Magpie’s editor’s letter, May, and link to May issue.

We’ve been planning our garden and reading Candide, and thinking about a garden as a metaphor for imagination, creativity, and small arts & culture magazines with bird-themed names. Here’s a link to the May issue, which is full of beautiful writing, photography, and art, plus some stuff I wrote myself. Please enjoy! (and share, submit, support)

At the end of Voltaire’s Candide, Candide famously meets a character known only as “the Turk,” who tells him that he doesn’t concern himself with the affairs of the world, rather he contents himself with tending his garden. He has twenty acres, and he cultivates them with his children, “work keeps away three great evils: boredom, vice, and need.” Candide, who has undergone, heard about, and even inadvertently caused great suffering and cruelty, and who has possessed and lost more money than anyone in Europe, reflects deeply on the man’s remarks. His tutor, Pangloss, tries to engage in a philosophical discussion on the matter, and Candide cuts him off to say, “I also know that we must cultivate our garden.” And their friend Martin says, “Let us work without reasoning, it is the only way to make life endurable.”

And they do work. “All the little society entered into this laudable plan; each one began to exercise his talents. The little piece of land produced much…No one…failed to perform some service.” Pangloss tries to philosophize with him again about how they ended up here eating pistachios, in his usual verbose fashion. And Candid once again says, “That is well said, but we must cultivate our garden.” And so ends the story.

Many interpret the Turk’s advice as misanthropic and miserly. They imagine the Turk cut off from the world, alone and miserable. But this is not the case at all. He works with his family, they’re creating their world together. And he welcomes Candide and his friends with great generosity, sharing the bounty of his small land; sherbet and Turkish cream, oranges and lemons and pistachios. Candide is never so wise, assured, and content as he is in the final pages of the book, working with all that he has to build a good place.

We’re just planting our own garden now. As the light makes its way across our small yard–a little more each day, shifting so quickly this time of year–we welcome the plants that come back each year as old friends, and we find new plants to grow–jewel-like lettuces, rosemary and tarragon and flowers of every hue of blue. We plant pollinators to attract bees and butterflies and hummingbirds, we plant fruit bushes to attract berry-eating birds. We dig in the still-cold ground, shifting through soil with our fingers and unearthing worms and grubs. We don’t like to plan it too carefully, we like to grow every pleasing or odd thing we find, and we want it to be a little wild and unruly, we want it to be unexpected but somehow perfect together.

So it is with Tidings of Magpies. Voltaire, of course, isn’t just speaking of planting a garden, he’s talking about creating a world, employing our talents, enjoying the process of working, and of working together, to make something and someplace good. So every month we collect stories and art and photographs–words and images to cultivate our small plot, and we hope that they’ll combine and grow into a fertile garden, a world worth visiting. It’s a little piece of land, but we hope if we cultivate it well, it will produce much.

Letter From the Editor April/Tidings of Magpies (and link to April Issue)

All of the month’s stories, photographs and art from Tidings of Magpies. (I’m always looking for submissions of writing on film/music/art/food/life as well as fiction, photography, poetry, and art, so please contact me if you have anything to share! Magpiesmagazine@gmail.com)

Letter from the editor:April

Today is April Fool’s day, so I could talk about the joyous and sorrowful foolishness of all human endeavor, most especially of publishing small online magazines named after birds. But instead, in true Magpies’ style, I will tell you about two poems that I love.

This is the end of a poem by Ezra Pound, The Exile’s Letter, which is a translation ‘From the Chinese of Li Po, usually considered the greatest poet of China: written by him while in exile about 760 A. D., to the Hereditary War-Councillor of Sho, “recollecting former companionship.”’

And if you ask how I regret that parting?
It is like the flowers falling at spring’s end,
                    confused, whirled in a tangle.
What is the use of talking! And there is no end of talking—
There is no end of things in the heart.

And this is..

I Know a Man

By Robert Creeley

As I sd to my   

friend, because I am   

always talking,—John, I

sd, which was not his   

name, the darkness sur-

rounds us, what

can we do against

it, or else, shall we &

why not, buy a goddamn big car,

drive, he sd, for   

christ’s sake, look   

out where yr going.

These two poems have not been far from my thoughts since I first read them decades ago. These words are some of my oldest friends. And since I’ve started compiling Tidings of Magpies these words are fairly constant residents in my mind, echoing in that empty cavern, bouncing off the walls and taking flight with the flocks of bats.

