“Hello, Nature, show me what you’re doing.”
Before I delve into the deeper part of this piece, let me begin with a tip of the hat to our National Parks, State Parks, Refuges, Wilderness Areas, Preserves and Reserves, and to all those that dedicate their lives to any and all spaces that foster Nature and share its splendor. These spaces are our most precious resource in today’s tumultuous world. They reside as symbols of hope in a time of uncertainty.
As a whole, our species has been manipulated to believe we can thrive separate from and without Nature. We are just as much a part of Nature as the animals and trees around us, and, therefore, our relationship with Nature and our actions in this life have a direct, and returning result on our own lives. Nature is our life source. As we become further disconnected from it, the problems in today’s world will only be exacerbated.
I have seen it in the images captured by those in the air. I have seen it on the mountain sides far in the distance. I have witnessed it in cities as it glares at oblivious passerby. I feel it everywhere. We are living in a world that has been fragmented by the actions of our own species. We have fragmented our land, and we have fragmented our relation to the very Nature of which we are a part.
The reality of all of this became very apparent during a trip to Buffalo, New York. I started noticing how the attitude of people varied significantly based on the space they were in at the time. Those that were physically closer to Nature than others tended to exhibit a more calm and collective demeanor. They seemed happier, less agitated, and more caring than those I watched stroll through the streets, in and out of bars and businesses, pre occupied with the countless distractions of today’s modern society. Though Nature Space is often difficult to find in our bigger cities, it is most certainly present, and if you pay attention, it exhibits many of the qualities that exist in the much larger Nature Spaces of the world.
For those that know me, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that even the thought of a city gives me anxiety, and I’m generally apprehensive to visit them. On the rare occasions I do explore them, I make a valiant effort to seek out the small Nature Spaces that do exist within the confines of concrete, steel, and glass. I found several of these spaces during my time in Buffalo, and at each space, I found the same kind of energy that brings people true happiness. The happiness I am referring to is that which evokes kindness, and instills a sense of contentment among those that pay attention to these spaces. I truly believe that when this kind of happiness is found, the change our world is looking for, and the change it desperately needs will come easily.
The statements to follow describe some of the connective experiences I had during my time in Buffalo. I should point out that these experiences occurred for one person, in a small geographical area with limited Nature Space, and over the course of only three and a half days. Imagine the plethora of answers, enlightenment, and genuine happiness that would come if more of these Nature Spaces were available for the entire human population to experience.
June 6, 18 Wednesday morning, 6:36 am: At this hour of morning, the city is as quite as I can hope for so I’m taking advantage with a cup of coffee and a curious stroll down a street that, I hope, will lead to more familiar grounds. I come to a stop at the ground floor of a massive building. What I see is repulsive, but, after gazing at these symbols of hope, I somehow manage to recognize a sense of my place in the world and I’m encouraged to tell their story and the answers they want to show us. These wild animals behind the glass of what is a closed trophy hunting showcase room are on display behind doors that never opened during my time in New York. They were trapped in the city, out of their natural habitat, and among the uncomfortable confines of an over urbanized land. I can’t help but feel the same way they would, and I hastily begin looking for the nearest trail, park, Nature Space that I can steal away to for more answers.
June 7, 18 Thursday afternoon sometime: I’ve found an outdoor courtyard, I suppose you would call it, that has several landscaping trees, a raised bed of blooming flowers, and two small birds I presume are playing some sort of game as they go about scavenging for hidden gems in the cracks of the sidewalk. There are benches with a few folks gossiping and scrolling through their phones, huddled over pricey coffee drinks. In the corner of the courtyard, beside a bed of pink flowers, an old homeless man is sitting alone, eating french fries and a burger. I’m captivated. There’s a quality in the man that is lacking in many of the people here. Though he wastes no time finishing his fries, he is contemplative and calm. Whether it’s a good meal, or the space he’s found for a moment, a happy energy is in him. I like to think he’s found this small Nature Space by choice, and not chance. The courtyard birds have found an interest in me, and fly up to my bench, two feet from my lap, and investigate my thoughts. “Do you think you, your friend, the homeless man, and I are here to learn from each other?” I want to ask the two black capped chickadees beside me. I walk inside a small coffee shop across from the courtyard, order two coffees, and pass the second cup off to the homeless man without words. A subtle and heartfelt thank you from the man, and a brief exchange of harmony between both souls. As I’m walking away, I see the two birds fly up to the man and investigate his thoughts. “Do you think you, your friend, the stranger, and I are here to learn from each other?” The man contemplates some more.
June 8, Friday afternoon: I found a break to go explore for a few hours. Tifft Nature Preserve is about fifteen minutes by car (four miles) from Buffalo’s Pearl Street. Despite its proximity to an urbanized landscape, Tifft is a 264 acre Nature refuge, and soul refuge on my particular visit. The land, once a dairy farm turned city refuse site in the 50’s and 60’s, was purchased by the city of Buffalo and, through good intention, science, and hard work, was designated a preserve in 76’. It embodies the Nature Space I am advocating our societies to demand more of. Surrounded by trees (lots of large cottonwoods) and rehabilitated cattail marsh, the area has become a haven for local wildlife. The forest echoes the daily conversations of the local bird residents. I think about the saying people have in these moments, “this is worth protecting.” Because it is here, in these Nature Spaces, that we have a chance to reflect, and our inner self smiles, knowing it is in a familiar place that has long been forgotten. They are healthy, humbling places. They teach us our place in the grand scheme of everything and anything that we have come to know as a species, and afterwards, we are the better for it. A true body cleanse.
