Year: 2013

Left Hand of Darkness Word Cloud

Winter’s Tale: The Left Hand of Darkness

“Light is the left hand of darkness and darkness the left hand of light. Two are one, life and death, lying together like lovers in kemmer, like hands joined together, like the end and the way.” – Tormer’s Lay, p.233-234 Some stories enter our lives as flings, escapist tales that thrill and delight but leave little lasting impact. Others are more serious fare, demanding commitment and care. The going can be frustrating and difficult, if we are receptive and the tale rings true, we can find ourselves changed in some subtle way. After all, a good story, like a good relationship, has the power to help us learn about ourselves and grow in ways we could never discover alone. I wasn’t too impressed the first time I read The Left Hand of Darkness, arguably the most influential science fiction novel of the twentieth century. The beginning was glacial in pacing (pun intended if you’ve read the book), the alternating narration was jarring, and the linear narrative I expected from the genre was constantly interrupted by …

On nature, culture, and self: An interview

I am honoured to have been interviewed recently by Renée Sarojini Saklikar, my writing mentor and good friend. Renée is a critically acclaimed poet whose work has appeared in numerous literary journals and newspapers. Her first book of poetry, children of air india, was just published last month, and is a series of elegiac sequences exploring the nature of individual loss, situated within public trauma. I recently had the pleasure of collaborating with her on the relaunch of thecanadaproject: a lifelong poem chronicle, a blog that explores issues of place, identity, and language.  Check out the interview here Stay tuned tomorrow for the first of a two parter on my favourite winter-themed Ekostory!

2013 header image

On Handling Praise

I am terrible at accepting praise. Those who know me will know that this is not a boast, but rather a hard admission to a deep character flaw. When offered accolades, my first instinct is to deflect and downplay their significance. But I have come to realize that this is a dishonest impulse, a drastic, dramatic form of self-effacingness that not only hides my true feelings, but can actively damage my relationships with others. To reject praise from others for the sake of being humble is, in a sense, to negate their opinions, to call them liars. Rebuffed by this constant dismissal, I see how even genuine goodwill can eventually turn sour. I don’t want that to happen. With gentle but firm reminders from friends and family, I am working to accept praise better, especially when it comes to writing, partly out of a desire to better respect the opinions of others, and partly because I believe my work is worthy of recognition.  Orwell once wrote in his famous essay, Why I Write, that “it is …

Terrace Fields in Yunnan China

Out of the Wild: A Conversation between Pollan and Cronon

Have you ever read something where the author articulated precisely the ideas that you’ve been trying to work out in your own mind for ages? Have you ever felt that flash of recognition, that chill of goosebumps, and obeyed that urge to nod along and shout “yes!” out loud? And once the giddiness subsides, have you ever felt that sinking realization that someone managed to conveyed those ideas better than you ever could have? I recently had that experience with a piece from Orion Magazine. “Out of the Wild” features a conversation between authors Michael Pollan and William Cronon as they chat about many of the ideas I’ve been grappling with on Ekostories: Concepts of nature and culture, the power of stories for change, the importance of personal sustainability. Regular readers will know that I’ve written a few essays on Pollan’s work, namely on Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education and The Botany of Desire, so it should come as no surprise that I enjoyed his contributions to this piece. But in my opinion it was Cronon, an environmental …

Life Beyond Death and Fate: Le Guin’s Lavinia

“In our loss and fear we craved the acts of religion, the ceremonies that allow us to admit our helplessness, our dependence on the great forces we do not understand.” – Lavinia, p. 177 This piece is dedicated to Russell Collier, fellow Le Guin fan, dear colleague, guide, friend. In memoriam. Lavinia, a novel by Ursula K. Le Guin, is many things: Historical fiction set in the Italian Bronze Age; a mythic fantasy derived from the last six books of Vergil’s Aeneid; an experiment in which the narrator is aware of her own fictionality; a postmodern tale where creation and creator come to learn and love one another. But above all, Lavinia is a haunting story crafted by a great storyteller. It is not my favourite of Le Guin’s works, but it is perhaps the most beautifully written. Her laconic prose brings to life a little known pre-Roman world, captures the lived essences of a semi-mythical people, and offers voice to one neglected, to tell the tale of her life and beyond.

Gilgamesh Mourning Enkidu by Ludmila Zeman

The Epic of Gilgamesh, Three Ways

“More familiarity with our own mythology might help us to relate to theirs.” – Jean-Luc Picard, from last week’s piece on Darmok With this quote and the tale of Gilgamesh and Enkidu still fresh in my mind, I came across a piece titled A Wild Man, Tarzan of the Highlands over at The AnthropoEccentric. In his thought-provoking essay, N.S. Anderson explores modern re-imaginings of the tale of Gilgamesh in music, translations, and art while highlighting the connections between nature and culture that lies at the heart of this Mesopotamian epic.