I love to talk, I love to discuss, and banter, and disagree, and agree, and connect, and despair of never connecting, and learn, and share a joke, and share things I love–songs and movies and books, and learn about those things that somebody else loves. I love words so much. And I’m also profoundly fond of silence, and aware that all that is most important transcends words. In a world of constant noise and bickering and shouting for attention, it’s sometimes a joy to remember the weight of silence.

What is the use of talking? I’ve been thinking about this so much, though in my head it’s not just talking, it’s any manner of creating. Any manner of recording what you see and feel, of capturing moments of your lives and dreams, or the lives and dreams of the people in your head. And it’s also the act of sharing that with others. (Including the mad idea of publishing some small-but-mighty magazine.) My naturally buoyant nature, floating like a lost balloon over the ocean of too-much-too-much, is sometimes dragged deep into murky water by the sea-monster of discouragement. (what is the use of metaphors? And are there ever too many metaphors?)

And that’s where these poems come in. Because by talking and creating and sharing we can cope with and celebrate the no-end-of-things-in-our-hearts. And by talking and creating and celebrating we can dispel the darkness that surrounds us. Because what is there to life besides these moments of connection? It doesn’t have to be spoken, it doesn’t have to be with a person, it could (and should) be with your dog, or a tree, or a moody April sky. Sometimes in the middle of the night the darkness of human cruelty and the incessant history of human ignorance and selfishness can be overwhelming. But then I think about people creating things. When people create things, when they work on something they think is good and beautiful, they light a spark, and those sparks dispel the darkness. They always have, and they always will. And that is important, that is essential. That is the monumentally important use of talking.

And sharing these little lights, giving them a voice, letting their voices loose like wayward fireworks, feels important to me, even on this small level. It’s not much, but it’s not nothing. Of course there will be times of much talking and times of silence, periods of great creativity and periods of fallowness, moments of hope and moments of discouragement. Sometimes we will feel that there is no use of talking, and that we can’t talk, but we will find our voice.

And maybe we can never say exactly what we want to say, we can’t find the exact right words, or notes, or strokes of paint, but that doesn’t matter, because the point is in trying.

“The point is in life, in life alone–discovering it, constantly and eternally, and not at all in the discovery itself. But what is the point of talking? I suspect that everything I am saying now sounds so much like the most common phrases that I will probably be taken for a student in the lowest grade presenting his easy on ‘the sunrise….’ But, nevertheless, I will add that in any ingenious or new human thought, or even simply in any earnest human thought born in someone’s head, there always remains something which it is quite impossible to convey to other people, though you may fill whole volumes with writing and spend thirty-five years trying to explain your thought; there always remains something that absolutely refuses to leave your skull and will stay with you forever; you will die with it, not having conveyed to anyone what is perhaps most important in your idea.”

The Idiot, Dostyevsky

Magpie’s letter from the editor and link to March Issue

All of the month’s stories, photographs and art from Tidings of Magpies. (I’m always looking for submissions of writing on film/music/art/food/life as well as fiction, photography, poetry, and art, so please contact me if you have anything to share! Magpiesmagazine@gmail.com)

Letter from the editor: March

I read about an artist battling illness. She talked about the desire to make something important. She only has the energy, at present, to work on small things–sketches, old half-completed projects, drawings and plans, but she feels a real need to work on something big, something she feels is important. I know she will, and I also know that urge. I want to make something like I create in my dreams. Something pure and glowing and perfectly emotionally honest. And I don’t. I write a line or two, and I think about it on my walks, but I’m not making much right now. And I’m not facing the obstacles she is, I’m just facing discouragement and February doldrums, which always hit me harder than they should. I have no excuse, really.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of creating something important. Been thinking about what it means to create, and how we define important. During the pandemic our definition of “essential” underwent constant revision, and I think the revision is ongoing. The goal posts are constantly moving and shifting on our definition of things we feel we need, jobs we hold valuable, activities we cannot live without.

And now Russia has invaded Ukraine. Sadly it’s not the only place in the world where war, aggression, and violence are driving people out of their homes, breaking up families, ending lives–it’s just the one we’re talking the most about right now. All over the world people are worried about keeping their families warm and fed through the winter. Worried about their homes being destroyed, their loved ones killed. I think about people who don’t have my comfortable life. Who don’t have the luxuries that I’ve come to consider necessities – hot water, electricity, my choice of pretty much any food I can think of. I think about refugees and fugitives – people driven out of their homes by war or occupation. In my own life, I’ve come to realize that it’s the small, every-day things that ultimately make me happy or anxious or disgruntled. What does that look like when your very home, every aspect of your “every day” is unsettled and unstable?

