Jul 9

July 9, 2014

Dung beetles, from Fabre's Book of Insects, Mrs. Rodolph Stawell, 1921.

Delving into Dirt: From Stardust to Soil

Dust, soil, earth, grime, silt, loam, muck, mud, gunk, filth, grit. The synonyms for dirt are many, and few carry a positive meaning. If something is dirty, it is in need of cleaning. If you’re dishing the dirt, then someone’s dark secrets are being aired. If you’re having dirty thoughts, please, keep them to yourself. But dusty, dirty, mucky material creates structure and contains nourishment, allowing life to flourish…

Posted in Science

Jun 21

June 21, 2014

Stonehenge, near Salisbury, England. Photograph taken between circa 1890 and 1900.

The Summer Solstice: Nope, Not Just for Pagans

Today’s the summer solstice, and if you have no idea what that means or instantly think of a circle of flower-bedecked pagans chanting together around a bonfire, you’re not alone. Our modern society has a very tenuous connection to the ancient festivals that marked the changing of the seasons. Now the summer passes by without any great cultural celebration to mark our gratitude for this season of fertility, beauty, plenty, and joy.

Posted in Sociology

Jun 18

June 18, 2014

Slave-Making Ant, from Nature's Craftsmen: Popular Studies of Ants and Other Insects, Henry Christopher McCook, 1907.

A-Z Modern Bestiary: The Ancillary Lives of Ants

Any human who turns their attention to the study of ants will quickly be aware of the commonalities shared between our species. They farm fungi and herd insects, build cities, wage war, and morph their own bodies to create weapons and tools. Take a peek into their world.

Posted in Modern Bestiary

Jun 13

June 13, 2014

The Madness of Fear, Francisco Goya (1746-1828).

Superstitions: Friday the 13th and the Full Moon

In this world of unforeseeable happenings, our species, since its inception, has been on an endless quest to explain, cajole, and pray our way into feeling a sense of power over our fate. Superstitions, in particular, shine light on this psychological need for control, as we create dangers that are clearly defined and easily counteracted through various charms and precautions.

Posted in Psychology

May 19

May 19, 2014

A Souvenir From Scotland, Gustave Dore, 1879.

Carmina Gadelica: Chants and Charms of Scotland

From 1860 through 1905, the folklorist Alexander Carmichael steeped himself in the oral traditions of the Gaelic-speaking regions of Scotland. These were salt of the earth people, of many distinct and localized cultures, almost entirely illiterate and poor in monetary wealth, but with soaring lyrical tongues and sharp minds, perfectly adapted to surviving the often harsh conditions of their homeland.

Posted in Myths & Folktales, Sociology

May 12

May 12, 2014

Allegory of the sense of smell, Jan Brueghel & Peter Rubens, 1618.

The Wonders of Odors in the Air

Smell is by far the most widely underrated of the five senses nature endowed us with. For most people, little conscious attention is given to the endless parade of, mostly subtle, aromas that invisibly fill our every breath.

Posted in Science

May 6

May 6, 2014

Desert, Konstantin Makovsky

Thanks to Dust from the Sahara

The Sahara desert does not bring to mind the fecundity of tropical jungles. Rather, these two ecosystems seem to be inherently incompatible, completely without connection to one another. What could endless burning sands have to do with a world of humid air, lush plants, and innumerable animal life?

Posted in Science

May 2

May 2, 2014

Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, In the Province of Eiri Suruga, Katsushika Hokusaicirca, 1830

Air: Illuminating the Invisible

Air is most often described as “empty”, as if because this sea of elements cannot be seen by humans eyes there is nothing to see, no substance. But the very fact that you’re alive at this moment is proof that the air is not only far from empty, but is teeming with unseen life, microscopic particles, cosmic dust, chemicals, and elemental forces.

Posted in Science

Apr 25

April 25, 2014

Waste Collects on the Shores of Timor-Leste, Martine Perret, UN Photo, 2008

Plastic Pollution: Time to Kick the Habit

Our smallest actions accumulate to create our society’s impact on the ecological world. In this way, the changes we make in our own individual lives matter greatly. Saying no to plastic, whether it be bags, bottles, toys, or containers, will ensure a healthier future for all of life.

Posted in Sociology

Apr 20

April 20, 2014

Painting Easter Eggs, Mykhaylo Chornyi, 2000

The Ancient Roots of Easter

Easter is another opportunity to celebrate the fulfillment of the long cycle of the seasons: the end of winter and the rebirth of spring.

Posted in Myths & Folktales, Psychology

Apr 16

April 16, 2014

The Panther, Aberdeen Bestiary Folio 9r, created in England around 1200.

The Bestiary: Medieval to Modern

Bestiaries at their heart are always an authors attempt to make known, to illuminate, the mysterious beings that share our earthly home. Each of us throughout our lives is unconsciously creating a compendium of understandings about the Kingdom Animalia. And while we may feel superior when comparing our modern understandings to the fanciful beliefs of medieval times, our ignorance of biological life on this planet still vastly outweighs our knowledge.

Posted in Modern Bestiary

Apr 11

April 11, 2014

In Central Park New York, Maurice Prendergast

Flaneur: The Freedom of Wandering

The towns and cities we live in are ripe for re-discovery. And if any word can act as an invitation to re-enliven your experience of the urban landscape, then “flâneur” is it.

Posted in Sociology