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Summer Issue 2021

Editor's Letter

By Delainey Bowers

There are few things more southern than the scream of a cicada. 

Our beloved Brood X burst forth from the ground in biblical proportions this past spring, the cacophony of sound still buzzing in the back of your teeth. They’ve left their molted exoskeletons in bushes and garden beds, in cracks near window sills, a handful floating quietly in outdoor dog bowls—the smallest of lazy rivers. 

Perhaps you’ve picked them up and rattled them loosely in your hands. I won’t judge those of you who’ve listened for the satisfying crunch beneath your shoe. Or, if you’re anything like my next door neighbor, there’s a chance you’ve enjoyed them as a crispy mid-afternoon snack courtesy of your newly purchased Air Fryer. Foodways, right?

Since 2004, billions (and some scientists venture to guess even trillions) of cicadas have been nourished by the soil encasing their bodies. Subsisting on nutrients from nearby roots, these nymphs, compelled by rising temperatures, begin to tunnel their way to Earth’s surface. Entomologists postulate that internal molecular clocks tick away the years, making note of sap cycles. Maybe there’s magic in that, too. But once cicadas emerge from their loamy depths, their life cycle embodies an age-old “live fast, die young” attitude. Wings are sprouted, mates are wooed, eggs are laid, and then it’s over. A month of incessant hollering and new brood buried deep.

Much like those cicadas, each of this issue’s contributors has a profound connection to traditions formed underground and made visible through patience and hard work. Clay extracted from the earth is shaped into meaningful forms by a skilled potter’s hand in Laura Beth Fox-Ezell’s written article. Tyler McDaniel explores the seemingly alchemical process of turning maple tree sap into thick, sweet syrup in his short film about Keegan McGee and Turtleback Ridge Farms. Finally, the foundations of State Street Baptist Church are built firmly on cherished Black traditions as Lamont Pearley discovers in the first episode of his podcast series. 

There is, undoubtedly, an extended metaphor waiting to be written about the parallels between folklife and dirt. The never-ending layers, the organic composition, its fundamental existence for growth and the continuation of life. It’s all there, I’m sure. But before we dive into the fountain of overworked comparisons, let’s take the time to get our feet a little dirty. Our third issue is here, and it’s a scream. Enjoy.

Warmly,

Delainey Bowers, Editor in Chief