GB F RE S H FO O D FOR AL L T H E FIGHT T O KE E P SOUT H C A ROLINA FED
A NEW NORMAL HEALING IN THE AGE OF COVID-19
ART, COMMUNITY AND WOMXN EMPOWERMENT THROUGH THE ARTS
THE RETURN OF STAGBRIAR A COLUMBIA BAND MAKES A COMEBACK
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EDITOR-IN-CHIEF M A R Y - B R Y A N T C H A R L E S CREATIVE DIRECTOR M E R E D I T H P R I C E MANAGING EDITOR C H R I S T I A N C O M P T O N
P R I N T AR T I C L ES ED I TOR Liz Smith D I G I TAL AR T I C L ES ED I TO R Hallie Hayes
DI R ECTOR OF S T UDEN T M EDI A Sarah Scarborough
A S S I S TAN T AR T I C L ES ED I TO R Caroline Fairey STAF F W R I T ER Dabriel Zimmerman STAF F W R I T ER Cassidy Spencer
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STAF F W R I T ER Nicole Kitchens STAF F W R I T ER Jessica Fields STAF F W R I T ER Madison Bridges STAF F W R I T ER Taylor Jennings-Brown CO P Y C H I EF Cassidy Spencer AR T D I R EC TO R Emily Schoonover STAF F D ESI G N ER Olivia Griffin STAF F D ESI G N ER Meagan Horres STAF F D ESI G N ER Alizajane Hicks P R I N T P H OTO ED I TO R Mark Maddaloni D I G I TAL P H OTO ED I TO R Coleman Rojahn A S S I S TA NT P R I N T P H OTO ED I TO R ZhanÃ© Bradley P R I N T P H OTO G R AP H ER Nancy Sterrett PR I N T P H OTO G R AP H ER Alexander Wyatt P R I N T ST Y L E ED I TO R Parker Blackburn
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Letter from the Editor EDITOR-IN-CHIEF MARY-BRYANT CHAR LE S
This isn’t how I wanted to be doing this, but I’m so happy you’re here. Happier than I was for any of the other issues this year. Because if you’re here, it means you came tous. You didn’t have this shoved into your hands on Greene Street or pick it up just to have something to flip through while you waited for your coffee at Starbucks. You being here means that you, in the middle of a global pandemic, came to our website. It means you clicked the link. And that means the world to me. This isn’t how I wanted to be doing this. I wanted to have my four physical magazines, I wanted to be able to take a cute Instagram pic of myself cradling them all like babies. I wanted this to be the best issue we ever made and for once, I wanted to get the letter from the editor turned into to our creative director a week before we made our final copy. Only one of those things happened (I’m so sorry, Meredith. I love you and your patience), but fortunately it was the most important thing.This is the best issue we’ve ever made. We’d already had such big and brilliant plans for this one, and when we got the message that it would only be able to exist in digital form, more brilliant plans were allowed to flow. We were able to get even more creative, we were able to fine-tune, we were able focus in on what the magazine means and why it’s important in the age of Coronavirus. It’s important because when I started writing this letter, I was crying. I was overwhelmed by what all this is doing to our lives, but now as I think about this magazine, about these pages and the stories and the people who have brought it all together, I’m proud. I’m proud that in the midst of this crisis, we could show you the people out there working to make sure our world is fed and vibrant and full of music. I’m proud of the picture we’ve painted of that world, one where community bookstores can thrive, where cowboys can look amazing in boat hats and where a protestant can sit down with a witch and have a really nice conversation. I’m proud of the stand we’ve been able to take. That this new normal shows that we can’t let ourselves go back to normal, that we have to take what’s happened and grow from it. So yeah, this isn’t how I wanted to be doing this. But I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.
CONTENTS NTENTS CON CONTENTS C TENTS CONTE CONTENTS Garnet & Black Magazine Summer 2020
FRESH FOOD FOR ALL
MEAT YOUR MATCH
The secret to mastering the charcuterie board
One organizationâ€™s mission to keep our state fed
ART, COMMUNITY AND WOMXN
A look at the most empowering party of the year
The magical world of modern witchcraft
Shot at the Louve, a gallery addressing female masculinity in fashion
Fiction by Liz Smith
NTENTS CON CONTENTS C TENTS CONTE CONTENTS NTENTS CON CONTENTS C 61
WHERE TO FIND THE ARTS IN COLUMBIA THIS SUMMER
The hottest spots in the hottest city in SC
THE RETURN OF STAGBRIAR
Stagbriar on their latest album
THE BIGGEST LITTLE BOOKSTORE Odd Bird Books has landed
CHALLENGES YOU CHOOSE
Going the extra 28 miles for kids in need
by Caroline Fairey
A NEW NORMAL
Hope and healing in the era of Coronavirus
COVER PHOTOS BY COLEMAN ROJAHN
ILLUSTRATION BY MEREDITH PRICE
Fresh Food For All HOW ONE ORGANIZATION IS PRIORITIZING THE HEALTH OF ALL SOUTH CAROLINIANS BY TAYLOR JENNINGS-BROWN • PHOTOS BY COLEMAN ROJAHN • DESIGN BY ALIZAJANE HICKS
One out of every seven people struggles with hunger in South Carolina, and the state sits with a 15.5% poverty rate, making it consistently among the top 15 states with the highest poverty rates in the country. Almost 1 million dollars worth of food has been distributed to individuals through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in South Carolina alone. As an individual who has seen the effects of poverty and government assistance up close, I can firmly say that terms such as “SNAP,” “E.B.T” and “poverty” do not typically have the luxury to co-exist with phrases like “health-conscious,” “fresh produce” and “home-grown.” Out of concern for this persistent situation in our Palmetto State, FoodShareSC, an organization founded on principles of community engagement and “Good Healthy Food for All,” was established in 2015. Beverly Wilson, who currently serves as executive director, and Carrie Draper, who works with the College of Social Work, dreamed up and created FoodShareSC together. In Wilson’s words, “FoodShare South Carolinais an alternative fresh food network housed at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine that began working in Columbia in 2015 and emerged in response to the challenges that low-income families face in accessing fresh, affordable food.” How exactly does FoodShare work? When I was first approached about writing a piece for this organization my curiosity was piqued. I had never heard of such an organization, yet, I was highly sensitive to the effects of food deserts and insufficient access to fresh produce within this region. FoodShare’s most integral service is their Fresh Food Box system. People can purchase an inexpensive box of fresh produce (SNAP and EBT are accepted) every two weeks from local predesignated “hubs,” which are delivery and pick up sites in critical geographical locations within the communities. This is the most visible way that FoodShare is able to fulfill their mission, which Wilson described as, “to connect families with food access programs and services that empower them to live healthful, productive lives.” FoodShareSC has about six different program offerings, from Fresh Food On-the-Go, which allows for bus riders to buy a Fresh Food Box at transit stops, to NeighborShare, which gives volunteers direct interaction as delivery services of Fresh Food Boxes to customers.
