All posts filed under: Featured Ekostories

Hong Kong Cityscape

Place and Memory: Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities

I’m not sure how to describe Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. It isn’t traditional fiction on a structural level, having no story arc or a defined ending. Nor is it conventional fantasy, doing away with the worlds it creates almost as soon as it forms them. Even the broadest definitions of historical fiction and magical realism don’t quite fit, as Calvino blends real and imagined details into a concoction of seemingly irreverent tales. Invisible Cities is a travelogue to places that do not exist. It is a work that brushes aside conventions of form and narrative to ruminate on ideas of memory and place, touching on everything from trajectory of civilizations to the limits of communication. At times delightfully whimsical and intensely melancholic, Invisible Cities is a testament to the power of an author at the height of his powers to provoke, enthrall, and connect.

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. …

Emma Marris Rambunctious Garden

Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World

Several years ago, I spent a month volunteering at Koke’e State Park on Kauai, Hawaii. I was there to enlist in the “war against invasives”, learning to identify and remove plants that threatening to overtake Garden Isle’s native ecosystems. Armed with a machete, a foldup saw, and two squirt bottles of herbicide, a group of us proceeded to take out the primary offenders – fields of kahili ginger (Hedychium gardnerianum), groves of strawberry guava (Psidium cattleianum), and towering Australian tree ferns (Cyathea cooperi). The work itself was satisfying, but in the back of my mind there grew a sad realization that our collectives efforts made little difference in the big picture. Vast areas were already covered with dense stands of invasives and were beyond salvaging. We worked triage, investing our energies on areas where gingers and guavas had not yet gained a significant foothold. But I was forced to accept that the ohia lehua and koa dominated forests we worked so hard to protect will eventually be relegated to existence in small and intensely managed …

One Straw Revolution Masanobu Fukuoka

Food, Awareness, Action: The One Straw Revolution

Humanity’s relationship with food is elemental; our daily food choices serve as vivid reminders of our dependence upon the living world. In The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Nature History of Four Meals, author Michael Pollan writes, “daily, our eating turns nature into culture, transforming the body of the world into our bodies and minds” (p.10). I read The One Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka not long after becoming aware of permaculture, a branch of ecological engineering that draws inspiration from natural ecosystems. His little green book forced me to reexamine my own assumptions on how I came to know the world around me. At times radical, counterintuitive, and unsettling, The One Straw Revolution is a fascinating account of one man’s physical, spiritual, and philosophical journey through life.

Ghibli Only Yesterday Safflower

Nostalgia Distilled: Ghibli’s Only Yesterday

I came across Studio Ghibli’s Only Yesterday (titled Omohide Poro Poro in Japan) at a time of transition in my life. Having just having graduated from school and secured a job in my field, I had hoped that the path forward was secure, certain. The hours were nice and the pay was good, but as time went on I felt a growing dissatisfaction I could not dismiss but could not articulate. Catching the film by chance on television one late night, I connected with the protagonist’s own yearning for something more in life. This resonance spanned the gulf between gender, culture, and life experience; her fictional journey of self-discovery inspired me to reflect honestly on my own life. How does the past shape my present identity? Am I satisfied with the course of my life? Am I courageous enough to pursue what makes me genuinely happy? After seeing the film again this year, I believe Only Yesterday is one of the finest animated films ever made. Quiet, intimate, and poignant, Isao Takahata’s masterpiece contains elements Studio Ghibli …