‘We stand for a land ethic: for real and deep connections to the land and to places, their inhabitants (human and nonhuman) and their stories.’
Why aren’t their more publications like EarthLines? I can honestly say, hand on heart, that it’s one of the best magazines I’ve ever come across, and I’ve read a lot of magazines which try to ‘do their own thing’ and fail spectacularly. But it’s better to have one excellent publication, than ten shoddy and rushed ones, laden with mediocre writing that you end up skipping. Magazines which are not as thoroughly considered as EarthLines is. Not only is the writing of the highest quality, but the production is too. There is an excellent use of space and the images which accompany much of the writing are always outstanding. EarthLines feels full to the brim, but without that bloated feeling some magazines have where they cram, cram cram.
In the opinion of one of my favourite writers, Jay Griffths, EarthLines is ‘…a deeply intelligent publication, sensitive to nature and culture, and it has what is perhaps the greatest quality in a magazine: curiosity.’ It is a publication with gets right under the surface of our relationship with nature. The articles, poetry, essays, review…everything within the pages is intellectual, thought-provoking and necessary. It’s a magazine which deserves your full attention. Another positive aspect of EarthLines is its creators. They’re not Guardian reading, Innocent smoothie supping yuppies, living and ‘working’ in London, and writing about their experiences of Mummy’s back garden ‘in then sticks.’ Oh no. The creators are crofters. Sharon Blackie and David Knowles live on a working croft, on the isolated, far western coast of the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, and have deep connections with the natural world. They produce EarthLines themselves, even cycling with their packaged magazine to meet the post bus, so the magazine can start their journey to the main land.
I always admire an editor who can seduce me with a cover letter. Blackie does this with little effort. Her writing tip toes quietly into your soul and settles there. Issue five of EarthLines is a nourishing feast for anyone with a passionate interest in environmentalism. One of the first pieces, and one which was thoroughly fascinating, was as essay called Underworlds by Jos Smith, the winner of the 2013 EarthLines essay prize. A particular section in his exploration of the worlds below really stood out for me.
‘Children and teenagers discover caves because they are curious about the world. Out on their own for a day, they do not travel like adults. When we are young we leave a path to follow a stream, we climb a tree, we sprint until we’re breathless and fall over on our backs and then sprint again…this is an entirely different experience of geography. If we are lucky, if we are smart, we preserve some of this into adulthood, but there is a crystallisation of this excitability that happens in our mid-teens. Surface curiosity matures into depth of knowledge, sustained in acquaintance, but in order to do this it must find a way in.’ (Underworlds/Page 6)
Wolf an article by Robin Lloyd-Jones was especially stirring and thought provoking, and for anyone who feels a closeness with wolves; it will resonate loudly.
‘Wolf is present in that pull of opposites which sparks our creativity: the need for both order and chaos, for the garden and the forest, safety and danger, freedom and the ties of belonging. Wolf pads through our psyche. He is the craving for mystery, for a sense of otherness, for something elemental and beyond ourselves.’ (Wolf/Page 10)
‘Onto wolf was poured Man’s prejudice and fears. He was demonised and ruthlessly exterminated. High on a hill, long ago, a hunted Wolf howled, trying in vain to gather his non-existent pack.’ (Wolf/Page 11)
Lierre Keith is an inspirational American environmentalist, and Issue 5 features not only an insightful interview, but also her ‘Ode to Vermont Independence,’ a speech given at the Vermont Independence Conference on September 24th 2012.
‘By the time she’s 17, the average American child has spent 2,000 hours with her parents, 11,000 hours in school, and 40,000 hours with the mass media. And sex has been reduced to the rancid pleasures of sadism.’ (Ode to Vermont Independence/Page 22)
‘I hope you know your mountains as temples. I hope you hear sermons in stones and storms. I hope you see animals brimful with humanity. I also hope you have a plainsong for the disappeared and I hope it doesn’t break your hearts. This is who has been taken from you: eastern elk, caribou and catamounts, wolverines and wolves. There were trees six feet in diameter and thirteen stories tall. That’s what trees are supposed to look like. There were shy spring flowers whose names we will never know. All of them have been gone so long we don’t even miss them, but they should ache like a phantom limb.’ (Ode to Vermont Independence/Page 23)
There is an an article about mountains being saviours, the last of the Incas, the lure of Cumbria and it’s upland farming, and a monumental conversation with Jay Griffiths, in which there is reflection on building a new time culture. There’s a nice selection of book and film reviews, and what’s good about them is that never, not once, do they dip in quality. Everything within the pages of EarthLines is consistently well written and engaging. I would urge you to purchase a copy and inform everyone you know about it. I said at the beginning of the review that this magazine is for passionate environmentalists. I take it back. EarthLines is essential reading for everyone.