Space set aside is here to show us the soul of the Universe. They are places of hope and they provide us with answers. They offer peace during times of calamity. Some call it God. I call it Nature.
I believe the closer a relationship we develop with Nature, the closer our relationship to others becomes. Further, by pouring ourselves into these spaces and learning of their ways, we begin to learn about ourselves, and our purpose.
As our race pushes ahead at the current rate, and under the same false ideals, it is slowly erasing these Nature Spaces. As these spaces vanish, so too do the ethics and wisdom of an entire species.
Our problems of today, specifically those in the environment, are a direct result of the disconnect between the human species and the rest of Nature. That disconnect among the population will continue to grow if these spaces of Nature continue to dwindle. To care about the environment and Nature, people must know the environment and Nature. Our feelings, our soul, are at their strongest when we are directly connected to something. This, I am arguing, should reside as an awakening alarm to every single individual alive today, and especially to those that have been given the power to make decisions on behalf of the human race. It is my hope that this post is regarded as a call for getting back and giving back to Nature. As our population increases, it is absolutely critical for our own success as a species on this planet to begin creating more of these Nature Spaces. Our cities, our habits, our enterprises, institutions, and our interests are out of balance with the rest of the Universe. They have fragmented the land which has subsequently fragmented our relation to it.
We must experience our Nature by placing ourselves in it before we can begin to care about it. With that said, it should make sense for all our societies around the world to advocate for, and create more Nature Spaces to accompany a growing population. Everything depends on it.
The Earth exhaled. She gave the answers to the World. We Listened, and then there was peace and harmony among all.
-W. R. Weiland
“Walked out this morning, don’t believe what I saw. A hundred billion bottles, washed up on the shore.” Making my routine, daily tour of Assateague this morning, The Police’s Message In A Bottle came to mind. Though the song was likely written out of feelings of loneliness, a song’s meaning often varies among different listeners. The lyrics in Message In A Bottle have prompted this piece. Running through the words in the song, it is as if there is a conversation between Human and Earth. When I listen to a song, I see pictures. In an almost transcendental way, I can put myself into the song as if creating my own dream. Placing my soul and own feelings into the story of the song, I am in a state of shock after acknowledging the environmental catastrophe that I discover unfolding. Give the song a listen, and you just may, briefly, see things from my perspective.
Fortunately I didn’t witness a catastrophic number of bottles washed up on the shore of Assateague Island this morning, but I did, however, begin to think about the ways in which our Mother Earth speaks in her attempt to tell us something. She is sending out an S.O.S. As if screaming a plea to have mercy, our Planet is desperately conveying a desperate situation. A changing climate and its unpredictable weather patterns are warning us that our dependence on fossil fuel burning has reached an unsustainable level. A slew of health problems are surfacing as a result of genetically modified foods and the excessive use of chemicals. Widespread disease and illness are indicators that the habits of the majority are adversely affecting a minority. The plastic poisoning of our environment is a direct result of the many “conveniences” of modern day society. Connect the dots, and you’ll realize that the problems of today are a manifestation of the out of balance lifestyle practices that our race as a whole embraces. Take for instance that 17 million barrels of oil a year are used for water bottle production alone. If that still doesn’t phase you, how about acknowledging that 93% of American’s are walking around with bisphenol A in their system. Bisphenol A, or BPA, is a chemical produced in large quantities that serves as one of the primary structural binding ingredients in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. Exhibiting estrogen-mimicking, hormone-like properties, BPA causes widespread damage throughout the entire body. Yet, our dependency on plastics seems to grow exponentially. That, folks, is out of balance.
Much of my writing discusses the disconnect that exists between people and the land. This disconnect has dulled our senses to the language of Nature and it prevents us from acknowledging the root of the problem. We have made our Planet sick. The symptoms are escalating, and if they continue, the problems we see today will seem meager compared to what is going to unfold.
If we continue to ignore her, I do believe that our race is in for a very uncomfortable future as Nature, the very source of our existence, contorts in ways we and much of the ecosystems of the world simply cannot bend to.
I do believe we can reverse the direction we’re heading. But doing so is going to require unity and participation among the World’s people on a scale that has never been seen. Massive efforts are already underway to educate us about the harm we’re causing to our Planet and ourselves. Organizations are forming everywhere we look. The Plastic Pollution Coalition is a large, promising organization that is working to ween our World off of plastics. But there needs to be more. We all need to be a part of the solution to get back and give back to our Land.
I’m sending an SOS to the World. For every 100 pounds of litter removed from our land, I am biking 10 miles to raise awareness to the predicament our human race is in. Let’s see where we end up…
“I hope that someone gets my message in a bottle.”
