Tag: Simone Lipscomb

I Was A Leaf Looker This Weekend

I Was A Leaf Looker This Weekend

The sweet smell of balsam fir trees hung in the thick fog. Every droplet that kissed my face seemed to anoint me with Nature’s most amazing scent.

I arrived early at the parking lot at Clingman’s Dome, hopeful for fog. Most people that visit want clear skies for the long-distance views. And they were there at the parking lot, but the top of the mountain was blanketed with cloud cover.

It’s a steep, 1.2 mile walk up to the observation tower made a bit more challenging because I was on Day 2 of my ‘Play Tourist’ weekend. Why I chose this weekend—when the leaf lookers were out in full force—I’m not sure. Maybe I wanted to see color. Perhaps I wanted an excuse to visit my favorite fly fishing store in Townsend. But most likely it was due to the rivers and creeks I fish running very high due to several days of rain. I wanted to let them drop before wading.

So, I got out the Big Mama Nikon and tripod and grabbed a telephoto lens as well as my wide-angle zoom—heavy equipment that I normally don’t hike with and reserve for special photographic endeavors. But the weather was finally rain-free and the temperatures very nice so on Friday I headed to Townsend, through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

I wanted to photograph some of the creeks and rivers since the water level was high. Water…the element that balances me, heals me, directs me back into my soul skin without fail. In my wandering, I had a perfectly timed encounter with three kayakers running a big rapid that’s normally not a kayaking river. After that, I decided to head to another watery place near Cades Cove but traffic was at a stop almost two miles outside of Cades Cove. No thanks. I turned around and went to Townsend.

I’ve been fly fishing since April and over the past month started tying flies, which has opened an entirely new, creatively amazing, journey. Little River Outfitters is where it all began for me and the staff there is beyond amazing. And their store…it feels good just to walk in there. I hadn’t visited their second story which is all fly tying goodies. Threads, equipment, furs, feathers, hooks of every imaginable size and kind and an artist’s dream. Color! Parts and pieces to create small versions of insects, or in my case…insects from Wonderland. Alice would be pleased. I had fun…way too much fun.

A drive back through the park, stopping at beautiful waterfalls and creeks and letting my Nikon play, added more fun to my day as I wound my way up and over the ridge through the park, and finally to my home. A late afternoon walk at my usual trail ended the day beautifully.

Saturday, I intended to go to the Upper Nantahala with the Nikon, but when I got in my car it headed to Clingman’s Dome. I explored the magical, foggy, balsam fir forest on top after the walk up. It felt like I was in another realm, like the fairy dimension opened and invited me to explore. Even though it was early, there were other humans there so I headed down to the parking area to leave before the insane crowd developed. But I got to Forney Ridge Trail and decided…what the heck.

The trail was downhill through beautiful moss-covered rocks and boulders. I was surprised at the number of people on the trail, but it was not nearly as crowded as the main trail. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring a water bottle or put the heavy telephoto lens in the car so I had quite a grueling hike. But it was worth it just for the beauty. There’s something very special about hiking through terrain that’s over a mile high. The trees are different, the air is cooler, and it seems somewhat removed from the chaos of the parking lot and everywhere really.

While I appreciate the opportunity to do short day trips in the national park—it is the most-visited national park in the country—I generally stay away from highly visited tourist areas until January or February, when visitors aren’t as numerous. When I finished my hike and came back to the Clingman’s Dome parking area, there were hundreds of people milling around, walking, blocking the way. It felt like entering a chaotic, alternate reality. I quickly walked to my car, dodging stopped cars waiting for parking spaces, gulped half a large bottle of water and left the chaos. There was a line over a mile in length just to get into the parking area. And cars were parked all along the side of the roadway. I was glad to be headed to my cabin in the woods.

Finally, Sunday dawned chilly and I took a chance to fly fish at my favorite creek. The water was up but running clear. While I couldn’t wade some areas due to high water, it was amazing to be in 51 degree, crisp air, standing in a mountain creek. 

I chose to fish a fly I tied and it was a huge hit with my trout friends. The first cast got a strike. But they carried it underwater without biting the hook…several times. I’ve never fished a fly that got so much attention from trout. One trout even came up under it, opened its big, white mouth, and acted like it was going to take it but then just backed away. It was the best entertainment I’ve had in a long time. It was amazing that something I created brought entertainment to the trout as well. But they didn’t engage in anything but playing with the fly…and that’s okay with me. I saw a couple of mistakes I made in tying it that created a crippled insect appearance. Sometimes they go for a crippled fly, but it probably makes them more suspicious. And our wild trout in the national park are spooky to begin with.

After nearly three hours of wading and standing in the creek, casting a line, and generally losing myself in the non-linear time of Nature, I felt like a reset button had been pressed and I was back inside my soul skin. 

The leaf looker season is just getting started. Today (Sunday) over 2000 people went through the Oconoluftee Visitor Center—I wasn’t one of them. I’ll be seeking the quiet places, the hidden places, and avoiding the crowds and chaos for the next few weeks. But you can bet I’ll be wading and playing with trout and allowing the creeks to keep me in balance.

