Looking Back to Move Forward: Vol. 10 (October)

In her letter to readers in the March, 2012, issue of the magazine, Martha Stewart Living editor-in-chief Pilar Guzman makes an intriguing comment about looking back to former issues of the magazine in order to move forward. She writes: "...we will feature images on this page that inspire us from the magazine's archives. Sometimes it's important to look back in order to move forward." As a longtime subscriber, I felt like playing along! I'll be raiding the archives each month to showcase my favourite issue. Here is my selection for October.

The October issue of Martha Stewart Living ranks high among fans. It's right up there with the September, December and March issues, which are anticipated for their commitment to a seasonal theme: decorating, the holidays and gardening, respectively. Martha's October is popular because of Halloween, it's true. Few publications do up the holidays quite like Martha Stewart; she elevates and expands the concept of "celebration" to levels that far exceed expectation, providing inspiration and imagination in spades.

For me, however, the October issue is much more about celebrating a love of Fall, my favourite season. At the risk of sounding staid and curmudgeonly, I feel I have outgrown Halloween. I love costumes, make-up and theatrics, and I count several horror films among my all-time favourites, but there is so much more to this month than All Hallows Eve. For Canadians, it's about Thanksgiving, which falls on the second Monday in October. It's also about harvest and comfort foods, outfitting the indoors for warm, snuggly evenings alone or with loved ones, long walks along leaf-lined pathways and bundling up in your favourite sweater.

The October 2001 issue of Martha Stewart Living hits every single mark. There is a Halloween element, but it is explored in deeply imaginative ways. Pitcher plants, those otherworldly carnivorous bog dwellers, are perfectly linked to the concept of spookiness, as is an expository feature on bats, with wondrous photographs of the various species. Kids (Halloween's truest admirers) have a place too with a feature on making space costumes using everyday objects in an appropriate homage to Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey." As we prepare for holiday entertaining, we sort through our dinnerware, perhaps coming across some inherited 'make-dos and whimsies' - those thoughtfully-repaired or repurposed pitchers or platters that hold the obvious marks of committed restoration efforts: iron fittings, handmade staples or wicker bindings optimistically holding together an object that had once been shattered. There are potatoes and pumpkins and all the delicious foods we can make with them. Yes, each page is an exercise in giving Fall its due.


Rowaida said...

I agree with you Andrew, Oct issue is one of the best issues. Loved Oct 2001.

Anonymous said...

Oh my have you not seen one of the early issues where martha attends a costume party at a mansion along the hudson River. The spooky artistic photos, Marthas bird/feathered costume and jaunty bird's nest hat has left a impression on me ---the hay ride the elegant approach to a halloween costume party so tasteful now we have the appeal to the masses- kid candy filled overboard sweets and macabre approach. But the poem the halloween poem about nine years ago was also very good.


Yes, Anonymous, I love that issue as well. I find the issues prior to 1997 a little too nostalgic to look through them regularly, although I do treasure them 0 for history's sake.