More on this words to action advocacy and the Ten4OneHundred will be available soon. Contact Billy Weiland at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
#TrashFreeAssateague #TheMarsh #Ten4OneHundred #assateaguenps #assateagueisland #assateague #assateaguestatepark
Trash Free Assateague. Go Green OC. Strawless Summer. Plastic Pollution Coalition. Organizations local, and around the globe are raising awareness to the excessive anthropogenic debris our human race has created. Of particular concern are the documented and scientific findings that have surfaced around plastics, and specifically one-time use plastics. We are only beginning to see the spell our plastic addiction has cast on the land, our waterways and oceans, and our own human race.
The plastic problem is real, and, personally, I believe it is a global crisis that is not being taken seriously simply because the majority of members contributing to the issue are either unaware or unwilling. The Climate Change crisis has had a front row seat for years, but plastic and climate change are, as the Plastic Pollution Coalition puts it, “parallel global emergencies.” Most of us, hopefully, are well aware of the influence fossil fuel burning has on our planets global climate. Just the production of plastic, derived from petroleum, directly contributes to Earth’s climate and influences its change.
So, how do you get an entire population that has become so dependent on a material to give up their reliance on it in exchange for an alternative? We all need to begin informing large audiences about the detrimental and irreversible damage plastic is having on our world. To do so, a compelling image needs to be created that both frightens and encourages a change.
This should demonstrate that change in behavior and social acceptance begins at the individual level. It is only at the individual level where any movement that is going to be successful must concentrate initial efforts. Businesses and corporations producing the pollutants that are deteriorating our only planet will continue to do so if the individual continues to ask for it. If we want to see change, a healthier environment, political ease, and international peace, it is the individual – you, me, us – that must be the change. As it is said, the time is now. The movement that will succeed is that which both fosters and practices a lifestyle change. If we are to prosper as a species, and live healthy, meaningful lives, it is essential that we adopt a more sustainable approach to living with our planet.
The obstacle is not political. It is not simply a class, race, poverty or wealth issue. Though these are arguably secondary. The root of the problems we are seeing and hearing today stem from the disconnect our society has created between man and Nature. It’s time to get back and give back to our Mother Earth. The future holds what we do today.
Each of us must strive to improve our relation to Earth by getting back and giving back to Nature. What we do has the power to encourage other individuals to follow our lead. Make the change now, and acknowledge your lifestyles footprint on the Earth. As more of us begin making that transition to more sustainable living practices, others will follow suit.
Sustainable living practices have seemingly grown in popularity over the past decade. This is partially due to the increased ease of access to informational resources. However, I believe more people are seeking these off the grid life styles and experimenting with sustainable living practices because we are beginning to acknowledge just how far modern day society has pulled us away from our roots. Communing with Nature is part of our human heritage. It bonds us to the land and gives us a sense of purpose and place in this life. It has the power to heal us both physically and mentally. Knowing Nature allows us to get to know our selves and, as the saying goes, the way of things. By putting our energies into learning more about the Land we live on and the Nature we’re surrounded by, we begin to see life on this planet in a new light. Living off the Land and learning to work with Nature doesn’t just happen. It takes time, patience, hard work, respect, and a dedication to learning.
The other evening I had an interesting conversation with a lady that has been experimenting with one of the many sustainable living practices. Maintaining free range chickens. I started to think about the challenges of sustainable living as she talked about wildlife poaching her free range chickens. She mentioned how the clearing of a wooded area near her farm resulted in an influx of predators preying on her flock. The logging of the tract of woods near her home forced the wildlife to seek out new habitat, and, in this case, easier food. Clear cuts are a common scene on the Eastern Shore. As more infrastructure is built to accommodate an ever increasing population, we will continue to see a loss of wooded areas. It stands to reason, then, that as we infringe on the habitat of wildlife, that wildlife will infringe on us. Tackling the problem of population and our sprawl across the Land might be something to delve into further with a book. However, The Marsh seems a fitting platform to provide some helpful tips for our followers that have ran into the problem of predators preying on their free range chickens. After a little research, I’ve compiled a list of methods that may help some members of your flock by protecting them from common predators in the area. Many of you likely are aware of some of these methods. Some of them, hopefully, are new ideas that you can apply and see if they work for you. As always, comments and suggestions are welcome. Enjoy your day, and remember to get outside and commune with Nature….there’s a lot to learn.
How To Deter Predators And Keep Your Free Range Chickens Safe
Silence and solitude. We all seek out these invaluable gifts that life offers us. Though, the more I find myself in the presence of silence and solitude, I realize that silence doesn't have to be the absence of sound, and solitude doesn't have to mean being alone. Silence and solitude, together, serve to bring us back to the ground. They carry us away from the negative distractions that have diluted our society, and take us to a place that shows us who we are and where we belong.
Silence and solitude is found in those moments when we discover ourselves listening to the voice of the Earth and recognize that we are a part of the magic of Nature.
