Sisterhood









Sister—someone on whom you can lean, someone with whom you can share problems. Someone who witnesses you through the light and shadows. The yin to your yang.
In collaboration with Alice McCall, we celebrate the joy of sisterhood and the greatest fuel behind our creative collaboration. Captured in our beach backyard in Northern Sydney, this story is a poetic dialogue of our dynamic as a duo, the landscape of motherland Australia, and a thousand splendid suns. 
Being three years apart and working together as a photographer duo wonʼt stop us from being each otherʼs best friend. We know each other by heart and finish each otherʼs sentences with just a blink of an eye (or a burst of laughter).
“We’ve moved around between cities, but our creative process stays the same. I might come up with an idea and then Sally makes a sketch that develops it further. Or vice versa. We’re equally involved in every project, and our sisterhood impacts our work massively.” - Emily May
"Our differences are very subtle and might only be obvious to us. Creatively, I find myself more spontaneous, and Emily is more of an observer. We don’t necessarily always agree, but it does work. Most times, we finish each other’s sentences, which is a balanced process." - Sally Ann


Creative Direction & Photography by Sally Ann and Emily May
Wardrobe by Alice McCall 

An Open Letter to Esther Greenwood


Dear Ms. Esther Greenwood,

I’m not exactly sure why I’m so fascinated by your story. My mother calls The Bell Jar a morbid novel; I see it as a hopeful one. It’s now been two years since I first encountered the book in which you reside, and I can’t get your words out of my mind. At the time of my first reading, I was an over-enthusiastic fourteen-year-old eager to get my hands on something by the Sylvia Plath, though, frankly, I feared The Bell Jar at first. I’d bought it vowing to begin reading immediately, yet I let it collect dust on my shelf, captivating and repelling me. Everything about The Bell Jar attracted me—the cover, the synopsis, the story a mirror of Sylvia Plath’s life, and still, I couldn’t will myself to begin. Even now, I don’t know when I decided was the right time to read The Bell Jar, but once I started, I couldn’t stop. 

Once I felt ready for it, I read your story in a day, Esther. Your poetic language fluttered through my mind for weeks afterward, and even now I quote The Bell Jar in my mind from time to time. I was proud that I’d read your story, and I was even prouder that it hadn’t changed me. The Bell Jar hadn’t thrust me into melancholy as I was secretly afraid it would. I thought my relationship with The Bell Jar was going to end when I shut the back cover, but I was wrong. The more I pondered your story, Esther, the more I saw myself in you. You were the extraordinary writer, a girl acclaimed for all that she’d accomplished in her youth. You’d been flown out to New York City (the city of my dreams), and while you were supposed to have the time of your life, you never felt more lost than you did that summer. Your accolades and aspirations reminded me of the very ones I wanted to attain, or had begun to already, and your sense of hopelessness inspired fear within me. I wondered—what if I ended up like you, washed up and burnt out after years of opportunity and success? 

I tried to pry my mind away from our similarities. I tried to jump into my next summer novel and find myself in that one, too. Unfortunately, Frankenstein doesn’t have the same space for modern comparisons, so my mind floated back under the bell jar as I continued to think about you. I know how you feel sometimes, Esther. I’m not sure I will ever get how it feels to seal myself away underground, dejected and refusing life, but I understand what it’s like to feel forced to know who I am (and inevitably realize I have no idea). Who do you want to be, Esther?  A botanist, an editor, a fiction writer? It comes down to the endless struggle of not knowing who “Esther Greenwood” is at all. The scene from your story that sticks out the most to me, Esther, is the one in which you’re sitting to have your photo taken at the end of the summer and are asked what you want to be. You decide you want to be a poet, but you begin to cry. The weight of expectation—the weight of having to know—has crushed me too, Esther, it really has.

