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The Perfect Party Guest, Center for Humans and Nature

Photo by Denys Gromov on Pexels.com

Delighted to share that I have an essay published by the Center for Humans and Nature, “a nonprofit organization, publisher, forum, and place to explore, connect, and nurture our understandings of and responsibilities to the natural world.”

Titled “The Perfect Party Guest,” the piece makes the case of considering certain creatures to your next gathering/shindig, ones that are perhaps not on everyone’s radar. Here’s an excerpt:

“When deciding on whom to invite to your next gathering, be sure to extend consideration to the sloth. Either the two-toed or three-toed variety will do, for each distant relation will have unique insights to share about their suspensorial lifestyles, which is just a tongue-pleasing way of describing upside-down living on trees. These days you needn’t even worry about tailoring the invitation like you would eleven thousand years ago, when sloths of the giant and grounded species might suddenly show up at your door, not being able to fit through, and wouldn’t that be dreadfully embarrassing, having to turn away guests because the fire code for your condo common room doesn’t permit for twelve-foot tall, elephant-sized vegetarians, and even if it did, you may never live down the fact that your party might be the only one in history to ever run out of salad…” 

You can read the full piece on the “Stories and Ideas” section on the Center of Humans and Nature’s newly revamped website, or later as part of my upcoming essay collection titled Utter, Earth. If you are interested in further readings on the more-than-human world, I highly recommend picking up the Kinship five-volume series, published by the Center’s Press and co-edited by Gavin Van Horn, Robin Wall Kimmerer, and John Hausdoerffer:

Kinship: Belonging in a World of Relations is a lively series that explores our deep interconnections with the living world. These five Kinship volumes—Planet, Place, Partners, Persons, Practice—offer essays, interviews, poetry, and stories of solidarity, highlighting the interdependence that exists between humans and nonhuman beings. More than 70 contributors—including Robin Wall Kimmerer, Richard Powers, David Abram, J. Drew Lanham, and Sharon Blackie—invite readers into cosmologies, narratives, and everyday interactions that embrace a more-than-human world as worthy of our response and responsibility. These diverse voices render a wide range of possibilities for becoming better kin.”

Crafting with Ursula: Writing Nature and Nature Writing

Crafting with Ursula: A Conversation with David Naimon and Isaac Yuen

I’m very excited to share a recent conversation I had with David Naimon, host of Between the Covers. A bit about the show:

Between the Covers , a literary radio show and podcast hosted by David Naimon, is brought to you by Tin House. These long-form in-depth conversations have been singled out by the GuardianBook Riot, the Financial Times, and BuzzFeed as one of the most notable book podcasts for writers and readers around. 

I’ve been a big fan of David’s interviews for years, having come across his work through his three craft talks with Ursula K. Le Guin, which was later published as the book Conversations on Writing. (His own creative writing is also amazing.) So imagine my delight and surprise when he approached me to contribute to a new series called “Crafting with Ursula,” in particular around the subject of nature writing.

Some of the stories we discussed, like “Direction of the Road” and the “Author of Acacia Seeds“, have been featured in the past here on Ekostories. Others, like “The Bones of the Earth” and “Vaster than Empires and More Slow,” are worth checking out should you be intrigued by our all-too-brief exploration of them. We also discussed a few of the essays that will be part of my upcoming collection titled “Utter, Earth” through West Virginia University Press.

Well-researched, perceptive, and erudite, David kindly linked all the Le Guin stories that were mentioned throughout the episode via Bookshop, along with some of my personal touchstones within the genre of nature writing.

I hope you enjoy listening to our conversation as much as I enjoyed delving into this subject with David. If you do, consider subscribing to and supporting Between the Covers—it’s honestly one of the best shows on writing and literature around!

Utter, Earth – AGNI Magazine

Thrilled to cap off the year with a few pieces of publication news! My latest essay titled “Utter, Earth” has been published in issue 94 of AGNI Magazine, a literary journal based out of Boston University. (Update: The piece has been selected to be part of Pushcart Prize XLVII: Best of the Small Presses 2023—a tremendous honour!) A bit about the issue:

AGNI 94 Portfolio

Utter, Earth” is a curation of scientific extracts, organized in the fashion of a Rafil Kroll-Zaidi’s “Findings” from Harper’s (I love his interview with Tin House called “Findings is a Dolphin“), but a bit more focused around the goings and comings of the natural world. Within the piece you’ll find elephants and elephantnosefish and diabolical ironclad beetles and everything else in between. Here’s an excerpt:

