Ecopsychology: Celebrate First Harvest

Time in Nature never fails to remind me, there is a season for all things~that yes all passes, but it too again returns.

And like that, my favorite season of the year has arrived: Driveway flowers time! 


I can’t even write the words without a swing of delight moving my heart, landing a smile on my face.

Past germinations of floater seeds made it beyond the pots and landscape mulch where they were planted years ago, and now come up perennially through the inches of gravel rocks in the driveway starting every year some time in late July.  It is something I celebrate so joyfully, this simple thrill of the whim and wildness of Mama Nature.  How Nature centers us again and again with reliable, sweet mysteries:

I will never comprehend the massive potential of Life that exists in but a teeny, tiny seed.

The end of July also tips us seasonally towards First Harvest.  Accordingly, this is often when the marvel and wonder of the little elegant gifts of Mother Earth most seem to touch my heart.   I love harvest season. 

Harvest Season:  traditionally–traditional here meaning according to agricultural, indigenous, and other traditions that live/d close to the seasons of Nature–begins with the full moon that is coming this week. Thursday, August 15.  It is the moon known as a mid-summer, or the moon midway between the summer solstice and the fall equinox.

For me, it’s the sighhh deep in satisfaction moon of long, ripe days of Indian summer still to come, of second season food specials with friends you haven’t seen all summer because they’ve been on that grind in town, it means oysterrrs and drowsy naps, long yellow sun and deepening shadows, rustles of coolness in the twilight trees, football Sundays and so much more.

Locally, the Berlin Peach Festival was over the weekend.  This celebration takes us back to a time, in the words of my mother, repeating the stories of her grandmother, when the peach orchards across the way were as far as the eye could look.   It serves to connect us today back to a time when our local culture thrived because of agriculture.  Likewise, in Snow Hill over the weekend they had the Blessing of the Combines, too.

That is First Harvest: the reminder that we don’t need to look too far back to connect to ancestors who lived the experience of being responsible, sacred benefactors of the direct sustenance of Mama Earth.

First Harvest is a time to celebrate this, to acknowledge our interdependence on Nature.

This is true of this time of year the world around: while Harvest festivals differ according to varied cultural beliefs and sacred stories, all cultures traditionally celebrate an integral connection to the abundance of, and our reliance on, Mama Nature.

In China, the mid-Autumn moon festival is celebrated as a time of sacrifice for continued growth and blessings.  It is honored on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month.  Similarly, Japanese cultures celebrate moon gazing on the Chūshū Moon on Jūgoya No Tsukimi, or 15th day of the 8th month according to their traditional lunar calendar.   This is a time to literally witness the moon and express gratitude for a good harvest and its continuance.

In Iran, and ancient Persian cultures, there is the Persian Festival of Autumn, known as  Mehregān مهرگان or Jašn-e Mehr جشن مهر.  It is connected to what is known anciently as Mithra or Mihr.  It is a sacred time to celebrate the overall bounty of love and affection.

In Russia, the harvest festivals of August are known as Spas.  There are traditionally 3, each one unique and celebrating either honey, apples, or nuts.

Native American tribes like the Iroquois, Cherokee and Seminole, among several others, celebrate the new year in the early part of August with the Green Corn ceremony, a time for  fasting & purification.

All of these rituals and festivals emphasize making offerings and honoring the cycles of oneness that sustain us, in order to ensure continued harvests.

It is a time that we trust in the momentum of growth, of personal and collective labor and toil to produce a bounty for one and everyone.  It is the time we take stock.

We are connected, all of us, every action, every thought.  In ways fresh and darling as driveway flowers or pure as the brine of a fat bite of local oyster.  We are connected in ways as ancient as festivals that go back to Celts or Druids and as present as that fat big boy tomato, that juicy bite of fresh grilled silver queen corn.

How has your own work produced your own bounty this year?  What has the miracle of light grown this year so far in your own life?

Join us to celebrate.  The Delmarva Free School and Assateague Coastal Trust are hosting a First Harvest bonfire on Assateauge Island National Seashore, Saturday, August 17.  We will host a traditional sacred circle to give thanks, and all are encouraged to bring homegrown herbs or veggies to signify our grateful bounty! All are welcome!   Archeologist Edward McMullen will be our guest speaker that evening.  Social time and continued bonfiring to follow the close of our circle.

This event is to awareness raise about the importance of keeping connection to nature for both our own mental health and for the legacy of our communities.  We will culminate in late fall with a large litter clean-up on one of Assateague’s low lying backroad water sheds.

This event is also a free benefit for members of the Free School.  We are asking for $10 a person for the general public, all proceeds to benefit Trash Free Asateague through Assateague Coastal Trust.

Contact or for more information.

I really hope to see you!

Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind

This essay appeared originally on The Marsh Online, an online journal founded by Billy Weiland of the Assateague Coastal Trust with emphasis on “Bringing people back to Nature through literature, adventure, and the arts.”

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, 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 for more information and to register!

Wellness: Gratitude.

This is what I know for sure:

It is still the nature of November light to outline shadows in a way that’s dark and precise,

shadows through trees losing leaves make my heart stir til it aches sometimes, so touching are the simplicities of the world’s grace,

salt air still opens up the breath I forget about and keep hidden in my belly,

it almost always feels good to get out and take a walk,

and at least for today, I am able to do so and–also–gratitude, it goes a long way.

Wellness is a process, not an arriving point. In my experience it has a lot to do with being present.  It’s an action word, how to be in the here and now, and its principals are grounded in love.

To be here and now you have to be able to be still with yourself.  To be here and now you have to be able to love.




Wellness rejoices in the truth, begins within, tells the truth to yourself, is accountable to your own day-to-day.

Breath by breath, that’s how we begin.

Be still.  Breathe.  Gratitude=love in motion.

Have you got your breath?  Give thanks.

A minute at a time.  Gratitude in motion. Until the day is done.

A day at a time. What are your first waking thoughts?

What happens if you choose them:

Just for today~THANKS!  For this bed, I am grateful.  For this cozy blankie, I am grateful.  For this cup of hot coffee…

Gratitude begins within.  Is the next right thing.

Just for today what do you need to be well?

Change happens, it comes just as November light will always make long shadows across the ground.  The simple miracle of the Autumnal light of the burning sun.  Just for today, can you breathe?

Can you tell the truth about how you feel and what you need?

Can you be brave enough to share those needs, or listen deeply to someone else’s?

Can you be grateful, and present, and still admit you’re human, you’re afraid?

It’s okay.

Breathe.  This moment is what you have.

Be well.


Ninth street today.  Ocean City, Maryland.