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Author Archive: "Laline Paull"


Following a freak vacation decision in 2013, I found myself hiking an Arctic glacier with other eco-tourists. In this magnificently strange environment, I learned a new and very useful word: umwelt. It means an animal's experience of its surroundings, and a German fellow-traveler taught it to me, following a slightly uncomfortable exchange (perhaps familiar to many writers) in which she politely asked exactly what I was working on. I told her. She frowned. "So... it's all set in a beehive? And everyone in it is... a bee?"

I nodded. My book was still stacks of paper in my writing shed, a distant concept in a distant country. I had no agent, no publishing deal. She took pity on me and asked no more. We clomped on together over the ice, listening to the chafing of our high-tech fabrics. Suddenly she put her wadded mitten on my arm and smiled. "Ah! You are writing the umwelt of the honeybee! Great!"

She told me about the Estonian biologist Jakob von Uexküll in 1920s Germany, who championed the theory, which revolutionized how animals were studied. Before, they had been considered only as passive ...

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