Years ago when we lost power for ten days after a storm, and recently during the pandemic, I found myself so undone by … what? Anxiety? Discomfort? … that I couldn’t concentrate on much of anything, large or small. I could only feel anxious about when we’d get our power back, or about the illness spreading through the world. I couldn’t think clearly about the bigger political picture. I couldn’t think about elections or political tensions or voting rights. It made me wonder about times and places when the bigger political situation causes stressful personal circumstances. Can you find enough strength and hope to change the situation when you’re brought down by anxiety about your next meal, or when you don’t have a safe, warm home, and you’re deep in unforgiving winter? Can you even think about creating something big and emotionally honest and important? What would it look like to create what is in your dreams, at a time like that?

But I think maybe to have a dream, of the nighttime kind or the daytime kind, is to create something important. Certainly to fight against invasion from a dictatorship is to create something important. To find food and shelter for your family is to create something important. Maybe to wake up in the morning and appreciate the slant of hopeful light on your way to your essential work, (and as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence,”) is to create something important.

Though we might always not have the time or energy to create, at times of crisis perhaps art is more important than ever. As Warcheerah Kilima of the ANEW Artists Alliance wisely says, “If all the people in the world did art, a lot of the problems would be solved.”

My wish right now is for peace, for everyone to have the peace, safety, and health to create whatever they feel compelled to make, whatever they deem important. And I also believe with all my heart that if you’re sick or struggling or in a war-torn state, or even if you’re just a human struggling to understand what that even means with the world the way it is and time passing so quickly, I honestly believe that just to get out of bed in the morning, to take care of the ones you love, to take care of people you don’t know, to go through a day finding beauty and trying to be kind, that is creating something important.

Bit of a slim issue this month, but it’s been a short and stressful month. Sharing art and music and passion seems important to me right now, on some level, and I have so many things just on the verge–next month will be a rich garden of art.

As ever, please submit, subscribe, and share.

Magpies’ Mag letter from the editor (and link to February issue)

While I was compiling this month’s issue I found myself, as ever, weaving a fabric of connections between everything that we had shared. A few of phrases kept ringing around in my head in the small hours of the night. A pair from Kurosawa’s Ikiru, Toyo saying “Make something,” and Watanabe saying, later in the film, “I want to do something.” And from (featured artist) Cris Qualiana’s artist statement, “The World became Qualiana’s classroom…The people and places she encountered–distinctive scents, sights, sounds and flavors–filled her sketch-books. And Qualiana met herself, again and again, in various incarnations, through her painting and drawing.” And finally, a line I first met in a song, by 19th century Spanish poet Antonio Machado,

Traveler, there is no path.
The path is made by walking.

My insomnia thoughts turned to the idea of making the world by creating, and of all the ways we make worlds, continually and subconsciously, in our waking lives as well as in our dreams. Some worlds are so fully-realized it seems as if they were discovered rather than created. Henry Darger used junk he found in the streets to create over 15,000 pages of writing and art, a vibrant, beautiful, terrible world bursting out of him. Other worlds are created slowly, haltingly, over time; changing day by day with many false starts, much turning back to try another path.

For Darger and many others, the world of their creation is not meant to be sold or even shared, it’s intensely personal and all-consuming. For many of us in the present day, we create worlds by sharing them, by posting pictures and updates, our every meal and thought and disappointment and achievement. We make a picture of our world that forms our world.

I believe that everyone has some world in their head that has to come out somehow, some song or story or picture. A world they create and discover, where they meet themselves in various incarnations. And maybe it won’t come out in any obvious way, maybe it will be in the unusual spices they add to their meal, or the pictures they take of their dogs, or the stories they tell themselves when they can’t sleep. And I believe that the creative process doesn’t stop with the product, it begins again when somebody reads or looks or listens, so that the person reading, looking, and listening becomes part of the process, becomes an artist, too. So maybe it will come out as the love you feel for a photograph, or the way you’re moved to tears by a story you read. 

Or maybe it will come out in a magpie collection of words and pictures, shared and created with anyone who looks or reads or listens, all of us making the world by creating.

Traveler, there is no path

by Antonio Machado

Everything goes and everything stays
but our fate is to pass
to pass making a path as we go,
paths over the sea,

I never pursued glory,
or to leave on the memory
of the men,this my song:
I love the subtle worlds,
weightless and gentle
like soap bubbles.

I like to see them paint themselves on sun and crimson,
fly under a blue sky
shudder suddenly, and break…
I never pursued glory.

