Think of The Marsh as your stage to dance... when no one is looking. The Marsh is here to serve as a platform for any and everyone to pour there heart into the arts which we use to tell a story. Whether you are a writer, a photographer, a musician, or someone looking for a medium to better our world by telling a story that reconnects us to Nature, the Land, our "roots," the Truth, The Marsh welcomes you, and we encourage you to submit your work to feature on The Marsh. The Marsh is here to serve as a way for aspiring writers and artists to tell their story.
Close your eyes for a minute, I mean after you finish reading these first three sentences. With your eyes closed, find the part of you that is “aware” that your eyes are closed. When you have that “awareness” use “it”—what some folks might call the Wise Mind—to watch yourself having a thought.
How did it go? Were you able to do it, to identify a part of you that knew your eyes were closed, then use that part to watch you having a thought?
This exercise is an oversimplified example of what 17th century philosopher DeCartes meant by his famous words Cogito, ergo sum; or, I think, therefor I am. It was his idea that because we can be aware of ourselves as thinking beings, we are able to prove with certainty that our existence extends beyond our mind.
Wild if you ponder it, right? And even more wild is that for centuries deep, devoted processes of thought and questioning like this were valued, so much more than we appear to value these sorts of necessary reflections now. It brings me to concepts I’ve been pondering in response to Billy Weiland’s desire to re-open discourse as a means to reconnect people, soulfulness, and nature, using The Marsh as a platform.
Ecopsychology is a combination of the word ecology, which is knowledge of the natural environment, and psychology, which has the word psyche at its root. According to vocabulary.com, the word psyche comes from the Greek psykhe, which means “the soul, mind, spirit, or invisible animating entity which occupies the physical body.” As far back as the ancient Greeks, we humans have debated the idea that self or psyche is separate from the body. And with DeCartes came the emphasis of valuing this split, applying with his philosophy the idea that the mind has dominionover the body.
In my work, psychotherapy and teaching, the emphasis is on helping people reconnect to themselves, body, mind, heart, spirit, soul. I like to use two words to describe reconnection: qualitative, and meaningful. Meaningful is easy to understand: reconnection to your sense of self and to life in ways that add personal meaning. This other word, qualitative, has the word quality in it, and basically means helping people reconnect to themselves in a way that they can feel—as an individual’s mental health is ultimately based on the quality of not just what but how they feel. When people feel they are disconnected, they are almost always discontented.
Yet, we continue to exist in modern culture according to a philosophic code of dualism, or that idea of Descartes, which goes all the way back to Plato, that the mind and body are split. Self versus other is another name for this. The mind body split places value on what is known through thought or logic, and devalues what can’t be known or proven, as in the subjective realm of the body. In our modern culture, fundamental “othering” translates both as “what I think I therefore am”, making it commonplace to identify with your beliefs as your identity, as we see all around us on the world stage. And because othering is about devaluing, or making something less than, it also shows up as “who I am (based on what I think) is best and because you are different you are other”, which we see in the ways individuals and groups place values about their own beliefs as “better than” or the only “right” way.
“I call this consciousness estrangement,” wrote Starhawk, an activist and teacher of mine, “because its essence is that we do not see ourselves as part of the world. We are strangers to nature, to other human beings, to parts of ourselves.” Because dualism (and its shadow aspect: hubris, meaning excessive pride or self-confidence) has long been our accepted code without our even realizing it, and mostly because human beings are powerful and resilient beyond understanding—most humans enact this split on themselves! We know how to separate off parts of ourselves that cause us stress or pain or fear or bad feelings in general, and pride ourselves on our ability to keep on keeping on. In other words, we fall back to self versus other (mind over body) right in our own minds, bodies, hearts, souls, and spirits by shutting away what makes us feel uncomfortable about our own selves.
It’s true, this is such a powerful skill to have in the short term. However it is not sustainable in the long term, because dualism isn’t actually the truth of our existence. What we don’t work out, we act out~ Emotions are just chemicals called neuropeptides, and they flow through the entirety of the body. The trauma response, known as fight or flight, is hardwired in every one of us in a way that empowers the body for survival. The mind-body when functioning as one is intuitive, instinctual, and full of its own limbic wiring and knowledge.