After mulling over the things we have in common and sleeping through Frankenstein, I decided that I wanted to find meaning in your story one last time before I moved on. I didn’t want my lasting memories of The Bell Jar to be depressed and upset, because the novel does end on a hopeful note for me. Yes, you speak of the possibility of the suffocating bell jar falling back over your head, and yes, you go through so much in order to recover, but ultimately, you do recover, Esther. You find your way out from under the bell jar, and, to use your phrasing, are “born twice—patched, retreaded, and approved for the road.” There’s hope at the end of your story, and that’s what I remember most of all from The Bell Jar. That is the lesson I decide to take away from what you went through, that is the lesson I find and keep every time I read your account, and that is enough to keep me going on the days when I feel like I can’t. 

So what is it exactly that I’m trying to say to you, Esther? I suppose it’s a thank you, for being so memorable and like myself, but also for giving me hope as I continue to find my place in the world. I want to keep your story in mind as I navigate adolescence and birth into the adult world. I want to remember that, even when sealed under the bell jar, there’s a way out. I want to be patient with myself and kind to others. I want to listen to myself and others, because sometimes it is your own silence that’s in need of alleviating. So thank you, Esther Greenwood, for being lost and found and reborn in the space of 244 pages. You and your story are as constant in my mind as the brag of my old heart: I am, I am, I am.


By Sophia Moore

Strung Along: How We Separated Our Dreams from Our Families’

At the end of my first day of kindergarten, my mother had to drag me out as I kicked and screamed. I soon calmed down and agreed to leave when she told me I could return the next day.


My first great love might not have been what I expected, but it was one that lasted. I’ve been in a relationship with education since I was five; I’m now 20, and our relationship has yet to fizzle. Even the pursuit of collegiate education can’t dim our flame in the slightest.


I’ve always wanted to go to college, thanks to movies like The House Bunny and Pitch Perfect. There, I imagined, I could construct my own identity. College would be my ticket to self-expression, something I felt like I couldn’t really explore from the confinement of my childhood home. There, I was limited to my childhood bedroom—walls dotted in Christmas lights, plentiful pop-punk posters, names written in Sharpie on the side of my closet. In a lot of ways, my room was my safe haven, free of any public judgment. But I knew I had to step out of it.


The first step happened over dinner during my junior year of high school, I casually announced to my family my desire to study journalism and new media. I even offered a list of schools in Europe and on the East Coast. This news happened to coincide with my older cousins receiving their acceptances to top universities in Taiwan for law and medical programs. Needless to say, I was scoffed at by most of my extended family. I was being unrealistic and ungrateful, doing the unthinkable. Wanting to become a journalist already screamed unemployment to them, but studying new media? What did that even mean? I was aiming for something unprecedented, launching myself into uncertainty. 


I constantly felt pressured to succeed academically and see others as competitors. To my loved ones, only good grades and a good job would bring honor to the family. Thanks to this, I felt like I was working toward someone else’s goals—not my own. I was very headstrong in high school (and still am) and ultimately stuck with my own goals, but I still found myself often feeling guilty for following my passion. Before I left for college, I had countless conversations with my parents about all the complicated feelings I was experiencing. Fortunately, they gave me their full and unconditional support; I was told if I stayed grounded and worked hard, it would all be worth it in the end. 


Neither of my parents went to college, so I had very little guidance on where to apply. Although they weren’t particularly fond of my chosen path, they were glad I’d found something I was passionate about; they made a point to tell me I should take advantage of the opportunities and privileges I’d been given. To the rest of my family, though, my choice was a waste of resources and something that could have just been a hobby. I had endless debates on my major and whether I should even go to college. Despite these hour-long conversations, I ultimately decided it was my dream—not anyone else’s. Even though my extended family might have had my best interest in mind, it was still my future. I was determined to become a writer, and nothing anyone could say would change that. I ended up committing to the University of Amsterdam to study Media and Information, and I also chose to keep up with my journalistic practices with Lithium.