This morning, a solitary seal and a few waterfowl helped to reiterate this idea of learning to listen to Nature speak. If we want to understand our place in this vast world, and develop a real sense of harmony with ourselves and each other, I believe we first must look to Nature and remind ourselves that we are not separate from it, but a part of its magic.
Spring begins March 20th! As the Sun gradually migrates back toward the northern hemisphere, the trees are showing signs of a season in transition, and the local birds are voicing their approval. I found this old bird feeder on the back porch of the ACT office. This feeder has a character of its own. With moss collecting on the roof, it resembles something that one would stumble upon in an old growth forest. All winter I’ve contemplated putting a little life back into it and this weekend seemed an appropriate time to get crafty. I refurbished this well weathered bird house to show gratitude toward our feathered friends. As we make it through these last few weeks of a winter that seems to want to hang on, we want to encourage everyone to take advantage of the increasing daylight hours and get outside. Start some hands on outdoor projects. Get those kayaks out of storage and go for a paddle. Go explore the many hidden paths this area has to offer. Reminding everyone to keep their minds busy and in tune with Nature. It’s as simple as a bird house.
Click the video above to view. Video created by Lindsey Buckman for the Anti Littering campaign developed by ACT's Billy Weiland.
I have listened to the Island in ways I never thought possible. Assateague is a humbling place, and it offers solace to those that listen and respect its ways. Since joining ACT, I have found myself in a position to stand in defense of Assateague, and have therefore initiated a campaign to clean the northern end of the Island. Residing on the south side of the Ocean City inlet, this northern most extent of Assateague is in dire need of a trash/anti littering campaign that will not only serve to clean this part of the National Park, but bring awareness to the littering and trash issue that exists throughout the Delmarva region.
The trash issue on this section of beach has been neglected for some time, and it needs to be addressed. To put into perspective the amount of litter that has accumulated on Assateague Island’s north point, lets rewind a decade or so. Through middle school and high school, this part of Assateague, referenced as The Wedge, was a place to escape the crowds that fill the more easily accessible areas of the Island. It was a place I would often paddle over to for surf sessions along the jetty when winds were unfavorable in town. It is the postcard image of Assateague Island. With a complex dune system, abundant wild life, and south swells that wedge off the jetty and offer one of the better left hand surf breaks in the area, this part of Assateague is a haven and refugee that deserves our attention. I moved back last February and made the paddle over to the wedge sometime in March last year. It was the first time I’d been back on the north point since I moved away. Sprinting across the dunes toward the ocean, I was shocked to see the amount of trash that has accumulated along the high tide lines and back dunes. The amount of litter collecting on this part of the beach is unacceptable by any standard.
Throughout my life I have come to find that there is no better way to develop a relation with Nature than by striving to understand its many ways, and working to ensure the health of the Planet. In doing so, I have developed respect for myself, my peers, and an even deeper respect for the Earth.
Acknowledging all that the Ocean has provided me, I believe it is my responsibility to help protect it from the many challenges it faces. The opportunity I have to make a difference and positively influence something as magical as Nature is a privilege I feel more than fortunate to have. At ACT, I have had the chance to build a platform, The Marsh, that hosts stories to inspire people to get back to Nature through adventure, literature, and the arts. I want everyone to develop the deep level of respect I’ve found for this Earth. In doing so, I firmly believe we all will find common ground and the Land we walk on will be the better for it.
This campaign to clean the north point of Assateague Island National Seashore, and bring awareness to the littering and excessive waste issues that the coastal environment of this area faces has become a focal point in my life.
Though my debut back in the water is several weeks away, I have remained on the water. This past February, my girlfriend and local Nature photographer Lindsey Buckman and I began making kayak trips across Sinepuxent Bay to the north point of Assateague. In just two trips, two people and two kayaks removed nearly 120 pounds of litter.
I have spent a good deal of time on this part of Assateague. Surfing has captured the bulk of my time on the north point, but the reflecting and thinking that I’ve done there has proven just as beneficial. During a solo trash sweep, I began developing a theory. I noticed that there was a visible age difference between litter on the part of the beach adjacent to the inlet, and the litter existing in the dunes. The portion of beach adjacent to the inlet is collecting newer trash as the wave and tide action pushes the litter in from Ocean City and West Ocean City. Most of the older trash exists in the dune system, a couple hundred yards south of this collection of newer trash. Within the dune system, there are several prominent washouts. They are areas where rain, wind, and high surf has eroded and washed out sections of dune and exposed relic trash. These areas are littered with miniscule plastics and artificial debris. The majority of litter in these washouts is visibly older than the trash washing up on the very north tip of the beach. I believe the trash that is appearing in these washouts has remained on the island for years, reappearing in areas where sand migrates and reveals the artificial debris beneath the dunes.
With excessive dune erosion occurring on the north point, a vertical profile view of the dunes is visible, revealing not just the depositional strata of the dune, but the litter that exists within it. I found a piece of foam embedded in one of these eroded dunes. Buried beneath two feet of sand, plant roots had begun growing through the foam. The vegetation growing above the foam at this particular location is approximately two years old. So, my theory here is that the piece of styrofoam in the picture can be dated by adding the two years or so it took for that vegetation to grow above it, plus the time it took for the two feet of sand deposition to bury the foam. What this tells me is that the north point of Assateague has quite a history of trash beneath its dune system, arriving by way of the tides and winds carrying it from Ocean City, and the negligence of some that visit this part of the island.
