We read magazines for escape. At least, I do. Whether I’m sitting under the salon hair-dryer flipping through celebrity gossip or snuggling into a comfy chair with a novel that forces me to be the narrator (Look at me! I just killed a dragon!), I am an escape artist. I enjoy leaving reality far, far behind. So, for me, Stone Voices was a major wake-up call.
Stone Voices, as its motto suggests, values art, spirituality, mindfulness, and creativity. This is not a magazine full of poems, stories, and creative nonfiction (your everyday lit mag). Instead, Stone Voices asks you to consider reality (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, et cetera) and your place in it.
As a writer, my mind is rarely clear. There are characters floating around, arguing and making up, fighting wars and baking pies. Lines of possible poems flit around the peripheral, pouting in their passionately indifferent way. So, mindfulness is tough for me. Meditation is tougher. Discovering my inner sanctuary, as suggested by feature writer George Wolfe (“Inner Space as Sacred Space”) is daunting. But Stone Voices is not daunting. It’s beautifully crafted in a very clean simplistic style, lots of white space and vibrant artwork. Perhaps Stone Voices’ best quality is its clean crispness. Every page is strategically designed to help you clean your mental clutter. The magazine consists of four art portfolios, three features, and four columns. These articles are practical and manageable, and encourage readers to embrace (or at least attempt to discover) their own realities.
“The Perils of Excitement” by Peter Azrak (psychotherapist, teacher, writer, photographer . . . you know, Jack of all trades) kicks off the issue with a thought-provoking column on excitement versus reality. I’m ashamed to admit it, but yes, I have met an interesting boy and in one day, thought he was the love of my life, and then basically never saw him again. Azrak defines this as The Let Down. He says, “I, once again, out of my neediness and desperate longing to be with someone allowed the excitement to blind me. In other words, I was choosing excitement over reality.” This is not a column of preachiness but one of questioning and introspection mingled with gentle encouragement to embrace reality. Whoa! I’m not sure I’m ready! Still, I read on.
Another noteworthy article is “Seeing Beyond” by Theresa Sweeney. It begins:
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“I’m painting a picture of that big rock over there,” I said.
“That rock doesn’t look like that,” said the six-year-old, pointing out my apparent need for glasses. “That rock is gray, NOT all different colors like that,” she said.
“You’re right,” I agreed. “I’m painting what the rock sounds like.”
What follows is an equally well-written and candid essay about the moment Sweeney’s world changed forever. So yeah, she began to hear rocks. We might think that’s weird, but I have my own equally weird moment, far more embarrassing, in which I discover the proof of a higher power whilst taking a shower. The point is to embrace these moments. Don’t write them off as crazy but as moments of learning and enlightenment. “We make a lot of automatic assumptions about life that narrow our thinking and connection to the world,” says Sweeney. Now, as an artist, she doesn’t strive for realism in the traditional sense but instead strives to capture her own reality. That might mean multi-colored rocks. And she encourages children and adults to retain and increase their creativity through Eco-Art therapy workshops. In the end, we could all benefit from her final words of wisdom: “Look for the magic in the rocks!” Or shower, whatever.
Lastly, you can’t talk about Stone Voices without talking about art. Lots of magazines have artwork, but they often feel more tacked on than essential. The artwork here is integral to the magazine’s landscape. It makes up the bulk of the magazine and is truly stunning. From a series of onion and garlic paintings (simple, gorgeous watercolors) by Joyce Washor to amazingly concrete yet fickle sand dune photographs by Vincent Louis Carrella, the art is stark in its visceral realness. Whether photographs or paintings, accurate or abstract, each piece is moving. For me, I think that’s because the artists are okay with white spaces; they’re okay with blurred lines. They offer their suggestions (each collection has an interesting write-up) but leave you to interpret the work with your newfound (hopefully) mental openness. Since I’m good with my imagination, this was a plus!
Although Stone Voices is not your traditional literary magazine—you won’t be publishing your short fiction or personal essays here—its urgency is not lost on me. An appreciation for the visual world coupled with the desire to create less clutter, both physically and mentally, is inspiring.