Publication and Media List
Publications:1. The Hungry Spirit: An Inspired Walk on the wild side. Article by Michael Valpy. Printed in the Globe and Mail, Wed Dec 27, 2000.
"Ms. Karsh is not only re-connecting [people] to nature but is also reconnecting them to the sacred archetypes of the spirit." Michael Valpy
2. The Karshes: father and daughter moving through nature.
Catholic New Times
3. City Kids go wild at Cosmic Camp.
Catholic New Times
4. Forester offers spiritual growth.
5. Nourishing Spirituality Through Nature.
Eye for the Future
6. Interacting With Trees: CPJ members sees forestry as social justice issue.
Citizens for Public Justice
7. Trees, Forestry and the Responsiveness of Creation by Brian Walsh, Marianne Karsh and Nik Ansell.
Television:Spiritual Journey, Womans Television Network. 10-minute profile on Marianne's life and work. Show aired the week of November 22nd, 1999.
Arborvitae, Salt and Light. 10-minute profile on Arborvitae's work with high school students. Show aired in 2004.
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Catholic New Times 17 October 1999
The Karshes: father and daughter moving through nature
By Diana Renelli
Marianne Karsh and two of the children involved in this summers's
Cosmic Camp for Kids, photographed by her father.
L ast spring as the rain steadily pattered on the ground, nourishing the grass just outside Emmanuel College in Toronto, people gathered to nourish themselves with a nature slide show presented by Marianne Karsh.
Marianne Karsh, a forester and researcher, has offered a slide show of her father's photographs on Earth Day for the last two years and has been leading nature walks for almost 15 years. Her father, award-winning nature photographer Malak Karsh, has inspired others through his nature photographs for over 60 years. Marianne uses nature, and his photographs, to teach people how to reconnect with the earth.
Marianne, who has worked in Ontario, Newfoundland, and Iceland, owns and operates Arborvitae, a business that focuses on improving human-earth relations. She generally offers outdoor nature and spirituality workshops, but finds that her father's photographs often give viewers a moving and unique perspective of nature. Marianne explains that the mood of Malak's photographs "sometimes is enough to create an emotional healing in someone..."
Malak's photo of tulips on the lagoon in Ottawa.
The connections between father and daughter go deeper than their love for nature. Both attempt to move the viewer to an intimate relationship with Canada's frontier and their shared desire to impact people's lives profoundly is driven by their deep rooted thankfulness to Canada.
Malak, born in Mardin, Armenia, was taken to Syria as an infant by his parents. In 1937, his brother Yousuf Karsh, the world-renowned portrait photographer, sponsored the 22-year-old Malak to come to Canada. On the day Malak arrived, the brothers visited the Gatineaus, where upon seeing coloured leaves for the first time, Malak decided right then that he would become a nature photographer.
Marianne explains that her father's photographs communicate beauty, and that seeing beautiful Canadian nature photographs gives people an opportunity to appreciate what exists in this country, and also to see things that they might not otherwise be able to. "If it [a slide show] is done well and for a long enough period, it has quite an emotional response."
At an eight-week nature and spirituality workshop in Newfoundland last summer, a former student, Lucy O'Driscoll, experienced a connection to nature that reawakened her spirit. She recalls leaning against an oak tree and watching the sky release a warm rain she described as a cleansing moment of personal breakthrough. This experience of nature and then of sharing her experience with others, alleviated her pain and opened her mind to possible solutions to a personal conflict. "My openness to the gifts of nature and my openness to share, in turn, opened my soul to it [the solution].
Malak believes that "photography is ... a great medium to understanding nature," and, in turn, Marianne sees nature as a great medium to understanding self: "I personally believe that beauty nurtures the soul, and that beauty is central to the soul. We are starved for beauty from a media point of view, from an ecological point of view and from all the stories we hear from our interactions with each other."
According to Malak, being starved for beauty is synonymous with our continuous search for the marvels of nature. He recounts that, on a three-day photography excursion to the Northwest Territories, he met a German tourist who had traveled to Saskatchewan and canoed to the Northwest Territories. "He was searching for nature or starved for nature. (Every year) you see thousands of tourists from all over the world, who come to Canada and then head for the Rockies or to areas where they are surrounded [by nature] so they can fill their souls, their hearts and imagination with nature.” People come to Canada because there are still places where you can communicate with nature."