The first photo is a single milk carton I found in the back dunes. Note how it started off in two pieces. The second photo shows how that one piece of plastic, after years of being on the island, has deteriorated and its chemical components have worn down. It results in the plastic breaking into puzzle pieces like that shown in my hand. Those little pieces eventually get buried in the dune system where they remain for years.
As we continue to build this campaign, we look forward to working with the National Park Service, and community members who wish to volunteer with ACT, as we clean our beloved Island and bring awareness to the littering and trash issues affecting our waterways and coastal landscape.
I would like to thank Lindsey Buckman, photographer and owner of Assateague Farm, for creating the video in this post, and the time she has put in as we build this campaign together. She is an amazing human, and I look forward to many more adventures with her as we work to bring people back to Nature.
Last week I had the privilege of taking to the skies, and I must say, the rawness with which Assateague and the surrounding coastal landscape exemplifies this time of year is astounding. At 2,000 feet above, the desolate, wild image that the Island of Assateague and our Coastal Bays portray only deepened the respect I have for this area’s coastal ecosystem. The effect these cold winter months have on the islands, marshes, and wildlife of Maryland is nothing short of amazing. From above, the image is an embodiment of Mother Nature. With chunks of ice floating on the surface water at the mercy of the wind and tides, vegetation that has gone dormant as it awaits longer days ahead, and beaches absent of the crowds they are often associated with, one would be convinced they have found a piece of coastal wilderness lost in time. I am drawn to this area because of the beauty in the solitude it offers.
After a brief fly over of the Island, our flight itinerary took us further inland. The image from above shifted, and the peace of mind that a natural landscape offers was replaced by a sense of disappointment. The purpose of our flight was to capture aerial views and geographic coordinates of poultry factories in the area. Referred to as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), these mammoth poultry factories are spreading across Delmarva at an alarming rate. The issue isn’t new, and is in fact a main campaign at Assateague Coastal Trust as we vigilantly work to protect water quality, the health of our communities, and the health of the coastal ecosystem from agricultural pollution.
Peering out of that tiny plane window, I saw a landscape scarred by the hand of man. We’ve all seen these factories. Take a Sunday drive down the many back country roads, and you would be hard pressed to not notice the metal chambers sprawling across the majority of the open fields. Looking at the CAFOs from above, I am struck with emotion similar to that which I feel when passing by them on the ground. These huge industrial sized poultry CAFO’s are not just unpleasant, they are repulsive. They are creeping into our communities, and they are threatening the very land and waterways to which we owe our deepest respect. It is the land and rich coastal ecosystem of this area that has provided every resident that calls this place home the opportunity to flourish in such a remarkable environment.
With a birds eye view, I also note just how close these CAFO’s are to a place that has given people of this area and afar so much. On land, the proximity of these CAFOs to Maryland’s coastal bays isn’t as clear. Above the canopy of trees, however, it truly is terrifying to acknowledge the encroachment of the poultry industry on our coastal landscape. For those that doubt the problem at hand, I urge them to take a brief glance at any recent aerial photograph of the area. Navigate the region for five minutes on Google Earth. Poultry CAFO’s are taking over our rich land at the expense of our communities, wildlife, and water quality. What I saw on that flight was an industry driven by profit, slowly encroaching on a Land that is priceless.
I wonder how it might look if the massive poultry houses plaguing this area were actually small family farms. The poultry industry sells the public with an image reminiscent of the good American life, complete with a red farm house and rustic wood fence surrounding a country plot of roaming farm animals. The real image is that of massive metal buildings that have scarred this region physically and mentally. So, I would like to ask big chicken, what happened to so many of the small family farms I once knew in this area? Like the wise artist Graham Nash said, “my advise to you is to not take advice from the dealers who are handing out the cards.”
It is time to recapture the essence of this Land, and stand in defense of the Eastern Shore for the beauty it holds and the beauty it’s capable of procuring.
The Eastern Shore is my home. I left it nine years ago and returned last February. Though I have been back on my home turf in Assateague for a year now, it only took a few days upon my return to acknowledge the many problems big poultry is inflicting on our communities, the land, and the wildlife. Let's take a stand.
Please feel free to visit ACT's Community Healthy Air Act (CHAA) page to learn how ACT is working to help local communities in their efforts to ensure CAFO emissions are regulated.
Through rain, snow drifts, bitter cold and wind, I’ve spent months waiting for the opportunity that presented itself earlier today. Representing one of my favorite wild animals, the Red Fox, this little lady gave me the opportunity to witness her elusive ways. A rare moment that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life. I spent nearly a half hour trekking behind her as she led me through standing water, ice, shin high marsh mud, briars, and the dune system on Assateague Island State Park. With nose to the ground and an unwavering focus, she remained adamant in her daily chores despite my presence. Carry on my friend, tis’ a nice day…
Reminding everyone to get outside, explore, and recognize the beauty this Land has to offer.
