Editor’s Letter from Issue 04: Coexisting

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It’s winter on a Friday night, and these are the only signs of life: my neighbors’ footprints in thick silt, the smell of their dryer sheets, trash bins and weed, and a truck idling as the local college radio station switches from jazz to hip-hop. Everyone’s inside with their televisions and hound dogs and metallic floral wall art. Seeing into those glowing windows reminds me of my neighbors’ humanity.

Given our country’s continuing discord, I tried to force a “how to live together” or “love thy neighbor” theme on this issue. It’s only human, after all, to seek a road map and get ahead of problems. But neither life nor love is that easy and honestly, every time I try charting ways to coexist, I find myself frustrated and confused about how to move forward.

Giving myself permission to be ok with not-knowing has been a freeing state of mind for me lately. Society is always changing, even in our supposedly stable Midwest. Maybe it’s that “stable” narrative, as described in The New Midwest, pg 104, that makes discord feel especially hard here.

Other stories in this issue capture real communities’ stresses and successes as they navigate new rules. “Building a Better Swallow” shows how one bird adapts to its environment (pg 45), but others can’t evolve so quickly. The lesser prairie-chicken is a sensitive species losing its homeland and feeling threatened even by clean energy (pg 101). But as Bryce McElhaney found in the Oklahoma panhandle, the chickens’ fate depends on some very smart, dedicated people. They care, they understand what local landowners need, and they use that knowledge to protect another species’ way of life.

If a threatened bird stands a chance due to the actions of a handful of government agents, then surely we humans can find ways to share spaces. It can start with seeing how others live. Then finding mutual respect. Creating an environment where all can live peacefully, even when it feels like you’re the only side working at it. There’s hope. As Mason Aid writes, “Maybe times are changing, even on the farm” (pg 35).

And here’s the strangely nice thing: society always changes. If we can accept some mystery in this life, then the confusion I feel — and maybe you’re feeling it, too — can be a call to education. Many readers say they like how The New Territory peeks past curtains into lives and opinions here in the Lower Midwest. Moving into Year 2, we’ll keep at that. We are also working to bring you more first-hand stories and strategies for making this region a better place to live in. Keep in touch online, where we will invite your input. I can’t promise a road map, but I’m honored to explore possibilities with you.

Subscribe to The New Territory or pre-order issue 08 here.

Tina Casagrand, Publisher of The New Territory Magazine

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