Elk of the Mists

Elk of the Mists

Before I opened my eyes, I felt the warm breath of the bull elk on my face. I had been dreaming and as I made the slow journey from Dreamtime to waking consciousness, the sensation of elk breath was so real, when I opened my eyes I expected to be face-to-face with a big elk. 

That dream was about a year ago and since then the elk have a direct line to my subconscious mind. And for sure to my heart. This season of rut, if I have a strong sense of elk, I go and they are there. It doesn’t really matter where I go, if I just pay attention to the urge to go somewhere, they show up. Or I show up. However that works.

This morning I felt that call but the fog was very heavy. I figured I would just drive through the area where they are found and go up the mountain for above-fog views. I took my Nikon and tripod so was also ready for flowing water should the fog and sunrise not reveal something fun to photograph. 

When I got to the park there was a bull laying so close to the road I had to stay behind my vehicle. A woman there said he had attacked two vehicles the day before and I wasn’t so worried about my car but I didn’t want to be skewered by his amazing antlers. Nor did I want to stress him.

I moved after I took a few photographs and parked in a more neutral location. He got up and tended to his harem of cows, carefully checking them. But a rival male, one a bit larger, started bugling and within a few minutes was herding out the cows of the bull nearest me, one-by-one, and taking them back to his territory. It was epic elk magic.

Normally photographing in the fog isn’t that great due to lighting and white balance, although sometimes correctable shooting RAW format (which I always do). But today, the fog added to the mystery. The energy of the elk was wild and watching the strength of the bulls as they ran and charged through heavy fog was elementally very pleasing to the senses. But the most haunting of all was (and always is) the bugle. There was a bull across the creek, hidden by trees, but traceable through his loud and high-pitched, with a low rumble, vocalization. To hear answering calls from the others that were immersed in fog, was glorious.

I’m unsure why the elk have chosen to speak to me so deeply. More and more I trust that little intuitive nudge to go-be-with-elk. I’ve never been disappointed. And it’s not that they are always there at other times, when I don’t get the nudge. I go fly fishing and drive through the area a lot and may not see any. For some reason, the elk and I have chosen to connect in the Deep Mystery.

Nature speaks to me through dreams, intuition, and sensory experiences. The more I listen, the more able I am to dance in that realm of wild wonder.

Barbie on the Rocks

Barbie on the Rocks

“WOW! Did you see that Barbie on the rock and there was a timber rattler right under her!” The young man ran up to me, sweaty, flushed, with wild eyes. The young woman with him looked calm. “Man, it was so cool.” 

I figured it was probably a garter snake. Or a stick on a ledge. And Barbie? Probably a fairy vision brought on by ingesting a white-spotted red mushroom…the ones that make you fly. But I thanked him and walked on up as they walked down the trail.

Didn’t see Barbie or a snake on these rocks.

Of course, the entire walk was spent looking for Barbie sitting on a rock and naturally, a timber rattler. Even though the trail is very wide—wide enough for a large pickup truck to drive up as it’s an old roadbed—I kept a close watch for the snake.

As I walked, I thought about his suspected hallucination and how it seems our society is living a massive hallucination. What if what we think really is our reality? Then the dude was actually seeing Barbie and a rattlesnake even if I never saw her or her slithery friend. But there was nobody to join in his hallucination so it was relatively harmless. But the bigger hallucinations—those can get scary and bring a lot of chaos or maybe we could all dream up calm and peace.

No Barbie or snake here.

It wasn’t the most relaxing walk. I was picking up beer bottles, plastic wrappers, cigarette butts and while the flowing water was clear and clean and beautiful, I kept thinking about Barbie and her fanged-friend.

No snake or Barbie here either

How much time do we spend on fear generated by someone else’s hallucinations? How do we, as a society, become so sure of things that perhaps aren’t even real? And what makes them real anyway? Maybe something is ‘real’ only if enough people believe it in their minds.

I have no answers to these far-out questions. For late afternoon, there were many people out walking. A mushroom eater (?) and a lot of larger groups who refused to yield the way. I could step off the trail and fall down a very steep slope or worse step on that timber rattler or I could clear my side of the trail. So I started swinging my bag of trash like a priest swinging an incense censer to cleanse a holy place. It worked. I don’t need to explain any of the similarities.

It became quite obvious, by the end of the walk, why I prefer to walk at sunrise…before the crowds and kooks arrive. And by the way, I’m super-disappointed that I didn’t get a photo of Barbie and the monstrous timber rattler frolicking.

Path of Soul

Path of Soul

Over the past several months I have been doing a practice twice a day. Once during my morning dedication time and once during the afternoon or evening, I envision my ancestors standing with me. I think of ancestors as all life that has lived before me…humans, animals, rocks, plants. I equate the word ‘ancestors,’ in this instance, with ancient wisdom. So twice a day I close my eyes and see all this amazing Wisdom standing with me, surrounding me, and together we call in the Path of my Soul. I ask them to open the way for the work I came here to do and to draw to me the Path that best supports the intention of my Soul’s journey.

