Marginalia — March 2022 Edition

I was hoping to start this month off with a playful take on my love for medieval, Illuminated manuscripts, and specifically the “marginalia” you find within them. Marginalia can look like a lot of things — secretive, political, even quite silly — but essentially, they’re hidden figures obscured in the great texts of history. Shadows forgotten. Stories of people at the margins lost to us forever. 

But as I’m writing this, rockets are being fired on the innocent people of Ukraine. Lives are being taken in an unprovoked act of aggression. Fathers are leaving their families and enlisting to fight. After nearly three years of daily, suffocating death at the hands of Covid, we are confronted with even more lives being taken. And while this loss of life is leading the headlines, more people at the margins are being stolen. For example, this month we lost Naomie Skinner, a 25-year-old Black trans woman who was killed by her boyfriend. Naomie is one of at least four trans women violently murdered this year so far — although the real number is likely much higher. 

I try to be a person of faith. I try to believe that there is purpose and meaning. I try to believe that life is indeed sacred. When you consider what it takes for any one person to exist, it has to be sacred — just think of the billion years of stars erupting and collapsing to create the very atoms that have fueled the thousands of generations living, laughing, crying, fighting, loving, all to produce a single child. Each life on this planet — so uniquely and cosmically positioned just so that oxygen might fill our lungs — must be sacred.

But then you see how easily that life is destroyed. By bombs in the sky. By unseen illness. By violence, by hate, by neglect. And while each of our lives can easily be put in peril by some unknown aggressor, it is all too often those at the margins who bear the brunt. Those without money or power or privilege or a voice. So that’s where we’re going this month at Grotto — to the margins. To see where the cracks in our world have let too many fall through; to the people trying to help; and to those in need of it. 

Our stories this month will take us to a hotel where a new form of hospitality is being offered, to a public defender’s office, to another pandemic where AIDS patients were left to die alone — and many more marginal spaces. We’re not going to the margins to wallow or point a finger or to feel pity, but to recharge ourselves with the belief that every life is sacred, and that we all have a role in fighting for it. 

Take care of yourselves, friends. It’s been a rough couple of days, but at least we can share some space together in the margins here at Grotto.

Much love, 

Javi Zubizarreta

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