No philosophy can compare in intensity and richness of meaning with a properly narrated story… storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it… it brings about consent and reconciliation with things as they really are…”
Recent shifts in thinking and a trip back to Hong Kong caused me to reflect upon the past and my roots as a 1.5 generation Chinese-Canadian. Drawing upon life and circumstance for inspiration, I spent my time away from blogging to work on a piece of bicultural creative non-fiction.
I am delighted to announce that the finished work has been accepted by a sustainability-themed issue of Schema Magazine, an online publication “for the interculturally-minded”. Seeds and Leaves began as a seed (ha!) sparked by a call for essays that featured a plant or tree as the main character; it has since grown to become an account of a botanical illustration class I took last fall. I hope you enjoy this short tale about a brief encounter of two immigrants, one human, one not, and I welcome your thoughts on this personal Ekostory that attempts to weave together ideas of nature, culture, and identity.
Last week I explored Amy Leach’s creative non-fiction and its appeal to wonder and imagination. This week, I would like to turn to fiction and highlight a fantastical tale that does the same. Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Author of Acacia Seeds and Other Extracts from the Journal of Therolinguistics takes place in the future, but does not dwell on new technologies or societies. Exploring the secret languages of things large and small, Acacia Seeds instead tasks my imagination to envision a wholly different way of relating to the world, to see familiar beings in a new light, and to expand my moral horizons to consider the greater community of which humanity is a part of. Deliciously satirical and ethically provocative, Acacia Seeds is one of my favourite works to read and reread, and a wonderful little Ekostory to celebrate Earth Day 2014.
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:
What was the story that began this journey? That question has been on my mind since I reflected back on the past year of Ekostories. What tale triggered this exploration of nature, culture, and self? After some thought, one story came to the forefront, a surprise contender. It is a work that straddles the boundary between fiction and non-fiction. It is a story that melds science with literature, philosophy with social commentary, art with ethics and adventure. It is John Steinbeck’s The Log from the Sea of Cortez.
That’s not entirely true. While the cover bears the name of the author of Cannery Row, Of Mice and Men, and The Grapes of Wrath, The Log from the Sea of Cortez was a collaboration between the Nobel prize-winning novelist and marine biologist Ed Ricketts. The book chronicles the two friends’ six-week, four thousand mile marine specimen collecting expedition in the Gulf of California, detailing the adventures, discoveries, and camaraderie as they travel from site to site, passing towns, reefs, isles, and sea.
Like the voyage itself, the travelogue allows time and space for observation and thought, linking real experiences to meditations on humanity’s place in the world and universe. For me, the book’s ability to spark curiosity and expand horizons makes it a natural history classic, and the perfect tale to kick off a new year of Ekostories.
“Estraven stood there in harness beside me looking at that magnificent and unspeakable desolation. ‘I am glad I have lived to see this,’ he said.
I felt as he did. It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” (p.220)