All posts filed under: Featured Ekostories

Life Lessons from the Odd and Ancient, The Hopper

Pleased to have a new natural history essay up at The Hopper, an environmental literary magazine from Green Writers Press. The germ of this came about when I was piecing together an impromptu interpretive talk on living fossils and extinct creatures a few years back. Looking through horseshoe crabs, replica Megalodon teeth, and Cretaceous cypress needles, I was inspired by the many bizarre and under-appreciated organisms throughout Earth’s history, and felt compelled to share some of their stories through wordplay and lyrical prose: “If you’ve been feeling adrift on the sea of life lately, it might be best to seek guidance from an elder. You may wish to fish one out of the drink, like Captain Hendrik Goosen did one salty morning off the coast of South Africa in 1938, but be sure to verify its credentials first, as curator Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer did after spotting the creature’s four fleshy fins and puppy dog tail. Surprised at being consulted after four hundred million years, the coelacanth may be inclined to impart its accrued wisdom onto receptive devotees. …

Lammergeir by Lip Kee

Lammergeier, Journeys to Earthsea

Thrilled that my newest personal essay has found a home in the debut issue of Lammergeier, a literary publication named after one of the coolest birds around: “Lammergeier, as with so many artistic visions, starts with a bird. Lammergeiers eat almost exclusively bones. Using its large, powerful wings, the lammergeier drops bones from the great heights to crack them open and access the marrow inside. The lammergeier is also renowned for its plumage: brilliant rusty-hued feathers and dark, bristled faces created both by the luck of birth and the wear and tear of its mountain habits. We here at Lammergeier look for the beautiful vulture, the wonder uncovered digging through the grotesque, the sustaining viscera inside the carcass.” – About Us, Lammergeier “Journeys to Earthsea” delves into the trips I’ve made over the decades to what is arguably the most famous fictional archipelago: “Narveduen. The name is what draws my eye. NAR-VE-DU-EN. The sound is what holds true. Surrounding it, the isles of Derhemen, Onon, and Hille. South and west, the scraps of rock above …

Cheung Chau Sunrise Orient

Lodestone, Tahoma Lit Review

Excited to have a flash nonfiction piece published in the latest issue of Tahoma Literary Review, a great journal produced with “the aim of contributing to and sustaining a healthy literary ecosystem.” A description of the themes explored in this volume: “The 25 selections in our Fall/Winter issue describe dreams and omens; bodies in motion; how we deal with fear and grief; what we inherit and what we pass on. The stories, essays, and poems range in time and geography from the drought-ridden Midwestern plains of the 1870s to present-day Cheung Chau, Hong Kong.”  “Lodestone” takes place in that latter location, on the isle of Cheung Chau off the shores of Hong Kong, and revolves around a narrator’s return to a homeplace only to discover he is not the only one who has been drawn back. The featured photo may help you situate in the space, as it did for me when I finally sat down to write this piece. I feel especially fortunate to be in the company of some fantastic authors in this issue; …

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 …

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 …

A Boy and His Plants: The Curious Garden

There’s an art to writing for kids. Good children’s books aren’t simply dumbed down stories, written with smaller words and fitted with happy sappy endings. In reality, kids are quite discerning: Their faculties haven’t yet been dulled by the insecurities and neuroses accumulated during the process of growing up. They like what they like and are completely honest about it. It’s true that they happily consume works filled with tired clichés and moralistic messages, but lacking cynicism and regard for convention, they generally emerge none the worse for wear. The stories that stay with kids are ones that feel authentic and true, even if they can’t articulate why. These are stories that speak through the language of wonder, a native tongue we are all born knowing but can easily be forgotten through neglect and disuse. I think The Curious Garden by Peter Brown is a great children’s book. Inspired by the revitalization of the Highline railway on the west side of Manhattan, Brown fuses charming visuals with a narrative that is full of discovery and hope. …

Tiptree Love is the Plan Death Wordle

Love is the Plan the Plan is Death!

I usually have to think to come up with catchy titles for my entries, but the work has been done for me this week. Love is the Plan the Plan is Death is a Nebula-winning short story written by James Tiptree Jr., a pseudonym of Alice Sheldon. A trailblazer in fusing “hard” science fiction which focused on science and technology with the sociological and psychological ideas of “soft” science fiction, Tiptree was also a master in exploring the vantage point of the other, the female, and the alien. I first came upon her work in the collection Her Smoke Rose Up Forever and was captivated by the mastery of her prose and the bleakness of her tales.  Love is the Plan the Plan is Death is my favorite story out of that compilation. Unlike the utopian future of the Star Trek universe, Tiptree’s science fiction stories tend to be dark and pessimistic, often exploring the inexorable force of biological determinism and the futility of existence as self-aware individuals. Her tales force me to wonder: Are …