I grew up feeling like a puppet being strung along to live out someone else’s expectations. Growing up as the youngest out of 11 grandkids, I’ve always had big shoes to fill. We weren't encouraged to chase after big, empty dreams, but concrete, realistic goals. While other kids aimed to become astronauts and rock stars, I simply wanted a 9-5. I wanted what my father had, showing up every day to do my part, steadily rise up the corporate ladder, arriving home at 7 pm every night and a family waiting for me,  a stabled routine engrained. I felt like I could have it all with a 9-5.


So when I got to college, I felt lost. I’d never had so much freedom in my hands—I felt free, but I also realized my expectations had been quixotic. I actually felt cheated by my made-up idea of the college experience, as I was expecting what I’d watched countless college YouTubers praising—an eye-opening first year filled with self-exploration. Instead, I repeatedly found myself stumbling. I was embarrassed by my incompetence and felt crushed by my inability, but I managed to learn from it. By openly talking and writing down my experiences, I could pick it apart to see what went wrong and what could be down differently, and I adapt these to make my college experience better.


Separating your dream from your family’s is terrifying. There is no way around it. Especially if you come from a big family, it often feels like you’re carrying generations of expectations, hope, and the consequent disappointment on your back. I spent so much time walking on eggshells, avoiding being honest and direct with them because I was scared of what they would say. In the end, if I never broke free of that shell with the little courage I had, my dream would stay just a dream, and could never become a reality. As of now, I am studying at a school of my dreams, in an academically renowned program and actively working towards a career prospect. It may be different that what others and I have expected, but it is exactly where I wanted to end up.
I was raised with both Korean and American influences. I was Americanized, but not without Asian values. I grew up watching American movies, but I didn’t get to experience anything like a typical high school party until I went to college. While other kids my age snuck out of their homes and stayed out late partying, my parents made me come home by 9.


Still, compared to a lot of other Asian families, I was lucky in that my parents never forced me to live out their dreams and become a doctor or lawyer. (That more so came from my grandparents.)

Even now, when I tell my grandparents I’m studying education, they urge me to go to law school. I spent a long time trying to convince myself that I could pursue medical school, but it didn’t last—my love for art became even stronger.


I struggle between satisfying my family’s desires and pursuing my own. They’ve sacrificed a lot for me to have reached this point, so at the very least, I owe it to them to do my best and succeed academically. But at what point do I stop living my life for them and instead do it for myself?


At this point, I’m just grateful that my parents support me in my endeavors. I still get pushback from time to time, but in the end, they really advocate for my education. And I know I’m very privileged to have that.


