“Staying Open” by Carol Ann Litster Young

A few years ago, my partner gave me a hand-painted sign for Christmas — one he’d commissioned from my dear friend, a professional artist and sign painter. The word “open” sits in the gold center. The words, “heart,” “mind,” “arms,” and “home” appear in each of the four corners. It’s the first thing you see when you enter our apartment and serves as a reminder to us, and those who enter, to have that openness with all. I hope as you explore the contents of this open-themed issue that you will take on the different perspectives presented through the creative works of these artists and writers. 

We are still hurting and healing as the Delta variant of COVID-19 rages. There is continued uncertainty with travel and gathering, as well as current and past racial, social, economic, environmental, and other harms and inequities in every community. My own family is divided on masking and vaccinating, and I’m not sure when we can next safely gather. The present feels difficult. As a result, I’ve been in an era of consuming and not wanting to reflect, write, or create much. This isn’t pandemic exclusive, but it happens whenever the weight of emotional exhaustion catches up with me. Things add up, and sometimes it feels easier to just turn on the TV or read someone else’s story than process and write down my own. Thank you to the creators out there, still creating, helping the rest of us navigate and deal with the challenges of our time. We recognize the new writers and artists, as well as the seasoned writers and artists in this issue. I feel such gratitude for the contributors, as well as the editing, proofreading, layout, and design teams doing their magic to get this and future issues to you. These essays and art take us past the tiny glimpses and sound bites of headlines and social media and instead let us go a little deeper into another’s journey. 

Many of the stories, poems, and essays in this Fall 2021 issue highlight comfort and pain. Amy Sorensen finds comfort making her own choices about mowing the lawn, and Lisa Poulson seeks peace through the resilient women in her family after a traumatic experience. Cynthia Watte Connell makes space for those who sacrifice for others, and Sherrie L. M. Gavin’s satirical observations call out the confusing and exploitative immigration processes in the United States. Blaire Ostler’s theology piece talks about redeeming queerness in the present as we become like Christ, and Sarah Ostler Hill’s sermon reminds and encourages us to try again each day. The poetry of Carol Lynn Pearson, Brinn Elizabeth Bagley, and Mary Caroline Cole highlight hurt at church or in church conversations with family members. Alixa Brobbey’s poems reveal the pain of loneliness, and S.E. Page’s words describe longing, similar to how Hannah MacDonald’s essay, “On Saying Yes to Boys,” interrogates the tension that comes when we prioritize other people’s comfort over our own. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s essay reflects on the significance of retreat and gathering at a time, like now, where we feel the ache of separation. 

This issue also highlights excerpts from the Exponent Blog, a new feature we will run going forward. These posts also touch on pain or finding comfort and empowerment, such as Kaylee’s description of her young daughters’ observing patriarchy in church settings. Erika Barrett’s piece counters this patriarchy-dominance in her own religious experience by bringing Heavenly Mother into her family and church worship, and Roxanne Gray writes her own scripture in a re-telling of Eve in the garden and Heavenly Mother’s role there. 

Welcome and thank you to our new subscribers, our somewhat-new subscribers, our here-since-the-beginning readers, and everyone in between. Keep writing, making visual and written art — keep creating. Continue celebrating and gathering with us through the Exponent II magazine and other venues. Thank you for being here. 

Rachel Rueckert is the current editor in chief of the Exponent II Magazine. She is the author of EAST WINDS.

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