Take time to read the ‘Book of Nature’
During the pandemic, regional authors have been busy. I’ve been made aware of several books being released this year by writers in our own back yard who have published books in several genres.
Since I write for a regional paper, I want to focus as much as possible on some of these authors and their recent books as I have done in the past and especially those books which deal with subjects and issues which affect us all.
Most recently, I received a review copy in the mail of a book by Jackson County author and photographer Simone Lipscomb. Simone is the author of several books going back as far as 1998 with such titles as “Cosmic Whales: Mystical Stories From the Sea,” “Deepening With Nature; Manatee Mindfulness and Other Wildlife Wisdom,” and “The Gulf Oil Spill Story.” Her photographic and narrative work related to nature, the environment and the world’s oceans is fascinating, if not downright beautifully poetic.
In recent years, she has focused on the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains, which she now calls home and has documented the animal and plant diversity through her lens and with her words.
Much of what Lipscomb writes borders on the spiritual and leans in a slightly Zen posture. It is not religious, but rather simply compassionate and insightful. Reading her most recent offering, “Book of Nature” (2022), Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching comes immediately to mind; such is the quality and depth of Lipscomb’s introspection and insight. In a book that is as wise as it is beautiful, “Book of Nature” is a journey, both visual and mental, taking us to deeper parts of ourselves where there are mirrors for our own consciousness and humane perceptions. Or, in her own words from the book’s Introduction: “My own explorations into the ‘book of nature’ have led me not only deeper into the natural world, but deeper into myself and ultimately to the Nameless Magnificence some call God. The experience of the journey has been the deepening of my relationship with existence. I go outside to go inside.” She goes on later in the Introduction to expand by saying, “My explorations into the ‘book of nature’ include wading mountain streams, laying on sun-warmed rocks, hovering with humpback whales, frolicking with sea lions, and being part of a dolphin pod. And while every encounter or experience rests beautifully in my memory, my experience with two manatees still brings me to tears.”
So ... away we go with Simone Lipscomb to Dun Aengus, Inish Mor, Ireland; the Sea of Cortez, Mexico; Netherlands Antilles; the Dominican Republic; Keswick, England; Connemara, Ireland; Bimini, Bahamas; not to mention the freshwater Ginnie Springs of Florida, the Alabama coast, and our own Great Smoky Mountains here in North Carolina. In all of these places we see them and read about them from Lipscomb’s perspective in earthy, enjoyable, enlightened, elegant, enthusiastic, ecstatic, ebullient, eco-friendly, educational, effectual, empathetic, empowering, engrossing and enjoyable prose-poems that are written from the perspectives of the images that she captures in each of her photographs in these various locations. For a photograph taken on Clingman’s Dome of a nature path among golden-orange fall leaves, she writes, meditatively:
Walk in harmony.
Breathing in, feel the many life forms around you.
Breathing out, open your heart in gratitude
Breathing in, feel the wonder of Nature.
Breathing out, open your heart to all life.
Breathing in, allow beauty to touch you.
Breathing out, open your heart and share yourself with the world.
This is Oneness in action.
Alongside a photo of boulders in a calm Appalachian stream, she writes: “Sit down and rest. The process of change requires pauses. / Allow the mind to still. / Listen. Listen. Listen / and release that which weighs you down.” And from the voice coming from a photograph of the face of a male elk, she writes: “Trust the reality of other dimensions / and wisdom that can travel / through space and time./ We are the Ancestors / calling you home.” Or along with an amazing photo of two Humpback whales, we get this message: “We can create a new world together” Or from the imagined voices of two Spotted Dolphins: “The burden of every problem you wish to resolve / can be lightened with play” Or staring into the eyes of a female manatee in the fresh springs on the west coast of Florida, we hear “We can change the world / one moment at a time.” Or from a beautiful raging red sunset along the Alabama coast in a piece Lipscomb titles “Awaken”: “Rise up to know unlimited beauty / awaits with every awakening. / Wake up! / Wake up! / Wake up!” Or in one of my favorite photos and narratives from the Castlerigg Stone Circle in Keswick, England — where I have been — this confirmational message from the circle of standing stones: You already know the Mystery; / it is within you, / encoded into every cell.”
I wish I could include some of the photos from “Book of Nature” in this review for you to see. But I hope from what I’ve have included, you get the idea from this wonderful book and what Simone Lipscomb is hoping to share with you. Or, in her own words again: Perhaps the only requirement to reading this book is to be open. As we journey outdoors with the intention to be open, teachers manifest. Whales, creeks, birds, dolphns, flowers, oceans, clouds, trees — all that is wild — show up as guides to a deeper relationship and understanding of the Sacred Mystery.” And then she humbly and gracefully concludes: May the photographs and words that have come through me find a home in your heart and draw you ever deeper into the Great Mystery.”
(Thomas Crowe is a regular contributer to The Smoky Mountain News and author of the multi-award-winning non-fiction nature memoir “Zoro’s Field: My Life in the Appalachian Woods.” Simone Lipscomb’s “Book of Nature” can be purchased through City Lights Bookstore in Sylva, at the website simonelipscomb.comand art galleries across the South.)