FoodShare is heavily reliant on volunteer community participation. One of these faithful volunteers, Dee Devlin, shared her experience with us. As a nurse practitioner, Devlin had personal experiences with patientsnot being able to afford the healthy food recommendations she gave them, so she began working with FoodShare in the summer of 2019. Devlin continually spoke of how much she thoroughly enjoyed the work she did with FoodShare, so much so that it did not seem to be work at all. When asked to summarize her experience volunteering with FoodShareSC in one word she took a short but thoughtful breath and quickly exhaled the word “rewarding,” with no further explanation, as if there were no extra words needed to explain how volunteering with FoodShare could not elicit any other response.
Their mission: to connect families with food access programs and services that empower them to live healthful, productive lives
FRESH FOOD FOR ALL 11
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12 FRESH FOOD FOR ALL
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The volunteer nature of FoodShareSC also makes this organization people-oriented. Listening to Ms. Dee Devlin express her experiences with FoodShare, I could feel the interpersonal and relational heart of their mission. One of our staff members, Coleman Rojahn, was able to go on a delivery route with Ms. Devlin and he asked her if helping others was oneof the more rewarding parts of volunteering. Devlin replied, “Oh definitely. I’ve really kind of gotten attached to them [FoodShare customers she delivers to]. I worry about them, and I’ve gotten to know them very well.” She went on to talk about how she and one lady she delivers to have created a stronger bond over their love for crocheting. “They’ve become a part of me a little bit...I think I got a heart for these people,” she concluded. One note Coleman left for me from his ride with Ms. Devlin read, “Although one person who normally gets a box didn’t order one, Dee took the time to stop by her room in the same building as one of our stops to check in and make sure everything was going well for her.” This small act of kindness showed concern and this is what I have found to be the embodiment of FoodShare at its core. Since its inception, FoodShareSC has distributed over 35,000 food boxes containing over 700,000 pounds of fresh produce. This past year alone equated for 10,000 of those food box deliveries. FoodShare is continuing to impact the Midlands while reaching other counties through its latest site openings in Greenville, Spartanburg, Orangeburg, Bamberg, Lee and Kershaw counties. As FoodShare’s reach expands, their community-oriented, “pay-it-forward” spirit remains focal. It has been a pleasure to get an inside peek at FoodShare South Carolina’s mission and purpose. Although this is not some strategic, call-to-action advertising, it would be remiss of me to not mention that you and I have an opportunity to get involved with organizations such as FoodShare that are dedicated to making South Carolina a more equitable place for all people. Even if FoodShare isn’t where your civic calling lies, we can all find inspiration in their efforts to create a solution to a serious problem, as well as their willingness to serve the community in which we all share common investments.
FRESH FOOD FOR ALL 13
THE MISSION OF GIRLS BLOCK BY HALLIE HAYES PHOTOGRAPHY BY ZHANÃ‰ BRADLEY AND HEATHER MARIE DESIGN BY MEREDITH PRICE
14 ART, COMMUNITY AND WOMXN
ART, COMMUNITY AND WOMXN 15
Girls Block 3.8.2020 I remember the first time I met with a few of the many ladies who share the same support as I do for womxn artists, and who I would have the pleasure of spending the next few months working with as a PR Intern – I could feel the electricity. I could feel the dynamic power circulate as we spoke about what was to come; as we spoke about Girls Block. Girls Block is like nothing I have ever been a part of, and it’s like nothing you have ever heard of, I guarantee it. Created over a year ago by co-founders Catherine Hunsinger and Kati Baldwin, the development of the now two-festival deep organization comes from the simple love and support that the two have for womxn artists, and the desire to create a social event to celebrate that. Read it in Baldwin’s bio, on Girls Block’s beautifully put together website: “... That’s what Girls Block is about. Creating an environment that brings all of us from every social circle together to celebrate.” It’s on that same website where you can find the mission of this non-profit, a mission that is worded so simply and beautifully that you quickly understand the inner-depths of what Girls Block is about: “Girls Block is currently a non-profit organization creating empowerment events, festivals, and online features for all WOMXN-identifying artists and entrepreneurs across the state of South Carolina and beyond. We are currently located in Columbia, the capital of the state. We strive for diversity and inclusivity. Our mission is to ultimately create a consistent support system to not only elevate your voice, artistry and vision, but to also remind you that you are the most deserving of the spotlight.” Girls Block features blog posts by talented womxn, outstanding socials and empowerment events to bring all together. The Girls Block team is powerful and growing, this year having more than half the number of womxn involved in the planning of the 2nd annual Girls Block Arts and Music Festival.I know, I have your attention now, right? The festival is what you would call Girls Block’s big hurrah. It is what the team works toward all year in planning and with their second one having been held early March, it exceeded what anyone could ever imagine. Girls Block Arts and Music Festival featured 18, womxn-fronted musical acts playing on four different stages in downtown Columbia, over 30 vendors selling clothes, art and more, a fashion show, improv, dancing and a space for everyone to come love and support what has become a celebrated community. The festival
THE FINAL FRONTIER 1616ART, COMMUNITY AND WOMXN
was made possible by sponsors, donations and ticket sales. It showed that anything could be done when you put a community who cares so deeply about the same things together. It curated a dream that the Girls Block team was shaken by; a dream that one would wish to have over and over again. I had the honor of running socials during the festival; running from venue to venue to watch the different acts take place. While that was magical, watching as each space grew with a mass of people was what it was all about. That’s when I knew that this organization was doing something incredible. They are creating a space for these artists, but better than that, they are showing that there is a community who cares about these artists. I have been a part of a lot of things in my 22 years, but nothing like this. The day grew to night, the warmth grew to a chilling breeze, but the crowd remained, celebrating this art community. Celebrating Girls Block. Here’s the cool thing about Girls Block: the festival isn’t the end. It’s the beginning. The crowd may leave and the music may die, but the ladies who breathe this organization wake up the next morning, reflect, and start all over again. I knew I loved this organization and the womxn involved the moment I was connected to the two, but it was the morning after the festival that I realized how deep that love was. Messages poured through our infamous GroupMe Chat. Messages of praise, of thanks, and of “what’s next?” It wasn’t a, “let’s take a break and come back to Girls Block later.” It was, “let’s talk about what we can do better for next year, let’s write a blog post on the festival, let’s start planning.” That is what is important about this organization. The support that womxn artists deserve never ends, so Girls Block doesn’t end either. The festival grew by the masses this year, doing more than double in ticket sales. The first time I sat with Volunteer Coordinator, Lauren Nix, just as a fan of Girls Block, she told me after making this organization known locally, there are hopes of moving it globally; getting the name and support for womxn artists to other areas of the country. I thought it was possible then. Now, after seeing the power that the womxn share on the Girls Block team, and after seeing the true admiration for the womxn’s art community that the organization breathes, I know it is. Check out Girls Block at their website, girlsblocksc. org and follow them on Instagram and Facebook at GirlsBlockSC.
