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Year in Review: Ekostories 2013

2013 was an eventful year, bringing about a full gamut of experiences. Writing has emerged as an integral part of my life, and being able to share some of my work on Ekostories has been immensely rewarding on both an intellectual and emotional level. On the eve of this new year, I want to take this time to express my gratitude to everyone for reading and to highlight some major 2013 milestones:

My Favourite Five

Writing involves a lot of reflection and self-discovery, but I realized I haven’t been doing a very good job of it when it comes to finished works. Now is as good a time as any to go back and reread pieces I’ve written, to see what works, what doesn’t, and to do better. As a result of doing that over the last several days, I’ve come up with my five favourite Ekostories of 2013:

5.) It’s All Relative: Le Guin’s Direction of the Road

Oak Direction of the RoadThe oldest oak in Estonia. Image by Urmas Haljaste.

A cheerful piece on a little story that pushes the reader to jump into the mind of someone very different. Like with most of Le Guin’s work, I found writing about it both challenging and rewarding, trying to explore not only what is written, but also what is left unsaid. I’m not sure I did justice to this tale of oaks and humans and mortality, but I still like it.

4.) A Boy and His Plants: The Curious Garden

Wordless Spread Curious GardenAll is changed. From The Curious Garden © 2009 Peter Brown.

This children’s book has a warmth and wonder that has stayed with me. I’m happy with the way I tried to connect the piece to things that I was learning at the time: The difficulty of crafting a good book for kids; the importance of play; principles of permaculture; alternative definitions of leadership. Reading it again, it’s a little heavy on lingo, but I still like it a lot.

3.) Manufactured Landscapes: A meditation on man-made spaces

Burtynsky's Manufactured Landscapes Orange River Plate 14Mines and Tailings series, Plate 14. With permission from

I had originally wanted to let the art speak for itself, but I found that I needed to discover my own reactions to these provocative images through the process of writing about it. I’m pleased with how the piece turned out and the thoughtful discussion it generated around the nature of beauty.

2.) Escape to Insanity and Happiness: Gilliam’s Brazil

Gilliam Brazil ButtleBureaucratic incompetence at its finest. From Brazil © 1985 Criterion.

Brazil really is a wonderful mess of a movie. I recall spending a ton of time working on this piece and that a lot of the trouble came from trying to nail down the structure. Overall, it’s a little wordy, but I like the shape and scope of it.

1.) Nostalgia Distilled: Ghibli’s Only Yesterday

Ghibli Only Yesterday SafflowerSafflowers used for dyeing. Image from wikimedia commons.

I think this was one of the most personal pieces, which made it both easier and harder to write. I like its flow, the subject matter, the connections I tried to make, its meditative quality. It’s a movie that exemplifies what Ekostories strives to explore: Nature, culture, and self. I really wish more people can see it, and I hope the piece in some small way, helps spark some awareness around it.

So there it is, my top five! What do you think of my choices? Do you have a favourite story out of the ones explored this year?

What’s Next?

Shifting the focus from the past to the future, I hope to go on exploring stories new and old in the upcoming year, to raise awareness, to stir curiosity, to spark change. There is still so many stories out there, and I have so much to learn. I hope you can drop by once in a while to read a new piece or two, or revisit an old favourite tale in more detail. As the author of next week’s Ekostory muses, “each new eye applied to the peephole which looks out at the world may fish in some beauty and some new pattern, and the world of human mind must be enriched by such fishing.”  I’ll wrap up with a poem and a wish to you all for the new year:

“I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.
I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish enough ‘Hello’s’ to get you through the final ‘Goodbye.'”

– Bob Perks

As always, I value your thoughts and comments, so keep them coming. Til next week.

Featured image by Ondrejk.

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A Hong-Kong Canadian writer based in Berlin, Isaac currently is at work on his debut nature essay collection titled "Utter, Earth," forthcoming in Fall 2023 from West Virginia University Press.


  1. Isaac, you’ve done a tremendous amount with your writing and I’m so glad to know of the recognition you’ve been receiving. The pieces you write are also so deeply thoughtful and wonderfully accessible in their structure. I was so pleased to see The Curious Garden in your top five, as I remember being really thoroughly impressed by how you approached that book. Best wishes as you continue to explore the topics you love here on Ekostories.

    • Thank you for your very kind comment and for reading. As someone who is more comfortable with the abstract, it’s sometimes a challenge to write in a real and accessible way. I will take your words as encouragement that I’m on the right track!

  2. Hello there Issac,

    To my surprise when I read a couple of posts again I discovered I had failed to click the like button below them and to share them. I also found I completely missed reading this one and it was great

    Note to self: another useful purpose for annual reviews is drawing reader attention to posts they may have missed reading.

    You deserve recognition for you have an obvious gift for research and writing and storytelling. We are fortunate to be able to ready your unique and fascination content and I`m looking forward to what you have for us in 2014.

    Blog on!

    • Always appreciate the shares, Timethief. I thought you would appreciate the Brazil piece. 🙂 I’ve gleaned a lot of blogging knowhow from your site, and I’m looking forward to learning more from you this year.

  3. Happy New Year, Isaac. I promptly looked for Only Yesterday, but am having trouble finding one I can play on my DVD player. I keep finding non-USA format. But I’ll keep trying to find it.

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