Vanamuthassi: The Grandmother of the Jungle

Deep in the forest of Kallar in Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala in Southern India lives a 77 year old woman named Lakshmikutty. She estimates that she knows how to make around 500 medicinal treatments from the plants near her hut. She learned most of them from her mother but she also claims that she learned many…

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On The Heart of Pearls

The classic strand of pearls evoke a certain kind of classic lunar beauty. Still. Iridescent. Regal. And yet somehow still redolent of the sea. An unmined gem wrenched from the mouth of an oyster. And surely we know how this works. A piece of grit or sand is placed in a live oyster and to…

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The Life Hidden Beneath Our Lives

Right now there is every evidence that the Earth is in the midst of a sixth major extinction. Whether it is charismatic megafauna like polar bears or orangutan or less known amphibians like the axolotl…important animals are vanishing. And then there is the problem of invasive species – lion fish in the Caribbean or green…

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The Herds Throne

For todays dispatch I am so thrilled to share with you a just short of three minute video of my friend Daniel Stermac-Stein who is a traditional skin tanner and handmade bespoke leather tailor. I am lucky to have a jacket that he made and I treasure this fine piece of clothing. My plea is…

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The Longing of a Billion Oysters

Dredging has been happening in waterways around the world for thousands of years. Sometimes it is to pull precious gems or minerals from a sea or river bed. Or to pull sand and silt for making concrete. Sometimes it is to get material to infill on land. There are lots of reasons that is has…

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Things To Wonder About At The Cheese Plate

Next time you are at a dinner party and are hovering near the cheese plate or are nearby somebody who is hovering by the cheese plate and you both look at each other and shrug with seemingly nothing to say…here is a grand conversation starter. Grab the toothpick with the colored cellophane tassel and press…

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The Oldest Needle

In Potok Cave in Eastern Slovenia a needle was found that was made between 41,000 and 47,000 years ago. And in Liaoning Province in China needles were found that were between 23,000 and 30,000 years old. These needles were made of splintered bone and in some cases ivory. You might not realize it at first…

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The Scent After the Storm

Since the early 20th Century in India there has been a perfume called ‘mitti attar’ meaning ‘Earth’s perfume’ has been a long standing classic there. In the last few years two perfumers in the west  – Christopher Brosius and David Seth – separately created perfumes called ‘Black March’ and ‘Pale Grey Mountain, Small Black Lake’.…

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The Cowichan Knitter

The Coast Salish people of what is called British Columbia have many smaller peoples among them, the Cowichan among them. As the lore of their people tell, they have been weaving clothing for thousands of years using dog hair or mountain goat wool. They wove textiles from tree bark as well. Canada has its own…

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The Carved Trees of Tehran

This stump is from a tree on my block in Harlem in New York City. You can count the rings, I think. Between twenty and twenty-five years he grew. I’ve lived in New York City my entire life and on this block for just shy of twenty years. I saw this tree as a reedy…

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