creating a e r a y spa The ce that, they n a h fo t a r r es e t t h e
ts, s i t r a e s he that there is a t r ing ow
bu t b THE FINAL FRONTIER 17 17 ART, COMMUNITY AND WOMXN
Female Masculinity 18 FEMALE MASCULINITY
STYLE BY JESSI HAMILTON • PHOTOGRAPHY BY NANCY STERRETT • DESIGN BY MEREDITH PRICE
20 FEMALE MASCULINITY
The prompt that we were given for this shoot was a simple question, â€œhow do you see the evolution of gender identities?â€?. For me, the evolution of gender identities has to do with the disappearance of gender roles; the old-school boxes that people were placed in, with their organized labels and strict guidelines, are becoming obsolete. Fashion is becoming more about creativity and fun in a garment rather than about the gender it is assigned to. For this shoot, we decided on the theme of the death of gender roles. We shot in a statue garden at the Louvre in Paris, using the beautiful marble statues as our funeral setting. The contrast between the statues and the all-black outfits of the models creates a visually pleasing effect, which also provided a perfect setting to allow the red lipstick to stand out. I wanted to express the death of gender stereotypes in a subtle way, both models are wearing the same basic pieces (black turtleneck,
FEMALE MASCULINITY 23
black pants) with slight differences between them. By dressing the models similarly, each with pieces that are traditionally “masculin” and traditionally “feminin” I wanted to question what it means to assign a gender to an inanimate object, such as a necklace. To me, the evolution of gender roles will see everyone wearing whatever it is that they want, and the notions of “borrowed from the boys” or “meant for women” will disappear from our vocabulary when talking about fashion.
the t u p t s u j ate m s our s n a i l c m y a x “M e ex t n r u o o t answers ...” e M p u o r G
? t x e n s What’
Recognize. Decide. STAND UP. Repeat. Recognize harm
Decide to intervene
When students cheat, it devalues your degree and contradicts the Carolinian Creed.
Trust your gut. If it feels shady, you can always ask your professor.
Cheating can look like:
By intervening, you’re ensuring you aren’t guilty by association and not in violation of the complicity policy.
• Copying work • Using unauthorized aid on an assignment or test - including your phone or another student • Signing someone into class • Sharing quiz or test information on GroupMe, AirDrop or Google Docs • Plagiarism • Assisting others in violating the Honor Code
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Consequences for a first time violation of the Honor Code are more educational than punitive. By reporting others you’re not going to ruin their life or career goals. Students who cheat in college are more likely to cheat during their career, which can have serious consequences like losing a job.
Step in or speak up It is every community member’s responsibility to address cheating to ensure it does not become the norm. 1. Take a screenshot and leave the class GroupMe. 2. Talk with your professor and share that students compromised the test. 3. You can choose to report this incident anonymously on sc.edu/ ConductandAcademicIntegrity.
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Understanding and learning how to craft the perfect charcuterie board ARTICLE AND PHOTOS BY MARK MADDALONI DESIGN BY EMILY SCHOONOVER
Shaar-koo-tr-ee. Charcuterie. You’ve seen it on those trendy restaurant and bistro menus, you’ve seen it on that one chick’s foodie Instagram. But what the hell is it? Charcuterie itself refers to cold, cured meats. A charcuterie board, however, typically contains the meat along with cheese, bread and condiments. If you want to put together a good charcuterie board, put away everything you know. Unfortunately, this art form is surrounded by misinformation being spread through word of mouth and social media. A good charcuterie board is not measured by the amount of different ingredients on it or how many fruits and other condiments you have, but by the integrity of your meats. When building a board, my advice is to 26 MEAT YOUR MATCH
have at least three different cuts of meat, and plan for four to five ounces of charcuterie per guest. Three gives your guests enough to taste without overwhelming them and will keep your board simple and welcoming to newcomers. When throwing a larger party, I will expand to five, but it’s important to remember your audience: who’s eating this board? Are they charcuterie rookies or masters of the art of consumption? For a group who’s newer, I would stick with fewer, simpler meats like prosciutto or soppressata, but encourage you to get a little zestier with terrines or pâtés for a group who’s more experienced with charcuterie. When picking your meats it’s important that your board tells a story. Remember, this is an art form, people!
Let’s talk terminology: all charcuterie can be broken into two families, crudo, which is raw meat that’s been cured so it’s safe to eat, and cotto, cooked meat. Under those you have your sliced meats, like hams and bacons, and your unsliced hard meats like salami and sausage. Finally, you have your pâtés, terrines and rillettes. Pâtés are spreadable ground meats usually with liver, while terrines are sliceable cuts made of chunkier pieces.
Rillettes are shredded meats that can contain seasonings and other ingredients. Once you have a good understanding of each type of ingredient and how they go together, you can start assembling your board. If you’d like to give the official unofficial Mark Maddaloni Charcuterie Board a shot, here it is:
You have your basics on this board, but all-around delicious and fun options, as well. Your local cheese mongerer (cheese dealer for you pedestrians) will have more specific options depending on each type, but balancing your board with a firm, semifirm and soft cheese is a safe option. Don’t worry too much about finding a specific type of cheese, there are hundreds of variations, and what you can source depends on your location. Remember, the focus should be on the meats!
I like to keep my accoutrements simple: other than a few spreads, you don’t need to overdo it just for looks. Playing around with different fruits can be fun depending on your meats, but nothing beats a classic pairing. Trust your instincts and your meats, and don’t be afraid to experiment! Please just keep cucumbers off your board.
