There are times when it seems wise to choose something wholesome and healthy as a midday snack. A banana, say. This moment, though—still midpandemic, with the climate crisis more urgent than ever, and still in the grip of ongoing racist violence—feels long past the time for such. So earlier this summer, when our designer, Tory Tarpley, suggested Genevieve Gaignard’s 2020 mixed-media work Treat Yo Self for our cover, with its chocolate-chip cookie within easy reach, we knew we’d found what we needed. I wouldn’t blame anyone for ripping the cookie off the wall and eating it, whether as performance art or just because things have been, for too long, and for much longer than the pandemic, too much. I’m thinking of this issue, by extension, as a cache of ideal emergency snacks: ready when you need them, containing plenty that’s decadent, and familiar, and a little surprising. And homemade, for sure, by someone who cares about how things will taste to you.

I’m thinking of this issue as a cache of ideal emergency snacks.

That care is evident in the work of each writer and artist here. In Kim Coleman Foote’s story “Man of the House,” Jeb goes on a pilgrimage to visit his uncle in Florida, and sees the ghost history of what his life might have been like had his father not migrated to New Jersey to escape a white-­supremacist mob. Kenji Liu moves through space via the Internet, considering how loss appears on, and is erased from, virtual maps of our world. In her graphic essay “You Beautiful Thing,” Lee Lai offers advice from her mother, and reminds us of what can be gleaned from sharing space with loved ones.

There are essays on first love, on what it costs to give birth, and on making a home in cities and in the rural South, from Austyn Gaffney and Jennifer Case and Josina Guess. In her dance work Pachuquísmo, Vanessa Sanchez brings to life the subversive joy of the pachucas. And Brock Clarke imagines a special election unlike any other. Clarke’s last story for us, in Ecotone 19, consisted of a single sentence that occupied two pages, so it feels fitting that this one could fill the better part of a lazy afternoon.

Brandon Kilbourne’s poem “Natural History: The Curious Institution” sheds light on the ways early Western scientific exploration was bound up in the transatlantic slave trade. From Ana Maria Spagna, Lisa Low, and Lee Upton, there are poems featuring hens in snow, beets and whiteness, and mushrooms in paper sacks. And in work from Diana Cao and Katie Hartsock, the Moon Lady visits, and the memory of a high-school crush. And that’s not even the whole of it. Though summer has nearly passed us by, it’s not too late for the “poem on vacation” Erik Jonah conjures up in “Laundry Day (by the Sea)”—not too late to take a little respite, to dream into the universes these poems, stories, and essays make.