Wild boars are invading Canada

Jana G. Pruden’s article on the ongoing wild boar invasion of Canada is the kind of piece where I can’t go more than a few sentences without quoting something to my partner. Its description of the boars is consistently fascinating and more than a little terrifying, making them seem almost supernaturally tough to control — they’re smart, vicious, mean-spirited, and shockingly fertile.

I have vague memories of hearing about boars escaping in the small town where my grandparents lived in the ’90s, and the town needing to impose a curfew to keep kids from getting gored. At the time it seemed ridiculous, its seriousness tempered by how cartoonish it all sounded to my thoroughly urban self. I never thought it would be a harbinger of a near-future plague of pigs, but here’s Canada’s paper of record publishing quotes like “There’s two types of people in the world: People that have pigs, and people that are about to have pigs.”

Guess I should do my best to enjoy the pig-free present before things go south.

Of course, the only reason the boars are here is because we imported them for farming, then set them free when profits dried up. Or worse, let them loose for game hunting because we knew they were tough and clever and resilient — and now we’re shocked that those same traits are helping them survive. Like any good horror stories, the true monster here is human shortsightedness, hubris, our complete unwillingness to think through (or care about) the consequences of our actions.

Love and Longing in the Seaweed Album

From Charles F. Durant’s Algae and Corallines of the Bay & Harbor of New York (1850), via Public Domain Review

A lovely essay from the Public Domain Review, on the 18th and 19th century fad of seaweed collection, touching on its countercultural and feminist connections, and some of the fascinating figures who became obsessed with the “useless” plants. Sasha Archibald captures the strange allure of seaweed collecting, seen by its advocates as a more refined alternative to the more obvious, less subtle pleasure of flower collecting. This passage on the hobby’s effect on air-balloon pioneer, pseudoscience debunker and generally fascinating character Charles Durant really struck me:

His research served only to remind him, again and again, how partial his knowledge. Algology is a concession, and a surrender too. Durant seems to bow his head before the “unfathomable abyss” of his topic, which proves “too wide, too deep, too vast for perfect exploration”. Seaweed chastened his ego, and abasement made space for love.

Longreads: The Sounds of Silence

My first piece for Longreads was published this week, sharing five articles about listening to nature. The Reading List format is a pretty natural one for me—I’m much more comfortable sharing other people’s thoughts than passing off my own as in any way authoritative—and the process of writing it helped me to clarify some of my own thoughts on music, noise, and silence

It also led to a conversation with a friend about their own experience of listening to music, and how it can be a way to take us out of the present, “to go someplace that isn’t this, either to the past or the craving for something new.”

I think there’s definitely truth in that, but there’s a positive side to it, too. A while back, I started seeing a certain kind of active musical listening as essentially training wheels for being present in a moment. To really enjoy a song, you have to ride along with it and get lost in it, experiencing each note as it comes. In the last few years, I’ve been working on getting that same experience of a stretch of time without the music.

For a long time, though, I thought the training wheels were the bicycle. Music has been such an accessible way to get fully absorbed in the flow of time that I never thought to wonder if it was keeping me from experiencing something more. Now that I’ve made the connection, though, I’ve found one of the best ways to enjoy silence and contemplation is to imagine it as music without the music. It makes emotional and intuitive sense even if I can’t quite explain it in more depth.

In any case, go read the piece on Longreads, and enjoy some thoughtful writing by much wiser folks than me.