MEAT YOUR MATCH 27
t a i g l M ic i D ag HOW ME
BY MARY-BRYANT CHARLES PHOTOS BY COLEMAN ROJAHN DESIGN BY OLIVIA GRIFFIN
28 DIGITAL MAGIC
COM E TOGETHER
In all the old fairy tales, if you want to track down a witch there’s got to be some kind of ordeal. You need to climb up a tower or trek through a bog or wander through the shadows of some dark forest. These days, you just need to check the front page of TikTok. Keep scrolling and you’ll find some Wiccans, maybe even some Norse or Hellenic Pagans, ready and happy to walk you through all manner of spells, rites and rituals. I knew that trying to explore and understand this world as an outsider would be a massive challenge. Its very existence moves against a lot of what defines current culture: an emphasis on the technological, on the scientific, on the rejection of past traditions and superstitions. These, along with other ingrained cultural prejudices against paganism in general, pin to it a stigma that forces m a n y
practitioners into what many call “the broom closet.” Still, witchcraft and other paganismrelated content continues to pop up all over social media of all places, the epicenter of modern culture. It’s impossible not to wonder how all this talk of magic and ancient deities can exist like this in folds of the digital world. This culture is a vast one, so I knew I’d need some guidance starting my research. The first person I spoke with was Mycah Westhoff of @mymoonchild on TikTok. She’s been a practicing witch and Wiccan since 2015 and posts videos to her 18.6 thousand followers on a variety of topics relating to witchcraft. First, she provided me with this important distinction: paganism is a faith, witchcraft is an activity or lifestyle. They often intersect so they’re often grouped together, but neither is required to achieve the other. This creates a big challenge when it comes to studying modern witchcraft and paganism. Its history of suppression by imperialism and colonization means that what’s left of these cultures is very fragmented.
DIGITAL MAGIC 29
This places a heavy emphasis on finding and following your own path when it comes to your faith. Since witchcraft is a lifestyle, it can be fused with any religion or combination of them. There are Christian witches, NorseHellenic witches and more.“Witchcraft is all about your own power and taking that power back,” Mycah told me. “It’s tangible and selfreliant. It doesn’t require anyone but yourself and that’s huge in the world we live in.” Another barrier in understanding modern witchcraft and paganism comes from the obvious stigma attached to it. Aphrodite, a neo-pagan I spoke to over Reddit, can’t practice openly in their Catholic household because of this stigma. Beyond its negative connotation in many religious communities, witchcraft also suffers a bad reputation as a result of its portrayal in the media as something dark or evil. In reality, most witches like Aphrodite and Mycah follow or follow some form of the Wiccan Rede, a code that states “an it harm none, do what ye will.” You basically have the freedom to act as you will so long as it does no harm. In terms of uniformity, that’s about all you’ll find when it comes to witchcraft. In practice, it’s highly individualized to whatever witch you’re talking to. Some people practice it totally independent of any structured or organized religion.For example, Dee, who I also spoke to on Reddit, is a secular witch. For Dee, witchcraft is “cognitive behavioural therapy with a spiritual spin.” When I asked them for more explanation, they told me about a charm they made. “I etched a left hand on a piece of steel,” they told me. “The hand is a reference to the left hand path, choosing your own way in life. The charm has weight to it and I’m very aware of it because of that, so every time I’m reminded of my charm I’m reminded to take my own path in life.” With all the different ways witchcraft can be practiced, it’s easy to wonder how anyone can get a handle on it all. One way is to visit witchcraft blogs run by people like Josie Hellebore. She first started posting anonymously but now she’s the proud face of @hillcountybruja on Instagram, also writing for blogs like WitchSwap and Witch With Me. I asked her what she thought about the spike in interest around witchcraft on social media and what that meant for her as a content creator. “All in all, I see the rise of witchcraft in mainstream society as a positive thing,” she said. “I think that it is indicative of our society getting away from persecuting one another for beliefs that are different from our own.”
30 DIGITAL MAGIC
I asked her how someone new to the culture would go about learning theropes. “I see a lot of people using Google as a main reference source fortheir craft and I disagree with that strongly,” she said. She stresses the importance of resources like books on magical practice traditions and other members of the community. She herself hosts a video blog that goes on YouTube every other Sunday with the goal of providing knowledge and guidance to new witches like my friend, Alyssa Leigh-Willey. “For most of my life, I was on again, off again Christian,” she told me. She said that she struggled a lot with identifying with the faith and other Christians because of what she saw as rampant hypocrisy. “I saw people who would spew hate but believe they were righteous. I didn’t fit that mold.” She found her way into witchcraft starting about a year ago, learning about it through the guidance of a friend and a podcast called “This is Where the Magick Begins” (which she highly recommends). Since then, witchcraft has become a source of healing for her. She says it’s helped her navigate abuse, mental illness and more. “Witchcraft isn’t Satanic or selling your soul for power like most of us are taught,” she told me. “Witchcraft is utilizing the gifts that the earth has given us and the tools that surround us to advance our lives and others’.” It’s important to note that this, like any culture, is a world that goes far beyond what I can tell you here. I didn’t even get to what goes into making spells, what they believe about working with deities (yes, gods and goddesses) or how the witchcraft and pagan communities have become welcoming havens for LGBTQ+ people. But the proliferation of it as a culture in the age of social media carries an important lesson. It shows how short-sighted it is to dismiss our technological era as one that doesn’t want to have spirituality. It’s not spirituality or faith that’s dying, it’s outdated institutions and rigid power structures. As technology makes the world smaller, it’s also making it a lot bigger. It’s making it one of constant questioning, of nuance, of inquiry into and acceptance of the alternative. When you think about it like that, it’s no wonder paganism and witchcraft are able to thrive in the modern world in spite of its ancientness. It shows us that embracing change doesn’t result in the death of tradition. Sometimes, it can allow it to finally flourish.
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othersâ€? DIGITAL MAGIC 31
VA L E R I A , 2 1
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It was November. Late enough that the very eager were atop precarious ladders hanging boughs of lights, and early enough that the very dispassionate had a few more weeks of ignorant bliss before the scramble to buy gifts. The coffeehouse had, of course, been abuzz with workaholics on conference calls (black coffee, no sugar), burnt out teachers inching ever closer to their holiday (cappuccino, lots of sugar) and bubbly teenagers meeting to “work on a group project” (like, a frappé thing?). From overworked retail employees to underworked beneficiaries of nepotism, the sonorous siren of the espresso machine was a summoning of hope. In Chelsea, it was that season when the leaves of ginkgo, oak and maple trees whisked into a crisp sidewalk susurrus, which wasn’t subsequently slathered. From behind the counter, my view into the outside world was composed of two large windows on opposing sides of the entrance, where candlesticks slowly dissolved and dusty books lay halfread by those waiting for a friend to arrive. Sometimes, if the all armchairs were occupied by couples quietly scrawling, if the line was to the door, and if the warm steam from the espresso machine was great enough, the bottom third of these windows would steam up, just enough so passers-by were reduced to shoulders and hat-topped heads. On this day in late November, it was so, and just beyond the wispy coating on the glass, and between strokes of steamed milk on espresso, I saw the first drizzles of rain begin to smite the windows. Then there was a flicker: you question whether you blinked as a reflex to some gust of air or falling bit of dust. Another flicker, maybe this time you’ll ask for someone else’s evaluation. Third time’s the charm. As the bulbs began to shiver, it became undeniable. Faces looked up frantically mid-email, those by the glowing fire were hardly aware, and the air thickened with reverberations of panic, asking “will it really?”
