Last year, as work began on the F&M Alumni Arts Review, I tried to imagine what our first issue might look like, what it might feel like, and what it might contain. A flurry of submissions ensued, followed by a careful editorial period, and this last May, at a party a number of you were able to attend, we launched that inaugural issue, whose theme was TURNING POINTS. The response to both volume and endeavor has been overwhelmingly positive, and it is with great pleasure and excitement that we announce the theme for Issue Two of the F&M Alumni Arts Review: DOORWAY.
The idea of “doorway” was decided upon months ago, when I’d no idea that I was about to experience my own series of them. But I decided it was time to stop hovering outside the portal of music—singing and songwriting have long been passions of mine—and step on through. I was inspired to ask a talented musician and fellow singer/songwriter, Maggie McKaig, to accompany me on a series of house concerts throughout the Southwest. As Hall & McKaig journeyed through Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah, playing a variety of living rooms and gardens, all kinds of undreamed-of doorways presented themselves. Among them were ones of friendship, of presentation (Boots! Skirts! Feathers!), of trusting one’s voice, literally and figuratively. And the big doorway, the looming, scary one, was the one of confidence.
Although the mandolin is a relatively new instrument for me, I brought one along. One day, rehearsing for our Tucson concert, I launched into the instrumental break included in our arrangement of the tune. As my fingers found a series of notes that toyed with the melody in a fun and completely unexpected way, I realized with a surge of delight that practice and discipline were starting to pay off. I actually laughed out loud, feeling as I’d not just stepped over a doorway, but flown through one.
The highways and byways of the Four Corners region (so-named as it’s where the borders of those aforementioned Southwestern states converge) wander through some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. Again and again, as in our rental car, “Rogue,” we took in yet another astonishing vista or drove away from yet another musical adventure, I was reminded of a line from Tennyson’s “Ulysses.” Ulysses, back in Ithaca, is bored. He longs to be traveling again, and Tennyson’s beautiful poem, composed in iambic pentameter, is full of that yearning. “I am a part of all that I have met,” Ulysses cries, and then undercuts that sentiment with a wise perspective about not only the movement of travel, but the movement of life:
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
gleams that untraveled world, whose margin fades
forever and forever when I move.
Perhaps because of a young enthrallment with C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books, this is an association with “doorway” I find particularly beguiling: We see—or imagine—such a portal and approach it. We may pause for a moment on the brink of stepping over that threshold, or we may plunge through before our fears get the best of us—and sometimes we don’t even know it is a doorway until we find ourselves on the other side of it.
As Hall & McKaig headed home from our magical musical tour, we paused in Utah’s Arches National Park, where geologic eras are on vivid display, striated like the most dazzling of layered tarts. Millennia of wind and blowing sand have battered these layers, some of which are capable of enduring more than others, and here and there a particular stratum has disappeared, leaving gaps and cracks, which water has further eroded and, freezing and expanding, has caused chunks of stone to sheer away. These centuries of weather carve and destroy and re-carve the vast arches for which the park is named.
Standing a mile away from one of these windows, one tends to focus on the arch itself, and perhaps the way it looms against the sky. But as one walks closer, the potential doorway fascinates. What lies beyond? Is it really just another expanse of sere landscape? Or might some untraveled world await? As one moves closer still, as one stands directly beneath one of those vast portals of stone, possibilities gleam everywhere. If one were to take a step, what else might happen, what else might unfold? What lies on the other side? What rooms, what vistas? What other doorways?
We look forward to your perspectives on this idea: your essays and paintings and plays and poems and stories and photographs. (Alas, the Alumni Arts Review is not yet equipped to handle music and film and performance videos, although we eventually hope to incorporate three-dimensional art forms.) Please take a careful look at the Submission Guidelines. If you have questions, we provide a number of answers at Frequently Asked Questions, or feel free to email me at .
Some of the work published in ISSUE ONE: TURNING POINTS can be seen here. In October, as we begin to accept submissions for ISSUE TWO: DOORWAY, we’ll post the whole of the inaugural issue online. In the meantime, feel free to ask for a hard copy of the volume. As long as our supplies hold out, we’re happy to mail you one.