Editors’ Letter: In the Wildness of Bloom and Color
There comes a point in most of our adulthoods when we return to a childhood home. Perhaps our parents have lived there our entire lives and they’ve asked us to finally come back, remove all tangible evidence of memories, and make space for their new lives post-nesting, so they may turn our rooms into gyms, offices, or bedrooms for younger, new-and-improved siblings. Perhaps they’ve moved or passed away, and the home we once knew with them – full of first words, first loves, and sepia-tint belonging – is a place we revisit curbside, on a trip with a lover who wants to understand how and why we are still becoming.
This spring, we both revisited the ache of what was once some version of our own childhood homes. A childhood home is a special kind of place, and revisiting one, in whatever form, is a unique pain. We see our childhoods differently with adult eyes. We learn that growing up poor looks different once we’ve grown up, but realize for our parents it always looked this way. We are hit with the tender truth that people move into empty houses, stripped of meaning, and live whatever kind of life they want inside. There is no loyalty to someone else’s memories, and there shouldn’t be. We breathe in, release, and our old lives float, somehow, away.
For one of us, a real estate listing on Zillow showed the worst kind of haunting: a home once considered beautiful by small children, now a broken-down shadow of its former self, proving twenty years later nothing had changed. Not the bathroom fixtures, or the green laminate flooring that a heartbroken father, who spent lonely nights turning the once-gutted house into an every-other-weekend home, had once been so excited about finding. Nothing was different except the meticulous care that once went into the house, replaced with the peeling yellow of cigarette smoke embedded in walls once bright with new beginning.
For one of us, it was the alien feeling of revisiting a hometown and finding it hemorrhaged from its former state, the old roads unsettlingly widened, beige-paneled buildings unearthed from cornfields, all but a few bright spots of memory razed to make room for a future we would never belong to. Something as small as a newly-painted front door can feel like a surprising aberration, send us to Google maps to capture a brief glimpse of home as it was when we still considered it home–the old shrubbery, the old cars in the driveway, the old, stained curtains peeking through the broken blinds of a second-story window–a kind of spiritual comfort that hollows a part of us the longer we try to hold onto it.
There is something important about paying tribute to the places that made you; even sites of pain and trauma, or the simple teen angst of yearning to escape from a smothering, one-stoplight town, gain new significance as we age and return as some improbable version of a self we once only dreamed of becoming.
After every change, some version of springtime comes, and with it the birds, and the sun –except for in Ohio, where cold permeates seemingly forever, a commitment to character if there ever was one. In Ohio there are no flouncy dresses in April, or bare legs through the month of May; there is only the glimmer of a season changing, a hope for warmth to crawl in and unfurl us from the quiet of our flat, gray selves, hardened from winter but softening with the promise of a tender, peppery summer. In Florida, the sun comes sooner, but grows antlered with pollen and the wet choke of humidity. The untameable wildness of Spanish moss and saw palms and all the green (and the green and the green) festers with creatures we might notice pieces of ourselves in: those joyful goldfinches as well as the unhinged roadside opossums. In either case, the fierce burn or knife-cold of the landscape tries to work itself into our skin, and we must learn how to hold close our chosen homes while transcending their challenges.
Even with the splendor of our own cyclical rebirth and nature’s wildness once again expanding, there is the same twinge of discomfort we get with returning. Sometimes the unknown can exist in what we know for sure is coming–like falling in love, and even in the barefaced glory of kindling a fresh kind of happiness, being haunted by the fear that it will end badly. There is a beauty in forging ahead in spite of everything; in growing and learning, sprouting fresh and flourishing into something that has weathered bitter chill and warmth alike. Whether we’re letting go of some former version of ourselves, or birthing another from the pained center of our own aliveness (knowing full well we cannot, and will not, do it right), continuing on is the only real answer to anything.
When we began reading for this issue, in a way we were both amid our own sort of rebirths. Fresh off a New Year’s spent together in Florida, our lives both separated and intertwined. During most of our reading periods, we’ve had weekly phone calls, howling over submissions, live-reading with each other, sharing in the delight of a brand new issue to fill with incredible work. But this time, our worlds kept misaligning. In all of the travel and the work (and the work and the work) of our lives, and our separate indulgences in lovers both old and new, time kept shifting before us. There were moments of fear and uncertainty, recalling our approach to past issues and how we were once better editors (and people). It’s funny how easily a moment of doubt can unfurl a lineage of knowing.
Still, in spite of all of our uncertainty, the work came to us in droves of brilliance, blooming with generous talent. As with every submission period, we are stunned by the writing and art that exists in the world, in need of a platform, waiting to be seen by someone(s) with springtime eyes and a willingness to believe in the kind of ever-shifting hunger that propels us forward. This issue is brimming with renewal, from our featured and gallery art, filled with the wildness of bloom and color, to the written, genre-bending, birth stories, child stories, child-bending-parent-birthing war stories. There are moments of reckoning in everything we present to you here.
We hope that as your spring shifts into summer you are able to master the changes before you, whatever they are, and let the heat rise up and sweat you out of your struggling. In the moments between then and now, you have The Hunger: this community of writers and artists who know more about breathing and expanding than we ever could alone. Whatever home looks like for you, we hope you’ll make yours here with us.
Lena & Erin
Editors & Co-Founders