Harbouring soft spots for cute critters seems like the most natural thing in the world, and sometimes it seems like the internet runs solely on pictures of fuzzy kittens and roly-poly pandas. But it takes a different form of consideration, a different way of seeing, to extend that admiration towards the greater living community, towards the diminutive, the grotesque, and the overlooked.
Over the course of my life, I’ve been privileged to meet some of those people or be touched by their work. A professor passionate about even the lowliest of parasites. A eagle-eyed guide wanting to learn the English and Latin names of all that he sees. A colleague that extends empathy towards everything from monkeys to office mice. A canonized essayist who saw beauty in one synonymous with ugliness.
It was in fiction that I first became sensitized to this ecocentric worldview. Seeing Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind at the age of five, I found a heroine who loved life in all its manifestations, from puny fox-squirrels to hulking larval monstrosities and warring humans. Inspired by The Lady Who Loved Insects, a twelfth-century Japanese folktale of one who defies social convention to exchange poetry with caterpillars, Nausicaä’s attitude towards life grew to influence my own. (As it did for many others) One of my proudest creations on Ekostories has been The Nausicaä Project, an essay collection that explores the themes found in what I consider one of the greatest piece of environmental fiction ever created.
So in honour of creatures unfairly maligned the world over, and to those who continue to love them unabashedly, I present my tribute. It takes the form of an Ohmu, one of the most unforgettable and beautiful fictional creatures ever created.