All posts filed under: Featured Ekostories

Hawaiian Island Topography Large

Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Never Set Foot On and Never Will

The first place I ever felt at home in was on an island. My grandparents lived on Cheung Chau, an island ten kilometers southwest of Hong Kong. Literally translated as “long isle”, Cheung Chau is shaped like a dumbbell, its two granite masses joined in the middle by a sandbar. As a child I spent weekends and summers there fishing and swimming, and even now the scent of saltspray and sewage sends me back to that grimy old fishing village. This fondness for islands stayed and deepened. When I moved to Canada and started to read English I found myself drawn to Earthsea, the fantasy archipelago world of Ursula K. Le Guin. On each of her conjured isles laid not only magic and adventure, but moods intrinsic to and defined by geography. I connected to Astowell, last land before the open sea; Gont and its snow-capped peak rising up like a sharp spire; Osskil, raven realm, icebound and alien. Many times I have sailed in my mind to the shores of Selidor at the westernmost edge of the world, that …

Great Horsetail_Luc_Viatour

More Than Ferns: Oliver Sacks’ Oaxaca Journal

When I finished the preface to Oliver Sacks’ Oaxaca Journal and found that the late neurologist and author shared my love for natural history travelogues, I knew I was in for a treat. What I was not expecting to discover was a potential new writing muse and a possible kindred spirit. If you harbour no interest for ferns, travel writing, or Oliver Sacks as a person, this slim tome may not be for you. Luckily, I’m fascinated by all of three elements, and so found Oaxaca Journal an Ekostory well worth exploring.

Elephant eye up close

Bearing Witness: The Animal Dialogues by Craig Childs

It began with pronghorns. Growing up obsessed with creature comparisons, the main allure of the antelope was its cheetah-esque speed, evolved to evade the North American version of that predatory cat long extinct. I was tickled by the idea that the pronghorn outran its ghost and thus forever evaded its own doom. In these later years and slower-paced days, other commendable qualities came to the fore: Those long-lashed doe eyes; that sly, set hint of a smile; the pair of ebony horns sheathed in keratin which shed like antlers; the tinge of melancholy derived from knowing that it is the sole survivor of its family, the last remnant of kin. It was a fortuitous flip to the essay on pronghorns that persuaded me to pick up Craig Childs’ The Animal Dialogues: Uncommon Encounters in the Wild. In each intimately wrought tale on antelopes, hawks, and red-spotted toads, I found a writer and translator more versed in the tongues of the non-human world than I will ever be. Childs honors the weight and magnitude of his …

Bold Peak Chugach Mountains Alaska

Nature and Music: The Work of John Luther Adams

I am probably one of the few who looks forward to my commute. Not because I get on far enough away to grab a seat on the train, or that my mind requires the extra hour of warm up to function properly; both are true, but more important is that the commute allows me to enter the world of radio podcasts. Daily I have time to listen to stories from CBC’s Ideas and Wiretap, and from This American Life and RadioLab. Steeped in narratives of art and science, psychology and philosophy, anthropology and history and everything in between, I find myself constantly awed by the power of voice and ambience to build imagery. I listen and feel inspired. A recent Radiolab episode tuned me into the Pulitzer-winning work of composer John Luther Adams. Excerpted from a longer interview on another program called Meet the Composers, hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich delve into Adams’ compositions – music that is more akin to a primal and elemental force. You can listen to the fascinating half-hour podcast HERE – I’ll be …

Burtynsky's Manufactured Landscapes Orange River Plate 14

Manufactured Landscapes: A meditation on man-made spaces

I don’t recall where I first came across the work of Edward Burtynsky; it could have been at the library, the bookstore, or one of those coffee shops with actual coffee table books. All I remember was being drawn to the front cover image of his collection of photographs, to the intense fluorescent shock of orange lava snaking through charred lands: A beautiful and awesome volcanic landscape. Only when I read the title, half immersed in the river’s glow, did I realize something was amiss. Manufactured Landscapes. As I flipped through the book, the beauty that I saw and the awe that I held for the landscape fell away, replaced by a swell of alarm and disbelief. The river wasn’t lava, the setting wasn’t volcanic, and nature had nothing to do with the creation of this particular landscape. One of the most powerful things art can do is challenge us to examine the assumptions we hold about the world. Burtynsky’s photographic forays into industrial shadows pushed me to confront my own notions on beauty and ugliness, the value …