Drawing from her knowledge of forestry, science, and biology stories; Marianne shares their significance with participants. "We need hope from an environmental and spiritual perspective, from a science and technological perspective.... What I'm simply doing is offering people the time and space to possibly think about things differently and help make some connections. So what I'm doing is very simple, but it touches people very profoundly."
On a recent excursion to Prince Edward Island, she taught eight spirituality sessions at the Belcourt Retreat Centre and led 21 people out into nature. They visited a spot where people in the group had been many times before, but, prior to this excursion no one had questioned them about what they were drawn to, nor had they been given the opportunity to share that connection with others. "I had them walk through the landscape and asked them just to think about seeing the birds and the birds seeing them, or that the landscape sees them. They had never thought about it (this way) before, so it's just a matter of bringing new ideas to people and letting them practice it.”
This past summer Marianne participated in a project called the Cosmic Camp for Kids, which provided inner city children with the opportunity to learn about the cosmogenesis of the earth. The camp also offered, youths an opportunity to restore a tributary of the Don River and to participate in bioregional mapping.
In July her father photographed the Cosmic Camp for Kids. "'My dad has always done what he has wanted and his work is his fulfillment. Now, my work is my fulfillment and it has brought us together. I'm lucky to still have him around and to be willing to help me. He is very much behind me."
Photo: Barbara Karsh
Malak in front of parliament buildings in Ottawa.
Diana Renelli is a freelance writer and managing editor of Investment Life magazine.
Arborvitae's website is www.arborvitae.org.
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Catholic New Times 3 October 1999
City kids go wild at Cosmic Camp
By Kerry KellyIn the middle of downtown Toronto, in the middle of a scorching summer; children flew kites, picked berries and pondered the miracles of the universe. This wasn't just any summer camp.
For 10 mornings in July, 25 children from the Toronto area met at Cosmic Camp, an ecological summer camp based on a curriculum that mixes the scientific with the sacred. The program flyer promised it was "capable of awakening young minds to a depth of awe". A pretty tall order; but Cosmic Camp fit the bill.
"I'd been told not to be disappointed if they didn't take to nature," says Cosmic Camp staff member Sister Gwen Smith, CSJ, about the citified brood sponsored for the camp. Many of them have never had the opportunity or inclination to camp before.
"But that wasn't the case at all. The biggest excitement came from picking raspberries," she adds. Smith talks animatedly about the children and the Happy Birthday Universe curriculum the camp was based on. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she tells stories of the children when the universe unfolded before them through experiments, crafts, music and personal reflection.
"They would imagine love as a great explosion of energy in the darkness as a centring prayer. They would sit in silence to try to hear ‘rock' music and think about creation, how the universe is alive in us, how we're all stardust," she says.
But it was not always spiritual contemplation that moved the students who roamed the woods and riverbeds along 30 acres of land offered to the camp by the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse. Nature was just as miraculous for many. Smith recalls stories of composting attempts carried out on children's home balconies, and the excitement over catching a glimpse of a deer, a first-time experience for many of the campers.
But it is Smith's story of a raspberry seed that reflects most aptly how nature is a miracle. “We were taking a walk and one little boy stopped and found a berry. He asked if he could eat it and popped it in his mouth. Then we talked about how the whole universe came from a seed and he said, 'Oh God, this is really great! If I get lost in the forest you've left food to eat and seeds for more!"' Smith tells the story with a smile, adding that the "forest" in the child's eye was only a few hundred metres wide.
A side benefit from the program was the opportunity to employ area high-school students and have them actively involved in reclamation work of the Don River. Under the supervision of an environmental studies student at York University, the counsellors learned bio-regional mapping and gained experience in dealing with youth as they answered campers' questions and helped them with experiments.
Though the message was clearly educational, the program did include a lot of fun. (It was camp, after all). Aside from experimenting with compost and baking cookies in a solar oven that they made themselves, the kids got the opportunity to make cosmic kites and rainbow crafts, to watch skits put on by the counsellors and to sing.