34 COFFEE BREAK
With a sigh, the light was gone, save for the candles scattered amongst the windowsills, bookcases, and table-tops. But even with this, not a face was to be seen, the café was shrouded with a dark, heavy blanket, still warm from the dryer. The world outside the windows was no different: the newly hung Christmas lights were snuffed, skyscraper office windows went out like tiny campfire embers, and the headlights of cabs sat, nihilistically, at blacked-out traffic lights. Without the coffeehouse’s venerable wifi, Skype meetings were cut off, emails wouldn’t be sent, and everyone was scrambling to tell respective bosses that they may be a few minutes late. This was an interesting time to be a barista; though I blindly kept foaming milk and pumping syrups, the people in line were concerned with something other than how quickly I got them their coffee confections. Amidst the tangible micro-waves of panic emanating from the crowd, there began an after-wave of something much more peaceful. We were suspended in amber, a moment of pause. There was no pressure of self-presentation in that aquarium of darkness; Here, there were no meetings, presentations, deadlines, kids to pick up or debts to pay; there were only flickering candles in the sea of onyx, and the tacit belief in object permanence. For a dimly lit moment, we were there, in an intermission of life, existing. When the power crept back no more than ninety seconds later, so did each city slicker’s routine. Like paleolithic animals that archaeologists dig up, we, perfectly preserved, carried on. Though not a word was spoken during our time in the outage, everyone left the coffee shop that blustery morning a little more intimate with each other, like the darkness had told each of us a secret about the rest of humanity. Pouring foamy milk into the shape of a wispy, lopsided swan, I intended to keep it.
COFFEE BREAK 35
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The Return of
Stagbriar How a Columbia band is coming back, four years later
BY NICOLE KITCHENS • PHOTOS BY STAGBRIAR AND THOMAS HAMMOND • DESIGN BY MEAGAN HORRES
After a four-year hiatus, the secrecy surrounding Stagbriar’s upcoming album is key for Alex and Emily McCollum. But sitting outside of Drip Coffee, mulling through the recording process over a beer, we’ve arrived at a breach of security when I ask, “What do you want people to take away from this album?” “It’s hard to say too much without giving everything away,” Alex explains, leaning back in his chair while he searched for his words. “I want people to make their own assumptions,
I want it to mean something to somebody who listens to it in however way they decide to listen to it and I think saying too much is going to taint that.” “The cool thing is that we didn’t go in with the mindset of recording a certain record,” Emily says. “It’s the same thing that happened on the first record, where we had these ideas and you start to see a theme building and as you’re laying out the record you kind of go, ‘Oh shit. This all makes sense now.’ When THE RETURN OF STAGBRIAR 37
“When you line it up in the right way it starts at this place of question, and goes through stages of anger and acceptance and the ending is very reflective.” you line it up in the right way it starts at this place of question, and goes through stages of anger and acceptance and the ending is very reflective. I don’t want to akin it to the stages of grief,” he pauses, looking over at Emily. “But it does go through this weird self-realization of something…that you get to decide.” “We just try to be honest,” Emily sums it up. It’s a common theme throughout the interview that the McCollums finish each other’s sentences, glancing over at each other as though searching for the right phrase in the other’s mind. But what else would you expect from siblings? “Our relationship was just very typical, or maybe even atypical because we didn’t really hang out at all. Like, she ratted me out for things in high school all the time,” Alex laughs. “Very brother versus sister,” Emily smiles. “But we started playing music together and now we’re best friends. It’s been fun to catch up on that for the back half of our lives…or the second half…I don’t know what to call it,” Alex glances at Emily. “I hope it’s not the final half,” Emily interjects. Stagbriar came to formation during Emily’s freshman year at the University of South Carolina, when she asked Alex to play guitar on a follow up project to an EP she’d recorded in high school, which would go on to be Stagbriar’s first EP. “And we thought we were country,” Alex says. “God, we thought we were cool. We were gearing towards Americana. It was a very Nashville kind of sound in the beginning. We just thought we sounded pretty, so we went with that.” The new album, Suppose You Grow, came along after the band decided to take
38 RETURN OF STAGBRIAR
a step back from past material; while songs off of their first album, Quasi-Hymns, MurderBallads and Tales of How the Hero Died culminated in big, epic moments, the new material focuses mostly on hard-hitting lyrics and and an ambitious live sound. “My writing style started to be more heavily influenced by some female indie artists who were killing it,” Emily says, attributing her influences for songwriting to musicians like Lucy Dacus and Phoebe Bridgers. “I was just identifying with artists again for the first time in a while, which was cool.” “And a lot of the female indie role of being a badass played into the album. There are some lines that Emily gets on this record that are f***ing killer,” Alex continues. “I’ve been showing this record to friends and, like there’s one song in particular where there’s a really cool line and my friend’ll be like ‘Oh is that you playing that?’ and I’ll go ‘No, that’s Emily.’” It’s also worth noting the connection that the McCollums feel to the music scene of Columbia, having grown up going to shows at New Brookland since they were in high school, and playing shows with bands that they grew up admiring. “There’s a weird inherent magic to the way that this community tries to lift itself up and brag about its friends. Not only in a healthy way, sometimes it’s whatever, but it’s good. There’s a lot of that going on in this town, and people playing in friends’ bands, people trying to make sure other peoples music can happen,” Alex says. “I wouldn’t play music if it wasn’t for this city,” Emily explains. “There’s a lot more I could say, just the community that’s here, for me, is probably the reason I haven’t left Columbia. It’s something that took me time to realize it was special, but once I did I
THE RETURN OF STAGBRIAR 39
“They like to see friends succeed, which all of the above doesn’t happen in any other city.” special it was. They give a shit, and they give a shit about the right stuff, and they care about people. They like to see their friends succeed, which all of the above doesn’t happen in any other city.” Going back to the new album, they still won’t budge; when I ask about any specific songs that they hope resonate with listeners, or about the overall feel of the record, they remain hesitant to give too much away. “It’s something a little edgier, because we recorded the whole record live,” Alex says. “This live experience was really incredible, we recorded eight of the songs live and we recorded them in five hours. And we’d booked five days of recording, so we got there on day one and played th whole thing in five hours, and we were like, ‘Well, what do we do now?’” At the time of my interview with Emily and Alex, they had multiple gigs lined up that would’ve brought mass attention to Stagbriar; they were set to play the Five Points St. Patrick’s Day festival, as well as an opening slot for Charleston-based indie band Susto in April. Both shows were cancelled due to the Coronavirus outbreak, and Stagbriar reached out on social media to let their fans know that they would be distancing themselves by postponing practicing, songwriting and recording sessions to “do [their] part in flattening the curve and to help give doctors, nurses and healthcare workers a fighting chance.” It’s an unfair sight to see, when one of Columbia’s most revered local groups has their progress — especially in lieu of a brand new album release — stunted. Anyone can support artists from afar by listening to their records, purchasing merch from their online stores and spreading the word to friends, but it’s the experience of seeing a group like Stagbriar live that really hits home; powerful and striking, they leave the crowd feeling uplifted. But then again, what does anyone do during a time of crisis? I suppose we all grow.
