In this new year, I carry with me a conversation with Uncle Bobby Camara, a naturalist, geographer, and ethnobotanist, who is retired from Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. He waxed eloquent about the importance of cultivating expansive thinking. There are many ways to do this, notably through lively discussions and quiet contemplation, both of which I find are greatly enriched by reading. So I share two sources that celebrate and inspire multi-faceted wondering, one homegrown and the other from distant shores. May your year be full of good reading, conversing, and doing/not doing.
Dispatches from Volcano Bobby C’s insights and observations from the forest
This curated compilation of scientific observations, Hawaiian vocabulary lessons, heat maps, photographs, oli, mele, tilt graphs, and more are interwoven with Uncle Bobby’s personal musings, derived from decades of keeping company with Pele and listening in the forest. I love that this blog invites us to see a marvelous thing from multiple vantage points–the scientific, linguistic, artistic, and historical. When we experience the different ways that humans wonder at our world’s awesome physical and metaphysical manifestations, I think we better see not only the phenomena in question, but also each other. When we are generous of spirit, we understand that our disparate perspectives and resulting knowledge are complementary, compounding, and congruent. Much of Uncle Bobby’s magic stems from his integration of images and text – go look!
Brain Pickings an inventory of a meaningful life
To read this ongoing series of contemplative essays by Maria Popova is to share in a joyful exploration of ideas and humanity. Each piece is full of links to other essays, allowing you to follow Popova as she illuminates connections between philosophers, novelists, scientists, and artists… a head-spinning fall down the rabbit hole into a veritable warren of ideas.
Popova’s Pickings echoes the intertwined complexity found in Uncle Bobby’s Dispatches. Particularly resonant in this vein is her celebration of Rachel Carson’s “lyrical writing [which] rendered her not a mere translator of the natural world, but an alchemist transmuting the steel of science into the gold of wonder.” For your first foray into Brain Pickings, you might chase the branching links running through the essays about trees, starting with a piece entitled The Cosmic Miracle of Trees:
“If a single tree is home to a miniature universe of life, and if we are learning with wide-eyed wonder that a tree is not a self-contained world but a synaptic node in a complex cosmos of relationships in constant and astonishing communication with other nodes, relationships that weave the fabric of earthly life, what does it make us — what does it reveal about our character, as a planetary people and a civilization — to watch the world’s forests vanish in flames before our eyes, in wildfires so ferocious as to be visible from space?”
With love for those vanishing forests, l close on a hopeful note: Brain Pickings frequently celebrates remarkable children’s books that will surely inspire future scientists, artists, and writers, a gift to the rest of us who will marvel at the world through their eyes.
Hawai‘i banned new cesspools in 2016, yet there are still thousands of cesspools that discharge millions of gallons of raw sewage into our waters each day. Cohort VI Fellow Stuart Coleman is committed to helping improve water quality through his organization Wastewater Alternatives and Innovations (WAI).