You can't look for it. The value of living in the present, opening your mind to the universe, and listening to the voice of Nature is validated at those moments when we feel that deep connection to the rawness of Earth. Finding that connection by listening to the land and its components is a practice many have neglected in their pursuit of control and the lure of false security. We go about our lives with expectations, and in those expectations, we have preconceived ideas. We have been taught, somewhere along the line, that we must control everything, and that money and power brings us greater control. It is this control that pools the wool over our eyes, and makes many oblivious to not just the beauty and complexity of Nature, but the answers which Nature is attempting to convey.
I habitually use the term Nature in my writing, and it begs the question, what is Nature? Nature is everywhere and it is represented by the biological organisms and the physical processes that depend on each to ensure life occurs in the most harmonious, efficient manner possible on this planet. Those that understand Nature this way will agree with the philosophy of a man-Nature disconnect that routinely surfaces in my posts. Our society is neglecting the need for a true relationship with Nature and the Land it inhabits. At risk is our ability to communicate with Nature and understand the Land.
Earth, Nature, and the Land is as real as it gets. I truly believe that Mother Earth and the laws of Nature that comprise her are aware of those that respect the Land and share their energy with it. The reward for those that develop this connection with the Land, listen to Nature, and understand the importance of place on Earth can not be acquired by power, politics, money or possessions. There must be an understanding between man and Nature, and a relationship must exist between the Land and its inhabitants if we wish to continue residing here.
Many walk through this life with preconceived ideas, looking for answers in places and enterprises that pull us further away from the Land. The mass of individuals comprising today’s society are failing to keep rhythm with Nature. Should we continue to move forward under the aforesaid circumstances, we will continue to forfeit the many gifts Nature has to offer.
My fascination with Native Americans and their relationship with the Land exemplifies the connection we must strive for today. Wisdom resides with the Native American, and there is much we can learn from their ways and their words. The late 19th century Teton Sioux medicine man, Brave Buffalo, once said “I have noticed in my life that all men have a liking for some special animal, tree, plant, or spot of earth. If men would pay more attention to these performances and seek what is best to do in order to make themselves worthy of that toward which they are so attracted, they might have dreams which would purify their lives. Let a man decide upon his favorite animal and make a study of it, learning its innocent ways. Let him learn to understand its sounds and motions. The animals want to communicate with man, but Wakantanka does not intend they shall do so directly – man must do the greater art in securing an understanding.”
Too many people today are using their souls to bargain with enterprises that return nothing of purity. We are putting our trust and soul into men that are taking that energy and contributing to the very enterprises that pull us further away from what it is that we not only need, but what we all long for.
If we stop to think about the problems facing the world today, we will see that those problems are a manifestation of man forgetting his place on this planet. Our “advances” have actually set us back, and removed us spiritually from the Land. The condition of the Land, the health of the Earth’s biomes, and the Spirit of man are in jeopardy if we continue to treat it as a resource, and neglect communing with Nature.
Inspiration for this post comes from an evening a couple weeks ago in which a snow storm, a pine tree, and a camp fire spoke words of wisdom, like that conveyed by Brave Buffalo. After a large offshore low migrated up the coast and moved north of the Mid Atlantic region, our landscape was left under a thick blanket of snow and a sharp northeast wind that ushered in a bitter cold. An excellent opportunity for the game of wildlife hide and seek awaited. Warding off cabin fever, Lindsey Buckman and I scurried up to Cape Henlopen Sate Park. Single digit temperatures and thigh deep snow drifts tend to keep the hiking trails in this area relatively quiet, from the human. Lindsey welcomed the opportunity as prime time to savor a moment with the infamous snowy owl, and I was convinced that the endless tracks in the snow would lead me to the always elusive, and forever mystical, solitary red fox. Nature spoke through the many warblers, finches, blue birds, and herons that went about their daily lives on that cold January afternoon. Nature guided us through the woods and the sand dunes with the foot prints of local fox and racoon. After a few hours of trekking through snow drifts and unable to spot an owl or a fox, it was apparent that we were looking too hard. With silence on our side, snow on the ground, and a plethora of tracks, I was certain the owl would appear before us and the fox I had been tracking would reward my efforts. You can't look for it. In a way, I was trying to control how Nature would speak to me, and by doing so, I wasn't fully open to the language of Nature. I was limiting myself to one language, but Nature speaks many languages and answers us in different ways. Knowing those languages and the manner in which they are conveyed is the skill we must preserve if we are going to understand this world and our place in it.
After returning home, my mind was open, I was relaxed, and in rhythm. I had spent a day hiking through snow with my best friend observing the local wildlife at one of our nearby State Parks. Clarity and sense of the world happened because I was open to the Land around me, and thankful for the simplicity our Earth offers. I was content and at ease with the warmth of the fire that Lindsey had made on the snow in front of my rancher. I had warmth around me, snow beneath my feet, and the shadow of the trees above my head. And in that moment, in the small notch of a pine tree that rests in front of my house, a woodpecker was seeking a last minute refugee from the wind and cold. As we stood in front of this amazing bird, literally inches away, admiring it as it huddled into this perfectly spaced hollow of a pine tree, a fox dashed pass the fire and into the small tract of woods in front of my house.