"Whatever the theme of the day was, there was a song for that day," says Tamara Mohan, 20, who led the children in song as their music director. She said she found Cosmic Camp, her first camp experience, as interesting as the children did.
"I didn't know half the stuff they were learning. The stories were amazing. I guess I learned as much as the kids." Mohan went on to say she enjoyed the camp so much that she would love to come back next year, and even see the length of the camp extended from half days to full. Smith said she, too, would like to see the camp run next year for full days. She also has hopes that the Happy Birthday Universe curriculum on which the camp is based will find its way into classrooms, as well as campgrounds, across the country.
"We had a lot of fun and they did a lot of learning,” she explains.
Camp counsellors spot a downy woodpecker near the Don River tributary in Morrow Park.
Program co-ordinator Marianne Karsh (top left) also looks on.
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The Anglican Journal, June 1999 Issue
Forester offers spiritual growth
By Diane SlawychHer business is called Arborvitae, which means tree of life. For owner Marianne Karsh, it's an appropriate name, since she offers field trips and retreats that, according to her mission statement “provide opportunities for spiritual growth through a deeper connection with nature."
Judging by her resume, she appears well qualified for the position.
Ms. Karsh has a Masters degree in Forestry from the University of Toronto and has worked as a forest research scientist in Canada and Iceland.
“The connections between nature and spirituality have been a long-term interest of mine,” said Ms. Karsh, a member of the Church of the Redeemer in Toronto.
“When I took worldview courses in university, I started to understand the biblical perspective of seeing the Earth as our home, and that transformed me. Ever since then I started to take groups out in nature and give talks.”
She believes nature is one of the mediums of knowing God, and she sees her work as a healing ministry. “Christ’s work of healing also extends to the whole creation, including nature. The eucharist represents not only the restoration or healing of human relationships, but of all creation.”
She ran a pilot program of her eco-spirituality ventures in Newfoundland, and is now offering the courses in Ontario, mostly around Toronto and Aurora. The courses range from a half-day to a weekend or longer and is ideal, she says, for men and women of all ages who already possess a high regard for the environment.
A typical course begins with a discussion of the relationship between nature and spirituality. “I start with people’s stories. I invite them to go back in their history, in their childhood, when they have had moments of seeing or experiencing God. Often it’s an experience of nature. I know for me I was in northern Ontario one time and looking at the night sky with all the stars, and I had an incredible sense of the divine all around me.”
Next, the group moves outside where participants are encourages to wander around in nature until they discover what they’re attracted to.
“It’s an opportunity to find or be found by something in nature,” she said. Each person marks their spot. The rest of the group then visits the site, where Ms. Karsh asks the participant what attracted them to that area. “A group of trees might remind them of a family grouping or of how safety and security were important to them. Or they may have been attracted to a tree in winter that looked as if nothing was happening but they knew it would bloom again in spring and it was a sign of hope for them.”
She often introduces spirituality by asking participants to select a theme, such as love, interconnectedness, mutuality, uniqueness or survival, before venturing out. The theme has to have a connection to nature and also lend itself to spiritual reflection.
“At that point, after they’ve shared why they were attracted to their particular spot, I’ll ask them what their theme is and connect it to the place where they are, what they see around them. I’ll quote from Hildegard Von Bingen or Biblical scriptures relating to that theme.”
She believes she is introducing a relatively new concept to the marketplace. “People may go through an Outward Bound program and have a spiritual experience, but because it’s outside of their mandate, it’s never discussed. I explicitly make the connection.
“We talk about God, about nurturing spirit and what the Bible has to say and the contribution of other faiths. I’m coming at this work with the passion of a scientist encountering spiritual truths, and that combination is rare.”
Marianne Karsh, B.Sc.F., M.Sc.F.
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Eye for the Future Magazine
Nurturing Spirituality Through NatureArborvitae, a company based in Toronto, creates deeply reflective opportunities for people to nurture their spirituality through nature and realize the benefit of connecting with earth, air, light and water for their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual selves.