Traveler, your footprints are the path, and nothing else.
Traveler, there is no path. A path is made by walking.

A path is made by walking,
and in looking back one sees
the trodden road that never
will be set foot on again.
Traveler, there is no path, but wakes on the sea…

Some time ago on that place
where today the woods dress in brambles
the voice of a poet was heard shouting
“Traveler, there is no path. A path is made by walking”

Blow by blow, verse by verse…
The poet died far from home
and is covered by the dust of a neighboring country.
As he went away, he could be heard crying,
“Traveler, there is no path. A path is made by walking.”

Blow by blow, verse by verse…
When the robin can no longer sing,
when the poet is a pilgrim,
when praying is no more of use.
Traveler, there is no path. A path is made by walking.

Blow by blow, verse by verse

January Issue of Tidings of Magpies

It’s the new issue of Tidings of Magpies! And my letter from the editor!

Or…Why I Love Tidings of Magpies (In which we try to justify our existence)

I hope you will forgive a little New Year’s introspection. Tidings of Magpies has been described as a “small but mighty labor of love.” And indeed, that is what it is for me. Curating and compiling these articles is a lot of work, to be sure, but it is probably the most rewarding work I’ve ever done. I’m not going to lie, not a day goes by that I don’t think, “Why bother?” And the answer always starts as “Why not?” but in the end I usually arrive at a stronger argument to keep on with it.

Sometimes it seems we live in sad and cynical world, and it’s easy to feel disconnected and discouraged. Surely the best way to fight the darkness that surrounds us is to share art and music and thoughtful writing. And it goes further than that for me, because I love, really love, everything that I’ve shared. And I love it more as I format the work, the more I look and read and understand. And I love it more as I think about how it’s all connected, as I did yesterday, on a grey and gloomy New Year’s Eve, after a couple of years that have been hard for everyone in ways we could never have anticipated.

It’s not a coincidence that I would find patterns in the work we’ve shared, or that those patterns delight me. All of the paintings and photographs and essays and poems that we’ve shared ask more questions than they answer. They’re all poised on the beautiful, murky, poignant edge between humans and nature, light and dark, abundance and decay, society and solitude. They ask what it means to be human, how we find a place in the world around us–the world of man that we’ve created, and the world of nature that we encroach upon. They all ask how we navigate time and history and memory. We need to ask the questions though we will never arrive at the answer, and there’s great joy in the feeling that we’re all walking along this edge together, finding our own balance as we go. And great joy in sharing the stories and pictures and music that have given us light and hope along the way, with generosity and affection.

We’re all gleaners, finding beauty and meaning and sustenance in the unlikely, the odd, the overlooked. We’re all magpies, lining our nests with beauty where we find it.

And so we continue into the new year. I am beyond grateful to everyone who has allowed me to share their work, and I’m very very excited about some of the work I plan to share in the month(s) ahead. I’m thankful for anyone who has taken the time to read, look, share, and respond, and I hope that you will continue to do so! Happy New Year to all, and wishes for peace, health, joy, and inspiration to all of our magpie friends.

December issue of Tidings of Magpies!

Hello, Ordinary friends. We’re still working on putting together our Magpies’ Magazine, and here’s the latest issue. It’s a collection of all the articles we’ve published over the past month, for those who like to savor their Magpies’ tidings as an issue. We’re really honored this month to share photography from Paris, art from Ottawa, a brilliant article written in Tokyo about a Ugandan record label, along with beautiful poetry, memoir, and more. We hope you enjoy!

November issue of Tidings of Magpies!

Very pleased to share the latest issue of Tidings of Magpies! Brilliant art, photography, nature essays, two more installments of Ralph Brown’s beautiful song-based memoir, a new magpies mix tape, fiction, “Why I Love” articles, and so much more! 

I love everything I’ve posted, and I’m so grateful to everyone who shared their writing and their art. I’m already looking forward to sharing new art, music, and writing next month!

Thank you for reading. As ever, I welcome any comments or feedback you may have. And Please submit subscribe support, and have a look at Tidings of Magpies on Instagram.

October Issue of Tidings of Magpies!

Very pleased to share the latest issue of Tidings of Magpies! Brilliant art, photography, nature essay, travel essay and so much more!

The eagle-eyed amongst you will recognize that these were all actually posts that we published over the course of September. As discussed at the beginning of the month, the reasons to post every couple of days (instead of all-at-once at the start of the month) outweighed, in my mind, the reasons to publish one big issue. Mostly it had to do with the number of emails subscribers would receive at one time, and the amount of time people have to get through so many articles at once. However, I still love the idea of an issue: the pleasure of compiling and composing it, as well as the focus and balance that the structure provided. I like the challenge of trying to combine articles that complement and contrast with one another. So this is my solution: to gather all of the articles at the end of the month on one page, and share that in a post.

