrate yoga, wading, fishing, casting, education (about insects, trout and the environment) and self-care skills. Rather than mold my dreams to other people’s trainings, I am creating a program of training that will support my dream. There are guides that are willing to help me learn and develop as a fly fisher, with my specific intentions, so I’ll be working with them. I’m already a yoga instructor, have worked with people in Nature as a naturalist, ropes course facilitator, scuba instructor, and trip leader. It’s a matter of developing my fly fishing skills, working more with guides, and continuing to do what I love…fly fish in the back country.

Photo by David Knapp, Troutzone Anglers, of Simone…David is helping Simone design her way forward as a guide

These two wildlife encounters feel really supportive of my dream. The elk remind me to be in sacred space and feel the strength of the Ancestors as they walk with me and strengthen my dreams. The beaver reminds me to believe in my dreams and work on them, build them to make them a reality.

Reach for the sky! Build your dreams!

Nature has always been my best teacher and early mornings, like these past two, remind me why I get up early and go walk the trails before most people are stirring. The magic of dawn and of Elk and Beaver Medicine give me focus and strength to support my dreams by taking the steps necessary to make them a reality. 

Step-by-Step we build our dreams

The guidance I keep receiving, when I journey inwards, is Step-by-Step is how this is accomplished. Gratitude fills me as I thank the Ancestors, the Elk and Beaver for bringing me this teaching. And now, I feel a bit of excitement as I take the beginning steps…of building my dream.