Fall 2019 Letter from the Editor
The following is the Fall 2019 letter from the editor by Exponent II Managing Editor Emily Gray. To subscribe for this issue, go to our store by October 15. Digital and hard copy subscriptions are available. Subscribing to Exponent II is the best way to financially support our organization. Cover art is by Shae Warnick.
The orderly German countryside whizzes past my window as I write this. I am on a fast train traveling from a meeting in Strasbourg, France, to my temporary new home in Berlin. Around me, the keys click on computer keyboards as professional women and men in suits prepare their important documents and presentations. A phone rings and a hurried conversation ensues, promptly hushed by several people who stand up and point to the sign: Ruhebereich—quiet car. We are in Germany, and rules are rules, and the only acceptable conversations are those taking place between these people in suits and their laptops.
My university offered me the opportunity to spend a semester teaching at our program in Berlin, and after much soul-searching and family discussion, I accepted. This would be a great adventure for my two teenagers and a needed change in perspective and environment for all of us. We have lived in rural Vermont for more than a decade; my children have attended the same small school since Kindergarten with the same tight-knit group of friends. Now they would live in an apartment building, ride the subway to school, and eat chocolate croissants fresh from the bakery. I would give up all of the many official and unofficial university responsibilities that have gradually built up like barnacles on the hull of an old boat. This period of freedom from our regular life is refreshing, but I miss my dog and my chickens. I miss watching the leaves change on the hillsides around my small town. I even miss a few of my regular university obligations.
My world shifts constantly between the familiar and the utterly strange. The apothecary on the corner recoils in horror when I ask about cold medication—I’d forgotten that in Germany, you are expected to just tough it out. I walk through the grocery store mentally adjusting my standard recipes, hoping that my son will think grated gouda is about the same as cheddar on the tacos he requested for his birthday dinner, wondering if I can substitute baking powder for unavailable baking soda and chop a chocolate bar into something resembling chips for cookies. On Sundays, we attend church in a three-story ward building that has a full-sized stage behind the rostrum and no basketball hoops. The Primary is desperate for help and I have already received a calling to work with the 7-year-olds—the same calling I held back home. The German children draw me pictures. Their mothers and fathers gather around my little family, offering us community in exile. I am reminded, again, of what my church does so well.
This issue of Exponent II is full of insightful journeys. A Relief Society President skips Sunday School for an essential trip to Costco. A nursing mother dodges crowds, rocks, and taxidermy to find some place in the universe where she can feed her baby in peace. Cori Smith Elzey navigates the language barrier with her Chinese neighbors. Bethany Brady Spalding takes her daughter to the Australian Outback and Indian soccer fields in search of a meaningful way to mark her passage into young womanhood. Ellen Fagg Weist retraces the steps of her pioneer foremother while book reviewer Rebekah Orton glimpses the irreversible progress of her child’s growth.
This issue also reminds us that we do not need to change our location in time or space to change our perspective. Brittney Hartley and poet Nain Christopherson go in search of Heavenly Mother and discover some unexpected insights that challenge our accustomed categories. The artist K Dawn asks why white LDS progressives invite her to join them at their table rather than pulling up a chair to hers. And I will not give away any details of Laura Marostica’s moving short story The Parlor except to say that making the acquaintance of the Deputy Mayor has profoundly changed me in ways I cannot let go. I hope that you, too, will pause in your journey, pull up a chair to join the women in these pages, and look around yourself to discover a world that is bigger, stranger, and more familiar than before.