Challenges You Choose EXPERIENCING THE TRAILBLAZE CHALLENGE
BY JESSICA FIELDS â€¢ ILLUSTRATIONS AND DESIGN BY ALIZAJANE HICKS
HOW TO 41 41 CHALLENGES YOU CHOOSE
Have you ever asked yourself the question: “what’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do?” I’m not talking about the hardest thing you’ve done of your own volition, or done because you hope that it will one day open up better opportunities for yourself, but rather something that you went through, something that was unavoidable. Personally, when I start reflecting on the concept of how much I could truly bear, what kinds of things I could actually get through with some measure of success, I end up slapping a mental barricade into place; I say to myself, well okay, I can handle difficult things, but it’s probably better to avoid thinking about that stuff until I have to. Underlying that thought is the idea that maybe if I were to pursue that road and realize that other people face the worst difficulties of life every day, then something would change about how I approach my own life, and that’s just too uncomfortable. When Michelle Rice and Jody Wilbanks were each faced with this line of internal
participants but leadership, he took up the mantle of organizing the entire challenge, a job that he has poured his energy into ever since. Michelle was right alongside Jody for every step of that first hike, and has continued on to co-lead the recruitment process and the challenge with him. When asked why they each commit their lives to Make-A-Wish, they each agreed that above all, once they “fell in love with the why,” then the rest of the effort and energy just followed. Jody says, “It’s difficult until you think about what the kids have to go through every day. Then it’s still hard, but it puts it into perspective. ”Both Michelle and Jody cited some of their favorite participants as continued sources of encouragement and inspiration as they coordinate the challenge each spring and fall. Bill, an early participant in the challenge, first joined the hike as a 76year old with health issues of his own. Not only did he complete every step of the hike, he far-and-away surpassed his fundraising goal, all without using social media, emails or
questioning, they each pursued it, leading to the creation of the Trailblaze Challenge, a fundraising event that raises money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The Foundation actively provides hope to South Carolinian children with terminal illnesses who need something to look forward to while in the pits of their treatments. Twice a year, Jody and Michelle run a circuit through the state conducting presentations, meetings and events in order to convince people to do something that may end up being the most difficult thing they ever do: hike 28.3 mountainous miles in one day, all in order to raise money and awareness for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Coupled with the rigorous training required to complete such a strenuous challenge, participants each must fundraise $2,500 for the Foundation, arguably the more difficult aspect of the experience for many. Jody got involved five years ago when he saw a billboard for the challenge; once he found out that the challenge not only needed
even a computer to seek out sponsors. Bill continues to complete the challenge every year, and is currently planning to take on his next challenge in fall 2020. Perhaps ranking as an all-time favorite participant was a young girl that took on the challenge as a way to bring her own experiences full circle. One day during her sixth grade recess, this girl realized that her vision was a little bit blurry; before she left the playground, she found herself permanently blind in both eyes. After receiving a Wish during her treatment process, she decided that she wanted to help fund hope for other kids as well. She and her service dog trained together for the entire16-week process. When the day of the hike arrived, the rain was so severe that the girl decided that, in Jody’s words, “it was too bad for her dog;” she then decided that instead, she would complete the entire challenge by hiking with her father, each of them holding a trekking pole between them as a guide.
HOW TO YOU CHOOSE 42 42 CHALLENGES
Both Jody and Michelle emphasize the idea that their job is to help anybody who catches onto the why with the how of raising money, training ahead of timeand completing the challenge. The pair is also involved in supporting Running Wild For Wishes, an associated program run by those who prefer running to hiking in order to raise money for Wish Kids. If you’re like me, these sorts of stories and opportunities elicit a variety of thoughts, including: “That seems impossible,” “That’s incredible – I want to do that” and “There’s definitely no way I could ever do something like that,” almost simultaneously. When I mentioned these reactions to Jody and Michelle, they both commented that for all the difficulty of the Trailblaze Challenge, it’s
nothing compared to what Wish Kids have to go through on a regular basis. When participants complete the challenge, it might be the hardest thing they ever have to do, but they doso out of their own desire and their own choice. When Wish Kids wake up in the morning, the sorts of challenges they face are unavoidable.What if this year, we tried to be the kinds of people that stop pushing aside challenges, situations and moments that make us think? I have a feeling that we would stop looking at things like hiking 28.3 miles in one day as something for other people to do while we watch from Instagram; I have a feeling that we would start thinking that doing hard things is worth it if it helps alleviate other people in the middle of their hard things. HOW TO 43 43 CHALLENGES YOU CHOOSE
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WHERE TO FIND
THE ARTS IN COLUMBIA
THIS SUMMER FINDING BEAUTY IN THE FAMOUSLY HOT CITY BY CASSIDY SPENCER PHOTOS BY ALEX WYATT DESIGN BY OLIVIA GRIFFIN
SUMMER ARTS 61
TAPP’S OUTPOST In Columbia, it can be easy to overlook the arts and arts-focused spaces in the face of other, more prominent cultural and social draws. Sporting events are often in the spotlight and, especially for students, life can gravitate more easily toward Universityled events. Columbia’s artistic environment, however, has been sprouting up and reaching for the sun tremendously in the past couple of years: growing successful followings behind events like Indie Grits, Columbia’s own film festival, and Girls Rock, a summer camp focused on providing musical outlets to young women. While UofSC offers a lovely plethora of opportunities for students to enrich their lives – here we have compiled a list of artsfocused, locally owned spots in Columbia to check out this summer, when university life is a little less alive and the city beckons instead.
