ISSUE No. 6

Clerestory

A clerestory is a window which allows light and air into the body of an old building. Clerestory Magazine stories and storytellers are like windows through which the pain and beauty of the human experience shine.

The Clerestory Podcast S1 E25

The Oklahoma Tenant Farmer and Me
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essay Family First

A reflection in ten steps

essay The Oklahoma Tenant Farmer and Me

Last fall, my dad showed me five three-ring binders he kept in his home office. Each was filled with original handwritten letters, many of them yellowed with age and written by my great-grandfather

essay Like No Other Place

Cleveland was the place we went back to. Like homing pigeons or salmon returning to spawn. Cleveland felt like no other place, not home exactly, but something separate and apart.

essay How I Became a Published Author in Prison

At 18 years old, sitting in my prison cell, I was very lonely. I had just been sentenced to 241 years in prison.

essay On History

The George Eliot Fellowship greeted my second cousin and myself in Nuneaton with hot tea, biscuits, and a copy of every book that George Eliot had ever written.

essay History Books in Finger Crooks

All that remains of Gridley’s store is some time-curled paper copies of these supposed facts recorded by someone associated with the State of Connecticut Historical Commission for the Historic Resources Inventory and haphazardly shoved in a purple file folder marked “House Documents” by me.

essay Three Strong Women

Tape recorder on, I tried interviewing my 75–year old grandmother for a 6th grade school project. “I can’t talk about it,” my Bubbe said in her Russian-English accent.

essay The Art of Loss

Once upon a time… all history books should begin like a fairytale. 

essay Day Three of 2022

On day three of 2022, I found myself giving our Christmas tree the stink eye, its presence a reminder of our Covid-stricken holiday season.

essay Izyaslav

In the summer of 1997, at five years old, I place my grubby little fingers on a thin trunk, the grey bark slightly soft beneath my palms. . .

essay The Legacy of Mirabai

In July of 1998, on a high school auditorium stage in central New Jersey, I played the starring role of Mirabai, a 16th century Hindu bhakti poet and mystic, in a semi-classical Indian dance drama.

essay On Activism and Contemplation

I have often felt, throughout my life, that activism was a “given,” meaning that it was something I was expected to do.

essay Counting the Minutes with Tears

Once I was in New York with my partner. The MOMA was closing in 30 minutes, so we decided to pay full price to see Starry Night.

essay Origami: My Personal History with an Ancient Art Form

When winter rolled around and the other kids were busily cutting paper snowflakes, I was drawing circle snowmen and triangle Christmas trees...

essay Racism and My Tea Obsession

I am a former refugee, and a tea fanatic, living in Ottawa, Canada. When I rented my first house in the city, I understood that my love for African tea would be a trigger for racism.

essay Digging for My Roots, I Turned to Tomatoes 

The hot, muggy Maryland summers of my childhood were filled with outdoor activity. Some of this time was spent, willingly or not, helping out in the family garden.

essay Following the Ancestral Trail of Bravery

From the beginning of time, people have faced tragedies. Why do some adapt better than others? It's the history of my family that encourages me.

essay Of Widest Worth

A reflection upon Wendell Berry’s “membership” from a suburban neighborhood...

essay The Art of Gardening

The gardener is an artist, a creator, and an architect... the serenity in the garden sings to their soul.

essay Erosion of Home

As the ocean air spritzes my face on a late morning this past June, its saltiness meets the saltiness of the hot tears rolling underneath my tortoise-rimmed sunglasses.

essay Arriving at My Senses

It really happened: I received the things I was asking for: the simplicity, the sustainability, the radical freedom I desired.

essay Signs of Life at a Park

That day at the 90-acre park in the northwest suburbs of Austin, there were signs of life everywhere, and I was one of them. 

essay The Yellow Ladybug Effect

It was crawling next to Sara for a few seconds before she noticed it . . .

essay Reading Growth Rings

The trees hold earth’s history. The pages revealing the evidence of the planet’s stages through the ages are bound most accurately not between the covers of a textbook but between the core and the bark of the oak, maple, pine, languishing ash. 

essay Psalm 23 and Climate Change

Worshipping outside for an extended period of time has been an invitation to be surprised by natural elements we cannot control.

essay Crafting the Body: An Ecology

Imagine for a moment that our skin was a transparent membrane which revealed the inner workings of the body. That we humans had been designed in a way that left the mechanics and chemistry of our anatomy in plain view

essay Surviving a Food Desert in College

I attend Clark Atlanta University in the West End of Atlanta, an area where 90.5% of the population is Black and the median annual income is around $34,000.