By Wen Hsiao
Illustrated by Hannah Kang

When My Art Style Became Static, I Did Too


Every creator has a unique style. Sir John Everett Millais was a Pre-Raphaelite with a flare for dark scenes that often included Jesus, fainting ladies, or the occasional phallic object. Salvador Dali had his surrealist landscapes and melting objects, with his realistic techniques that often defied physics. Donna Tartt has her unusually long descriptions of antique stores, which can be found in her sprawling novels, along with her unique neo-romantic prose. Rupi Kaur, though often the butt of many satirical tweets, is distinguished by her choppy poems and artsy analogies, which have nurtured the whitewashed Art Hoe movement and often compare heartbreak to sunflowers.
You can tell a painting is a Monet by his vague depictions of what you must assume to be beautiful scenery along with those muted, splotchy colors. You can spot a Van Gogh from practically a mile away. Oscar Wilde wouldn’t be Oscar Wilde without having his character fling himself onto a divan every other page, and Gillian Flynn wouldn’t be Gillian Flynn without writing about her murderous housewives gone rogue. Their styles are, in fact, what make their art and writing stand out from all other creators’. A style isn’t just what sets their creation apart, though—it’s their preferred technique and favored subject. 
This I knew, and took way too seriously. I had cartoonish sketches from which I never strayed; I’d fallen into a habit of rarely venturing away from portraits; I steered clear of realism for the most part. My writing was strictly comprised of short poems and short stories, as I’d deemed novels and essays art forms I was just not supposed to create. I felt like they didn’t fit my “style,” so to create such things would be pointless and detrimental to my said style. I reached a point where I felt like I was repeating the same styles, looks, and formats over, and over, and over.
TLDR: I was in a rut. I’d limited myself to what I thought was my style. Really, though, I was limiting myself to what I believed to be my maximum capacity as an artist and writer. I assumed I wasn’t cut out for serious writing or realistic art, since everything I associated with my “style” was childish and amateur. I continued using 99-cent acrylic paint that was thinner than water, and I continued writing scraps of poetry on Word documents I never saved. Sometimes I’d subconsciously sketch a face or continue a story for more than 500 words, and I’d be terrified. I was so afraid of these changes that I stopped creating altogether. 
I didn’t draw for months, nor did I pick up a paintbrush. I went a year without opening a Word document. Everything I’d created contradicted everything I previously believed my art style to be. I was so scared to change and venture into new art forms that I was hindering my own progress. How could I expect myself to grow as an artist when I was repeating the same methods over and over again? What else is there to do when you’ve already mastered your own technique?
The day I painted with oil paints for the first time was the day I fell out of my rut. Before then, I’d only used markers and low-quality acrylics. I painted a realistic portrait, and I was actually shocked by my own ability. I thought, “How did I not know I was actually good at this—at art?” Then the answer dawned on me: I wasn’t allowing myself to try new things! I’d been torn up for months, thinking I was burnt out or just talentless. But in reality, my style had been forced—unbearably confined. 
Now I finally feel secure in my art, and because of that, am unafraid. Last week, I had no problem picking up a calligraphy pen. Turns out I’m not half bad at that either. But I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t tried, right? People change, and it’s only fair that their art should change with them. I now feel like I can actually deem myself an artist—and write like the Founding Fathers.
Around the time I picked up my paintbrushes again, I also applied to my first online magazine with no prior writing experience other than untouched short stories. I had absolutely no experience in writing non-fiction (except a few political Tumblr rants, of course) or anything that exceeded a thousand words. To my surprise, I was a staff writer within a month. What I never imagined being a possibility for myself was suddenly a reality. I felt like an actual writer for the first time in my life. Now, my word counts exceed fifty thousand and my articles reach readers across the globe. That’s more my style, personally. I never thought I could actually be confident in my work, but I’m no longer afraid of writing longer pieces or sharing them. Insecurity is no longer my style—in art, writing, or life.
It took me months to realize what I believed to be my art style was actually accumulated self-doubt. I was so afraid to try new things because I was under the impression that I would inherently be unskilled in them, and that I would abandon my previous artistic image. When I finally ventured out into new practices, though, I discovered totally new, revelatory skills. The moment I accepted change as an artist, writer, and person, I gained knowledge I’d cut myself off from. While a style is something that can set a creator apart from all others, it can also become an impediment if it fails to ever change or grow. We must not be afraid of said change either, not if we want to improve or grow. Rather than perfecting our most familiar methods, we should attempt the terrifying and the ambitious—we should reinvent ourselves constantly. We should do anything except stay still—except remain static—as creators.

By Mary Dodys

Faith in Flux: An Indie Playlist


Deliberating over the concept of religion is something that feels especially salient as a teenager and young adult. Whether you grew up in a family where faith was a cornerstone or one where it was unimportant, yearning to understand the meaning behind your upbringing is a common and pivotal experience.

It’s natural to reevaluate the beliefs you were raised with while on the verge of adulthood. And despite the sometimes frustrating nature of dissecting equivocal yet familiar perspectives, it’s gratifying to take a deeper look at what lies underneath it all.

Deciphering what faith means to you—or determining if it means anything to you—often feels like sprinting toward the horizon and never getting any closer. But instead of stopping, the artists in this playlist continue running anyways. They detail their relationship with religion in touching and creative ways, aware that the process will be continual and ever-changing.  

I hope you all identify with something in these songs—or in the compelling, diverse histories of the artists—that will carry you forward on your own journeys.



