Echoes of Maine

In February of 2016, I took a trip to Aroostook County.  It was a whirlwind tour and I absorbed as much of the County as I could in the 48 hours I spent in that remote part of Maine.  In a card shop somewhere along the way, I picked up a copy of Echoes magazine.  Billing itself as “The Northern Maine Journal of Rural Culture,” it was edited and published quarterly by Kathryn Olmstead.

Olmstead, a transplant from Michigan, is a former associate professor and dean of journalism at the University of Maine at Orono.  She taught a class called “Newspaper Design” that I took my senior year at the stein-raising state university.  I am not sure how Olmstead got from Orono to Caribou, but she began editing and publishing Echoes in 1988.

The magazine is well-designed, thoughtfully composed, and carefully edited.  It’s not flashy, trendy, or slippery shiny like other magazines of Maine.  It features poetry, photography, fiction, and regular columns.  Its purpose, in part, is as follows:

“…the magazine focuses on positive values rooted in the past that have relevance for the present and the future.  Echoes suggests that knowledge of rural experiences can help us live in modern society – that there is permanence in the midst of change and value in remembering our roots.  Echoes is a portrait of home, whether home is a place or a time, a memory of the past or a vision of the future.”

When I returned home from the County, I subscribed to the magazine.

Yesterday, I got a photocopied letter from Kathryn Olmstead, announcing the upcoming issue of Echoes would be its last.  Olmstead wrote:

“Despite the enthusiasm of Echoes readers and our genuine pleasure in giving voice and visibility to writers, artists and photographers since 1988, the realities of the marketplace have finally forced us to cease publication.”

Although I don’t know Olmstead personally, all the visible evidence of her work in the magazine and her articles for the Bangor Daily News suggest she is not impulsive.  Her writing is steady and solid; if that’s any sign of her character, I imagine she’s been considering the “realities of the marketplace” for more than one or two quarterly issues.

Subscribers’ remaining issues will be fulfilled with monthly copies of Maine magazine, published by the Maine Media Collective.  Maine magazine, from my skimming of it, covers the north and easterly corners of the state as regularly as Down East magazine.

You know, endings and conclusions are difficult.  As a writer, I always struggle when I get to the end of a blog post, a newspaper feature, or even a personal letter.  Sometimes, I don’t have enough information or expertise to reach a conclusion.  Other times, I think my conclusions are wrong, based on a lack of information or expertise (see previous sentence).  My feedback loop makes for lousy endings.

Nevertheless, please don’t mistake my silence for a lack of thought, emotion, and opinion.

It’s the first day of summer here in Maine…radishes, ripening blueberries, and rose Campion flowers are in abundance as I contemplate the soon-to-arrive last issue of Echoes.

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One Response to Echoes of Maine

  1. Loosehead Prop says:

    Echoes is a labor of love, and from what I understand, its founder passed away not too long ago. Its photography, particularly the full-color covers, is wonderful, understated with layers of depth, much like The County (TM). Unfortunately, it is a victim both of the demise of the printed magazine and the demographics of Aroostook County. The first we know all too well, how trons replace paper and ink and everything falls into the memory hole. Demographically, though, I thought it notable that there were no young writers in the magazine; lots of interesting recollections of growing up in Aroostook, glimpses of a way that was… but is no more. I also came to notice that almost all of the writers lived somewhere else, as if to say, Aroostook County is a great place to be from… The newspapers are full of articles based on the last census crying about how Aroostook County is losing population faster than anywhere else in Maine (and worse, not losing it fast enough to keep up with projected job losses). It seems that Echoes, too, will join that steady retreat.

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