Previously Tapp’s on Main, this new location of studio artists, vintage clothes resellers, and general all-around cool, talented people is a knockout for Columbia. Spearheading events already like liverecording sessions, photoshoots and cassette swaps, this spot is alwaysworth ducking into – whether for an event or not. The space is open most days even if you just would like to pop in, pick up some cool new threadsor make a few sweet connections.
THE NICKELODEON Within walking distance of campus, this independent theater space offers not only screenings of movies currently out – they also regularly organize themed screening nights, film showcases, special screenings of staff favorites, screenings accompanied by live performances. This space is enriched with art and with community, always worth checking out on any kind of day. (Maybe stop by Sweet Cream next door afterwards for a scoop of ice cream? What a summer day!
THE WHITE MULE Previously found on Main Street, The White Mule has settled now nicely into their Five Points location, conveniently right next to the new Tapp’s Outpost space. This local music venue is a great location to catch any kind of show and spend a night dancing. 62 SUMMER ARTS
THE COMEDY CLOSET The Comedy Closet is Columbiaâ€™s premiere comedy location. This inventive and lively space hosts traveling comedians, while also offering food, games and even a regular acoustic night. This space is welcoming and joyful, and maybe a space for any up-andcoming stand up comedians to try their hand in front of an audience?
NEW BROOKLAND TAVERN Another music venue, New Brookland Tavern offers a classically punk environment for music to ring out freely. Adorned fiercely by musical accoutrements through the ages (old posters, aging setlists and the like), New Brookland Tavern is the alive, loud, old standard that every city needs.
STORMWATER STUDIOS An early project in revitalization efforts of the InnoVista, Stormwater Studios began as a joint venture of the Columbia Development Corporation and the City of Columbia. The studio space itself is home to 10 local artists, while also being a gallery space for exhibitions. Giving Stormwater a like or follow couldnâ€™t hurt to stay updated on upcoming gallery events.
COLUMBIA MUSEUM OF ART As always, the CMA is home to so much heart and community. Not only a gallery space but also an event space with regular music and arts events (including the annual Citywide Record Swap), the Columbia Museum of Art is always worth a visit, not to mention $5 student admission!
SUMMER ARTS 63
The Biggest Little Bookstore The mind, hands and hustle building Odd Bird Books BY CAROLINE FAIREY • PHOTOS BY MARK MADDALONI • DESIGN BY MEAGAN HORRES
By this time, when you, the reader, hold this magazine in your hands, Odd Bird Books will have been open for more than three months. (This will remain technically true long into the future.) Chances are, you’ve heard about it, had friends visit, possibly even purchased a new book for yourself. And if you’ve stepped into Odd Bird, you’ve met Benjamin Adams, the owner and sole employee of Columbia’s newest and only independent bookstore. For almost a decade, Columbia’s Chamber of Commerce has been itching to attract a bookstore to the Midlands. (Ed’s Editions is in West Columbia, but they primarily specialize in antique and vintage books, which can make the selection a little pricier or esoteric for the average book buyer.) It seems to be the missing puzzle piece in our identity as an up-and-coming city: we have restaurants, coffee shops and breweries, rivers and woods and wetlands, even axe-throwing—but no community bookstore until now. The details of Adams’ story make for a perfect little soundbite: Born and raised in the Midlands, educated in Washington, D.C. and New York City, trained at Blue Bicycle Books in Charleston for several years before making the move back to his hometown. Listening to Adams speak, one might think that the stars themselves arranged for his arrival in Columbia. “The timing was dead-on, perfect—almost too perfect, since the day my lease ended in Charleston was the day this spot [in the Arcade Mall] opened up…I got the shelves finished the weekend before we opened; the varnish was still wet on them until two days before. Me and a buddy in Charleston built them and drove them up in a U-Haul, my dad and I did the floating shelves, and my sister designed the logo.” Instantly, walking into the 500 square feet space housing Odd Bird Books in the Arcade Mall, it feels like it’s captured this Instagram je ne sais quoi—the white cavernous ceilings, the wooden bookshelves and white paint, the colorful and modern books, seem to be selected with all the essentials in mind. But Adams himself doesn’t quite view it like this. “It didn’t come together until the very end. It wasn’t pre-planned at all. I’m wondering what came first. The bird, I don’t know…The name, though, I don’t completely remember where it came from. A friend helped me come up with the image and the typography. We did that before we opened, we designed the store organically or accidentally, whichever you prefer. I had to match everything to the shelves, and that’s due to my buddy trying to stain fairly inexpensive plywood, which is 64 THE BIGGEST LITTLE BOOKSTORE
“For almost a decade, Columbia’s Chamber of Commerce has been itching to attract a bookstore to the Midlands.”
hard to stain without being blotchy, so we had to get that first, and then I bought other stuff that matched this. “That’s all been kind of organic, trying to figure out what I can do on a shoestring budget that would look nice, that would look as good as [this place] does. There’s a lot of anxiety and pressure from myself about not a lot of money and not a lot of time to put something together that wouldn’t look completely amateurish.” Adams himself seems to have strong arguments against the inevitable anxiety that comes with starting a new business venture. While he feels at times that the entire endeavor hangs on a thread, he also rests securely in the knowledge that he is one of the best-suited individuals to head up a bookstore for Columbia. “I’ve worked at small mom-and-popsy bookstores. I understand that model, and how to be the only employee, which is essential for now with the shoestring budget. I know how to operate on the bare minimum—relatively no frills, doing most of the construction myself, relying a lot on friends and family, calling in all the favors, working a stupid amount of hours a day and days a week.” The selection at Odd Bird feels curated— only about two thousand books fit the custom shelves, so chances are, Adams
won’t have anything “in the back.” What you see is what you get. On his ideal selection of fiction, nonfiction, children’s books, and more, Adams says his ideal balance would be: “A third what I really love, because I want to love what’s in there, a third what I think is new or popular or reviewed well and then a third tailored very specifically to the community, stuff that might not do well in any other city in the world. That’s the part that takes time to feel out, not only the community but the physical store itself and its relationship to customers. That sounds a bit mystical, but I know from experience that it’s more art than science, that there will always be a chunk of sales that defy any particular logic.” This interview took place on the first Wednesday after Odd Bird opened. Adams instructed me to stop by around 5:30, since most shops in the Arcade Mall close at 5:00, and although he was trying to change that culture, he didn’t expect many customers to be stopping by. But after the first ten minutes, three separate groups of people wandered in, perusing the shelves seriously, and Adams requested that we pause so that he could talk to (and ring up) his new customers. So far, all signs point to success, and that Columbia residents have been long waiting for an establishment just like Odd Bird Books. But what happens after the media buzz dies down?