essay A Castle of Dreams

There is a place we return to every summer by the Gulf of Mexico. It has a long winding sandy path we walk on to the beach, covered with old oak trees, reaching to the sky with long branches that hang low and thick over the path like a mother’s hug.

essay Paraquat and Environmental Racism

I grew up in the rural suburbs of Kenya, where farming was the primary source of income for most households. My fascination with plants, farming, and the environment stemmed from my mother’s love for gardening.

essay A Simple Ham and Cheese Sandwich

A whisper of cloud stretched across the sky, as we stepped out of the lodge. We still had a half-hour to wait for the sun to come up, but the cloud already burned orange-mauve, spreading a pale rose glow onto the snow blanketing the meadow.

essay Transplanted

Early on a summer morning, before the heat held the city captive in its stagnant breath, I sat on a bench in Madison Square Park looking at Ghost Forest, an installation by artist Maya Lin. This barren grove of Great Atlantic white cedar trees stood like weathered sentinels in the verdant park.

essay Haters and the Garden State

Learning to love New Jersey roughly translated into learning how to love myself. 

essay Fat Icon

As a photographic practice, fragmentation has always fascinated me. Images of dark corners in brightly lit rooms; photos of isolated limbs curving toward another subject; highlighted facial expressions and gestures in a crowded, chaotic space.

essay Original Face

I am listening to Eckhart Tolle on a stale bus filled with 50 Greenwich moms, seated next to a boyfriend I love but do not like, on a dark gray January morning headed to the Women’s March on Washington. It is 2016.

essay Healing from Grief

How does one heal from the death of a child? My son, Wells, died of a heroin overdose last year, the weight of grief shaped me into a woman I did not know – angry, bitter, hating the world and God.

essay Kintsugi

When I was 21, I visited the British Museum in London. I toured the winding exhibits that showcased artifacts from around the world with my college roommate in tow.

essay Live from the School-to-Prison Pipeline

The school to prison pipeline is not just a theory. It is not something that social scientists conjured up. It is real life.

essay Dewdrops on the Flowers: On Grief and Gratitude

My grandmother loved flowers. Originally from a farm in South Korea, she knew how to tend to things, how to get them to grow and thrive.

essay Nine Months to Moksha

On Sunday, March 21, 2021, my mother began a self-imposed, nine-month period of silence and isolation at her apartment in central New Jersey. Had it not been for Covid-19, this experience would have taken place in an ashram in Rishikesh in Uttarakhand, India, in the foothills of the Himalayas.

essay The Pleasure of Looking Again

About 20 hours after my second COVID-19 vaccination, I awoke from a nap with a foot cramp that took my breath away. I hobbled to the bathroom for more Ibuprofen, then sat down at my desk and reached for the last pen in the box.

essay Number 331

I watched from my window as my father-in-law pulled up in front of our house with the trailer hitched to the back of his truck. He got out and lowered the metal ramps at the back of the trailer down to the ground and undid the straps that had held the wrecked car in place on the trailer from Ohio home to Connecticut.

essay How My Retail Job Healed My Lingering Social Anxiety

At first, I attributed the feeling of unsteadiness that I felt in college to being far from home; I envied my friends who drove home on weekends to do their laundry. But by the end of my sophomore year, I knew that something was wrong.

essay How Prayer and Inner Healing Will Lead to Reform

May 25, 2020 changed America’s trajectory. On that day, Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd. This murder sparked protests in cities across America.

essay Unraveling the Mysterious Contents of Dreams

Through dreams, it is possible to fly very high; to tell secrets without fear; to meet someone who we don’t see anymore; to perceive that impossible things come true when we fall asleep.

essay A Path to Healing

The morning light beckons. To the east, the sun rolls over the ridge, a yellow beacon piercing the gaps in the tall evergreens, blinding and bright.

essay Peace in the Process

Sudden grief overwhelmed me to a point where I couldn’t function in my second year of college. I had never viscerally experienced an emotion so deeply it made me sick.

essay Sure, Time Heals All Wounds, But It Doesn’t Work Alone

Near the end of our work together, I mentioned to my therapist that I’d been feeling “weirdly okay” lately – for the first time since the betrayal that ended my engagement and propelled me into therapy, I was sleeping better, spiraling less, and even thinking of my ex in a more detached way, when I thought of him at all. 

essay Shapeshifter

You are not the same shape that you used to be. Your body has grown solid. It’s filled out the peaks and valleys of your ribs and hips, and there’s a slight glow in your cheeks.

