A Letter From the Editor

Elyse DeFranco

Ecology and Environmental Science Program
University of Maine

April 2020 is a time that none of us will forget. The human world is taking a pause, a collective holding of our breath, as we brace for the worst and hope for the best. In the face of these new challenges, sustainability has come to mean something even deeper to many. Already a remarkably self-sufficient community, accustomed to harsh winters and living close to the land, Mainers across the state are finding ways to utilize their skills and ingenuity to support each other in unprecedented times. The stories included in this issue of Spire will take on new depth for our readers, with the realization that the community climate change groups that have formed in recent years have built greater resiliency for these new and unexpected challenges. An interactive map of food pantries throughout Maine, presented here by a team of undergraduate researchers examining food waste, is particularly timely and poignant. As we built this issue in late 2019 and earlier this year, editing and reviewing submissions, discussing their merits and contributions to Spire’s mission, we could not have possibly imagined where we would be today. But we are humbled by the continued relevance of this work, which further demonstrates the importance of working toward a future together, as a society, one that acknowledges our interdependence and the interconnected nature of each and every choice that we make. 

Spire’s fourth issue is full of stories of resilience, community building, and hope. It contains research by UMaine scientists examining how best to tackle foreseeable challenges, such as the effects of climate change on our wild blueberry crops. Researchers at Colby College look at the potential for kelp aquaculture to boost the economies of coastal communities now reliant on lobster fishing. A writer watches her son grow up alongside a grove of American chestnut trees, finding renewed meaning in the effort to bring them back from extinction. A reformed environmental studies professor finds a new and satisfying approach to communicating the risks of climate change through fiction. Maine’s poets use verse to explore the delicate balance between the tensions inherent in the anxiety that many of us feel in the face of environmental degradation, and the hope that we must foster in order to persevere. Our artists create stunning interpretations of the natural world, from deep sea creatures to Maine’s historical logging roads

My hope is that these pages contain some inspiration for you, a place to help you imagine the brighter future that we must now all work to build together. This journal has given me the opportunity to connect with people across Maine and to bring them together in these pages in order to continue the web of connection to you, the reader. I am particularly proud to have watched Spire grow to include work from our friends at Colby College and from a number of writers throughout the state. Helping Spire to become a resource for this community has been incredibly rewarding, and it has been made all the better by working with our outstanding and supportive editorial board. 

Our amazing and hardworking review team for this issue includes Karina Graeter, Tyler Quiring, Rebecca Champagne, Hana Palazzo, Carly Dickson, Logan Kline, Bowen Chang, Sonja Birthisel, and Rafa Tasnim. As I complete my time here at UMaine, Rebecca Champagne will step in to serve as Editor-in-Chief along with Clinton Spaulding. Dr. Daniel Dixon continues to guide the journal as our Faculty Director. In better times, we will once again hold our annual release party in order to bring everyone together to celebrate the work of our contributors and editors. For now, we hope you will help us continue to build this community by sharing our work with your friends and family. 

Yesterday, on a walk around the UMaine campus, I heard a familiar sound. The wood frogs are emerging and making their way to pools of newly melted snow, where they will greet each other after months of frozen isolation. Miraculous in the best of times, I feel an even stronger admiration and kinship with these frogs today, and will be spending many spring evenings sitting by the pools, listening to their ecstatic reunion, and waiting for the day sometime soon when our turn will come. 

Elyse DeFranco