“In a town with a literary community as small as Columbia, each individual walking through the Arcade Mall might make a difference in Odd Bird’s future.”
“Sometimes I get super optimistic, that I can grow a lot, then I think it might be the dumbest idea, like a Titanic kind of idea, where ten years from now I’m like ‘why did I get greedy like that?’ Growing could be cool, but maybe this is the future of bookstores, because I’ve seen a lot of smaller bookstores, before I opened this, which encouraged me to think that this was a viable option.” This profile does have an imperative: support your local bookstore. Support Odd Bird Books. Or it might disappear on the same whirlwind it caught into town. In a town with a literary community as small as Columbia, each individual walking through the Arcade Mall might make a difference in Odd Bird’s future. In Adams’ view, nothing is certain. He feels lucky to have made it this far. “My pie-in-the-sky, ten-year plan is to have a sign hanging over the door. I’m just taking it one day at a time.”
66 THE BIGGEST LITTLE BOOKSTORE
CHANGE OF WEATHER 67 BY CAROLINE FAIREY â€¢ ILLUSTRATION BY MEREDITH PRICE
How inward transformation can create global healing BY TAYLOR JENNINGS-BROWN â€˘ DESIGN BY EMILY SCHOONOVER
During this pause, I have done my fair share of Netflix and chilling, TikTok surfing, Instagram stalking, at-home workouts and whatever else to keep me from being disheartened by all the current pain and confusion in the world. I have also done a lot of thinking and processing. Particularly about the idea of normalcy. A lack of normalcy often causes panic and distress, while too much of it can drive someone mad with mundaneness. When it comes to normalcy, I have also noticed how malleable it can be. I went for a walk the other day for some fresh air and a lady passing by on the sidewalk moved a few feet off of the pavement into the grass to avoid contact. My natural reaction would have been offense just a month ago, but in this new age of COVID-19 and social distancing, her instinctive move was very considerate and much appreciated. After the second passerby almost fell off the curb into the road to avoid breathing the same air as me, it was almost without thinking that I followed suit and moved to the furthest edge of the pavement when passing a third woman on my walk. The same day my mom ordered a pizza and to her initial surprise she opened the door and the pizza was on the ground with no deliverer in sight. She then saw the deliverer off in the distance as she greeted my mom from afar. My mom laughed in light shock but quickly realized that the deliverer was following the new normative code. How quickly our sense of normalcy has changed. We truly are adaptable creatures. Just a little over a week ago I was in disbelief that something like this was happening during my lifetime but now it has slowly become a new normal
68 A NEW NORMAL
and I often wonder if we will ever return to the way life was before or if we even should. For those of us who have the luxury of being healthy and having our primary concern be when we will return to our daily routines, if our summer plans will be canceled or if our expensive vacations will still be possible; our main goal is to return to some form of normalcy. We simply want this to all blow over sooner rather than later because what a great inconvenience it is for us to have to stay in our well-furnished homes, with our fridges full, our lights on and enough money to sustain a decent life even in the face of a shutdown. We want things to be normal. But what is normal? Well, poverty is normal. Systemic racism is normal. Being overly consumed in our own lives is normal. Putting ourselves before everyone and only doing what benefits us is normal. Degrading our collective home and leaving future generations to deal with the costly global repercussions is normal. It is normal in our society to be takers rather than givers. Even our most altruistic deeds serve to placate our guilt from these societal norms. It is normal for world leaders to teach hate and intolerance. And this is what we so badly want to return to. Normal. And then it occurred to me, â€œwhat a shame it would be to have gone through all of this chaos to just go back to normal.â€? I am very uncertain about many things but I certainly hope that transformation would take place globally, but especially here within the United States. I really hope that this forced social distancing, quarantining and shutdowns
will teach us more than, “live in the moment.” Although that is a valuable lesson to be learned, if it is the only one we learn, it would be a sad case. I hope this isn’t all for nothing. That lives weren’t lost, livelihoods weren’t ruined, mental and emotional states weren’t strained and pushed for us to return to the “normal.” In the past month, we have had our selfish veils of oblivion unrepentantly ripped off right before our eyes. I hope this pandemic opens all of our eyes to the interconnectivity of self. Of selves. We can no longer attempt to live in a vacuum, isolated from the world, motivated solely by personal gain. If we do we’ll find ourselves again in another global crisis. What if I told you that we should be professionals at handling a pandemic. That COVID-19 is one of many pandemics we’ve been living with in this country. Poverty, violence, brutality, institutionalized racism and sexism, faulty justice systems, education systems that continually marginalize marginalized children. The list goes on. The most pervasive and widespread contagion this world has been facing since its creation is that of apathy. A lack of concern, a lack of understanding and a lack of acceptance — not just tolerance. We’ve been sick as a whole for far too long and the universe is forcing selfhealing to occur. We are being placed in a global timeout to reflect and realign. When we refuse to pause our lives and follow a guideline as simple as staying home, in spite of seeing the death tolls, the pain of burying loved ones, the stress of medical professionals and all essential workers risking their lives,
because we can not directly see the effects in our personal lives, that is when we should all agree that we’ve reached a frightening point of self-destruction. This is our intervention and we may not have many more. Earth is crying out for her lost children and her depleted resources. She can not bear the continuation of the physical and psychological trauma of all the creatures within her boughs. The sum of each part makes the whole. If one of us is broken we are all broken, so, it is time to heal. Who knows how the relevance of this piece of writing will have shifted by the time you, the audience, actually reads it. Maybe (hopefully), the COVID-19 crisis will be a feat of the past and we will be strong in recovery. Maybe not. What I do know is that the healing that has been initiated with the spread of this virus must continue. Healing is not a one and done box to fill out on our daily checklist. Healing is continuous, and I hope that we will forever continue to heal ourselves, each other and in turn, the world. So maybe we don’t return to normal. Maybe the old is passed away and the new has come. If that is the case, I don’t want to be handed a new normal where the physical action of social distancing on a sidewalk or on a food delivery run transcends into our hearts for others. If our normal is to be adjusted, I want to create a whole new normal. A normal that is kind to others, that is slow to anger and quick to understand. Where it is not the exception to teach and reinforce love, acceptance, humility, peace and rest. I hope that we do not just push to end this, but that we push ourselves to be transformed through this.
A NEW NORMAL 69
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