What's In A Photograph

by W.R.Weiland

Published June 5, 2019

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 photograph with 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. 


Outer Encounters of The Inner Kind

by W.R. Weiland

Published May 22, 2019  

In our lives, there are moments when, as it is sometimes said, the universe seems to speak directly to us, extending a hand that we are eager to embrace and hopeful that our intuition serves us well along the unknown trail of time. It is the way of our world, that which it is intended to be a challenge to find the answers each of us are seeking. Even those that have secured a great deal of wisdom in their time here are tasked with maintaining a healthy pace of discovery, for these individuals possess gifts that serve to help them better listen to their soul and that of the land. These folks, I will argue, are particularly challenged with abandoning one gift in exchange for another. The gift that Nature is prepared to tap into is one which we are often hesitant to embrace because of our fear of the unknown. 

When we think of Nature, images of birds busy about their nests, trees swaying in a breeze, and a snow covered forest of some far away land sitting silent in the winter night may be a few comforting thoughts which we transcend toward. Nature, though, is also manifested through other mediums, and ones which each and every living human is capable of experiencing and from which he or she can learn. Those mediums are people, and those moments that many are too quick to call chance occurrence. The encounters that have the profound impacts on our being, be it negatively or positively, are the work and order of Nature in a natural world. The choices we make in this life determine the manner in which Nature speaks to us, and in this way, those encounters become predestined. This language of the world with which Nature speaks is conveyed to us through endless mediums. It may be through books, music, people, or that breeze whisping through the canopy of a forest. No matter the medium, it is our greatest accomplishment to learn Nature’s language. The better listeners we become, the easier it is to know Nature and the answers we’re seeking.

Once we have learned to listen, there is then the exhausting process of determining how to convey our message to others. In our first world modern day society, describing Nature through a deep, contemplative philosophy presents its own obstacles. A statement like the language of the world with which Nature speaks is conveyed to us through endless mediumsoften evokes hostility among a public audience, and it is also testament to the disconnect that has been created between our species and the rest of the natural world. It is, in fact, perverse to neglect human heritage and its dependence on nourishment from Nature and the lands resources. Yet, it is the evolution of our society which has sickened itself because it traded the gifts of Nature for perceived conveniences. 

When we began to believe that we could master Nature and abuse Earths resources to suit our needs, a disconnect was put into motion, and a gradual decline of the health of the biologic community and the land which it depends followed suit. Today, our so called leading societies have evolved to presume that we can live independently from Nature. By separating ourselves from the very essence of our being, we have cut ourselves off from the truth that each of us is seeking. What we are left with is a situation representative of the decay of individual spirit as the soul of the world is oppressed by the fabricated distractions which short sighted greed has produced. 

And so, it should not be a surprise that those of us with a story to tell, wisdom from Nature to share, and a deep philosophy to teach find ourselves mentally exhausted and apprehensive to make the next move toward helping improve the ecopsychology of our human race. What we must first acknowledge is that we cannot change the world which our society has created, but we can change the world with which we surround ourselves. In doing so, the rest will fall into place. The environments which we are surrounded by shape the individuals we become. This is evolution as ecopsychology would define it. For those not familiar with the ecopsychology school of thought, I encourage you to read Ecopsychology: Restoring The Earth. Healing The Mind. The contributing writers of this book offer compelling insight to this human-Nature relationship and the disconnect that has unfolded. There are a few dozen books which have seemingly crossed my path at the most opportune times in life, and this one in particular holds the ideas and concepts that I have been attempting to understand and put words to for the better part of my time here. 

It is the evolution of societies which has the significant impact on those a part of them. Learning to recognize the values of a society, the good and the bad, is elemental to the process of strengthening our relationship with Nature. 

First world, modern day society has drastically distorted the idea of success. The greatest accomplishment, that is, our greatest success is to leave behind a symbol or message for those after us to look at and grow wise from, develop a deeper appreciate for our natural world, and experience a sharing of souls and all the good that is in each of us and all around us. 

