Tag: Nature Photography

It’s Not a Box-Check Life

It’s Not a Box-Check Life

Last night I was talking on the phone with my mother and telling her about going back to Cataloochee Valley this morning to visit the elk. She asked me why in the world I would want to keep going back after seeing them once or twice. As I drove through dense fog in the darkness before dawn this morning, I thought about her question.

Why do I return to see the elk? Or have in-water encounters with humpback whales…three weeks over three different years? Or visit favorite dive destinations over and over again? 

As I pondered her question it was like…why do I breathe? Just because I did it once…

First, to share breathing space with a massive bull elk or a sweet baby, still sporting spots in its shaggy fur or be close to a huge cow elk peacefully munching grass reminds me I am part of the whole, not the alpha or the better or wiser. I am part of Oneness. And secondly…it’s just so freaking amazing! To feel…yes, feel!… the eerie bugle call of bull elks echoing through the valley is one of the coolest things ever. And thirdly…how could I possibly get tired of the continuing saga of which bull will keep what cows and who will challenge who and will I get to witness their meeting? Or will that once-in-a-lifetime encounter yield an image that will touch people’s hearts?

The first time I was in the water with a massive humpback whale I wasn’t sure how I would feel because they are wild and huge and I’m a speck compared to them. What I felt was communion, like coming home to myself. My heart opened and my entire being melted into bliss. And it happened every single time, every single year. I even meditated with humpbacks in the water and did yoga under stars while whales surrounded the boat but, that’s for another post. How could I possibly find that boring? Or ho-hum? No matter how many times I did it? When something touches my heart it opens me to a great sense of life…of being alive!

Even the walks at Deep Creek, a part of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, never feel boring and I walk there three or four times a week. There’s water flowing everywhere, trees, wildflowers, hummingbirds, butterflies, bears, snakes, rocks, rocks and more rocks and waterfalls and trails varying in difficulty from easy to challenging. When I walk in Nature I walk into a living Universe and I always experience these walks with wonder and awe.

As I was walking from the far end of Cataloochee Valley today, loaded down with camera backpack and tripod, I realized I can never be happy working inside for very long. The thought of a full-time, indoor job crushes my joy. As my hiking boots splashed through a creek, through mud and lush grass I had the realization that to honor myself I needed to spend time each day outdoors. It wasn’t a new realization at all but after several days of working indoors, at a part-time job, it was a good reminder.

I’m not ‘me’ in an office. I am most myself when the wind plays with my hair, the frost crunches underfoot, I’m nose-to-nose with a spotted dolphin or fluke to finger with a humpback whale, or when I have my telephoto lens filled with a massive bull elk bugling his powerful voice throughout the valley. Or the dawn shows me how lovely it is to be quiet and observe the mountains enshrouded with fog.

When I open myself to Nature I am at home in my skin; I feel a deep sense of place. For every wild animal that has honored me by allowing me to commune with it, photograph it and write about it…Thank you! You enrich my life with every encounter.

I’m not the kind of person that has a list of things to do in my life and once done move to the next thing. I live my life listening to wild creatures and places that call to my wild heart and will do my best to show up when I hear the call…no matter how many times they whisper my name.

The Sound…

The Sound…

The sound of water flowing over rocks was the first thing I noticed as I opened the door. Before I put my foot on the wet pavement the wonderful sound ahhhhhhhhhhhhhgreeted me and began to unwind me from the inside out.

It had been nearly two weeks since I walked at this water-place, this sacred place. The things that kept me away from this flow seemed important. I had been working election setup in my county, working in my yard, going to Asheville to walk at Biltmore gardens, attending online yoga teacher training…all great things but I was starting to become tight and felt my body gripping and unhappy to be boxed in.

As I walked I wondered…is the water making the sound as it contacts the friction of the rock or is this the sound of rocks laughing as water tickles them as it rushes down, down, down.

Walking nearly every day at a place it’s easy to allow the sounds to blend into a background hum but when we are absent and return those things that stand out to new visitors greet us again and we are re-aquainted with their wonder.

In this area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park the sound of water is never far away. In fact, you have to really work hard to find a place where there isn’t some sound of water….rushing, roaring, dripping, tinkling, booming.

As the trail moved away from the creek…all the crescendos and percussion and the ahhhhhhhhsound of water faded a bit and then there was birdsong. Birds were awaking from slumber and sweetly welcoming the day with singing and insects of the night still vibrated and sang under the dense cloud cover and mist. All these sounds touched some part of my being and created an invitation to relax.

