All posts tagged: Biology

Content with connections to the life sciences.

Lungwort Lichen

Regarding Lichen, Tin House Online

Happy to announce that my short story “Regarding Lichen” has been published on Tin House Online as part of their Flash Friday series. “Lichen” was inspired by the stylings of the late and great Donald Barthelme, in particular one of my favourite story of his titled “Concerning the Bodyguard” which is similarly built on questions hinting at an underlying narrative. “Lichen” takes a different tone and is written as a love story: “What are the odds of the lichen settling on this rock? This tongue of rock, jutting out from a sea of permafrost? Is the lichen aware of other lichens, borne on other winds, clones of itself, diaspores settling on bleached shores, on exposed outcrops, or drowning in bogs?” I hope you enjoy it. I apologize for not posting more in recent months. It’s partly due to the fact that I’m working on a bunch of different projects (like this one) and partly because after a hundred plus essays, I’m running low on stories I want to explore on a deeper basis. But rest assured, …

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.

Silver Fox with Crows by Ellen Jewett

Animal Sculptures by Ellen Jewett

I’ve recently been taking pottery classes at the local community centre. Recalling fond memories of lessons growing up, I went into the first session brimming with enthusiasm, confident that I would be spinning out pots and vases and plates in no time. No such luck. I soon discovered I had no aptitude for the wheel. Class after class, clay balls wobbled off centre and flung apart, overzealous hands warped promising cylinders, and palms grew raw trying to coax shapes out of an alien medium. No muse or intuition came to me, and I realized I had a lot to learn. After grappling with futility, I decided to take a break from the wheel to work with the clay by hand.  Something clicked, and frustration gave way to the freedom of unfettered play. I found myself making figurines of flora and fauna as I did when I was a kid, back when clay gave my restless hands something solid to work on. From failed pots emerged mushroom landscapes populated by miniature elephants. Coils grew into dolphins …

Humpback Whale Breaching

Beyond Doom and Gloom: Conservation Stories of Hope

One of the coolest things about the blogging community is connecting with other like-minded individuals. I recently had the honour to guest blog over at Earthninja, a great blog by fellow 2013 Canadian Weblog Award winner Emily Nichol that focuses on conservation, nature, and science communication. While tossing around ideas of things to write about, I found inspiration in an intriguing talk by Dr. Elin Kelsey,  author, environmental educator, Rachel Carson Center fellow, and a past professor who shaped a lot of my interests and writings: In her video, Kelsey speaks about the importance of telling stories of hope and resilience even in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges. Read the Accompanying Post Here Featured Image: Humpback breaching, by Whit Welles

X-ray coloured tulips

X-Ray Photography of Nature, by Arie van’t Riet

Last week’s art by Greg Mort connected the intimate with the infinite. This week, I thought it would be interesting to explore art that delves into a world hidden from plain sight. With the use of  x-ray radiography, medical physicist and artist Arie van’t Riet creates stunning glimpses into the inner workings of the natural world. For me, van’t Riet’s photographs work on multiple levels. I enjoy the story of his path towards becoming an artist. In his work, I find a keen aesthetic judgement that balances an artist’s intention with the intrinsic beauty of the subject matter. Most importantly of all, I connect with his desire to showcase the vibrancy of life in his more complex pieces.

Eric Murtaugh Tidepool Steinbeck Sea of Cortez

From the Tidepool to the Stars: Steinbeck’s Log from the Sea of Cortez

What was the story that began this journey? That question has been on my mind since I reflected back on the past year of Ekostories. What tale triggered this exploration of nature, culture, and self? After some thought, one story came to the forefront, a surprise contender. It is a work that straddles the boundary between fiction and non-fiction. It is a story that melds science with literature, philosophy with social commentary, art with ethics and adventure. It is John Steinbeck’s The Log from the Sea of Cortez. That’s not entirely true. While the cover bears the name of the author of Cannery Row, Of Mice and Men, and The Grapes of Wrath, The Log from the Sea of Cortez was a collaboration between the Nobel prize-winning novelist and marine biologist Ed Ricketts. The book chronicles the two friends’ six-week, four thousand mile marine specimen collecting expedition in the Gulf of California, detailing the adventures, discoveries, and camaraderie as they travel from site to site, passing towns, reefs, isles, and sea. Like the voyage itself, the travelogue allows time …

Botany of Desire Wordle

A Plant’s View: Pollan’s Botany of Desire

Spring is in full bloom in my corner of the world; it is impossible not to notice the explosion of plant life all around. In the city, pink blossoms burst forth from ornamental cherries, enjoying brief moments of glory before cascading down as a silent snow of soft petals. In the suburbs, neighbourhood lawns and gardens are enlivened by vivid hues of yellows and violets from blooming daffodils and tulips. On nearby trails, star-shaped flowers from salmonberry bushes dot the flush of new growth, fuchsia markers intended to attract the eyes of hungry pollinators. In my small container garden, dainty green tendrils of scallions and sweet peas reach ever upwards, while planted pieces of potatoes seem content for the moment to slumber in the dark black soil. Perhaps it is this invigoration of growth that compelled me to reread Michael Pollan’s book, The Botany of Desire. Pollan’s work has played a significant role in my personal perceptions of the connections between nature and culture. Although he does on occasion go overboard with his metaphors, he has an …