in eighth grade, I had a science teacher who taught us the phases of the moon. he taught us other stuff too, like physics and friction and gravity and velocity and why it snows more on one side of the mountain than the other. he taught us all sorts of things, but I only ever remembered the moon. I knew that it looked like a “D” when it was growing and a “C” when it was shrinking. the moon set the alphabet backwards. waxing waning crescent gibbous words that flowed over my tongue and straight to the memory crescent slivers over campfire flickers and a mirror lake full moon reflection. the moon is hard to forget. that teacher followed us to high school and one day there was a solar eclipse and we gathered outside not not looking at the sky. he approached me and asked if I remembered why eclipses happen. I didn’t. I looked instead at the half-moon leaf shadows the eclipse made on the ground. like a waxing gibbous, I said, pointing at the dancing shadows. he smiled, a little sad. in college now I go for a bike ride near my childhood home where my life has been put on pause. the sun has already set the sky went from orange to pink and now, blue again, like the day needed one last look. the deer have gathered in the field. the wheatgrass looks like moonlight. I look up, and there, tucked in among the blue-grey sky. fingernail moon. waning crescent. just a sliver of wheatgrass.
Lumped silence until the intersection, where the car sputters beneath your feet. Next to the faded yellow line you stop, pull out a flashlight, open the hood bonnet. We stand like the earth is eggshell, we don’t move, we shoulder a wet black sky like we are afraid to wake it up. Your arm touches mine and I am afraid to wake you from this daze, the same daze you had when we found her. Mother, an accident sprawled horizontal next to a bottle. We left her muscles to die — when should they be left to die? You and I stood, unable to touch mother — she might regret her last violence to the world, a big whopping fuck- you. Now she lay as still as a painting, we were the viewers, we were the critics, I stared and felt ashamed for it, like I was watching her undress. Then she was peeled from the floor, all five feet lifted into arms of men neither you nor I knew and she slid away to a world where we have not lived.
It has now been a year since Stanford, and the rest of the world, shut down. Whether we were on campus or elsewhere, we were saying our farewells to friends and familiar places — farewells we thought were temporary. Now, some of us may never return to Stanford as undergraduates. And some of us still have yet to set foot there.
In a period of time that has in many ways felt stagnant, it is sometimes hard to imagine a potential for growth. That is why this issue of the Leland Quarterly is so exemplary. When the school year began remotely, my only goal was to keep this magazine alive. I did not expect it to become more alive that I have ever seen. As contributing artist Clara Spars writes in her artist’s statement, this issue “emerges as a testament to the period of growth and creativity experienced by Stanford students.” Her words are spot-on: we were astonished by the volume and quality of the submissions we received this quarter. The result was an issue much longer than our past publications, and dare I say one of the best. I feel lucky to have been able to witness such an incredible artistic outpouring.
Finally, thank you once again to the unrelenting editors of LQ, without whom this magazine would fall apart. You are the glue that holds together my rambling Slack messages and the labyrinth of folders, forms, spreadsheets, and 100-page documents in the Google Drive. Most importantly, your careful attention to each submission — and all in the midst of the brutal online quarter system — is what ensures the integrity of our publication.
And to our contributors and our readers: thank you for staying with us. As always, LQ hopes to continue to be a home for your art and a site for the flourishing creative community at Stanford. We look forward to what is to come.
This piece is meant to represent the process of finding and celebrating creativity even when inundated with worries or external pressures. COVID-19 brought about an enormous surge of stress, frustration, and grief, but for many, it also brought about an extensive period of reflection. The women portrayed in my art are physically distorted and surrounded by water, symbolizing the distress and confusion in their environments and the resulting turn toward an internal, reflective landscape. Yet, I have also tried to depict these subjects as being full of agency, dramatizing the pivot from quiet reflection to outward-facing action as they harness the power of their intellects and innovation. My internalization of the stress of the pandemic manifested itself in art and writing, as it did for many others. This issue of the Leland Quarterly emerges as a testament to the period of growth and creativity experienced by Stanford students during challenging circumstances.