Current town/city of residence: Bethany, Pa.
Connections to Racine County: I was born in Racine and grew up in Wind Point before it was a village when it was open country of fields and farms along the shore of Lake Michigan. I attended Wind Point School, Washington Junior High School and graduated from William Horlick High School. I later attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison where I obtained a bachelor’s, master’s and a doctoral degree. Whenever I return to Racine, I visit the harbor, buy a kringle and stop by the Wind Point Lighthouse.
Occupation: Author, speaker and consulting psychologist.
Title of book and publisher: “The Stillness of the Living Forest: A Year of Listening and Learning,” published by Shanti Arts Publishing
Synopsis of book: It started with a personal commitment to sit an hour each week for a full year in the same spot in the woods. The intention was to reconnect with nature; to observe the flow of natural life through the four seasons.
As a boy growing up in Wisconsin, John Harvey developed a lifelong interest in the outdoors and conservation. Through the encouragement and example of his parents, Harvey learned early in his life to revere the natural world. As the stresses of work, community and family obligations accumulated over the years he felt an increasing need to rebalance his life, a need to spend more time outdoors, enjoying the plants and animals, the feel of the air and the cycle of the seasons. A commitment to sit in the woods once a week for a year seemed like a good way to re-engage with nature and to take on a personal challenge.
Influenced by Jon Young’s idea of a “sit spot” in his book, “What the Robin Knows,” Harvey chose a spot near his home in northeastern Pennsylvania where he would regularly sit while observing nature. His “sit spot” was along the shoreline of Prompton Lake.
As Harvey settled into his weekly routine of visiting his “sit spot” and fully engaging his senses, rich and illuminating experiences began to unfold. His encounters with nature included seeing and listening to a plethora of birds, from tiny wrens to large hawks, from sweet-singing warblers to rattling woodpeckers; enjoying the sight of seasonal plants such as wild violets, trout lily and skunk cabbage; sitting out in the open during weather events that ranged from glorious warm summer sunshine to a cold snowy winter Alberta clipper; and encountering the occasional deer and black bear.
In all cases, Harvey sought to observe, listen, appreciate and learn. Learn he did — about the birds, animals, plants and trees that surrounded and intrigued him. He discovered two key concepts that shaped his experiences; blending in and mindfulness. By sitting still and silent he began to blend in to his surroundings and nature in turn began to reveal itself. By continually activating all five senses he brought his focus to the present moment and began to experience the richness of “forest mindfulness.”
As the year progressed Harvey felt renewed, refreshed and rejuvenated. His weekly encounters with nature initiated a process of inner change that facilitated self-discovery, fostered insight, nurtured empathy and strengthened intuition.
Is this your first book? No. I am also the author of “Total Relaxation: Healing Practices for Body, Mind and Spirit”; “Deep Sleep: Complete Rest for Health, Longevity and Vitality”; and a contributing editor for “The Quiet Mind: Techniques for Transforming Stress.”
Why did you write the book? As I shared my experiences in conversations with others I began to hear of their interest in nature; their own need to reconnect with nature. Given my background in psychology, I recognized the therapeutic and healing potential of a nature connection. I thought that my year-long project might encourage, even inspire others to initiate their own program of re-engagement with nature. I hope to provide readers with practical, easy and readily available ways to create their own nature experiences. And I want to share the beautiful and meaningful experiences that I had during my year in the forest at Prompton Lake.
How long did it take to write the book? My year in the forest spanned from February of 2013 to February of 2014. Writing, refining, editing, rewriting and re-editing continued into 2017 which is when I signed a contract with Shanti Arts Publishing. Then there was a year dedicated to final editing, proofing, design and layout. The book was published in November of 2018.
How did you get interested in writing? My first moment of being conscious of a desire to be a writer occurred during my ninth grade English class. I had an excellent teacher, Mrs. Erskine, who gave creative assignments and then provided helpful feedback and generous encouragement. I spent much of my professional life writing articles, reports and self-help books, but I always wanted to write a more personal and expressive book.
Where is the book available for purchase? The book can be purchased at Amazon or directly through the publisher at ShantiArts.com. The book can be ordered or may be available at major retail booksellers such as Barnes & Noble and BAM.
Is the book available at the library? Perhaps if residents of Racine County request the book it could be ordered by the library.
Do you have a website or Facebook page? I have set up a blog at www.foreststillness.com. I have continued to conduct sit spot sessions around my home and throughout and write about my ongoing nature experiences. Interested readers can contact me through my blog.
I have also put together a presentation that describes my year of experiences that touches on the impressive scientific evidence for the physical, emotional and cognitive benefits of nature connection, and that provides public policy implications for building a nature-experience health infrastructure. It is my pleasure to offer this presentation for free to community groups, nature clubs and health care organizations.
If you are a Racine County author that has published a book within the last year and would like to be featured in Our Authors, please send request to Loreen Mohr via email at Loreen.Mohr@Lee.net; send letter to Loreen Mohr, The Journal Times, 212 Fourth St., Racine, WI 53403; or via fax at 262-631-1780.