The work to follow this piece and the philosophy of The Marsh, as well as a new, upcoming collaborative effort between Assateague Coastal Trust (ACT), the Trash Free Assateague program of ACT, and the Delmarva Free School is the result of a lifelong contemplation of the natural world and our place in it. That is, it holds my deepest philosophical beliefs. It reflects the struggles, challenges, historical complexity, and the manner in which the senses which our species has been gifted have served to teach us about the mysterious and wild world we live in, and the one which each and every one of us is connected to and aspires towards. Whether those two worlds are one and the same, or separate, I suppose is up to the reader. Over the next several months I anticipate growing the reach of The Marshand its philosophy, expanding the concept of ACT’s Trash Free Assateague program and the real call to action that has made that program unique and exclusive in a sea of other plastic free programs that seem to miss the real underlying problem. The work to be produced will reflect how I see the state of our times, what events and processes got us here, where I believe we’re going, and what I feel is elemental to a purposeful and fulfilling life, all by learning to recognize outer encounters of the inner kind. 

This piece and others are also available on the Assateague Coastal Trust website. 


A Symbol For The Times

by W.R. Weiland

Published May 13, 2019

Ian Hunter’s “The Marsh” is a poetic reflection of the coastal environment that graces our region. In reading his piece, there is an unspoken assurance I feel in the name I’ve given to this platform, The Marsh. The name stands as a symbol for a world governed by all that is Nature. It is a world separate from that which we’ve created, but one that each and every one of us feels a connection with on a deep and spiritual level. In this kind of world, money and material possessions are obsolete, and thriving is determined by ones soul and the ability to listen to and understand Nature’s complex intricacies. Ian’s Marsh demonstrates a world that bends to the rawness which characterizes the seasons of our planet. It is a world that is fragile, and yet so complex and hostile that to survive, its inhabitants must learn to work with the Natural order, and be willing to adapt to the constant change that is controlled by the passage of time. This world is a place that we may not physically be a part of, but one which we can learn to watch and listen, and so become a part of on a spiritual level. It is a place with the answers to the questions our fabricated world seeks, and a place where our spirit fly’s when we learn to recognize our own purpose in it.  It is a place where we see ourselves a part of and at the same time, separate from. The Marsh is a place of order far beyond that of any created by our species, past or present. Ian’s Marsh is a necessary world for our species to acknowledge and heed lessons from if we are to discover our purpose in this life once again, and rekindle the man-Nature relationship that has been lost in the confusion of modern society. 

Ian's piece is now available on Your Stories. Enjoy


A White Flag

by W.R. Weiland

Published April 26, 2019

I recently received a story contribution to The Marsh from Jackie Kurtz (now on Your Stories) highlighting the increasingly popular environmental issue that is plastic. Though I have developed The Marsh to facilitate a philosophy that encourages readers to better acquaint themselves with the Nature which we find ourselves surrounded by through deep thought, outdoor adventure seeking, and the arts, I believe that Jackie’s piece is worth bringing to the stage. Her piece describes the environmental and health issues surrounding plastics and advocates for lifestyle habits that resonate with many of the points I strive to communicate through not just The Marsh, but also through the Trash Free Assateague program I founded, almost accidentally, in February 2018 for Assateague Coastal Trust.

The “plastic crisis” which, I’ll argue, has become a mainstream environmental issue in the most recent decade has been a crisis since plastic was first introduced into our world back in the earlier part of the 20th century with the discovery and production of what was then referred to as bakelite. If you’re not familiar with the birth of bakelite and its history, Dr. Google will certainly fill you in on its origins, chemistry, and production. In the early 1900’s we were naïve to the ill effects which plastic causes to our land, our bodies, and our lifestyle’s. Today, we are now learning that the convenience we once thought significantly improved our everyday lives has secretly been deteriorating it and the natural environments upon which we depend. The problem our society now faces is how to wean the population off of a material that has significantly changed how we live our lives. It is this challenge that necessitates bringing the plastic issue to The Marsh, and some of the hidden, underlying messages surrounding plastic.  

