Image by Laura Gurton
Letter from the Editor
In a dream, I was on a bus heading in the wrong direction, farther away from my home, and I asked to be let out. I trudged on foot and met up with my former biology teacher who was with his class on an expedition. I joined them, hoping they would take me closer to home. But the group ultimately scattered, and the teacher went on the hunt for some exotic animal. Then a man appeared, a man who could have been a friend’s father but looked more like my uncle Eddy, and he said he could take me home. We walked through a labyrinth of neighborhoods, none of which looked familiar with their green slopes and Tudor-like houses abutting the sea. Despite this enchanting landscape, I felt even more restless and apprehensive. I hungered for my own familiar space, for the people I loved. Finally we reached a bakery where a tremendous mechanism was slicing humongous loaves of bread. I stared into the metal jaws of the mechanism, thinking how good it would be if it could gnash this palpable angst inside me to pieces. And then I woke up.
These dreams—and there have been many in all stages of my life—emphasize deep-rooted fears of being out of my comfort zone. It’s a metaphor for me, but for many people, for refugees, runaways, victims of natural disasters, emigrants and the like, the idea of home exists only in the mind, because the tangible place is no longer a reality. I could only surmise what this could do to the psyche and the elements of the body.
Recently I posted a BBC video on the hidden and intricate network of tree roots underneath the surface of the Earth. Through the aid of fungi (which, to me, resemble Laura Gurton’s magnificent art work ) inherent in these networks, trees communicate with one another. They help each other and sometimes work to sabotage each other. I found this phenomenon quite exciting, not only because it confirmed what I always believed—that trees are sentient beings—but because it is an example of a sentient network. These sentient networks can also apply to human compassion; we have seen it in the Underground Railroad, the Germans who hid the Jews during World War II, the White Helmets of Syria, and most recently RAICES, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency that promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families, and refugees. I should also give a shout-out here to the Blocchi Precari Metropolitani (BPM), an organization working to provide homes to migrant families in Rome by using art as a fortress (see my review of the movie GIFT). These grass roots organizations are examples of the better angels of our natures, of our capacity to be sentient and moral and active.
And then there are the people working without a network; the protagonists in Ruth Mukwana’s story “The Minister” and Andrea Gregory’s “My Bosnians” exemplify this type of person—brave souls who act to satisfy their moral hearts, despite not knowing how or having a plan or having help.
Since the beginning of this publication, we have seen cities like Aleppo be bombed to pieces. We have seen refugees in rafts, people wash up along the shores of Europe. We have witnessed the devastation of hurricanes and fires. We have, most abhorrently, witnessed children detained in cages, separated from their families by our own government. Indeed, Mercy for the Displaced is a timely theme.
Many thanks go to Jennifer Martelli and Jessica Cook who helped put the spring edition together; Catherine Parnell from CONSEQUENCE magazine, as well as Carla Goldberg, Russ Ritell, and David Link from the Art for Aleppo project for giving us permission to publish their content; and of course our brilliant contributors who are thinking and creating around this important subject, validating those who are suffering while also being a part of the subtle and not-so-subtle sentient networks at work.
Yours in compassion and creativity,