One of the reasons I took a break from blogging was to push myself to start reading again. But while I had a mountain backlog from great recommendations, I found myself not being in the headspace to explore new stories. For a while, I was worried that I might not find anything to spark my interest again.
As longtime readers of Ekostories know, I harbour a great fondness for several storytellers: Hayao Miyazaki, for his meticulous world-building and life philosophy; Michael Pollan, with his blend of Thoreau-tinged romanticism and candid introspection; John Steinbeck, for his warmth and compassion toward fellow beings; and of course, Ursula Le Guin, in her treatment of her craft as an ethical endeavour. Their writings and worldviews have in turn shaped my worldview and writing, and for that I hold them in high esteem.
Leach has made her way into that select group. At once frivolous and profound, cosmic and intimate, silly and thought-provoking, each piece of (very) creative non-fiction in her debut collection are lyrical gems, conveying the wonders of world and universe with a sheer exuberance for life and language.
I wrote a bit last year about my problems with handling praise. While that is still a work in progress, I’m thrilled to announce that one of my essays, Inspirations from a Toad, has won the 2013 Web of Life Foundation competition out of nearly 500 entries. WOLF runs the annual contest seeking works with fresh thinking on political, social, and environmental issues. 2013’s theme was “an aspirational future”.
I would especially like to thank my writing colleagues for their careful readings, thoughtful suggestions, and swift kicks to get me to put my work out there – You know who you are. Deep gratitude, as always, and thanks for the support.
Over the past few entries, I’ve touched on the importance of staying optimistic in difficult times. This week, I want to look at a story that puts that to the ultimate test, a story in which hope arises from utter despair: Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.
There are some who read this post-apocalyptic tale only as an ecological parable, a potential scenario if humanity continues to damage the earth’s life support systems. I don’t. McCarthy doesn’t dwell on the cause of his world’s demise, and neither will I. Instead, I’m more interested in exploring the impact of a ruined earth on the human psyche. How do these characters make sense of the world where nature and culture is beyond recovery? How do they cope with constant and unrelenting despair? What compels them to go on when the past is lost, never to return?
The Road touches on these difficult questions. Yet despite seeming like the type of story that revels in violence and nihilism, it is really a tale about the very essence of what it means to be human. Its gripping portrayal of the tender and fierce bond between father and son highlights that it is our capacity for love and compassion that provides us with meaning and purpose for living. In darkest times, this flame endures, imperishable. This revelation, buried amidst the novel’s depiction of utter devastation and horror, is a profoundly hopeful one.
It’s been a while since I’ve featured a children’s story on Ekostories, but after this month’s spotlight on environmental artists and last week’s look at the need for hopeful tales in uncertain times, I thought it would be good to cover a story that employs both art and words to convey wonder to the next generation. Written by Elin Kelsey and featuring artwork by Soyeon Kim, You are Stardust from Owlkids Books is a picture book filled with tiny tales about the fascinating and unexpected ways that humans are part of nature.
One of the coolest things about the blogging community is connecting with other like-minded individuals. I recently had the honour to guest blog over at Earthninja, a great blog by fellow 2013 Canadian Weblog Award winner Emily Nichol that focuses on conservation, nature, and science communication.
While tossing around ideas of things to write about, I found inspiration in an intriguing talk by Dr. Elin Kelsey, author, environmental educator, Rachel Carson Center fellow, and a past professor who shaped a lot of my interests and writings:
In her video, Kelsey speaks about the importance of telling stories of hope and resilience even in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges.
It wasn’t my intention to continue with the art theme. But as the rule of three calls and I learn more about writing and blogging, I found myself more inclined to follow intuition than push through to produce work that doesn’t feel right. Perhaps it was just easier to showcase other people’s incredible work instead of doing research for a long piece. Given the choice between being attuned and growing lazy, I’m sticking with the former interpretation.
I’ve been a fan of Albertus Gorman’s work over at The Artist at Exit 0 Riverblog ever since I began blogging in 2012. For the better part of the last decade, Gorman has used materials washed up at Ohio State Park to create sculptures and craft stories that explore the impacts we have on the places we inhabit. Some of his work from Ohio Falls is now featured in The Potential in Everything, an exhibition at the Carnegie Center for Art and History in New Albany, Indiana.
In a recent post exploring the evolution of nature writing, we chatted about what makes for great art. Gorman shared an illuminating comment as it relates to his journey:
“One person’s kitsch is another person’s masterpiece. I tread this path myself with my river art. I want my work to have a popular feel similar to the way folk art functions because I want what I am trying to communicate through it to reach a target audience that often doesn’t think about how creativity or conceptual art can be used to positively affect the environment. My own work has evolved over time to include objects, images, and now stories working in tandem with one another. There is some risk taking here and sometimes it works better times than others.”
Mulling this over, I decided to revisit his blog to find examples of how he uses art and writing to promote awareness around the environment. The following is a list of five of my favourite pieces he’s published over the past year: