Rank #1: Mud and Antler Bone — Martin Shaw
Dr. Martin Shaw is a writer, teacher, and mythologist. His books include: "A Branch from the Lightning Tree," "Snowy Tower," and "Scatterlings." He is the founder of the Westcountry School of Myth, a learning community located on Dartmoor in the far west of the United Kingdom. This past August we had a chance to sit down and talk with Martin about the intelligence that lies at the heart of myths. The best stories, he says, ought to be trailed not trapped, and approached with discernment, an open heart, and an attuned ear. He began our conversation by telling the story of the Lindworm, an old Norwegian tale about a mythical creature that is part human and part snake.
Rank #2: On the Road with Thomas Merton – Fred Bahnson
In the summer of 1968, Christian mystic Thomas Merton undertook a pilgrimage to the American West. Fifty years later, writer Fred Bahnson set out to follow Merton’s path, retracing the monk’s journey across the landscape. This narrated essay offers an intimate meditation on Merton’s life and the relevance of the spiritual journey today.
Rank #3: Creaturely Migrations on a Breathing Planet — David Abram
In this narrated essay, cultural ecologist and philosopher David Abram questions the deep intelligence that lies at the heart of crane, butterfly, and salmon migration patterns.
Rank #4: Corn Tastes Better on the Honor System – Robin Wall Kimmerer
Robin Wall Kimmerer is a writer, scientist, and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. She is author of the acclaimed book "Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants." In this essay, Robin reflects on the ancient technology embedded in our relationship with maize, recalling that a grinding stone, an irrigation system, and an ear of corn are also technology.
Rank #5: Lone Moon Lights Cold Spring – Bill Porter (Red Pine)
In this in-depth interview, Bill Porter, famously known as the translator Red Pine, reflects on his encounters with Chinese hermits and his long history with the great Taoist and Buddhist poets of China.
Rank #6: A Storm Blown from Paradise — Paul Kingsnorth
Beginning with W. B. Yeats's iconic poem, "The Second Coming," acclaimed writer Paul Kingsnorth narrates his essay "A Storm Blown from Paradise," an inquiry into linear and cyclical time and the sweeping momentum of progress.
Rank #7: Wildwood — Kara Moses
Kara Moses is a writer and educator. Her work focuses on land management, social change, and nature connection. She has written for the Guardian, the Ecologist, and BBC Wildlife.
In this essay Kara visits a primordial, old-growth forest in Poland. Here she meets a herd of bison, encounters loggers and felled trees, tracks wolves, and observes how a healthy forest is in a constant cycle of death and rebirth. Upon returning to her home in the sheep-grazed moors of Wales, she asks how this example of regeneration can be healing, not just for the desolated Welsh landscape she wants to re-wild, but for herself.
Rank #8: A Letter to my Husband – Hala Alyan
Struggling to explain her belief in God to her atheist husband, award-winning Palestinian American poet Hala Alyan reflects on her Muslim faith as inextricably linked to her family, to Palestine, and to histories of erasure.
Rank #9: On Being Alone — Craig Childs
Craig Childs writes about adventure, wilderness, and science. His books include "Atlas of a Lost World," "Apocalyptic Planet," "Finders Keepers," and "The Animal Dialogues." In this essay Craig takes a solo canoe trip down the Green River, paddling through Canyonlands in southeast Utah, reflecting on what it means to be alone in the wild. Encountering risk, isolation, and joy, and entering into conversation with the land and waters around him, Craig explores what happens when we choose to be in solitude.
Rank #10: Magic and the Machine — David Abram
David Abram is a cultural ecologist and philosopher. In this essay, he reflects on our undying urge to recreate a primal experience of intimacy with the surrounding world, offering notes on technology and animism in an age of ecological wipeout.
Rank #11: Winds of Awe and Fear — Nick Hunt
Nick Hunt is a writer, journalist, storyteller, and self-described wind-walker. His latest book, "Where the Wild Winds Are," tells the story of four European winds and their effects on the landscape, people, and culture. In this essay Nick continues this exploration, focusing on the mythological understanding of winds as gods, experiencing their power firsthand as cause for awe, exhilaration, and fear.
Rank #12: Hallowed Ground – Chelsea Steinauer-Scudder
The roots of religious belief and the sacredness of nature were once closely entwined: the ancient yew grows in the churchyard; the forest monks of Thailand follow the Buddha’s example of meditating beneath trees. Chelsea Steinauer-Scudder profiles theologian Martin Palmer and his work to engage faith-based communities in recovering narratives of love and care for local ecologies.
Rank #13: The Great Work: Alchemy and the Power of Words – Paul Kingsnorth
Paul Kingsnorth is a writer living in rural Ireland. Recalling a visit from a dark figure in a dream, who reappeared in his novel "The Wake," Paul reflects on writing as an alchemical process, one involving transformation, discipline, and purification.
Rank #14: Bodies of Evidence – Kimberly Ruffin
As Kimberly Ruffin revisits her upbringing and spiritual heritage, she compiles the bodies of evidence that have invigorated her spirit. A certified Nature and Forest Therapy Guide and a new member of a church, Kimberly explores where “spirit power” can be found, both within a church community and in the places where faith rises up within the land.
Rank #15: Born was the Mountain – Chelsea Steinauer-Scudder
In this in-depth investigative story, Emergence Magazine staff writer Chelsea Steinauer-Scudder explores the collision of values unfolding on the summit of Mauna Kea, the proposed site for what would be the largest telescope in the world.
Rank #16: When You Meet the Monster, Anoint His Feet – Bayo Akomolafe
Bayo Akomolafe is a writer and lecturer from western Nigeria. In the age of the Anthropocene and entrenched politics of whiteness, this essay brings us face-to-face with our own unresolved ancestry, as it becomes more and more apparent that we are completely entwined with each other and the natural world.
Rank #17: Imagining Burial – Lia Purpura
In this narrated essay, writer and poet Lia Purpura delves into the horrified wonder and holiness of death, exploring burial practices that are intended to nourish the earth, as it has nourished us.
Rank #18: Myrtle's Medicine – Kinitra Brooks
In a world where the cosmologies of black women are continually erased and excluded from knowledge traditions, Kinitra Brooks seeks connection with her late great-grandmother, Mama Myrt, who first introduced her to rootworking traditions and inspired her life’s work. Kinitra’s essay, "Myrtle’s Medicine," reflects on the meaning and beauty of embodied ways of knowing.
Rank #19: Myth of Progress — An Interview with Paul Kingsnorth
In this interview, writer Paul Kingsnorth discusses some of the central themes explored in his work. The conversation centers on the "myth of progress," the failure of technology to deliver the "good life," and how both have led us into the environmental crisis. He describes how old myths offer a way to be with the uncertainty embedded in our time, and how we can listen for new stories.
Rank #20: From Dirt — Camille T. Dungy
Camille T. Dungy is an award-winning author, poet, editor, and professor. Her work includes the collection of essays "Guidebook to Relative Strangers" and the poetry collections "Trophic Cascade," "Suck on the Marrow," and "What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison." She edited "Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry" and has received numerous honors, including an American Book Award and two NAACP Image Award nominations.
In this essay Camille reflects on the journey of seeds, how much of what we plant in our gardens was brought to our soils during the slave trade, and the legacy of trauma and triumph that lies within our food. Planting food, she contends, even in contaminated soils, becomes both an acknowledgment of grief and a celebration of the beauty of growing.