I wrote a bit last year about my problems with handling praise. While that is still a work in progress, I’m thrilled to announce that one of my essays, Inspirations from a Toad, has won the 2013 Web of Life Foundation competition out of nearly 500 entries. WOLF runs the annual contest seeking works with fresh thinking on political, social, and environmental issues. 2013’s theme was “an aspirational future”. The piece, part narrative and part personal meditation, combines ideas from Some Thoughts on the Common Toad, George Orwell’s essay I wrote about last year on Ekostories, with my experiences volunteering with The Lower Mainland Green Team, a local grassroots environmental group that boasts more than 1,800 members doing great stewardship work at parks and urban farms. I would especially like to thank my writing colleagues for their careful readings, thoughtful suggestions, and swift kicks to get me to put my work out there – You know who you are. Deep gratitude, as always, and thanks for the support. Read the essay here
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.
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 …
We felt a mixture of excitement and anxiety after learning the finalized details of our volunteer placement: We were to work with and learn from the Tharu people, an indigenous group who inhabited the Terai region of Nepal. Arriving after an eleven-hour bus ride to the small town of Lamahi in Dang District, we were once again reminded of the country’s spectacular geographic diversity. This land of red dust and flat farmlands, far removed from any tourist attractions, was to be home for the following three weeks. It could not be more different than the mountain vistas of the Himalayas or the congested and bustling streets of Kathmandu.Knowing next to nothing about the land and its people, we tried to be receptive and perceptive to our surroundings and our hosts. In turn, we were rewarded with a wealth of information regarding Tharu history, culture, and worldviews and how their intimate bond with place and land has profoundly shaped their past and present relationships with nature, culture, and self.