If only people felt safe enough to connect to it, in all its processes. When it comes to nature, this is where we have so much to embrace by studying its processes—the ways in which multiple species thrive because how they are connected is based on the system’s ability to self-regulate for survival. In a healthy, diverse ecosystem, the word we use is thrive.
When I read the thoughtful reflections on the Marsh for the first time, I thought, now here’s someone who’s on to it. “The current generation has lost much of their ability to understand the language of our natural world,” wrote Billy Weiland. Right, I thought. To me, healing our ability to understand begins within. It means not just healing the disconnect within ourselves, but to do so by connecting to one another, and by finding reconnection to the world, especially our natural world, through this lens. To be present and heal our connection with nature, we are called upon to learn to be present and able to connect first to our whole selves, and to each other.
“A chance to better the world is our love affair with nature,” continues Weiland, and I couldn’t agree more. The old adage is real, though, we cannot give what we do not have, and love and connection must begin from right within ourselves. In this way, our advocacy for our communities and surrounding natural environments happens because it is what makes us feel connected and alive. Thriving.
I am thrilled to engage this work in a hands on way with our upcoming Sacred Gathering Series. Join us on Assateague Island on Saturday, June 15, and Saturday, August 17, from 7-9 pm. We will explore the safety of the therapeutic circle to learn to connect to ourselves within, and practice how to use this connection to better connect to each other and to our natural world. All are welcome! See ActForBays.org for more information and to register!
Kelly McMullen, MA, LGPC is the founder and Clinical Director of the The Delmarva Free School. TDFS is a non-profit, member-supported community wellness co-op. The mission of TDFS is to create lasting wellness at the individual and community level. The DFS believes in equal access to quality, soulful, behavioral and psychodynamic mental health care, education, and wellness services. Specializations include women's embodiment and trauma-informed addiction recovery.
Learn more on our FB page or on our website, www.TheDelmarvaFreeSchool.com
the waterman tends his crab pots daily
harvesting and re-baiting gliding over still waters close to the marsh
living a solitary life on the water
the paddle boarders are up for a day of fun
meandering along Turville Creek
watching the ospreys fishing
hoping to spot a dolphin in the bay
they paddle towards Herring Creek
lined with rich green marsh the waterman speeds towards them
tending to his pots laid close to the edge
he pauses to chat with the paddle boarders
commercial and leisure activities overlap all sustainable and no threat to the marsh
when carefully managed and executed respectfully
the waterman moves on to his next crab pot
paddle boarders wander aimlessly along the creek
ospreys are busy nest building the marsh is happy and smiling
she stepped out into the crisp early morning spring air
birds singing the dawn chorus to greet her
the pale blue sky had been delicately painted onto the calm waters of the bay
the marsh was starting to shed its brown winter coat and change into green for the summer
the sun was not up but the cloudy eastern sky was orange ablaze in anticipation
a lone waterman glided over the mirror like surface
speeding towards crab pots with hopes of a bumper catch
sending perfectly formed ripples out behind his boat to infinity
carving up the perfectly reflected sky painting into a torn canvas
when the boat was well gone and the ripples were just a gentle swell
the sky began to gently repaint itself on the water
she treasured these still moments that touched her soul
she loved way the bay and the marsh gifted her changing portraits
the pre-dawn era was brief but seemed never ending
the sun soon burst over the horizon with enthusiastic abandon
dormant still air was nudged into movement by the warming sun
gentle breezes began a whispering dance over the bay wiping out the reflected sky
she took one last breath of the intoxicating morning air before going inside
with a gracious thank you she she sealed the images in her mind
it was time to face another day laced with work chores family and errands
mixing with the poor souls who have never learned to worship these wonders
she will return for her daily dose of bayside nature tomorrow
Betwixt dry land and the brackish eastern shore bays
Lies a place where human footsteps are unwelcome
A no-mans land invaded twice daily by tidal water
Drenched vegetation thrives
A haven for wild birds seeking food and shelter
Sturdy grasses cover these wetlands
Changing colors with the seasons
Lavish green in warm summertime
Brown is the fashion for cold winter and spring months
Occasionally snow covered
Frequently lashed by high winds
Still air hovers between gentle breezes
Shrubs anchor to the ever soaking floor
Welcome to natures water treatment factory
Mussels cling to the fragile shoreline
Crabs feed in the shallow pools
Small fish hide from hungry birds
Ospreys swoop in to grab nesting material
Black snakes patrol in search of unsuspecting rodents
Ticks crawl onto any passing mammal
Mosquito's emerge to seek out blood
The dreaded green-head flies attack with no mercy
Bullfrogs sing through the night
Raccoons wander around looking for trouble
Herons strut to their favorite ambush place
Noisy geese invade the silence
A fascinating place to visit and observe
Constantly threatened by development and pollution
Watched over and protected by the Assateague Coastal Trust
This is the marsh
Let’s Steal This From the Church
I have to say kudos to some churches that have stepped up and suggested people give up plastic for Lent! I love it. What a fantastic idea, one that anyone can use even if you don’t celebrate Lent. I suggest we take this idea and use it for Earth Day, which is April 22, 2019.
