The Clouds Are Swirling #CopingWithCOVID19
The following is the letter from the editor, by Pandora Brewer, for the Spring 2020 issue of Exponent II. To receive a copy of this issue, please subscribe at our store by April 15.
I am in my house. With the exception of two grocery store visits and a daily walk, I have been in my house for 14 days going on unknown. It is March 2020. In the future, we will study this time with the long view of before and after. In the moment, it is waking up and not being sure what day it is, aware of an aching anxiety that hits you like cold air as you throw back the blankets, taking those first steps into a day that will fall in somewhere between your mundane four walls and a catastrophic black hole.
I am fortunate. I am still working, my husband and I are friends, he loves to cook so we have interesting food, and I am a person who can putter and tinker alone for hours with no concept of boredom. But I also work in an industry that has been shut down and am watching years of hard work ebb away. I have people I love at the front lines of medical support and exposure. My parents are at high risk ages. My children live away and I can’t get to them quickly if they need something. This is a time of contrasts and I find myself drifting in a sea of floating icebergs. I collide into seemingly normal emotions and yet the impact feels so much bigger, so much more than I expected or could see coming. I am suddenly overwhelmed by a rush of response to what would have been a simple shrug.
It is almost impossible to hide from or minimize the amplification of these reactions because most of us have lost the membrane between our inside and the outside world. How ironic that we are sheltered in place and yet are battered by unending streams of information from every place. We know every opinion, every conundrum, every statistic, every entertainment option, every misstep, every risk, it all flows into our brain like the mind controlling screens in some dystopian nightmare. As a result, I am more grateful than I ever have been for my people, my comfort, my wonderful, joyful clutter of books and fabric and music and memories and mechanical pencils that line the edges of my sanity. And I am more sad and scared than I ever have been for the inequality, the ineptitude, the lack of kindness, the hateful language and insensitivity that divides and masks the humanity we share. I laugh at memes and cry when writing morning emails to my now remote team. I cling to my husband when thanking him for lunch, and I play my favorite song and sing along as loud as I can. I listen with my whole soul to someone who is afraid, and I resent the hell out of people who have time to binge watch anything. I am the wind that happens when cold air and hot air mix, the clouds are always swirling and I am at once raging and exhausted.
We did not know when we chose the articles for our Spring issue that this would be the context, and yet there is a synergy that speaks to us today and transcends for tomorrow. These words show interactions between interior landscapes and external forces and create quiet liminal spaces for insight and meaning. The essays and stories break through the onslaught of information with real narratives and reinforce how we are more together than apart, more the same in each unique experience. Aimee Hickman writes about discovering a hidden layer of identity and “Ancestor Worship meets Ancestry.com” describes the journey that led her to a new home. In “The Rules of the Game,” Christina Taber-Kewene finds strength to embody and inspire change within rather than outside of the church and the often marginalizing beliefs of her family. Kristin Lowe visits Uganda as an outsider only to find more similarities than differences in “Purpled Flowers.” In “Benefit of Doubt,” Sara Stanworth learns to sit with questions and let go of answers as she navigates what it means to embrace truth in a new way. Falencia’s Jean-Francois’ prose poem, “Gingerbread Girl,” brings to life the interplay of internal development and external pressure in a devastating metaphor that will stay with you long after reading.
These voices quiet the churn of emotional turmoil and the cacophony external stimulus. They invite rather than divide. They are not easy stories, but they are real in a way that resonates with our current circumstances rather than exacerbate our already raw senses. The urgency of this situation will pass, but it will take time for me to settle. It is only by breaking down this disruptive distance between us that we can reconnect with ourselves and each other. What the essays and features in this issue communicate so beautifully is that this coming together has little to do with proximity and everything to do with recognizing shared narrative and honoring individual expression. Reading and viewing the work of these writers and artists take us out of our house and into a community of healing.
Artist statement from Miriam Tribe: My work is figurative and expressionistic, and I circle around a lot of questions about identity and relationships. I draw people. I want to explore why we are the way we are, and capture in a moment that deep context. I use lines like choreography, and color like ritual or war paint — defining the primal inner state, the true intention. I see entanglement of mind and body everywhere between us. My work also reflects my own need for choice, so I’m always thinking about the roles and identities we choose and those that are given to us. Motherhood has taught me how inherent and honest both beauty and pain are to our human experience, and my aim as an artist is to hold space for both.