When I lived in coastal Alabama I had a front porch that was my yoga practice space. At night I would go outside and sit in the darkness and listen. Chirps, drones, peeps of tree frogs, pond frogs and toads vibrated the space along with crickets, cicadas, grasshoppers and katydids. The chorus would immediately put me in an altered state of calm and stillness. During my nightly sessions I heard an inner voice remind me that these sounds help balance humans and when we cut ourselves off from the sounds of nature we become out of whack–off center, off balance.

Finally, after the vibrations and sounds helped unwind that inner spring, I noticed I was smiling. It wasn’t a smile simply on my face but my heart was smiling and every cell of my body was smiling. To be in this rich symphony of nature sounds is healing.

The sound of water rushing over rocks….purveyor of bliss.

Peaceful Waters

Peaceful Waters

As soon as I stepped out of the car I felt it….deep peace. Tourists either gone or not up so early. It’s like the entire area was in a different vibe. I was immediately drawn to the water…the flowing, flowing water. Ahhhhh…..and everything within me melted into this same peace.

Gratitude for the beauty filled my walk on trails I have come to cherish since moving back to the mountains. It wasn’t peaceful during the 18 months of looking for homes, having mine for sale….but I was looking in the wrong place, a place that had been awesome for me many years ago but has grown into a busy city without the Nature energy that called me. So finally….I surrendered and asked…Where?!?  And on that visit I heard to go where I always wanted to live as a kid…the Smoky Mountains. Once I got clear on where, my home sold and the rest came together beautifully.

When the national park was closed due to Covid 19, I walked the gravel road that is my driveway every day. And that was a fantastic way to get to know the forest here. And when the park re-opened, I allowed everyone to flock there and waited patiently. Then started visiting early in the morning to avoid crowds. And I fell madly in love with this section of the park…the quieter side, less hectic, less loved-to-death.

There’s so much challenging happening now….readers, you know this. So how nice to have a place to go that calls me to the profound peace of the deep, inner waters. Thank you flowing waters…thank you trees and rocks and flowers. Thank you Great Spirit for helping me hear the voice of my heart calling me home.

 

The Living Landscape

The Living Landscape

The stone skeleton stood against a blackening sky. Rain approached and each of the few, February visitors left except for the guardian of the site and me.

I stowed my camera, pulled out the low Irish whistle purchased earlier in the trip, and sat with my back to the wind. Tentative notes fluttered out as I thanked the ancestors who called me here, back home, to `Eire.

A few heavy raindrops fell but as I poured gratitude into the sweet notes, the cloud split and went around the Poulnabrone Dolman and the sun erupted. It was as if the ancestors and nature spirits returned gratitude for me noticing something more than just a popular tourist attraction.

It is a living landscape into which I walk whether in Ireland or the sacred mountains of the Blue Ridge where I live, move and have my being. Every day I am nurtured by a spiritual communion with the land, water, plants and animals–the living landscape.

Being an Instrument

Being an Instrument

I stood within the ancient fort atop a 700 foot cliff on the Atlantic Ocean. Metal pipes, drilled with holes for chain-link fencing, lined a small area of the site. A strong wind coming across the ocean caused the pipes to sing in otherworldly harmonies. As the strange sounds filled the air I thought, If we can be open and surrender, be still and silent, the energies of the Universe can then move through us and use us in beautiful ways.

The thunderous roar of the sea pounding on to rock walls reverberated in my heart like a drum and opened the inner door wide. As I walked around the 3000 year old fortification, all of my walls crumbled and I became an open channel for Spirit to move through–a flute for the winds of heaven to play and bring forth beautiful music to the world.

I remembered this experience from Ireland after a dream I had a few days ago. In the dream, I was a stringed instrument and a bow was drawn across me. I felt the vibrations within me, the deep tones and movement of sound throughout my body. The same reminder I received during my experience in Ireland came–be still and open and allow myself to be an instrument.

The past few years have been incredibly frustrating. In previous years I have produced videos, photographs, books…all good…but I feel that deeper work is yet to come and is yet unknown. So I wait and listen and try to be patient. The world is hurting so much and I know that I have contributions to make…but how?

I keep wondering–What is my purpose? Why am I here?What am I to do? Perhaps those existential questions are lifelong puzzles that haunt some of us. The answer I have received for many, many years is to deepen with Nature. And still…those same questions repeat, perhaps so much so that what I search for is hidden beneath the chatter of my mind.

Why is it so difficult to be at peace in that unyielding space of the Unknown?

All I know to do is to lean into the Invisible and be still and silent and listen…and call upon the strength of purpose that came with me to this life…and go outside and connect with Nature.

If we are the instrument we were born to be and are open to being played by the energies of the Universe, we powerfully stand in the space where our gifts and talents meet the needs of the world and that is a place of pure magic.


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