Earth Day is a day set aside to increase awareness and appreciation of the Earth’s natural environment. This is a day that’s celebrated in almost 200 countries around the world. It’s a perfect day to start – or rather stop using plastic. Don’t freak out, I’m not suggesting giving up all plastic. We start small.
In honor of Earth Day, everyone should choose one item of single-use plastic to give up, such as shopping bags, drinking straws, water bottles, plastic foam, food wrappers, etc.
While it would be great if you could give it up permanently, I suggest you give it up for a week – see how that goes. If that wasn’t a hardship, extend it to a month, and keep it going. Once that becomes a habit, pick another item to give up and do the same thing.
Why plastic? Because there’s a growing body of evidence that plastic waste is creating very serious problems and its exponential growth is threatening our planet’s survival.
Plastic is clogging our rivers and streams and making its way into our oceans. In fact, our oceans are drowning in plastic.
According to the World Economic Forum, by 2050 the total plastic in the ocean will weigh more than all the fish. This can’t go on. The plastic poisons birds and marine life, they mistake it as food and eat it. Then some of them die because their stomachs are so full of plastic they have no room for food, or they die from choking on the plastic. If they survive and are caught by fishermen, they become our dinner, plastic and all.
Plastic is in our water, our food and our bodies.
It’s poisoning us, disrupting our hormones, bringing on early puberty and causing major life-threatening diseases. It’s showing up in our urine, blood, and cells. Plastic has literally become a part of us, it’s everywhere.
“The main concern about plastic is that it’s not biodegradable. Plastics are normally made of materials extracted from crude oil, the same type of oil that is used to make fuel for cars and motorcycles. The most common type of plastic bag is made of polyethylene, a new substance made by humans that microorganisms do not recognize as food. Since no existing bacteria can break down plastic, it cannot biodegrade like other organic materials. What happens to plastics is that it photo-degrades. When plastics are exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation for a long time, the polyethylene material becomes brittle and begins to crack, breaking into many tiny pieces. This process is estimated to take between 500 and 1000 years, but even when the plastics break into smaller fragments it remains non-biodegradable and toxic for the animals and humans that eat them.” according to Gabriel Lamug-Nanawa.
The world is producing more than 300 million tons of plastic each year and 90% of that is never recycled. That means the plastic ends up polluting our land, water, and bodies.
This earth day let’s all take a stand and do our part by reducing our use of single-use plastics to help protect our oceans, planet and ourselves.
If you need help getting motivated I highly recommend you watch this amazing 3-minute trailer for the movie Albatross. It’s visually stunning by artist Chris Jordan.
Need more ideas, check out 100 Great Ideas for Going Plastic Free.
Jackie Kurtz is a blogger who is on a mission to make the world better, one kindness at a time. When her son died, she started a website and blog spreading kindness through motivations and grants as a tribute to him. In his 32 years, he impacted more lives than most people do in a lifetime. Her favorite quote is, “Even if we disagree about everything, we can still be kind to each other.”