IN DEFENSE OF AESTHETICS
WORDS & IMAGE: KATE WEINER
Loam has been gaining a lot of momentum lately. It's so exciting for Nicole, me, and our staff (we're grateful to the moon and back for designer extraordinaire Giorgia Sage, health & wellness columnist Kimora Brock, spirituality guide Lily Myers, and poet-in-residence Mariana Rojas) to see this little seed of ours GROW. We envision Loam as an environmental arts organization that interweaves our magazine, artist/activist trainings, outdoor workshops, and a soon-to-be-launched podcast series to affirm hope and inspire activism.
More and more, readers are writing in to share their stories with us. One woman told us that Loam had given her the tools to pursue sustainable agriculture. To hear from her that our little magazine had "changed her life" was amazing. Another shared that our magazine was the light-filled work she had been looking for in this world. These kinds of notes move us at Loam so deeply. We work tremendously hard doing what we do and it brings us joy to know that what we're radiating resonates with you.
But of course, Loam isn't perfect. And our heart's work won't vibe with everyone. Recently, a close friend of mine questioned what made Loam so special. "How's it more than pretty pictures?" he asked. A mentor confided that when we first started Loam, she didn't understand what made it important or unique—she thought it was "just for pretty." I think anyone who gives Loam a closer look will understand it's not just for pretty. We write frankly about climate change and eco-anxiety and environmental injustice. As much as we love swapping tips on simple steps toward sustainable living, so too are we profoundly invested in systems change. The idea that Loam was "just for pretty" felt like a superficial reading of our work—but it was their truth and hearing it come from people I loved and respected stung. Above all, these comments got to my subconscious fear that readers might write off Loam by virtue of our emphasis on aesthetics. (As a side note, humans are ridiculous. I get overwhelmingly positive feedback on Loam but my brain is hardwired to harp on two not-so-loving notes. Really, mind?)
My hope is that our appreciation for beauty at Loam will never come at a cost to our diverse content. Our goal isn't to create a tightly edited magazine, preciously curated, clean to a tee. Loam is a little messy. We are perpetually navigating how to merge lighter fare with deeper reads and that shows. We talk about soil and the sun and self-care. Sometimes we get it right. Sometimes we miss the mark.
Loam is pretty (to us!) and playful. Our attention to detail and desire for aesthetic harmony is integral to our vision. There is so much in this world that is decidedly not beautiful. Endless strip malls. Sprawling McMansions. Golf courses stripped of trees and pumped with pesticides. Supermarkets are loaded with unethically sourced and environmentally unsound goods designed to be disposed of later that day. We need to make room for more beauty in our lives, not only because it soothes our soul and satisfies our love of vibrant color, but also because it opens up the channels for more life-giving green to take root. When you think about making something or somewhere beautiful, you think about how to work with the environment and not against it. How can you create the space to nourish plants? How can you help beautiful moments—friends bursting into song at a backyard potluck, family gathering for a hike—to transpire within a place?
I sometimes worry that my want for Loam to be beautiful is superficial. When I peel back the layers, I realize that Loam being (our version of) beautiful is a non-negotiable. Valuing beauty is our way of honoring ourselves, of valuing our communities, of celebrating this luscious world that we live in and that will live on without us.
Just for pretty? Maybe. But if your definition of pretty is anywhere close to mine, I'll take it.