My first sighting of Elementum was on Twitter, a new journal 'of nature and story' being produced and printed in Cornwall and I was at least interested enough to follow progress through to publication.
It looked and sounded better and better as the days went by. Glimpses of the photography, news about the contributors, but it was the sight of the journal rolling off the press that did for me. I have been tempted by quite a few of these sort of things in the past and been disappointed, pricey and thin and the contents not quite up to expectation, along with the vague sense that the world and its mother was hopping on the nature-writing bandwagon.
But then there was Elementum and perhaps it would be different.
'Elementum will give the reader a space to reflect and absorb ideas, not be harried by advertising, stories of human failing or imminent threat. Through the written word and the silence of image, guided by a theme for each edition, we will bring together the scientist’s findings with the artist’s response and the ecologist’s observation with the writer’s reflection to craft stories of transformation, exploration and intrigue. We will ask questions as well as seek to answer them, retaining curiosity and always a sense of wonder at the unknown and unseen.'
I have to say the ' not be harried by advertising, stories of human failing or imminent threat ' really appealed.
The A4 journal looked chunky and a free mug with pre-orders convinced me, so in the end I sent my £15 (plus £3 postage) and waited for the day and I am pleased to say that I have been delighted.
Production values are high, good quality paper and 140 pages-worth of it. There is an overall sense of gentle colour tones and careful layout to the pages, nothing jars; this journal flows from one page to the next and when I opened this first edition, with its theme of Calling, to find that the first article was written by Wyl Menmuir, I guessed I was in for a treat. Having heard Wyl speaking at Port Eliot recently and since having read his first novel The Many (thoughts soon) it was a pleasing progression to read more about the impact that writing the book had on him and how he went about his research.
The Draw of the Sea - Place Memory & Fiction and lying on the beach at Cadgwith Cove on a cold February day Wyl Menmuir is transported back to his childhood by the smells...
'I'm lying on my side on the empty beach, the cold radiating through my body as it rests on the shingle....the smell of diesel rises from the ground and with it childhood memories of cross-channel ferry trips sat in the lee of the wind as the ship's stern, eating squashed sandwiches...'
There is nothing pseudo-romantic about this beach either with its detritus of plastic and ring-pulls and crisp packets and such observations clearly make their way into The Many as does the character of the sea.
'I lift my eyes. Beyond, the sea is so calm it's hard to imagine that somewhere out there towering waves race across oceans. tossing about huge containers fallen from cargo ships; waves that drown and terrify. From here it's hard to see where the water ends and where the sky begins. Looking for the horizon becomes painful on the eye.'
Talking to Laura Penhaul (also from Cornwall), one of the Coxless Crew, who I also met at Port Eliot (our conversation a memorable festival highlight for me), it was interesting to hear that her vision and mental perspective for much of that all-female trans-Pacific row was to the horizon and no further. To think beyond by almost 9000 miles...well perhaps it's as impossible as trying to imagine infinity. Wyl Menmuir conveys that same atmosphere of the vast unknown.
Back to Elementum and an essay about the mermaid of Zennor which adds this corner of Cornwall to our list once the holidaymakers have departed, and another about whales...lots about whales in Deep Singer Story Keeper, then a trail in the company of the black bears of Yosemite, another piece about writing landscapes in an interview with Irish poet Jane Clarke. There is a thought-invoking piece entitled Singing the Land - Music of Place and Presence and with poetry and quotes interspersed throughout the journal I am entranced.
And then there's Anna Haigh, a clinical psychologist finding silence and respite from an inner weariness on the walk to Santiago de Compostella....
'Everything I need I either carry or wear - my rucksack, a stick to lean on for support and the sturdy boots that have become my greatest companion. Freed from my need to acquire, I find myself free to give.'
The results will be decisive and maybe life-changing for Anna (no clues, it's a mid-way-through-the-piece surprise which I don't want to spoil) but...
'The real Camino will begin for me when I get home, but I've laid the groundwork and my notebook is full of messages to my future self.'
I made a similar important decision in the more mundane setting of Exeter airport en route to France once, I know that feeling of elation tinged with uncertainty.
So much to read and digest that I have barely skimmed the surface and can see that Elementum is going to be one of those journals that will last me for weeks and weeks. I can think of others that arrive and I am through them in less than an hour and rarely pick up again. Published three times a year I can see that this will be a regular treat.
We are off to Orkney on our Ruby Anniversary trip soon, gearing up for all the inspiration of landscape and place and history that we know awaits, as well as all that water, so this feels like perfect preparation for it all. Thoughtful, mindful nudges towards taking more notice of what we will see and experience in a place that we love, and of course there will be all that ocean too...
'The inspiration for this first edition has come from living near the sea. Barely explored and partly understood, Earth’s last remaining frontier remains a source of mystery and imagination, reflection and possibility. Perhaps there is no better place to start our journey than where all life began.'
Meanwhile, a journal update. I'm still on-and-off with Selvedge based on occasional special subscription offers and am really enjoying a little run of Today's Quilter, a Bristol-based journal who are currently offering five issues for a total of £5 which is a massive saving on the £5.99 per issue (the secret is putting a date to cancel in my diary). Each magazine comes with a substantial supplement on different aspects of quilting , latest edition Susan Briscoe on Sashiko.
Any other journals or magazines that you really enjoy...