I fell in love with this issue of Ecotone at founding editor David Gessner's first mention of John Hay, one of my favorite nature writers. The issue proceeded to draw me in further and further, as I accompanied Poe Ballantine during his down-and-out struggles in Hope, Arkansas; drifted through former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins' dreamy poems; mired myself in Stephanie Soileau's tale of two siblings, each stuck in a different rut; and stared transfixed at Magdalena Solé's color photos of the Mississippi Delta. Next I floated above a poignant slice of childhood from Nancy Hale and stood by Joe Wilkins as he sent boys still short of manhood into a dark bar, following childish desires and finding much more. From there I traced Peter Trachtenberg's enchanting map of his cats' forays into the outside world, saluted Sam Pickering as he said goodbye to teaching, and in the final pages unsettled myself outside a remote cabin spun out of Kevin Wilson's chilling words.
There were also two familiar surprises in here for me. The first was John Porcellino's comic “Christmas Eve.” I've been following John's work for years, trading my own zine for his long-running King Cat Comics & Stories over the course of the last decade. It's always a pleasure to discover his work in a new and unexpected venue. The second surprise was Kimberly Meyer's essay “Holy City of the Wichitas,” about the site of America's longest continuously running outdoor Passion play. For some time, I lived in North Texas, about an hour south of this place. I traveled up to the area on occasion to hike and explore what passes for mountains in those flat parts of the country. When I first walked through the Holy City, it felt like I was passing into another time and place. I had no context for this unusual place, having stumbled across it while investigating the wildlife refuge it sits within, marveling at the bison, longhorns, and the roadside prairie dog town. I remember entering the Holy City’s little gift shop in a daze, a surreal experience unto itself. I left Oklahoma that day still not quite sure what I had observed. Years later, I am grateful to Kimberly for penning her extraordinary account of the history not only of the Holy City, but of the sacred Indian land upon which it stands. She touches on the many complex socio-cultural and religious facets of this unusual American landmark.
For anyone who has not encountered Ecotone before, I strongly encourage you to seek out this journal that has taken “reimagining place” as its call to arms. I know that I will be visiting again.