I love everything I’ve posted, and I’m so grateful to everyone who shared their writing and their art. I’m very happy to have our first travel writing and our first nature writing. And I’m excited to launch the Why I Love series. I’m also very excited about the treasures I’m already collecting and compiling to share in the month ahead.

Thank you for reading. As ever, I welcome and comments of feedback you may have. And Please submit subscribe support.

Tidings of Magpies! Second issue!

Hello Ordinary friends! I couldn’t have been more excited about this issue. Probably shouldn’t have launched it during a thunderstorm/hurricane/tornado/flood. But here we are. I hope you’ll take the time to read any or all of it.

Here’s my letter from the editor, which I hope my fellow Ordinary friends will appreciate.

Hello, fellow magpies! Thank you for taking the time to read our magazine. 

Here is the beautiful September issue of Tidings of Magpies.

In some ways this is an apology, or at least an explanation. For this, our second issue, I contacted a lot of people I admire and asked if they would share their work. Some I know, others I do not. A few people responded, and I was genuinely thrilled with those who did. I started to compile the issue, to build on what I already had, to figure out how to add to it, to form something interesting to read. And then, one sleepless night, it suddenly occurred to me that every shiny thing I had collected had been written by or about a man. Now, I’m fond of men, three of the three humans I live with are men or soon-to-be men. But I had hoped to share a wide variety of different voices, in every. single. issue. And if you consider the history of all that has been written, the vast majority of it has been by or about men.

Did I panic and start over? I did not. I decided to lean into it, to embrace the situation, to pretend it was all a calculated decision. Because I started thinking that all of the men sharing their work for this issue of Magpies are fairly odd men, just trying to find their place in the world, their path through it. And maybe it’s because we just dropped my eldest son at college in a city, and I’ve been thinking a lot about my two fairly odd teenagers, and how they’re trying to decide who they are in the world, but it all started to make sense to me. 

Just because your people wrote the rules doesn’t mean you’re comfortable with those rules. Just because people like you assigned roles and defined notions such as success, progress, work, and purpose, doesn’t mean you need to apply them to yourself or to anyone around you. 

My boys are beautifully defiant of roles and expectations, they move through life with their own style, and rhythm and ideas. With brash elegant humor and fierce, disarming intelligence. It’s thrilling to watch them figure it all out, and maybe that’s why so much of what I’m sharing this week appeals to me.

This is not a themed issue, but, like all humans, I like to find connections. To me, this issue is like a funhouse. Everything is either connected by strange unlikely corridors, or is an unreliable reflection of the article or feature that came before–or of the writer, or the reader, and of me as well. 

I had written a whole list of those connections, but I’ve just erased it. I’ll let you make your own connections.

So, I suppose this issue is dedicated to my boys, heading back to school after the strangest and most disappointing year. I hope that they will find inspiration and connection and community. I hope you’ll find some of that here, reading Tidings of Magpies.

Tidings of Magpies

Last night I had a dream in which I found myself in a strange house. It was “mine” in the way houses are in dreams–bewilderingly. It was strange, but delightful. Full of surprises, a little wonky, but not dread-ful or frightening. I had fallen asleep thinking about my new mad scheme, this magazine called Tidings of Magpies, and I think that’s what the dream represented. Each room another article or feature or image in the magazine.

Tidings of Magpies is a little like Out of the Ordinary, but with other voices, other writers and artists and readers sharing their work and their passions. It’s a magazine about art, culture, food, and life. It’s a collection of things that caught our eye that we want to share with you.

These things might not necessarily be the newest-latest, because there are plenty of publications covering those. This is about art, music, film, food, and literature that we love, that intrigues us and stays with us. It could be a movie from the sixties, a band from the 80s, an artist from the 1600s. Or it could be something brand new. We want to share things others might have missed, and shine a light on the possibly obscure and overlooked.

We’ll be featuring some criticism/analysis, of art, film, music, etc, and some original art, fiction, poetry, photography, music, film.

On some level this will be a forum for lesser-heard voices. Librarian-poets, bank teller-rock stars. But if we’re moved by something brand new and extremely popular, we’ll share that with you, too, and tell you why we love it.

If you would like to submit an idea for an article or feature please let me know! You can comment here or email magpiesmagazine@gmail.com.