Letter from the Editors

Letter from the Editors
by Perry Dougherty, Nadia Colburn, and Elissa Melaragno

It is odd how themes for each of our issues tend to emerge towards the end of our process, seemingly without much intention. In this issue, we explore the theme of sacred ground. 

Actually, the question of what is sacred ground is fascinating and deeply relevant. 

There are the holy lands of religious sites and burial grounds. There is the sacredness of nature, of Mother Earth, and of Indigenous territories. And there is also the sacred ground of Being, of beliefs and values in action, and of relationship.

We believe that one of the most beautiful ways to resist in the face of oppressive structures and forces is to define for one’s self what is sacred and to act from that ground. To do so requires us each to give voice to that which most real, most essential, and most true in our lives and our environments. Just considering what is important in this way slows us down a notch.

It is in the slowing down that we can become aware of the clutter that occupies our minds, our relationships, our communities and organizations, and our environments. The gift of becoming aware of the clutter is that we can then choose to focus elsewhere. When we have defined what is sacred, we know where to turn our attention; we can enter the chaos of the world around us from a centered place that sustains and nourishes us; we can speak truth to power without being crippled by fear; we can resist oppression and still love ourselves and others in the process. When we have rooted ourselves in what is sacred, the ground is solid under us.

In this issue, the theme of sacred ground is captured beautifully throughout the essays, articles, fine art, poems, and interviews. Perhaps most poignantly, Harvey Halpern’s photographs of Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument remind us that our home, Mother Earth, is the most sacred of grounds we need to protect. This lesson is echoed and expanded upon in the Reverend Chelsea MacMillan’s reflection, “Living Prayer at Standing Rock,” in which she reveals her discovery of the importance of embodied prayer on an activist pilgrimage to Standing Rock, North Dakota where she joined the Lakota Sioux at the Oceti Sakowin Camp in protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline.

In her short story, Sophie Goldstein paints a beautiful picture of the way a soup kitchen—the Garden—becomes sacred ground of refuge and connection for the homeless men and women served as well as for the volunteers and community members serving them. John and Caroline Rufo share their story as a couple who support one another in life and in art making, illustrating the holy ground of relationship. Teresa Janssen, in her essay, “Learning from Doves,” offers us a perspective on how teaching the sacred ground of peacemaking and reconciliation may help our society avoid repeating the patterns of violence throughout history over and over again.

We can go on—Tami Simon shares her wisdom on how to hold the sacred value of integrity in business, intimacy, and relationship with her true self; Camille Dungy reflects upon the sacred ground of identity, faith, and her wildflower garden; Nadia profiles JP Sears, who uses his comedy to teach the sacred nature of authenticity and self-discovery; Jana Amsellem shares about how her family sought out a sacred place to experiment in real community living; Dr. Judith Orloff shares how empathy can be sacred ground for healing; and Tina FireWolf calls on us to remember the sacred that is within. 

And there are even more poets, artists, and writers who have contributed to this issue. Together, these pages form a meditation on finding sacred ground in a time of unsteadiness, chaos, reactivity, and shallowness.

So, take your time and enjoy the pieces fully. As you do so, we hope you’ll ask yourself, “What is sacred to me?” 

In peace and with love,
Perry, Elissa, and Nadia