Editors’ Letter: The Force That Begins Us

We were born in summer. Five years and two-thousand miles apart, our respective mothers swayed as they walked, palms pressed against their bellies. Summertime is a reckless plunge toward becoming, and we are both the children of its prickly heat, evident in the brightness we’re always seeking, be it sunshine or spotlight (as our shared astrological sign has predisposed us to). Meteorologically, symbolically, only fire could birth such animals as us.

There is something undeniable, cellular, in the connection between a person and those who teach them how to live in the world. Motherhood, whether biological or chosen, is a role built on transcendent, sacrificial compassion; the force that begins us is the one we often credit with our selfhood, with our birth and the gradual becoming that follows afterwards. But when does a history actually start? And how much of what we become really lies within leaving what we originated from?

Maybe we are all destined to destroy that from which we came. It’s unignorable, and lately more troubling than ever, how we are destroying our earth, humanity’s first mother. Melting its cool reserves, polluting its lungs and our own with black sludge, and burning its kind stewards, the forests, there is no going back to before the earth cracked open and sprung enough life for humans to steal from. When given too much choice, we get drunk on the freedom of wanting and use it to increasingly sever ourselves from our nurturer, singeing ties by way of our greed and selfishness—or worse, apathy—until what once fully sustained us can no longer bear to hold us.

There is a lot of destruction populating our world, but we still manage to pull something meaningful from all the wrong, to dig through to the warmth. Art and creativity is often referred to as a kind of mothering, too: gathering the millions of little pieces of life that swirl around us, and incubating them in our bodies until they flower out of our mouths, hands, leaking out through different parts of us until the seed of an utterance becomes something tangible. 

As the art and writing we’ve collected in this issue can attest, we are all created of something, by something—birthed by sorrow, joy, strange encounters with humans and with fate, literal fire, roots and soil, or the sudden necessity for strength. What we do with those selves and circumstances defines the kind of story we move forward with: how we help others become, how we ourselves take on a motherness that defies gender, space, and time, and how we sometimes—in the ultimate perversion, the ultimate blessing—become our own mothers.

Twenty-seven years later, we would come together, by fate, in the Appalachian hills. Though we’d lived whole lives before then, had separate histories driving our feet forward to that spot, our shared story began there; in leaving what we knew, we taught each other how to become, and we became new selves, truer selves, together.

Becoming begins with what you find your way back to. We are grateful you’ve found yourself here.

Lena & Erin
Editors & Co-Founders