Adrianne Lenker, the frontwoman of Big Thief, has a resilience and ethereal nature that permeates all of her music. Her childhood was tumultuous, spent in an Indiana religious cult for many of her early years. Lenker describes her fluctuating outlook on this early period of her life, saying, “[My perspective on the cult] is growing all the time. As a kid, I just saw it as a cult and that’s what I called it, and that’s what my parents called it for a while too. Now I’m like, ‘OK, they were in this community of religious people, and perhaps it was a bit brainwashing, but we’re all brainwashed and using Apple products. That’s kind of a cult. What is a cult? What’s the difference between a church and a cult? What defines it? I don’t know.”

And although she doesn’t have a concrete answer to that complex question, “Mary” is a nudge in the right direction. Lenker’s songs often follow a pattern of transfiguring mundane moments into spiritual ones, with lyrics that sound as meditative and rhythmic as prayer: “Oh and, heavens, when you looked at me / Your eyes were like machinery / Your hands were making artifacts in the corner of my mind.” Her music is proof that if you look in the right places, the smallest moments—and the people with whom you share them—can prove to be the most soothing form of spiritual fulfillment.



Mindy Gledhill is an indie-pop artist from Provo, Utah whose voice will “leave you floating like cream in a cup of tea.” But despite Gledhill’s charming voice and tender persona, her recent songs allude to darker subjects, like freeing herself from the mental stronghold of Mormonism. Gledhill’s family and much of the Provo community she resides in are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—an environment in which she was entrenched while growing up.  

Gledhill began her singing career as a strictly Mormon artist in 2007, but is no longer a member of the church. Her newest album, Rabbit Hole, addresses the backlash she received as a public figure who denounced the religion, and the lyrics of “Wandering Souls” unlock the painful truths of this experience: “Existential questions like a flame in the night / Keeping me awake with tears that burn like a fire / And I'm getting to the point of feeling overly tired / Of the people who say, ‘You've gone astray.’”



While the majority of Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna’s lyrics don’t reference her experience being Muslim, her religion is a topic that arises in nearly every interview she does. Yuna doesn’t mind, though, and prides herself on being transparent about her faith without centering it as a prominent aspect of her public persona or music career. In an interview with NPR, she said, “When I first started playing music, I was already covered...wearing headscarves. And, like, normally, people would expect you to change, toss this part of your life away so that you could be a pop star… I'm a Muslim. I don't try to hide it. I'm also a girl who loves music. And I don't try to hide that as well.” Fundamentally, “Lights and Camera” is a musical expression of that exact sentiment—detailing what it feels like to overcome ostracism, strive for authenticity, and maintain ownership of various facets of her identity.



Haley Heynderickx is a quirky, observant folk singer who masterfully transforms ambiguous concepts into tangible, honest art. She grew up in a religious Filipino-American family, and her childhood inspired a flood of thoughts about what it means to procure your own version of God. Challenging the restrictive perception of God as an old, bearded man, Heynderickx parses the different aesthetics and qualities assumed by the deities of her making: “Or maybe my god / Has thick hips and big lips / And the buttons she’s pressing / She speaks every language.”

“Untitled God Song” is unique in its intention, giving individuals the insight they need to craft their faith into something that feels accessible to them. Heynderickx says she hopes that “Untitled God Song” provokes “ideas and conversations about God—some kind of curiosity—whether you believe that It exists or doesn’t. It’s a fun thing to poke around. We’ve got free time.” 



Regina Spektor’s talent for inquisitive observation shines in “Laughing With,” where she tackles the paradoxical nature of many people’s relationship with religion—asking for salvation during difficult times, yet making jokes at God’s expense during dinner parties. What appears to be her frustration with this occurrence makes perfect sense, given her upbringing. As a Jewish woman who immigrated to the United States from Russia as a child, religion is a grounding force that Spektor holds in high regard and appreciation. But if you listen to the song from beginning to end, you’ll be struck with a pleasant and surprising lyrical conclusion. With detail, a healthy dose of sarcasm, and above all, class, Spektor brings a considerate, nuanced perspective to the table.


