It wasn’t just our cover stars we interviewed for the Ecotones blog – the other eleven contributors all took the time to share their thoughts on a selection of questions. But rather than post the same list again and again, we’re going to share their answers with you as a group.
Just imagine we’re all sat around the table with you! So without further ado, Question One:
“Ecotones” are points of transition that occur when two different environments come into contact, and often into conflict. Can you describe an ecotone that has had personal significance for you?
Rebecca Schwarz: I’m a town mouse; so the way that nature permeates and intersects with even the most extreme urban environments fascinates me. Flowering weeds widening a crack in the pavement; the ubiquitous sparrows and pigeons that populate the day; the opossums, raccoons, and coyotes glimpsed at twilight; the escaped boa constrictors that slide through Florida grasses, the feral monk parakeets that nest in cell phone towers. Animal life is all around us whether we notice or not, adapting and thriving even where they are not wanted.
Daniel Ausema: I grew up in an agricultural region, but it wasn’t the vast fields of a single crop that people might picture for the U.S, Midwest. I always liked the fact that while hay and wheat and corn fields surrounded our house, I could walk a mile away and be among fruit orchards. A few miles the other way, and the fields changed again. There were no old-growth forests there, but I especially loved going to those places where the trees had been allowed to return, at the edge between usable farmland and too-wet, re-forested land. I spent a lot of time, alone and with my brothers, in those kinds of in-between places.
Igor Ljubuncic: Uh-oh. A tricky one. But the closest I can think of is stepping out of a dimly lit pub full of forcefully cheerful, drunk and highly inhibited people trying to shake off their anxiety through the consumption of alcohol into a brightly street full of quiet, highly inhibited zombies waiting for their turn at the tap. The effect is almost Zen-like.
Andrew Leon Hudson: My childhood was a chain of regular relocations. Every two, three or four years we’d up sticks and try out some other town or village in England’s north (plus a spell in Africa’s south). Most of my ecotones tended to be little island communities in the sea of Yorkshire, but the transitions from one home to the next were pretty striking—giving up those friends to try and make these ones, then again, then again. Now most of them are like my old houses, and my grasp of Afrikaans: all but forgotten.
Kurt Hunt: I grew up in the Rust Belt. A common feature of the landscape, which was otherwise flat and featureless, was the abandoned industrial site. In my hometown, a huge car manufacturing complex sat vacant for years, completely dominating the area surrounding it even as it slowly disintegrated and became overgrown. These places are like the gravestones of the industrial revolution — not just empty buildings, but symbols of the change of an entire way of life. They’re modern ruins; jagged edges of the past sticking into the present. Temporal ecotones, you might say.
Christina Klarenbeek: Orange Hall Road is not far from my home. It is short, steep and mesmerizing. Cut into the side of a ravine, erosion has rendered its dirt surface rutted and narrow. Passing is a harrowing prospect. It is seldom travelled but I love it. Midway up the hill there is a magical point from which no sign of modernity can be seen. Spindly trees climb cling to the side of the hill at every height so that their canopy seems endless. When the autumn sun shines through the road is bathed in a fiery light that sparks the imagination like a doorway to another realm.
Stephen Palmer: Where I live – in flat, artificially drained land – we recently had a major flood, during which the water almost reached the back door of my house. I was struck then by how stark the border is between safe land and dangerous water; and this was only from a brook. So despite the attractions of living at the coast, I probably wouldn’t want to…
P. J. Richards: I spent some years of my childhood living in Belgium, and although my house was in an ordinary suburb the main road behind it bordered onto a forest teeming with wild boar. Because of the danger of being attacked no one was allowed into the woods unless they were in a vehicle or on horseback, and so I never had the chance to explore them. But sometimes at night I could hear the boars fighting and screaming, and the dreamer in me thrived on having that deadly dark wildness so close to my unremarkable street.
Victor Espinosa: I suppose growing up right on the edge of the Florida Everglades is a pretty big ecotone that’s been around in my life. The Everglades is a mix between a swamp and forest and it’s where a lot of unique plants and animals live that can’t survive anywhere else. I live in a big, populated city right on the edge of the Everglades, and though there isn’t a definitive line on the ground, there is a clear boundary as to where civilization ends and wild life takes over. It’s a haunting feeling at the last rest stop before you enter the several hundred acre Everglades park.
Matthew Hughes: I grew up as working poor and entered adulthood that way. At 23, I was news editor (and de facto overall editor) on a suburban Vancouver weekly newspaper. Two years later, I was communications aide and speechwriter to the Canadian Minister of Justice, surrounded by people who came from at least middle-class backgrounds and often from what passes as upper class in Canada. At 30, I was a freelance speechwriter in Vancouver, working for leaders of political parties and CEOs of billion-dollar corporations. Different worlds altogether. I lived like that for most of my adult life.
Jonathan Laidlow: The North-west of England can seem a very dysfunctional place. At the heart of Cumbria is the beautiful Lake District, all fell-walking, forest and lakes. Around the edges it gets weirder, there are these borderlands where the countryside becomes raw, rougher, less pretty and more “natural”. There are these brutal little towns, where the remains of industries long since abandoned hang around between the green.
Okay, that’s your lot for today, we’ll be back with the next question (and all their responses) tomorrow. In the meantime, if the coming together of these diverse personalities has whet your appetite for more ecotonal encounters, why not check the progress of our Kickstarter campaign, maybe pick yourself up some really good stories on the cheap?