Viewing: biophilia

Jun 10

June 10, 2017

Plate 72 from Ernst Haeckel’s Kunstformen der Natur (1904), depicting a grove of mosses.

The Minimalist Genius of Moss

Lost to the cracks, roots of trees, shadowed rock faces, moss is the settler of shady nooks and crannies, hidden in plain sight, carpeting surfaces all around the globe, including the arctic poles. They live where no other plants seek to live, creating homes on seemingly inhospitable, soilless surfaces. And they are far more remarkable than you know…

Posted in Science

May 12

May 12, 2017

Mosque swallow, Ibis (quarterly journal of the British Ornithologists Union), Vol. IV, 1862.

Of Flying Birds and Cold Dinosaurs

How did birds come to fly? Did ancient reptiles, like us, look up into the great big blue yonder and dream of soaring? No, nothing so poetic, but rather something very practical led to flight.

Posted in Modern Bestiary

Apr 16

April 16, 2017

Persimmons and White-Eyes, Kobayashi Kiyochika, 1880

The Singing Life of Birds

This is the season of birdsong, when even the smallest finch bursts his lungs and heart out for all to hear, and you’d have to be hard of hearing, hard of heart, or hard on time not to take notice.

Posted in Modern Bestiary

Mar 29

March 29, 2017

Squelette de chauve-souris, Émile Deyrolle (1838-1917)

A-Z Modern Bestiary: Behold the Bat

Usually we humans possess more warm and fuzzy feelings towards our fellow mammals than other forms of life, but bats have suffered a bad repute. Whether it’s their nocturnal lifestyle, or erratic flight movements, or leathery wings, or the stories of vampire bats, there are many people who are disgusted by the mere idea of bats.

Posted in Modern Bestiary

May 6

May 6, 2015

Snow goose, Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area, Quebec, taken by Simon Pierre Barrette, 2010.

The Berkeley Pit: Murders Most Fowl

In all the annals of tragedy, the demise of one migrating flock of snow geese may seem of not much consequence, but our story exemplifies this universal truth: there is no waste, only a changing of form.

Posted in Science

May 1

May 1, 2015

Morning in a Pine Forest, Ivan Shishkin, 1889.

A-Z Modern Bestiary: Bears in the Balance

Bears are individuals with great curiosity and keen faculties, and they act for all sorts of reasons that we can only guess at. Ultimately, in the words of notable bear behaviorist Else Poulsen, “bears do things for bear reasons.”

Posted in Modern Bestiary

Nov 18

November 18, 2014

Pumpkin, Flore des Serres et des Jardins de l'Europe, Vol XIV, Louis Van Houtte, 1861.

Dispelling the Myth of the Passive Plant

For a human, it’s impossible to grasp the reality of life lived as a plant, and many of us have been guilty of removing all possibilities of awareness and responsiveness from the flora family. We pluck a flower for its beauty and never dream that the plant is aware of our theft and sending out a chemical chorus through its whole being to assess the situation.

Posted in Science

Aug 13

August 13, 2014

The Angry Sea, James McNeill Whistler, 1884.

In Praise of the Pacific

Staring out into the endless blue water of the Pacific can be both alluring and frightening, especially when I remember that humankind descended from ancient creatures who managed to survive and evolve in that salty, fluxing, fierce, and deep expanse.

Posted in Psychology, Science

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

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

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

Mar 12

March 12, 2014

Narcissus pseudonarcissus and Narcissus poeticus, Hans-Simon Holtzbecker, 1659.

Flowers for Thought: Narcissus and Evolution

Today the daffodils have unfurled: bright yellow petals proclaiming winter’s dominance at last has ended. These trumpet-bearers of spring were my favorite flower as a child, and I would sneak through parks like some small-time criminal to break a few stems and whisk home with the evidence. Years later when I became an avid reader of Greek mythology, I was surprised to learn that these sweet flowers were also known by the name Narcissus and were associated with a very strange tale of tragic self-adoration.

Posted in Myths & Folktales, Sociology