This started when I found myself at a loss for how to proceed in my journey after dedicating the past 16 years of my life to photography, writing and creative efforts to help people awaken to Earth’s Wisdom and Beauty. Almost two years ago I arrived at what I consider the prime destination for everything to come together—living on land that was cared for by the traditional custodians, The Cherokee, and the place that resonated with my soul since I was a child and called me over and over, back to these sacred lands. 

Ireland is the Original Soul home for me and has awakened me in this lifetime to remember so much, but that’s another story. And I couldn’t move to Ireland, so the way became clear as I listened to the question, Where have you wanted to live since childhood? The land and home where I live is in the mountains of Western North Carolina with the Great Smoky Mountains my view from this little mountain of green and fog and magic.

When I started standing with my Ancestors and calling in the Path of Soul, I felt supported by eons of Wisdom. Much of the fear and concern about my direction was eased as I leaned into that lineage of support. And doors opened to new and exciting possibilities. But the fear does creep back in at times.

Last night was such a time. I slept soundly until about 1.30 am and awoke to the fear voices asking all their questions that can send me spinning. I wrote in my journal, centered myself and finally turned off the light, laid back down and heard this question: What does my soul look like? I had never considered the question because the soul is such a vast and deep Mystery. But since sleep was eluding me, I figured…why not?

I settled under the covers, closed my eyes, and asked my Soul to step to the front of my consciousness. It was as if a clear bubble of light enclosed me and every beautiful place in Nature was contained in It. My thoughts calmed, the fear voice quieted, and I simply observed. I saw…no, felt…the Oneness of all Life. I felt how I am a part of everything and truly there is no separation. It reminded me of a statement Ram Das made once: “We’re all just walking each other home.” 

Many times in the past I have asked for my Soul to guide me, to align me with my life’s Path of service but never thought to ask It to show me what It looks like. I’m guessing this is unique for each of us depending on where we focus our love…where we direct our creative energies.  This is possibly because our Soul is always whispering direction, place, situation, actions.  Sometimes we hear them, sometimes we might not.

If we can follow that which calls us, I believe we find our Soul Path. For me it’s Nature and connecting deeply with It. And helping others see the beauty of It. Spirit manifested through Nature….or God, the Universe, the Creator…whatever name you might use to describe the Creative Source. That’s it for me. Deepening with this Essence—Deepening with Nature—is my intention, purpose, heart’s desire…for that’s where I am most authentically at home in my skin.

As I walked in waders carrying fly fishing gear today, I saw some of the most magnificent places on a trail that runs beside a creek in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was a tough 6 ½ miles but I kept flashing back to the visualization I had during the early morning hours of my Soul and as I walked, I allowed that to return. To feel the Oneness, that I am a part of such beauty, brought so much peace.

I suspect the Soul provides creative energy. Maybe that’s what it is…Creative Force. The more I allow myself to listen to that Creative Force, the happier and more peaceful I am. 

Late this afternoon, after tying a few new flies with crazy colors and patterns (very non-traditional flies that are simply fun practice) I sat in stillness and listened…just listened. I felt compelled to go into Child’s Pose, a yoga posture of surrender. In doing this, it felt like surrendering my ego/personality self to my Soul Self, letting the Soul lead me instead of trying to control everything that makes my life.

For the past 36 years I’ve been seeking to know my Soul, to walk the Path that reveals the Mysteries of Life. The more I learn the simpler it seems—surrender the ego and live in Oneness. There are many, many ways to get to this point; in the end, I suppose this is where we all meet.

Deep Peace

Deep Peace

It’s a sensation that is birthed at the core of my being and moves through my body and mind. I used to find it diving—being in neutral buoyancy, surrounded by water, contained by an ocean or freshwater spring or underwater cave. But it’s been a while since I’ve been diving…selling a home, moving, the plague has redirected my pursuit of deep peace but it’s still with water.

I walked up the trail a mile and a half before exchanging my trail shoes for fly fishing boots. At some point during the wading and casting I paused, seeking something…what am I missing, I wondered. Within a moment I knew…that deep peace that finds me as I merge into blissful Oneness with creek, rocks, trees, fish. Ah…yes. It will come.

I intentionally slowed my wading, created longer pauses in casting, spent more time watching the surface and soon that delicious feeling began to move through me—the return of a cherished friend.

From the first time I cast a line and watched a rainbow trout wiggle its tail and spit the hook, I knew I was hooked. I have been in the water with humpback whales and photographed them and learned from them. I’ve been with a large pod of wild spotted dolphins that befriended me and played with me, but these trout are no lesser teacher and guide than my cetacean family.

Often while wading I am grateful for my yoga practice that helps strengthen my legs and improve my balance. The rocks are slippery, the water is rushing past, the bottom is uneven, so every experience of fly fishing is a yoga practice…slow movement, balance, breathing, connecting with something greater than myself. 

It can be seductive to analyze it, to categorize it, but the ultimate outcome is that I feel really good after connecting with deep peace. At first, I thought it was the neoprene smell of waders or wading socks that reminded me of diving. And that might be a trigger, but the real reason I love fly fishing so much is that it opens a doorway to profound peace, just like diving. It’s my meditation, yoga, mindfulness and Oneness practice.