Marianne Karsh, the founder, is a forester and research scientist with a passion to help connect people with the earth. For three years, Arborvitae has offered Nature and Spirituality during the 'Becoming an Outdoors Woman' conferences. The feedback was tremendous. One women said, "I will never be the same again when I go out into nature."
During a 3 ½ hour session, participants hear fascinating true stories of the natural world and talk about interconnectedness, mutuality, variability, survival - all themes seen in nature which lend themselves to spiritual reflection. The potential for healing with this work is profound. One person said, “I only saw the litter before. Now I see the beauty in nature and the beauty in myself”.
Arborvitae provides a much needed time of retreat, renewal and refreshment. Part of the general concern for health is spending sufficient time in nature, shown to be necessary for biological, emotional, psychological and spiritual health. With increasing anxiety about environmental stress, there is a deep need to cultivate our connections to the earth.
Arborvitae offers a quality professional service that is definitely needed by the “increasing numbers of people who feel that a lifestyle that does not celebrate earth is meaningless or worse." (John Cobb).
For more information please contact: Marianne Karsh (M.Sc.F.) at 905.898.7570.
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Citizens For Public Justice
Interacting with trees: CPJ member sees forestry as social justice issueA tree either is the view, or blocks it.... This is one facet of the tension that exists between those who require oxygen and those who produce it.
- from the poem Poison, by John Terpstra
If we learn to treat trees better, we'll create a better environment for human relations as well," maintains CPJ member and forester Marianne Karsh.
If you want to excite Karsh, just get her talking about trees. "There's so much we still don't know about trees!" she says. She explains her passion for working for justice in the forestry industry: "I really believe that dealing with some of these environmental issues will lead to more just and harmonious relationships with other people, as well.”
Marianne Karsh has a graduate degree in forestry and has worked as a forestry researcher in Ontario and Newfoundland. She currently researches the impact of a variety of influences on tree growth in forested areas of Newfoundland and Labrador. Through her research, Karsh tries to help foresters think about ways of doing forestry differently.
"The way we do forestry is based on certain assumptions which simply are not correct," she maintains. "We need a different attitude which recognizes that trees are not merely objects because if they are simply objects, they can be more easily abused. But if we are interacting more responsively with trees, seeing them as living creatures in Creation, our response is different."
Karsh uses forestry practices in Ontario as an example of the limitations of current assumptions about forestry. Several ears ago, Karsh collected extensive data about tree development and growth rates around the province. One of the things her research confirmed, not surprisingly, was the dramatic influence - up to 50 per cent difference that different climate zones in Ontario had on the growth and development of trees. "Yet climate is not acknowledged whatsoever [as a factor] in forestry models in Ontario", marvels Karsh. When the government and the industry make their plans for harvesting or replanting, they give no consideration at all to the different growth rates of trees in different parts of the province resulting from climate variations.
"The forestry of the future will be characterized by a relationship of listening and communion," says Karsh. "It will be a stewardship of care that attends to trees in all of their rich and nuanced diversity, variability and individuality."
One of the new approaches to forestry which our society needs to learn contends Karsh is recognition of the connection between social, environmental and economic issues. "In our economy, we have to put values on things like our next generation having forests there." We must learn that there are ways of doing forestry which don't necessitate a simple choice between trees or jobs. "We need a balance," says Karsh. "There are ways of optimizing both. It doesn't have to be one or the other."
Karsh credits CPJ with helping her think about forestry as a social justice issue. She participated in an environmental task force with CPJ Ontario several years ago, which she says excited her thinking about how economics can be practiced differently so that the environment is respected. “Tying into CPJ was important to me. It helped me change my career focus: I decided I wanted to do more education on these issues in addition to pure research. I'm working towards that goal now but CPJ's environmental task force for instance, brought out that desire.”
"CPJ is setting a standard for discussion about these kinds of issues." says Karsh. Her challenge to CPJ is, "to try to integrate the connections between social issues and environmental issues even more. These connections need to be articulated much more explicitly than they have been in the past."
Marianne Karsh, B.Sc.F., M.Sc.F.
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