By Avery Matteo

Death, Rings, and 12th-Century Churches


When my grandpa sits me down next to the chessboard where I’ve still yet to beat him and gives me his annual talk about all the ways in which we are oh so similar, I decide that this year his voice sounds like the leaves. And by that I mean there’s something falling in his words. It’s September now, and in one month he will be dead. 

I don’t know that yet, and I of course don’t know many things about things that are soon to come. In two months I’ll have my first kiss, in three I’ll see all my cousins for the first time in years, in nine I’ll walk the streets of Paris for the first time. But for now, I think about baseball, how both my grandpa and I were catchers, how each of us always made up for struggles at the plate with awareness on the field. 

The day after my grandpa dies, I go to school. Keeping up a routine is healthy, I tell myself. There are as many ways to grieve as there are trees on Earth. My friends put their hands on my shoulders or around me when I tell them. Moments of tenderness that also feel a bit like falling. I’ve cried four times already. My friend who steals from my lunch every day has swiped a box of tissues from a classroom that now, as I write, I can’t remember, or perhaps never knew in the first place. And all this happens before the first bell rings and I’ve been in rapid descent all morning until finally I hit the cold, hard contours of my seat in second period APUSH. 

. . . 

One of the ways my grandpa and I were very alike was in our shared love of physics. He was a nuclear physicist in a time when nuclear physics, at least so my parents say, seemed to rule all, from something as ubiquitous as geopolitics to something as personal as your very own breath. And even years later, when I sit in physics class listening to my teacher explain some of the ways in which imagining particles as spheres falls short, my grandpa’s voice seems to fill the room. 

When you can grow a full beard, I’ll teach you how to build a nuclear bomb, I can hear him tell me, laughing harder with every word. I know he was joking, but despite that my fingers drift to my cheeks, feeling the occasional straggling hairs that have appeared around my jaw. 

. . .

The morning after my grandpa dies, my APUSH teacher goes on about John Locke, a man who I’ve now learned about for four straight years in history class. In eighth grade, he was a thinker who inspired the American Revolution. Then he evolved over the next couple of years into an Enlightenment philosopher whose work went beyond belief in Republicanism and extended to nurture overshadowing nature and social contract theory. I look at the posters about the Bill of Rights and the Electoral College. As my teacher flips through her slides, Locke is still all those things, but he is also an enigma. With posters of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and the Electoral College hanging all around me, I begin fidgeting in my seat, my leg shaking as if it wants to escape something. It seems somehow both improbable and completely necessary for modern life to owe so much to philosophy from hundreds of years ago, which itself of course has its own, more ancient roots.

. . .

Our greatest difference was perhaps in style. Whereas I, largely out of laziness, held onto a simple look, my grandpa had a secret penchant for standing out in a crowd. He let his head bounce back and forth between completely bald and sporting a ponytail, and his beard was no different. He loved wearing bright green shirts and sticking his tongue out when my sister and I called him Grandpa Frog. 

Unlike me with my naked hands, my grandpa wore eight rings on his fingers. When I was little, every time I saw him, he would take off the massive black-and-white ring he kept on his right pinky and have me try it on. The ring would slide up and down my fingers with such ease that they may as well have not been there. One day this will be yours, he’d say. At every meal, from Passover to Sunday family Dim Sum, he’d insist that I try the ring on again, even if I’d seen him only a few days prior. And for my entire childhood, not more than a month went by without me letting the oversized ring fall from the top of my finger to the bottom, hitting the webbing of my fingers and rebounding slightly. 

. . .

Now, as I write this, I am holding that ring. It is cold and heavy and smooth, sitting in my hand like a stone lifted from the banks of a river. The ring’s central ornament follows a checkerboard pattern until the whites die down leaving only black on the edges, only the absence of light. I am sliding the ring up and down my fingers, each of them. The pinkies are still comically small, and really the only fingers that can even pretend to fill the ring are my thumbs. 

. . .

In APUSH, I let my mind wander, eyes flipping from poster to agenda to window, stopping only at the pictures of my teacher’s travels taped sloppily to the classroom’s northern wall.