“Weddell seals vocalize nine types of sounds beyond the range of human hearing. Guinea baboons learn to grunt in the accent of their preferred social group. Glass frogs pitch their calls higher near roaring waterfalls while waving hello to potential mates. The croaks of male gulf corvina resemble underwater machine-gun fire in sound and decibel level; spawning aggregations can induce hearing loss in nearby marine mammals. Deaf, earless moths sport wing scales that dampen and deaden predatory sonar. Bats can crash into large sponge walls with weak echoes, not unlike people walking into glass doors. Solitary minke whales seem to abandon efforts to hear and be heard in waters with heavy shipping and military activities. The album Songs of the Humpback Whale officially reached interstellar space in August 2012 onboard Voyager 1; it is not part of the Golden Record’s “Sounds of Earth” track with tame dogs, wild dogs, and hyenas, but mixed amongst the recorded human “Hellos” in fifty-five languages. In 40,000 years, the probe will drift within 1.6 light-years of Gliese 445, a star in the constellation of Camelopardalis. What we think of as a giraffe is in reality four genetically distinct species, some of which have been recorded humming at night. Researchers are unsure if these sounds are passive, like snores, or active messages intended for fellow giraffes, swaying in the black.”

Here is an additional interview I did with AGNI on the piece, if you are interested in the process.

In related news, I’m very excited to announce that this essay will be included in my upcoming collection, also titled Utter, Earth, which will be published by West Virginia University Press in Fall of 2023. Happy to be sharing more in the upcoming months—until then, I wish you all a restful holiday season!

Yes, You can Leave The Hospital Without Naming Your Baby

Some publication news: I’m super honoured to have a piece of creative nonfiction up at the latest issue of The Willowherb Review, a fantastic UK-based publication focused on providing a platform for nature writing from writers of colour.

Some of you might recall that I also had another piece titled El Lugar de Los Sueños in Willowherb last year. Instead of another personal meditation, I wanted to embrace a completely opposite style. Whimsy fuels this slightly manic and ridiculous piece’s attempt to jam as many creatures into a single work (29 at last count). The conceit around names and naming is an attempt to honour those we share this planet with, those who have since passed, and those still in the process of discovering themselves through living. Here’s an excerpt:

“…In the wild reaches even less care is taken in the naming process. This is more understandable given that there are so many mushrooms and so many weevils, and everything adjacent to groups or branching from clades deserves a station within life’s grand catalogue. Blurry-eyed taxonomists and phylogeneticists may be too mossy-brained to conjure up yet another description after being tasked to come up with 1.3 million of them, often in both common and Latin scientific. Under such pressure some have resorted to the celebrity method but in reverse, so that the world is now blessed with the beauty of the Kate Winslet beetle, which may never sink beneath the waves, but will yet still go under if its Costa Rican treetop habitats are converted to pasture. Then there is the Bono Joshua Tree trapdoor spider, who has most likely never heard its U2 counterpart sing, but definitely scuttles beneath the famous desert national park, where unpaved streets go unnamed.”

Yes, You Can Leave the Hospital Without Naming Your Baby

I hope you have as much fun reading it as I did writing it. Until next time!

Photo credit: Anton from Wikimedia Commons

The Ecological Imagination of Hayao Miyazaki, Orion Magazine

It’s not every day that you get to work on a dream project with a dream publication. I’m excited to share that I have a new piece up online at Orion magazine, exploring the ecological imagination of Hayao Miyazaki.

Where the word for forest is silence
A tree and troll to watch over me
Carrying on through a wayward world
Reading the wind, mending the earth

An introduction to the work of the venerated Japanese animator and filmmaker (who happened to turn 80 this year), the piece is also a retrospective on four movies dearest to my heart: Princess Mononoke, My Neighbour Totoro, Spirited Away, and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Miyazaki tales were major sources of inspiration for me starting Ekostories—you can read everything I’ve written over the years in the archives HERE.

And when you’re done, don’t forget to check out the rest of Orion’s latest issue (and hopefully subscribe!) It’s seriously fantastic both in terms of production value and in-depth content that explores the connections between people and nature. Here’s a snippet:

IN THIS ISSUE, we peer into the ways in which humans depict nature. In “Lifelike,” Ella Frances Sanders shares illustrated musings on the essence of landscape. Emily Raboteau takes us on a bird walk through Harlem in “Spark Bird.”…In “Contemplative Topography” by Silvia Cirelli, the character of landscape is revealed through art. Cecil Howell provides a “Forest Cartography” that illustrates the decadence of life and trash in the Alaskan Tongass. Anya Groner writes about what a journey to a desert shrine reveals about language and desire. In “The Nature of Plastics,” Meera Subramanian explores the edge of the artificial. In “Wish you Were Here,” Sharlene Leurig and Jessica Gath sends postcards to the future. Benjamin Swett uncovers the divine architecture of the Shakers in “What I Wanted to Tell You About the Wind.” Nikki McClure illustrates an excerpt from a Rachel Carson television documentary, and more.”

Orion’s Spring 2021 Introduction

Read the Issue Here

Featured Image with permission from Studio Ghibli