This year Ecotone celebrates its tenth anniversary. A decade—the word carries some weight. A milestone, a monolith. But the way we’ll experience this new decade is one year, one day, one moment at a time. It is a new year whenever we say it is. It’s a new year every minute.
In my new-year dreaming, I’m thinking about how to be more present, minute by minute, to the people and places I love. And I’m reassessing the daily, seemingly momentary choices that add up to make a picture of me as a consumer (that ugly word): Re-upping the goal I had, for a long time, of getting all my clothes secondhand, handmade, or fair trade. Adding compost to the soil in the yard of my umpteenth rental house, so we’ll have the hope of some greens by fall, maybe a few tomatoes.
In-the-momentness, though, can obscure bigger concerns. How am I living my life—how does each decade stack up to the next? Each year? We can make it new any time we like, but some things, once altered, can’t be remade.
In the same way, paying close attention to the nuances of a place shows only partly the large-scale changes affecting it. Any dreaming about my own life, over minutes or over its whole span, also has to include how to pay better attention to things that may end up deciding a lot about what all our lives look like. Close-reading the new rules that allow fracking in my state, knowing what they mean for my home geology, rivers, air—and, equally useful, keeping an ear open to struggles around this issue elsewhere. Continuing to learn about the land where I grew up, where my family still lives; knowing its history both within and before my lifetime—because knowing a place in both its living details and its history helps grant the authority to protect it.
Such reimagining also needs the work of other dreamers—for instigation, inspiration, respite. I’m glad to offer this latest issue of Ecotone, which includes work from longtime contributors—Cynthia Huntington, Amy Leach, Steve Almond—and from voices new to the magazine—Samiya Bashir, Ana Maria Spagna, Claire Vaye Watkins. This is my hope for the new year, and the task these writers, in various ways, accomplish: To observe and, with honesty and forthrightness, report what we find in this quickly changing world. To view each year, each day even, as a starting point, but to make time for the big picture too. To look with affection and clarity, yet not cede to disillusionment.
As our tenth year approached, the magazine’s student staff and I talked about ways to celebrate the occasion. At the same time, we were having intense discussions about identity and representation—who are the magazine’s contributors and readers? How can we include a broader range of writers and artists working from place? Who have we missed, and what might we learn from our community about those writers and artists? These conversations culminated in a readers’ survey. Thanks to the spring 2014 Ecotone practicum, who dreamed up the idea, and to the fall 2015 staff members who made it a reality: Austin Allen, Ryan Kaune, Jason Bradford, Laurel Jones, Peter Kusnic, and Katie O’Reilly.
About a hundred of you responded to the survey. We asked where you call home, and about your favorite work from the magazine. Finally, we asked a perhaps impossibly big question. Ecotone has always been interested in both literal interpretations of place and explorations of the transition zones that define us. So we invited you to tell us about an ecotone you inhabit or an experience that might help others imagine your place in the world.
The responses we received revealed a consistent attunement to place, and a sense of the complex intersections of class, race, sexuality, culture, ability, family and place of origin, and other identities that converge in each of us. Some are included in this issue, in a series of visualizations by Dane Summers that suggest both the breadth and the extraordinary energy and creativity of our community. Over the summer, we’ll post additional responses online.
The replies also held a note of elegy for loved landscapes—an awareness of those changes, sneakier and wider ranging, affecting our places, our health, and our livelihood. What responses will we need to create, in ourselves and in our communities? At Ecotone we intend to keep offering expansive, innovative answers to this question, as well as to questions of identity, of what it means to be a person on this planet. Thanks to everyone who has been part of the magazine thus far—and we look forward to getting to know many more contributors, readers, and staff members in the coming years.
We’re marking this anniversary with another kind of milestone: a brand-new website, and a shared blog for Ecotone and its sister imprint, Lookout Books. Our gratitude is due to Nickie Buckner, who built Ecotone’s first substantial website and maintained it, with great patience and generosity, for years. And we’re tremendously pleased to launch this new site, the work of developer Josh McCall and the design firm Fuzzco. Please visit us there. If you’re a subscriber, you should be hearing shortly about access to our issues online. And if you’d like to subscribe or renew, you can do so via the new site, which makes it easier than ever to receive two issues of place-based writing—real live printed matter, made of paper and ink and glue, arriving in your own mailbox—each year. The Internet is particularly good for some things, after all, one of them being ordering books. For the readers and contributors who join us as we set off into this new decade, a two-part wish: May the next ten years include books, good ones, and in ample supply. And may your beloved places survive, evolve, flourish.