It would surprise many, or maybe not those that know me on a more personal level, to hear me say that plastic as an environmental issue is petty compared to some of the much more complex and devastating issues our planet is currently facing. But plastic is intriguing, and perhaps, dare I say, the issues it’s causing and the publicity it’s receiving was supposed to happen. I see plastic as a white flag, with Mother Earth holding the pole desperately waiting for us to see her wave. In relation to other environmental issues, plastic is probably the easiest to understand, and therefore it resides as the white flag that everyone can see. Plastic is testament to the out of balance lifestyles which we as individuals of society have unintentionally adopted. Plastic is representative of the sacrifice we’ve made for convenience over a more organic, albeit more physically demanding life, and hence my decision to write this piece for The Marsh. Plastic is a parley between ourselves and the planet with which we depend. Plastic is a symbol of the kind of society we have become, but I believe it’s implications have the ability to nudge us back toward a more with the land approach to life.


We have to ask ourselves, how convenient is too convenient, because there is nothing convenient about cancer and a loss of natural resources.


A Call For More Nature Spaces

by W.R.Weiland

Published June 2018

“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. 


Nature's Authoritarian

by W.R.Weiland
Online Journal
Published September, 2019

It’s  a peculiar thing, weather. It is quite possibly the greatest dictator  of our known universe. Think about the power and control it has over  nearly every aspect of life on this planet as we know it. From shaping  the many landscapes spread across Earth, to its ability to influence  human behavior. Some of us are more aware of weather than others, and  all of us are at its mercy. Weather has fascinated me since I was a  child. The enormity of it, and the energy it carries is the reason I  made the decision to study weather through undergrad and graduate  school. I see weather not just in its physical form, but weather as a  spiritual form. It is Nature in its most grandeur. It is the  authoritarian of our Natural World. Weather not only shapes our one and  only planet, it serves to show us our strengths as human beings, as well  as our weaknesses. Weather shows us where we’ve come from, and the  direction we’re headed.

Hurricane Florence exemplified the  physical and spiritual form which weather can embody. Another means for  Nature to speak to us, the spiritual side of weather events like  Hurricane Florence serve to show each of us who we are as a species on a  planet among many.
Florence exposed just how close we are to an  environmental disaster as it flooded inland coal ash ponds and hog  waste lagoons. Florence demonstrated the social inequalities and  desperate situation our society as a whole has created between race and  class as children and adults looted a dollar general. Florence revealed  the prevalent and ever increasing false side of journalism and media  sources as a reporter braced against the wind perpetrating a violent  wind as teenagers casually walked by in the background. Florence proved  how disconnected we are from our environment as a leader showed more  concern for personal image during a major weather event than for victims  of flooding.  Florence showed that within many of us, there is a desire  for compassion as people across the state of North Carolina reached out  to help those in need.
A common philosophy unique to The Marsh  is that Nature exists for us to learn from. The answers we’re seeking  reside everywhere in Nature, and they are revealed to us in many ways.  One only needs to brief the history of science to acknowledge how the  natural world has disclosed many of life’s secrets and solutions to  problems our civilization is seeking, as well as the many solutions it’s  not seeking. Be it a grain of sand or a barrier island, a lone tree in  the middle of a field or thousands of acres of old growth forest, a solo  egret among brackish pools in a marsh or thousands of migrating barn  swallows, a brief passing shower or a hurricane spanning hundreds of  miles across a vast ocean, our one and only Earth is trying to work with  us. Speaking to us through an abnormally changing climate and the  weather patterns associated with a changing planet, it’s time for us to  wake up and begin working with the natural order of things, and correct  what we’ve manipulated.
Florence was just one storm, but the  messages it conveyed would serve our civilization well for a lifetime if  heeded in the way Nature intended. There have been countless other  weather events in history. The Superstorm of 93, regarded as one of the  worst storms of the 20th century. Hurricane Katrina in 2005, understood  to be the costliest in history and one of the five deadliest Hurricane’s  on record. Hurricane Wilma in 2005, which showed off her intensity at  889 millibars of pressure. The Galveston Hurricane of 1900, which went  down in the books as the deadliest U.S. hurricane. Each serving its  purpose to not just transport energy from one part of the globe to  another in the form of weather systems, but to serve as reminders that  our species among all others on Earth has the ability to make this place  a better place to live, or to continue about our habitual ways as the  water slowly rises. We are at a crossroads in the middle of time. It is  time we start being serious about what this planet is telling us, and  begin working toward balance, or weather, Nature’s authoritarian, will  continue to balance out the imbalance. 


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