Spring 2017 Letter From the Editor
The following is the letter from the editor for the Spring 2017 issue of Exponent II, which will go to print mid-May. If you would like to read this issue, the deadline for subscribing is May 3. You can subscribe here. Cover art is by Sarah Mo.
By Pandora Brewer
It is spring in Chicago. The sky has been gray for four days, and we expect at least four more. With rain. The snow is gone; it is as cold as February with a faint green tinge at edges of the still brown grass. There are no buds on the trees, but lifting some dead leaves, I find a tiny curl of purple. A crocus harbinger, an emerging liminal space between my dark winter moods and the relief of warm sunshine. One day I will be outside, but today I am inside looking out, alone with my thoughts.
I am trying to frame this issue of beautiful writing and art, sensitive that moving through the essays from end to end will be hard for some readers. Pain aches through these pages. The collective voice is more raw than we anticipated as we savored each piece individually. We realized as the issue took shape that this was going to be a different spring theme, one that accepts loss as much as it celebrates life.
As my gaze shifts again from the screen to the window blurred with fog and icy rain, I imagine the golden image of the Greek goddess Demeter, powerful and complicated. She is the goddess of agriculture, fertility, and harvest. In the ancient pantheon, she represents a turning from the wild to the cultivated, and her influence allows for settlement and community in her world.
Then she loses her daughter. Persephone disappears and Demeter cannot find her. She calls, she searches, keening the depth of her sadness as she traverses the earth. She withdraws. Withdraws her power amid her unfathomable grief and the world shuts down with her. The sun no longer warms; plants wither; snow falls; her breath that once gave life shudders as she sobs. She bows her head, desolate, and her mourning becomes winter. When her daughter is finally returned, Demeter rejoices and flowers spring from the earth. The seasonal cycle begins: when her daughter is with her, she shines for the world. When her daughter is away, she grieves and everything living dies with her joy.
Demeter’s winter is just a story. Most of us do not share the pain that we feel and are not compelled to experience what others feel. We depend on spirit and insight to recognize the chill and disruption within someone who is suffering. We make the choice to mourn with those who mourn. We respond because we want to respond. We sit vigil. We bring food. We listen. We accept. We communicate that no circumstance will change the love we feel for each other. We say: I love you and I will sit with your aloneness and pain in this season, and season after season, for as long as you want me, and maybe when you don’t.
The women writing in this issue withdraw, mourn, witness, cry, and love fiercely. Dayna Patterson’s prose piece, “The Mormons are Coming,” celebrates, questions, and ultimately feels loss within her community and culture. Two essays, Courtney Peck’s “Ix Chel” and Anne Bennett’s “Creation,” grapple with motherhood, women’s creative powers, and the deep pain caused if this inherited identity must be redefined when facing infertility or the death of a child. “Origin Stories,” by Lindsay Denton, wonders what would happen if we changed the point of view for many of our origin stories from the hero to the heroine. In “Choir of Silence,” Martha Taysom shares her story of being abused and then further victimized by people who should have saved her. In all the essays, features, and art, we experience heartache, we grieve, and we sit alongside the voices and images, hoping for and finding grace.
It is spring in this issue of Exponent II. The art on the cover shows a woman digging deep in the soil, willing the seeds to become flowers and vegetables. She has power beyond that of Demeter: she invites growth, and also loves her people deeply and unconditionally. All are worthy of her divine touch. All will spring to life, perhaps a different life than they had planned, but one vibrant and ready for summer.