Tag: Nature’s Teachings

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.

Water as Artist

Water as Artist

After a few days of house arrest due to a polar express of cold weather, the temperature finally inched up to near freezing. My well pump pipe thawed and I turned the hot water heater breaker back on so that when I returned from walking, I’d finally have a hot shower. I needed to be outside. I needed to move in the world.

When I reached the creek, I stood and took in the sight—beautiful ice sculptures on rocks, on the water’s surface and hanging on branches, rocks and anything wet. A smile erupted, lit up from awe, as I slowly walked to the edge whispering words of gratitude for the beauty.

There were swirls, round marbles, intricate patterns on smooth surfaces, layers reaching into the air…all frozen in artistic display. How? How was it possible to have such amazing patterns and formations? My mind loves to create; but, there’s no way I could ever dream up the variety of ice art the creek produced just from moving in the world. Just from being itself.

Each step led to another unique form of ice…jagged-edged fingers sticking out from the creek bank, flowing water frozen mid-flow, and even the open spaces of flowing water created new lines and circles and geometries for which there is no name.

What would our lives be like if we used our innate beingness and showed up in the world fully present? What could we create if we surrendered to our gifts that so badly want to be expressed? Could we dare be like the creek….creating beauty as it moves through the world just by being itself?  

I’ve often wondered why I am so drawn to fly fishing here in the Smokies. Of course, I am a Nature-lover, tree-hugger, half-faerie and half-water sprite, so that explains part of the reason. But wandering beside the creek, moving up in elevation, I realized the deep appreciation I have for water as artist in the creeks and rivers here, on seashores, or in bays. When I wade fly fishing, I am literally immersed in the art of Nature, and specifically, the artist that is water.

Water takes raw materials of light, sand, rock, and itself and creates something new each moment. I hope that I might take the emotions I experience because of Nature’s artistry, the passionate urge to capture those moments in words and images, and birth beauty in the world. If I do that, I think I will be living my purpose. 

As John O’Donohue wrote, “I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise 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.

To the Brookies, Browns & Rainbows

To the Brookies, Browns & Rainbows

My friends Bill and Leleah

One hundred fly fishing outings in the past 18 months was celebrated with two friends that joined me in the creek where it all began. It was a very warm November day (77 degrees) and the water was a balmy 60 degrees…that’s an increase of 10 degrees in the last two weeks. I wet waded. In November. In the Smokies. In short sleeves. And was completely comfortable.

My first day on the water fly fishing

My first fly fishing experience was with guide Travis Williams of Trout Zone Anglers. Travis has since taken over operations of the Gatlinburg hatchery but I’ve gone fishing with David Knapp of TZA three times, since my beginning days as as fly angler, and every time I work with him, I gain skills in reading water, casting, wading, and deepening my love of this way of being.

A composite image I created from the creek and this amazing rock.

I don’t think of it as a sport, although many do. Fly fishing is a way of being in the world, for me at least. It teaches me how to relax and deepen with Nature. But something I noticed today…it gives me confidence in myself and my body.

Aside from casting, tying flies, and reading water, wading in these mountain streams is no joke. Yesterday I spent the day in a river on the Tennessee side of the national park and there one has to negotiate huge boulders and deep pools with a steep gradient. On the North Carolina side of the park, the gradient is less, the streams more gentle and one particular area has the longest flats I have seen around Western North Carolina. And the monstrous, bus-size boulders are rare in NC park streams. The skill of wading is valuable and necessary when fishing these places. Aside from water flow, deep pools, waterfalls, and downed trees, the rocks can be snot-slick. Seriously bust-your-bootie slick. Yoga is the best wading training for me.

Today I noticed vast improvement in my casting from 18 months ago; yet, my wading skills have improved just as much. I now move with confidence across streams and have learned to find safe routes through puzzles of pools, trees, and flow. A wading staff is a very valuable piece of equipment.

Photo of Simone by David Knapp

Perhaps, kind reader, indulge my passion for a moment or two more as I share a few of my favorite memories over the past 18 months of wading wonder.

There was that time the mother otter brought two babies very close to me as I stood in the middle of a still pool. Or the differently marked trout I caught that was solid silver with red spots (probably a brown trout with different coloration). There was that time last autumn when I was sitting on a rock in the middle of the creek and lost myself in the golden reflection of leaves on the water’s surface and drifted into the ‘gap’. Just a few weeks ago, I was fishing with David Knapp in Tennessee and the autumn colors lit up the water like fire….that was amazing! Or that time ice was floating on the water’s surface as I waded and saw two trout sunning in shallow water. And then there was the time I caught a brook trout, released it, and waded up the gorge to find a still-dripping bear paw print on a rock.

Photo by Simone

Fly fishing is a way of life for me because it combines so much of what I love: physical intensity (hiking and wading for miles), creativity (tying flies), athletic ability (casting and wading), sleuthing (reading water, finding trout), meditative stillness (taking in the beauty).

I practice catch and release and keep the fish in water as I remove the hook…which has no barb. I learn from trout and consider them some of my most important teachers on how to live, move, and be in the world. To the rainbows, browns and brookies….thank you my friends.

And….special thanks to the amazing guys at Little River Outfitters. They have welcomed me into their fly fishing family and continue to be a source of great information, gear, and fishing friendship. And to David Knapp of Trout Zone Anglers for helping me deepen my skills and love of this amazing way of life.

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.