Fall is a good time to enjoy the fruit of one’s labor. In my case, this does not mean ripe, juicy tomatoes (unfortunately—I was not able to win the battle of the weeds in our gardens and essentially gave up) but rather the fruit of several years of hard work at the computer. Just days ago (the last week in September) we welcomed the arrival of Explorers and Scientists in China’s Borderlands, 1880-1950, published by the University of Washington Press (and edited by me, Stevan Harrell, Charles McKhann and Margaret Swain). The book examines the work and lives of several important explorers / scientists that worked in China in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It highlights their epistemological orientations: belief in objective, progressive, and universally valid science; a close association between scientific and humanistic knowledge; a lack of a conflict between science and faith; and the union of the natural world and the world of “nature people.” In addition to being lead editor of the volume, I wrote a chapter about Ernest Henry Wilson, a plant collector for Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum, in which I discuss the way that Wilson was able to be both an objective documentarian as well as a passionate humanist, especially (although not exclusively) through the medium of photography. I find Wilson’s ability to embrace this spirit of balance to be particularly inspiring.
A month previously (although not technically autumn), the final publication of a special issue that I co-edited of the journal Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity arrived. Our issue is titled “Conservation, Cultivation, and Commodification of Medicinal Plants in the Greater Himalayan-Tibetan Plateau.” My colleague Sienna Craig (of Dartmouth) and I edited the volume and wrote the introductory essay. The volume was based on a panel that Sienna and I had organized for a conference in Bhutan in 2009 and focuses on issues of sustainability, cultivation, and problems associated with the increasing trend of medicinal plants as hot commodities in a globally expanding trade in medicinals.
A final fruit (somewhat unripe) of labor—but not much related to time behind a computer—is a CD that the band of which I am a member (called Rosin in the Aire) has been working on; we have a “first draft” of sorts completed. We are re-recording some of the tracks and hope to have the CD finished before the end of the year. We also just completed a soundtrack for a short film titled Running the Colorado The Way It Was by Dave Mortenson (shown at the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Show last month). I play mandolin and sing in the band. We play bluegrass, old time, and swing tunes mostly. It’s a blast. Here is a track from our draft CD, a tune called “Hadacol Rag.”
I will be offering a new course in the spring, titled Asian Medical Systems (CSOC 225) that will examine foundational concepts, traditions of practice, and issues of modernity and change in three main systems of healing in Asia: Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, and Tibetan medicine. This is a new course for both me and for Puget Sound; I am very much looking forward to teaching it and sharing my interest and enthusiasm for the topic.
Happy fall harvesting everyone!