...all in a day.
Leave control out of your life. Open your mind to the Land. Renew your relationship with the Earth. Listen to Nature. Sometimes the answers we're looking for are nestled in the notch of a pine tree.
And just like that, an entire county can shut down. It's weather like this that first sparked my interest in science and the natural world. The power of Nature continues to, and will always keep things in check. The snow. The cold. The wind. A few elements on this planet that are oh so humbling. Nature speaks to us every day, and today she is speaking loud enough for everyone to hear. Enjoy the snow, stay safe, and read a book.
We all feel the need to get a little fresh air from time to time. The outdoors is an invaluable resource. Immersing ourselves in the outdoors enables us to develop a level of respect and understanding for the animals and physical processes that characterize the outdoors. By doing so, we can improve our health, and the health of the environment. More so today than ever, getting outside and away from the hustle bustle of our everyday lives is critical. The outdoors allows us time to free our minds and forget about the stress society places on us. From something as simple as taking a short walk along the waters edge, to embarking on a week long kayak trip down the Sinepuxent Bay, getting outside, moving our bodies, and listening to our surroundings offers our minds, bodies, and soul a temporary escape. With Winter in full force and the recent cold spell that's become the talk of the town the past couple weeks, getting outside may take a little extra motivation. This time of year many dread even a walk to the mailbox. But Winter, and the cold this special season brings has much to offer. Cold, dry air brings the horizon into focus and resides as a prime time for Nature photographers to take advantage of the exceptional clarity. So, layer up, fill the thermos with some hot coffee, and take a stroll through you local walking trail. Go for a walk in the woods. Visit your National and State Parks. I think you'll find that once you're moving around and listening to the land, you'll develop an appreciation for cold weather. This is a shorter piece than I would usually post, and intentionally, because I'm ready to get back outside, explore, and learn. Stay warm folks, and enjoy.
I recently returned from a two-day trip across the Chesapeake Bay. With minimal and inconsistent surf the past few weeks, and my inability to sit still, I was desperate for a little adventure. My friend Lindsey Buckman and I made our way across the bridge with little more than a camera and an old pair of binoculars. My intention was to gain a better understanding of individuals in today’s society and their relationship with the Natural World. As I've grown older, I've learned to listen to Nature and the signs it tries to convey to us all. If you learn to refrain from the man-made distractions in today's world, and focus on the ways Nature speaks to us, you realize your place in the world. Watching people, how they interact with others and their surroundings, how they carry themselves, and the strength of their relationship with Nature holds many of the answers to the challenges facing the world today.
Since I was in undergrad, I have been intrigued by the disconnect that has evolved between man and Nature. Nature, in all of its biological and physical forms, is as real as it gets in this life, and it is becoming very apparent that the majority of people in first world societies are losing their connection to that reality. The disconnect has been a slow evolution, and it has therefore gone unnoticed. This past weekend, visiting the Nation’s Capital, the disconnect was even more apparent.
I split the trip into two days. Day one I would spend in D.C., and Day two I would escape to Great Falls National Park in Virginia. I strategically stopped in D.C. first, knowing myself and the anxiety I get in cities, the National Park on Sunday would bring me back to the reality I prefer, and serve as a kind of cleanse and renewal.
My time in D.C. clarified a couple things. I believe distractions are the primary cause for the erosion of our relationship with Nature. That's not to say all distractions are negative. There are two kinds of distractions, those that bring us closer to each other and the Natural World, and those that pull us further away from our connection to everything that is real. In D.C. the later was pervasive. I do not by any means detest technology, without it I wouldn't have had the chance to create The Marsh and you wouldn't be able to read what I have to say, but the advent of smartphones and social media and the extent to which people have become so reliant and, yes, addicted, has removed us from reality. We have created a world so separate from Nature that as we walk around looking for solutions in our phones, computers, and "leaders" (yes, I'm placing "leaders" in the same category, distractions), we are walking past answers that are right there in Nature. Not everyone is going to find the formula for World Peace in the lone oak tree that rests in front of the Department of Justice, but I am saying that if we slow down, listen to Nature speak, and stop trying to control everything, the real world, the Natural World, will reveal itself and our connection to it will begin to heal.
The divisions among people and classes, and the disconnect between man and nature is real, and it is most prevalent in our cities. I spent the day walking around D.C., listening. I saw anger on peoples' faces. I saw a lack of compassion among people that have separated themselves into classes (a result of greed). Extreme wealth beside extreme poverty. Priorities were out of touch with what really matters. I saw the disconnect. The further removed from Nature we become, the further the decline in the health of people, and the environment. What I saw further demonstrated the disconnect we've fostered.
