by W.R. Weiland
This piece is also available at TheMarshOnline.com
Ian Hunter has been following The Marsh since it was first established in 2017 for Assateague Coastal Trust. Once the platform transitioned to The Marsh Online, Ian has supported the concept and philosophy of The Marsh with numerous poetic reflections and photographs that demonstrate the allure which our regions coastal environment has on him and countless others that have had the privilege of experiencing the tranquility which the natural spaces of Delmarva offer. In a recent email, Ian shared a (above left) me and went on to state the following:
The waterman chats to the paddle boarders on the edge of the marsh as commercial exploitation and leisure activities share the same space. With careful management, the waterman harvests a renewable resource, the paddle boarders observe but don’t disrupt nature and the marsh lives harmoniously with man.
A full version of Ian's poem is available on Your Stories.
There’s something about the photograph and Ian’s description that signifies our adoration for Nature and all that is wild and free, familiar yet mysterious, delicate but dangerous. Why are we compelled to take a photo of a sunset, a mountain landscape, a snow covered town, an empty beach, a marsh?
The answer is both simple, and complicated. A few weeks ago, while camping on Assateague Island, I felt that compelling urge to take a photograph of the sun setting behind Sinepuxent Bay. Typically, I’m more inclined to reach for pen and paper during these kinds of stalled moments in time. Regardless of how we communicate our transcendental experiences, it is the fact that we feel the need to share these moments with others that demonstrates just how strongly Nature has a hold of our hearts and souls.
We are just as much a part of the natural world and its order as the fish and the trees, and in those moments when we feel compelled to document a landscape, an animal, or a photo of ourselves among the grandeur, we are demonstrating a connection with the natural world. Each of us feels that pull of Nature at certain times in our lives. It is the soul of the world communicating with our own, and the more practiced we become at listening and sharing the experience through some medium, the closer our relationship becomes with Nature, ourselves, and those that share in our told stories.
Why then, if human civilization has always felt the pull from Nature, has a disconnect between man and Nature continued to unfold? I believe it is through a distorted view of progress. That is, the evolution of our species has put a twist on the concept of success, resulting in a population that chases after ill conceived ideas and false horizons in search of happiness, only to find that the horizon was a false perception of something more. That view has also made it challenging for many to understand the significance of a meaningful life. It has put distance between us and the rest of the real world.
Ian’s perception of the photograph highlights just how dependent we are on Nature, and how the level of direct connection with Nature one partakes in on a daily basis has a significant influence on our well being and relationship with the land and our natural environments, as well as our respect for and desire to care for the planet and natural resources upon which we depend. Talk to anyone that depends on the land and seas for sustenance, and you’re likely to find that he or she has a keen understanding of a particular aspect of Nature that exceeds the individual who finds themselves always chasing a horizon in hopes of discovering tomorrow’s definition of success.
As a society, before we can begin to truly improve our relationship with the land, we first must immerse ourselves in spaces of Nature. Like any relationship, to care about something, we first have to experience that something on an emotional level. If we are to see the healing of our land and our selves, we must take that experience and put our energies into restoring a balance.