Tag: Nature Photography

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.

Remember

Remember

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….

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.

First Glimpse of Autumn

First Glimpse of Autumn

It’s 64 degrees as I head up the trail. Clouds still hide the sun, but the trail will be in shadow until later anyway. It feels like the first glimpse of autumn. 

I walk over a mile and a half before entering the 60 degree water. By now, I’m warm and my feet smile as the clear water seeps into my boots. I’m in my happy place—water. 

Fly rod in hand, minimal gear…I feel free as the water washes away everything else. I stand at the tail of the large pool and watch. Consciously, I slow my breathing and inhale the beauty of rocks, water, trees. Slowly I exhale a breath of who I am to all present. We stand like this, in perfect communion.

And then, I unhook the fly from the guide and release it to kiss the water. A few practice casts to warm up, then I wade toward the rear center of the stream and begin placing the fly on river right….then river center…then river left. When I cast to the left side, a nice rainbow trout responds and the barbless hook is set. It self-releases just a few feet from me, my favorite way to interact….no handling, no fouled hook…a clean release with only one moment of the trout being out of the water—when it leaps into the air to shake the hook.

I keep working the pool, moving up the right bank, side-center-side, and have small trout slap, nudge, and grab the fly…but I don’t want to hook them so I move up the pool. 

Sometimes I get a strong sense of a where a fish is feeding. That’s the case now so I carefully cast into a very small area of stillness and the area, no wider than two feet across, erupts. A very nice-sized, sparkly, fat trout is on and it takes a minute or two to land it. I keep the trout in the water and reach down to remove the hook from its lip. I feel teeth…not usual. It’s not a rainbow, as I first suspected. It’s not a brook trout…but what is it? It’s completely silver with no markings except for bright red spots. So beautiful, healthy, feisty, and free once again as I watch it swim away strongly and with much attitude. 

I spend the next two hours wading from pool to cascading pool, dancing with rainbow trout. But that’s only part of what I’m doing. I’m breathing in the essence of this place and sharing myself every time I exhale. The lush green moss and trees, clear water, gray rocks call me deeper into relationship. 

A favorite rock shelf calls me and I wade in nearly waist-deep water to sit on it…and simply breathe. Eventually, I unhook the fly again and sit, casting into the upstream pool. A small rainbow dances with me and I wish it well as I set it free. And still I sit and gaze into clear water, no longer casting…just being.

Being totally present is a must for there is swift water, deep holes, and sticks hiding in pools. So I go deeper into the present. I become fully aware of my body…how I place my booted foot, the angle at which I move, how the water tries to carry my foot away before I place it, the strength of my thigh as I step up, the coolness of the water on my skin.

This deep pool had a freshly-fallen tree in it today…bark and small limbs were still caught in an eddy. Glad I wasn’t there when it fell…I think the trout will appreciate the extra hiding places.

Before long the creek will be filled with multicolored leaves blowing from limbs preparing for winter sleep, but today I sense only the first stirrings of autumn and am happy to be in the flow of seasons. 

In my happy place….water!

I later found out that the silver fish with red spots was a brown trout with an unusual coloring for the Smokies. It is a magnificent fish friend…one of the many I met today. And in case you are wondering….I don’t photograph fish as I want them to spend as little time as possible away from their normal day, but today I wish I had taken a couple of seconds to document this unique fish. 

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Gear nerd stuff…glasses are a MUST for eye protection and polarized sunglasses help cut down on glare so you can see fish and see where you are walking when wading. A hat is helpful for overhead sun and also for hook protection. Clothes and colors that blend in are helpful to be less likely to spook fish and to blend in with Nature. Long pants are pretty much vital to avoid poison ivy and briars, although I see people in shorts–but I wonder about them :-). Wading boots give traction and foot protection as well as insulation with neoprene socks for additional insulation. I rarely use a net as once I get a fish near me, I simply reach down and undo the hook without holding them…that’s the ideal. But sometimes, a larger fish needs a net to calm down…but still keeping them submerged so they can continue breathing while I remove the hook. In the summer I carry a small waist pack with tippet, forceps, flys, flotant, extra leader, water thermometer, snippers, and cell phone. A small waterproof pack rides above that with a concealed carry device, id and licenses, car keys, satellite messenger device for emergencies. I use the Gaia app for reference when noting express points on the creeks and rivers and for bushwhacking from creek to trail when I haven’t already noted the point. Finally, I carry a Grayl water purification device. And that’s all the gear nerd stuff for today.

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.