Take what I observed in D.C., and drive 30 miles west of the city, and you'll find you are free from those distractions that have led to the disconnect. 30 miles, that's barely a half hour by car, but the difference in energy, clarity of mind, and public morale would lead one to believe they've traveled an entire continent and discovered a piece of nirvana. The first thing I heard was the pace of time. You can actually hear different speeds of time. If you haven't yet, you haven't slowed down enough, and listened. Nature is on real time. We live our daily lives on a time that is separate from Nature, but, if you take yourself to these places, and open up to them, you will find yourself adjusting to the time difference. Keep listening. Nature talks a lot, and we have everything to learn.
It isn't just in D.C. that the disconnect exists. D.C. is just a place where negative distractions are evident. I've used it here as a representation of the disconnect I've identified for over a decade. Great Falls National Park isn't the only place we can find happiness, peace, understanding, and Truth. But it serves to show that we need Nature, we need quiet places, we need to get back to what is real.
These places show us who we are. They demonstrate that we are not in control and only part of something far greater than any city. They are humbling places, and they have something to tell us. We just need to listen. What I've learned is that place takes two forms. One is physical, the other resides in ourselves, in our soul. Where is your place.
We live in a complex world, and the variables that have led to the disconnect are just as complex. I am still trying to understand the disconnect, and probably will for the duration of my time on this Earth.
Written by W.R. Weiland
Coast Kids is an environmental education program of the Assateague Coastal Trust. Through a hands on, outdoor approach, we are teaching future generations the importance of healthy ecosystems, and connecting kids to Nature. Visit our Coast Kids page for more information.
Today, with the advent of smart phones, it seems everyone is a professional photographer. What a photograph represents to the photographer, though, I believe is what separates photographer as artist, and photographer as a dispassionate passerby. I am by no means a photographer, but when I see something that resonates an idea, inspiration, or feeling, I want to capture that moment, be it through music, writing, or a photograph. The photograph I've included here is not what many would think to be an image worthy of drawing attention to. That is until I can explain why this picture was captured. The first day of December, 2017, I was kayaking through the marshes and small bays behind Ocean City, MD. With a turning tide, I noticed quite a bit of leaf litter meandering on the surface. If asked what sights a typical day on the water brings, a leaf probably isn't the first thing that comes to mind. A leaf is formed on land. The fact that this leaf, along with a myriad of other leaves, pine needles, and driftwood found its way into the coastal bays where I was paddling resides as a visual case in point that what is produced on land, ultimately finds a way into our waterways. Think on that for awhile.
There is something strikingly primitive about Winter. Winter is the wind and cold that grip a landscape. It is an overcast sky that casts a shadow over the land. There is a rawness in Winter that is both savage, and humbling. The rawness that is in Winter stresses the importance of the most basic human needs: food, shelter, and health. Winter is wise and it can teach us who we are. Winter reaches out to help people look inside themselves, reflect on the past, and contemplate the future. Deciduous trees heed Winter by dropping their leaves, giving us a chance to glimpse deeper into the forest, and, if we listen, to ourselves.
Reminding everyone to enjoy Winter. The seasons are a reflection of the soul.
It’s Sunday morning, the morning after the first snow fall of the season. With the Winter solstice still a week and a half away, the eastern shore is experiencing a taste of the Winter season that is yet to come. The scenery on Assateague Island this morning did not disappoint. With the Sun slipping lower on the horizon as we approach the first day of Winter, some of you have probably noticed the exceptional sunsets over the past week. With an almost mystical array of orange and pink hues painted on the horizon, I think many would agree that his time of year and the ways our natural world conveys a changing season is a privilege not to be taken for granted. Compliment the unique angle of a Winter Sun’s rays with a beach coated in a couple inches of snow, and Assateague Island emits an energy that attracts the individuals of this area with a special connection and dedication to the Island. The raw wildness that still hangs on in this area ceases to amaze me. Mike Trivitz, Lindsey Buckman, and Billy Weiland greeted this morning on Assateague with appreciation and a smile.
With colder weather settling over the region I know many are already in anticipation of warmer days to come. As an enthusiast for the outdoors and advocate for bringing people back to nature, I hope my words reside as inspiration and motivation to get out there and enjoy the nature that is all around us. It is here for us to learn, and here for us to enjoy. Winter is an amazing time of year folks. Go for a walk in the woods. Look for our native birds. Smell the air as one season moves out and another moves in. Walk to the edge of a marsh, and listen.
The Marsh was created by ACT’s Communications and Programs Assistant, Billy Weiland. The idea behind The Marsh is rooted in the philosophy that to care about this planet and develop a connection with Nature, people must immerse themselves in the environment. Graham Nash put it perfectly when he said “you have to feel something before you create something.” Nature has everything to teach us, and it is our responsibility to listen. Developing that connection with Nature necessitates a level of respect and understanding of our natural world. Too many have become disconnected from Nature. The Marsh is here to inspire people to get out and explore, learn, and develop a deep relation with our natural environment. Earth is an unbelievable planet. The complexity of physics that govern it, and the diversity of life that inhabit it offer endless opportunities of discovery, be it self-discovery or scientific discovery. So, welcome to The Marsh, bringing people back to nature through adventure, literature, and the arts.
If you would like to contribute a story or photos that align with the philosophy of The Marsh, please email samples with your name and contact information to Billy Weiland at email@example.com.