All posts tagged: nature culture

Content that explores the relationship between nature and culture.

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 …

Bold Peak Chugach Mountains Alaska

Nature and Music: The Work of John Luther Adams

I am probably one of the few who looks forward to my commute. Not because I get on far enough away to grab a seat on the train, or that my mind requires the extra hour of warm up to function properly; both are true, but more important is that the commute allows me to enter the world of radio podcasts. Daily I have time to listen to stories from CBC’s Ideas and Wiretap, and from This American Life and RadioLab. Steeped in narratives of art and science, psychology and philosophy, anthropology and history and everything in between, I find myself constantly awed by the power of voice and ambience to build imagery. I listen and feel inspired. A recent Radiolab episode tuned me into the Pulitzer-winning work of composer John Luther Adams. Excerpted from a longer interview on another program called Meet the Composers, hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich delve into Adams’ compositions – music that is more akin to a primal and elemental force. You can listen to the fascinating half-hour podcast HERE – I’ll be …

Indian Rhino Bardia National Park

Nepal Revisited: Adventures in Royal Bardia Park

Recently, I had the opportunity to contribute to Beatler.com, a local blog that covers food, entertainment, travel, lifestyle and technology. Drawn to one writer’s reflections on his trip to Belize, a place that I explored almost a decade ago, I felt inspired to revisit old journeys by working on a travel piece, this time around my adventures at Royal National Bardia Park in Nepal. Returning to Nepal in mind and spirit was interesting. When I wrote the Reflection of Nepal series right after my trip, I had felt compelled to get everything down, cramming together flavours, ideas, and lessons learned lest the vivid intensity of experience fade forever from memory. But now a year and a half removed, I found myself revisiting past events with no great hurry, having the time to mull over my notes and the patience to let scenes breathe and develop naturally. The entire four-part series, complete with the customary themes of nature and culture befitting an Ekostory, has recently been posted online. You can read them here: Part 1: Bardia …

Funky Asian acorns Lithocarpus

Funky Asian Acorns: Schema’s Seeds and Leaves

Recent shifts in thinking and a trip back to Hong Kong caused me to reflect upon the past and my roots as a 1.5 generation Chinese-Canadian. Drawing upon life and circumstance for inspiration, I spent my time away from blogging to work on a piece of bicultural creative non-fiction. I am delighted to announce that the finished work has been accepted by a sustainability-themed issue of Schema Magazine, an online publication “for the interculturally-minded”. Seeds and Leaves began as a seed (ha!) sparked by a call for essays that featured a plant or tree as the main character; it has since grown to become an account of a botanical illustration class I took last fall. I hope you enjoy this short tale about a brief encounter of two immigrants, one human, one not, and I welcome your thoughts on this personal Ekostory that attempts to weave together ideas of nature, culture, and identity. Read the story here

Things that Are - Caterpillar

On Whimwhams and Wild Whats: Amy Leach’s Things That Are

One of the reasons I took a break from blogging was to push myself to start reading again. But while I had a mountain backlog from great recommendations, I found myself not being in the headspace to explore new stories. For a while, I was worried that I might not find anything to spark my interest again.Then I stumbled onto this skinny, silly, crazy, exquisite little tome: Amy Leach’s Things That Are. As longtime readers of Ekostories know, I harbour a great fondness for several storytellers: Hayao Miyazaki, for his meticulous world-building and life philosophy; Michael Pollan, with his blend of Thoreau-tinged romanticism and candid introspection; John Steinbeck, for his warmth and compassion toward fellow beings; and of course, Ursula Le Guin, in her treatment of her craft as an ethical endeavour. Their writings and worldviews have in turn shaped my worldview and writing, and for that I hold them in high esteem. Leach has made her way into that select group. At once frivolous and profound, cosmic and intimate, silly and thought-provoking, each piece of …

The Road Fallen over poles McCarthy

No Nature, No Culture, Only Love: The Road

Over the past few entries, I’ve touched on the importance of staying optimistic in difficult times. This week, I want to look at a story that puts that to the ultimate test, a story in which hope arises from utter despair: Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.There are some who read this post-apocalyptic tale only as an ecological parable, a potential scenario if humanity continues to damage the earth’s life support systems. I don’t. McCarthy doesn’t dwell on the cause of his world’s demise, and neither will I. Instead, I’m more interested in exploring the impact of a ruined earth on the human psyche. How do these characters make sense of the world where nature and culture is beyond recovery? How do they cope with constant and unrelenting despair? What compels them to go on when the past is lost, never to return? The Road touches on these difficult questions. Yet despite seeming like the type of story that revels in violence and nihilism, it is really a tale about the very essence of what it means to …

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