All posts tagged: Stories

Stories that contain themes of nature, culture, and self.

Hawaiian Island Topography Large

Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Never Set Foot On and Never Will

The first place I ever felt at home in was on an island. My grandparents lived on Cheung Chau, an island ten kilometers southwest of Hong Kong. Literally translated as “long isle”, Cheung Chau is shaped like a dumbbell, its two granite masses joined in the middle by a sandbar. As a child I spent weekends and summers there fishing and swimming, and even now the scent of saltspray and sewage sends me back to that grimy old fishing village. This fondness for islands stayed and deepened. When I moved to Canada and started to read English I found myself drawn to Earthsea, the fantasy archipelago world of Ursula K. Le Guin. On each of her conjured isles laid not only magic and adventure, but moods intrinsic to and defined by geography. I connected to Astowell, last land before the open sea; Gont and its snow-capped peak rising up like a sharp spire; Osskil, raven realm, icebound and alien. Many times I have sailed in my mind to the shores of Selidor at the westernmost edge of the world, that …

Baird's Tapir

Zoomorphic Magazine, A Tapir’s Tale

I‘m pleased to announce that Zoomorphic Magazine has published one of my personal essays titled “A Tapir’s Tale”. From scientists and conservationists with research to share to nature writers with stories to tell, Zoomorphic is a great read for anyone interested in writing that “deepens our connection with wildlife and the more-than-human world”. “A Tapir’s Tale” begins with a childhood animal book and delves into an encounter I had while in Belize for field school a decade ago: “…When I concentrate memories begin to surface as flickers, like glints of minnows scattered by diving kingfishers, like flash sightings of otters slipping into dark waters. The dull knife edge of a nearby karst shore against palm. The airy wake trailing a pair of fishing bats on hair and scalp. Their wheeling forms crossing filigree shadows cast by overhanging trees. A ripe fig falls in the water and ripples out. Interplay between sound and silence. Layers and moments circling a creation unfinished. You shattered that tranquility for me.” I’m looking forward to delving into the latest issue. …

Dulal Baje Nepal

Do You Understand? A Story from Nepal

A friend recently introduced me to Humans of New York, a photoblog with an enormous following on social media. Ranging from the mundane to the profound, these portraits and snippets offer brief but intimate glimpses into the worlds of others. They feed our collective craving for stories, personal tales, to hear and to share them. Not long after I came across an offshoot project called Stories of Nepal. As visitors to Ekostories might know, I’ve written a few pieces on my trip there in 2012, and even though I was in the country for all too brief a time, the people of that land have remained dear to me. Reading through some of their stories, one in particular resonated with me during this tail-end of the holiday season and calendar year. With the permission of photographer and translator Jay Poudyal, I would like to share it with you a passage by a farmer named Dulal Baje: “There was no animosity during our times. We were farmers. We were strong communities. We were families. No politics. Do you understand? …

Happy Birthday, Ursula K. Le Guin

Today is the 86th birthday of author Ursula K. Le Guin, without whom I would have never wrote all the words on this blog, or any words in general, because I would have missed out on visiting worlds of wizards, dragons, aliens, Italians, anarchists, and ants. In light of this happy occasion, I’ve compiled the pieces I’ve written about her work over the years on Ekostories. To steal a passage from the introduction she did for James Tiptree Jr.’s Star Songs of an Old Primate: “Here are Some real stories.”

Elephant eye up close

Bearing Witness: The Animal Dialogues by Craig Childs

It began with pronghorns. As a child growing up obsessed with creature comparisons, the main allure of the pronghorn antelope was naturally its cheetah-esque speed, evolved to evade the North American version of the same predatory cat now ghost. Now in latter years and slower-paced days, other characteristics came to the fore: Those long-lashed doe eyes; that sly, set hint of a smile; the pair of ebony horns, sheathed in keratin; the trace of melancholy that comes with knowing that it is the lone survivor from its family, the last of its kin. It was a fortuitous flip to the essay on pronghorns that swayed me to pick up Craig Childs’ The Animal Dialogues: Uncommon Encounters in the Wild. It didn’t take long before I knew I had to write about it. In each intimately wrought tale on antelopes, hawks, and red-spotted toads, I found a writer and translator infinitely more versed in the subtle tongues of the non-human world than I will ever be. Childs honours the weight and magnitude of his encounters with creatures …

Albatross at Midway

Midway: A Message from the Gyre

The trailer for Midway: A Message from the Gyre has been out for a few years now, but I only came across it last week. Even though I was familiar with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and knew about the plight of the albatross on this remote atoll, I was unprepared for Chris Jordan’s unflinching look at death and dying, of chicks bloated with plastics fighting for each breath, at beak and feather and sinew giving way to a grotesque nest of bottle caps and butane lighters, still discernable. It’s hard to watch: Midway is steeped in heartbreak and grief, as with so many environmental tales of our time. It forces us to face the reality of the situation, our complicity in this unfolding tragedy. Yet Jordan’s steadfast focus does not seem to linger on guilt, but rather revolves around awe. Pitching the film as “a love story for our time from the heart of the Pacific”, he also captures these birds in the full flight of life, wayfarers who spend most of their lives soaring …

Maple Trees Canopy

The Tolkien Ensemble: Treebeard’s Song

On more than one occasion, I’ve been tempted to write a feature on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. The trilogy along with The Silmarillion is dear to me, a master feat of world-building and myth-making that remains unrivalled in scope and grandeur. (I remain one of the unfashionable few who enjoys the irreverent songs and lengthy descriptions) Even a cursory glance at the text reveals a host of themes and motifs ripe for an Ekostory exploration: The pastoral Shire threatened by looming machinations; the fading of the Elves giving way to the coming age of Men; the propensity of power to corrupt all with noble and pure intentions; the quiet courage of ordinary folk. And yet, I hesitate. So much already exists in terms of Tolkien scholarship – I don’t feel like I have anything original to contribute. The work speaks for itself. But while I may not be up for analyzing Tolkien’s magnum opus, I can at least express my appreciation for some small portion of it. It’s not quite autumn here yet, …