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 firstname.lastname@example.org.