My mind drifts to another famous English thinker. In 1676, between when he claimed to have begun inventing calculus and when he published Principia, Isaac Newton wrote in a letter that “if I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” And, of course, I think of my Grandpa. And I know that he was propped up by thousands of years of papers and corrections and theories, but I also can’t help but begin to imagine him as a Giant. An image of a massive human pyramid spanning generations and generations makes its way to the front of my mind, every newborn given no choice but to be placed at its top.

As a high schooler, I find myself relatively high in the human structure. Suddenly, the bodies below me become somehow heavy. My shoulders shake back and forth rapidly and without pattern, the same way moonlight reflected over the waves tends to scatter. I am straining every muscle in my body, and trying to decide how many bricks in a pyramid can come loose before the whole thing comes tumbling down.

. . .

Less than three years after my grandpa’s death, an electrical wire short-circuits and the roof of the Notre Dame Cathedral catches fire. I first see this on a crooked Snapchat story posted by someone I haven’t spoken to since middle school. And then, in what seems like less than an instant, my phone buzzes with headlines and real-time alerts. I turn on a stream and watch it burn.

My first real thought is a selfish one: how lucky am I that we chose last summer to visit Paris. I remember clearly waiting in a long line under the summer heat in the hopes of seeing inside the Notre Dame. Once inside, I stared mostly at the stained glass, how it seemed to bend light at its own will. 

On my computer screen, as the main spire collapses, I watch a thousand years of history fall to the earth in seconds. I become more uncomfortable than seems natural. I’ve never prayed in my life. I believe in impermanence as a nearly fundamental truth. In the following hours and days, a billion dollars is pledged to repair the building. I see more pictures of the pre-fire Notre Dame than ever before, as if the fire had in some way resurrected the structure it ravished.

The day after the fire, for a moment, I picture the thousands and thousands of hours spent designing, building, and maintaining a building that large and intricate. A sense of loss that’s only just been put into words. Of course, it doesn’t make much sense. Only three people were injured in the fire. Nobody died. No life was lost. Perhaps a line running from us to our ancestors like a vein had been severed, but what good is a vein connected to the dead?

. . .

Often, even now, my mom will stay up crying over old photos of my Grandpa. I hear her at night and over breakfast. I try to say that it’s okay, even if I don’t totally believe it, even if there have been weeks when I’ve snapped awake after dreaming of him. In one dream, I was in an airplane flying to a nameless city, staring out over a cloudless sky. The forests below looked like scattered poppy seeds, and I began drawing constellations between the pine dots. And then I began imagining all the air molecules that perhaps once belonged to my grandpa. I tried to count them like sheep. When I woke up, I felt a storm inside my chest and so I cried.

I haven’t told my mom about the letters or emails from my grandpa that I saved. And I haven’t mentioned the folder on my laptop called “Grandpa Pics.” And I haven’t showed her the journals I filled trying to write a eulogy or a novel or anything that could capture anything important about him. But most of all, I haven’t told her about all the nights I’ve dreamt of the massive ring with a shining black-and-white checkered pattern slowly rotating in a burning building, the flames growing and dancing as if they’re alive. Except this time with no news cameras. No crowds and no Snapchat stories. Only a ring falling away from itself. Funny how something so carefully put together can be destroyed by something as blind as fire. The ash falling like an early spring rain. 

But on happier nights I dream of telling future generations all about crazy Grandpa Frog, his massive glasses and dark sense of humor. I imagine them seeing some little bit of him within themselves, the same way I do when I sit down to play a game of chess or watch a baseball game or study physics.

. . .

Is this not what has separated us from other primates for the past few million years? That our discoveries are fluid but preservable. That we may recall more than what has seared itself into our heads as memory. That we may remember more than that which maintains a physical presence. That in the 17th century Newton (and Leibniz) conceived of calculus, and since then we’ve passed it along and polished it as easily as an old family portrait or a ring. 


By Colton Wills