An Inside-Out Magazine
Living (and Publishing) in "Right Relationship".
by Larry Winslow
(This article appeared in the Treasure State Review, Spring 1995. It is libelous, racist, prejudiced, factually incorrect, and funny! Only we like the guy, we'd sue.
Republished in The AISLING, Issue 16, Lughnasa 1995).
Principles, seat-of-pants journalism, poverty. Corporate security, daily routine, a living wage.
Throughout my 18-year journalism career, I have swung like a pendulum between two different worlds of writing, editing, publishing and the search for meaningful work - that is, an individual's need to feel he or she is making a difference.
My resume reads like a who's who of indecision. From helping start spiritually based alternative magazines in California and Ireland, literally on the kitchen table, to working for several mass-media dailies with mainframe computers and the backing of regular advertising and capital. Each choice has had its share of fulfilment and frustration and, of course, deadlines.
In May of 1991, I took a job with Gannet, the largest newspaper corporation in the United States, as a copy editor with the Great Falls Tribune. Three months before that, I was completing a six-month stay on the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland, having volunteered my time and journalistic talent to help a group of radical Irish Catholics start a magazine. It was called The Aisling, Irish for "Vision", and proclaimed to be "Rooted in the Celtic, Living in Right Relationship, Working for Transformation".
THE CONTRAST BETWEEN THE two types of journalism couldn't have been greater. The summer before, I was one of 20 copy editors on the staff of the Contra Costa Times in suburban San Francisco. The pace was fast, the fault lines shaky and the freeways crowded. I knew it was time to get back to Montana. The best way to do that, I figured, was to spend some time in a remote area where there were few cars, few phones and no television. If you wanted your daily news fix, you had to walk or bicycle the mile or so to the shop to pick up the paper (if it had been delivered that day).
I was attracted to a group of men and women I had met while vacationing in Ireland the year before. They were living a simple lifestyle on an island a mile wide and nine miles long, raising their own crops and animals, shunning consumerism as much as possible and challenging the Roman Catholic Church with their own brand of Celtic Christianity that promotes decentralisation of power, gender equality, rights of the have-nots over the haves and a return to grassroots worship as practiced by the Celtic Church before it was Romanised 800 years ago.
They were hoping to start a quarterly magazine to reach more people in Ireland and elsewhere and I told them to give me a call when they were ready. That call came a year later after much fund-raising. They had debated how far they were going to buy into modern technology and how it would fit into a life that revolved around daily prayer, planting potatoes and milking goats.
"We're ready," announced Dara Molloy, a young Marist priest who was the first of the group to arrive on the island 10 years ago. "We'll be all set up and ready to go when you get here."
SELLING ONE'S POSSESSIONS and moving to a third-world culture can be cathartic and I would recommend it to anyone. Moving to rural Ireland is another matter. I soon learned that when the Irish say something is ready, it more often means they've got it in their heads to do it but the actual idea will take its own and God's sweet time to materialise.
They had ordered a Macintosh Apple computer with WordPerfect and a used ABDick 360 printing press. None of it had materialised when I did in mid-September. My American penchant for getting things done and getting them done now had to take a back seat to the Irish preference for taking one's time. Remember, this is a country in which shops close for an hour at lunchtime, cars and pedestrians frequently stop mid-street at noon and 6 p.m. as church bells toll "The Angelus" (the Irish version of a public moment of silence) and tea breaks are mandatory whenever a visitor drops by.
My list of things to get organised when I arrived was long, and all of it was to be done amidst the day-to-day farm chores and harvest. November 1, or Samhain, the first day of the Celtic new year, had been talked about as the publication date. At the end of October, they were still debating whether to have a magazine.
Cooler heads prevailed and since the computer didn't arrive until December, start-up sights were set on the next Celtic holiday, Imbolc, February 1, or St Brigid's Day.
In the meantime we kicked the chickens out of a small, unheated shed and remodelled it into nothing resembling a press room that I had ever seen.
The promised "office" was a small trailer, a.k.a. bedroom, until part of the floor fell through. A problem? Not at all. In the three-room, thatched-roof cottage some of them called home, a place was set at the small kitchen table for "Macky", our brand-new Apple computer, and we simply ate around the newest member of the family.
All was rolling full steam by mid-January until it was time to print out the completed page layouts. Finally, after many phone calls, the printer was delivered and connected to the computer, at which time we discovered the wrong connecting cable had been sent. At this point, I was counting the days until I returned to the United States, land of the free 1-800 number and home of the brave service repairman.
Eventually, the pages were printed out and hand-carried via boat, train, bus and taxi to a plate maker in Dublin. The plates were brought back and on January 31st the first 80-page edition of The Aisling was rolling off the press. One person's job was to hold an electric heater above the rollers of the press so the ink wouldn't freeze.
The magazine is still being published and, perhaps even more surprising, Gannett hasn't bought it. For those who might want to take a look at the finished product, write to: The Aisling, Inis Mor, Aran Islands, County Galway, Ireland. I say it is still being published although the editors have temporarily suspended publication while they build a new house out of stone. In true Irish tradition, none of them knows how to cut or build with stone but they say they are learning as they go.
Deadline for the finished house was February 1, but my Irish wife, Maria, (whom I met on the island) and I will be there in May, probably in time to help them finish it.