Ragtag & Sundry Sunday

A miscellaneous news and reading roundup

(or: an enthusiastic summary of the most interesting, weird and worthwhile ways I procrastinated on the worldwide web this week).


I read a dozen other articles this week, but none of them were as beautiful, compelling and resonant as the essays and interviews in Emergence Magazine, a quarterly online publication featuring innovative stories that explore the threads connecting ecology, culture, and spirituality. I discovered the magazine quite recently and have been slowly making my way through the previous four issues of its inaugural year.

The fifth and most-recent Language Issue is phenomenal. From ‘The Voices of Birds and the Language of Belonging,’ to ‘Dance of the Honey Bee,’ that describes “the elaborate dances of the honey bee, used to communicate intricate details about food, the hive, and the well-being of the queen.”

Speaking the Anthropocene,’ is an interview I will return to again and again. In this hour-long conversation, writer Robert McFarlane articulates the consequence, the responsibility, as well as the pleasure of naming the living world.

There is so much to absorb and contemplate here, from the ethics of naming, to a ‘grammar of reciprocity,’ and his fascination with “our attempts to speak the Anthropocene, to speak geo-traumatics, to speak solastalgia.”

“The right names well used can act as portals into the more-than-human world of bird, animal, tree, and insect. Good names open onto mystery, grow knowledge, and summon wonder. And wonder is an essential survival skill for the Anthropocene.”

Robert McFarlane

I’m interested in grammar as well as single words. Grammar is, if you like, language’s underland. It’s where meaning sediments over long periods of time and becomes ideology, effectively. Single words are obviously actions; they’re choices made on the surface. They have deep histories, they have roots, in that sense—but grammar is the sedimented version of many forms of choice made by cultures and individuals over many years. If we think of grammar as having an underland—well, the underland of our grammar, of English as I understand it to be conventionally used, is not one that recognizes the more-than-human world with richness, respect, reciprocity, and legitimacy.

In ‘Losing Language,’ Camille T. Dungy rejects the refrain “there are no words,” and reaches for a language to encompass the experience of loss, extinction, and loneliness.

There are words—about pain and the deepest kinds of sadness, about being orphaned and lonely and feeling bereft. There are words—about the inability to hold and, by that holding, to sustain another heart. There are words—and they matter—about the erasure of one particular light, of one particular life, and, with that life, all the lives that link with it, all the darkened histories that light—that life—once revealed.

Camille T. Dungy

Writing and art as impactful and important as this doesn’t quite count as procrastination, at least not in the negative sense of the word. Rather, this entire issue formed, for me, a personally meaningful experience, a meditation, and much more than an education.

Yes, it technically took time away from my own writing and meaning-making to read through each long essay, interview, or the lovely ‘Five Practices for Listening to the Language of Birds.‘ But these words and sentiments will undoubtedly inform my work going forward–and indeed my outlook on life in general–so, in contrast to the kind of procrastination where you look up and wonder where the day went, reading and listening to these lovely pieces felt like time slowed down and well spent.