essay Addiction and My Assembly Line Job

I am a former refugee, and I held a factory-floor job in Canada in 2018 on arrival. I woke up at 5:00 am for a supposedly eight-hour job that extended into 12 hours when you counted the time it took me to climb endless stairs and the necessary three-hour Metro train ride to get there.

essay The Financial Cost of Therapy

What happens when you’re past the point of talking about it? What happens when I’m abundantly aware of my mental health to the extent that I’d much rather just step away and ignore that nagging itch in my head?

essay You May Be Miserable Now

A tall Victorian at the end of the line for the J-Church streetcar was home to The Integral Counseling Center. I caught the streetcar a block from my apartment on that most rare of things in San Francisco, flat ground, and rode the car as it lurched around the curves up a very steep grade.

essay Taking Care of Ourselves

My friends know me as ‘Jen’, but marketing agencies know me as ‘a mid-20s American woman.’ I am the target demographic for those shilling self-care products, and I am bombarded with ads for them constantly.

essay Gentle-Therapy: An Interactive Fairytale

There is no magic deeper than re-telling a story, for you are giving yourself agency to assign meaning and (most importantly) to assign usefulness to time and events. When fairytale writer Hans Christian Andersen wrote, “Our lives are fairytales written by God’s fingers,” it was not just a cute ditty— it was a magic healing spell. 

essay Healing Trauma through the Writing Process

“You healed yourself through writing.” a friend said to me, her eyes locked to mine through the Zoom screen, as I finished telling her my story of how I became a writer.

essay Alone, Together

I stand alone by the lakeside, music spilling out of my headphones into my ears and out across the water, the notes rolling through the air like wisps of smoke dancing from the tip of a newly extinguished matchstick.

essay The Beauty of Intersecting Stories

A few years ago, I travelled to Sydney, Australia where I particularly enjoyed going on scenic Australian bush walks.

essay On Influence

Late one night in 2011 I attended a reading by W. S. Merwin...I was a senior in high school and, though I had only known he existed for one week, already zealous about his genius. 

essay Four Prayers for a Friend

Every time I read Dante, I think of my friend Rishi, since it was the last thing we spoke about before he took his own life.

essay A Mother’s Village

Pregnancy should not have taken me by surprise. As the daughter of a nurse, and the granddaughter of three doctors – one of whom set up a reproductive health clinic in the 1960s – I was well versed on everything from anatomy to childbirth.

essay Who Is My Neighbor?

To say that the pandemic slowed life is uncontroversial. Across the world, many people ceased travelling, commuting, and disposing of their leisure time freely.

essay Redefining “My Village”: Community as a State of Being

Who do you want to be? And what does “being in community” entail for you?

essay American Dependence: Epistemic Trust and the QAnon Conspiracy

The Covid-19 pandemic has made it clear just how much we depend on one another. We count on those around us to take the public health precautions that will curb the spread of the virus; on essential workers to care for our health, to provide us with food, to keep public spaces clean.

essay Coconut

The familiar bell pierces the dewy March air and everyone rushes into the gymnasium, sneakers and sweatbands at the ready. I pull my thick hair up into a ponytail, wincing as I touch the burn on my left ear, another casualty from my daily standing appointment with my straightener.

essay Pittsburgh: In Place

When I run into Ron, we speak from a distance, both masked, over six feet apart. Today, the greater the distance from new people, the safer I feel.

essay Immersed in the Crowd: Celebrating Holy Week in Community

I’m a Taiwanese American Episcopal priest who is on her third career and living in her eighth state. Trying to describe “my community” can get complex and messy.

essay Turning Rage into Gentleness

Hold my hand, dear reader, and accompany me to the realm of childhood— that place that is both real and imagined. 

essay Gestures of Worship

Because I had not attended regular church services during my childhood, I had previously viewed communal worship as nonessential to living the Christian life. I envisioned it as helpful to some, but not a requirement of Christianity, a personal relationship with God, however, was.

essay Finding Community in an Old Mexican Church

I was a tanned and bright-eyed college freshman at an evangelical university in Southern California when I first heard the phrase “building community.”

essay Confessions From a Catholic Who Isn’t Sure She Wants to Recover

After moving out of my parents’ house, I stopped going to Mass every week. But whenever I found myself struggling, I’d always find my way back to the Catholic Church.

essay The Practice of Belonging to America

“What do you think people see you as when you walk on the street?” my mom asked me rhetorically on the phone a few weeks ago. “They see a Chinese person. And people here can be so discriminating,”.

essay Ridiculous, But True

On my morning walk to St. Giles Cathedral I spotted a performer who posed daily as a magically levitating “Yoda”. You know, from Star Wars.