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.
When it’s due to interest or temperament, I’ve always been drawn to nature writing. For many, its mere mention conjures up certain associations – bucolic landscapes, nostalgic meditations, longings for golden ages, of days lost. But nature writing has never been a static genre, and increasingly it transcends the standard pastoral narratives. Last month, I had the pleasure to listen in on a live chat with critically acclaimed authors Rebecca Solnit and Robert MacFarlane as they delved into the evolving form of nature writing. In this entry, I’d like to summarize a few points I connected strongly with. You can listen to the entire talk below: Robert Macfarlane and Rebecca Solnit on Nature Writing If you want to follow along the timestamps I have provided in the post, you can also access the discussion directly on Orion Magazine’s website.
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 …
Welcome to the conclusion of Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. Exiting the Hidden Garden, Nausicaä realizes that Ohma has gone on by itself to Shuwa. A group of wormhandlers tracks her down and swears fealty to their new guardian deity. Surrounded by loyal subjects willing to do her bidding, Nausicaä realizes that she is no different than the first Dorok emperor, who centuries before went off to Shuwa to “save humanity.” ~
I remember reading through the third volume of Nausicaä for the first time and thinking to myself: This is starting to get good. Freed from the constraints of the film format, Miyazaki plunges deep into the chaos of the Dorok/Torumekian War, considerably upping the scale, stakes, and tension of the story before capping it off with a masterfully crafted battle. The two main female characters seize control of their destinies: Kushana emerges from the background to exert her considerable presence, while Nausicaä is forced to pit her ideals against real world situations. Let’s get started. ~
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 …
“Hi, I’m Troy McClure. You may remember me from such nature films as “Earwigs, Ew!”, and “Man Versus Nature: The Road to Victory.” The Simpsons started life as a quirky satirical parody of the typical American middle-class family three decades ago and has since become a cultural touchstone for entire generations of viewers. There’s not much the longest running sitcom in US television story hasn’t spoofed and parodied, and that includes humanity’s relationship with nature. Season ten’s Bart the Mother is not the only environmentally themed episode of the series, but it is my personal favourite. As the last episode voiced by the legendary Phil Hartman (RIP), Bart the Mother is not only an intriguing and hilarious story about the consequences of introduced species, but also explores the mentality with which we engage with the world around us.