Kathleen had a baby (they’re both doing great), so I get to write the editor’s note this month. Also, I get to choose my own photo. This one’s from a few summers back, when I entered a bunch of contests at Maine summer festivals, including one that involved jumping across a string of lobster buoys in Camden Harbor (which turned out to be for children and in which I performed poorly). We never ran it, but I always liked it. I think it captures the feeling of deluged exasperation that a magazine editor feels most of the time.
Can I tell you how much I like being part of a magazine where I can write “Kathleen had a baby” and the great majority of those reading will know, without further explanation, who I’m talking about? This means a lot to me. There is more than one sort of magazine in the world. There’s the sort you might pick up and flip through at the coffee shop, because hey, it’s on the table and it’s attractive and maybe your phone is broken or you didn’t bring a book. I don’t mind if Down East is that kind of magazine for some people, at some times. I’ve learned things that way, and here and there I’ve discovered a story or an image that moved me. It’s nice having those magazines around.
But Down East has spent 64 years working to be a different kind of magazine, the kind that invites you into a relationship built around shared passions. The kind where you can name a favorite story from five (or 35) years ago. The kind you have at one time written or emailed (in praise or irritation) and heard back from. The kind that makes you smile inwardly when you spot it on an acquaintance’s coffee table, because you know it means that you and she have something meaningful in common. I’ve always said a good magazine is less like a thing you read or a thing you buy and more like a thing you join.
We didn’t set out to make it a theme, but this month’s issue ends up exploring a handful of subcultures of the sort that Maine seems particularly good at facilitating (I suspect because this place gives people room to indulge their enthusiasms). Maine’s amateur wrestlers (page 23), for all their quirks, are a kind of tribe. So are its fiddlehead pickers (page 60) and its die-hard coastal cruisers (page 68), each group with its own shared traditions and sense of camaraderie.
I like to think that Down East’s readers are a kind of tribe too. Thank you for letting me be a part of it.
On the cover: Ferns (not fiddleheads) at Evans Notch, by Darylann Leonard.
Additional photos: The Milky Way from Popham Beach by Benjamin Williamson; Sri Lankan hot wings at Ellsworth’s Serendib by Douglas Merriam; Higgins Beach by Seth Gaffar; Georgetown by Benjamin Williamson