At a relatively young age, my mother handed me her worn copy of Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. Le Guin (1929–2018) immediately became, and has remained, my favorite author. It is an honor to have been given this wonderful word and concept, heyiya—from her ambitious ecotopian tome, Always Coming Home—to illustrate so soon after Le Guin’s passing.
In creating a visual evocation of heyiya, I refer to two movements which informed Always Coming Home—the world building of utopian science fiction and the back to the earth movement, and their correlating aesthetic styles, sci-fi illustration and 1970s-era counterculture photo collages.
Heyiya is Le Guin’s attempt to give form to the living practice of balance, which she both advocated for and demonstrated throughout her writing. Heyiya accepts the dual-natured symmetry of things, darkness alongside light. As she said, “When you light a candle, you also cast a shadow.”
Le Guin herself practiced a form of heyiya in her lifelong work to portray complex, nuanced otherness, working against the grain as a female sci-fi writer often depicting women and people of color.
Through the spiraling of heyiya, Le Guin lays out a path to reenchant civilization as a porous social construct not predicated on the domination, human exceptionalism, and extractive model of contemporary capitalism, but guided by acceptance of difference and compassion as well as a living knowledge of who we are as a species.
In my illustration, a human seeks to echo the cosmic in balance with the earthly through an open-handed greeting.
Hand as connector. Hand as seeker. A hinge.