Friday, February 02, 2018

Hi, friends:

A few weeks ago, I came across a post by Elliot Fratkin, a Smith College anthropology professor, in my Facebook newsfeed: “On this day after Trump’s repugnant racist remarks, I want to pause and honor one of my closest friends since 1974 from fieldwork in northern Kenya. Lugi Lengessen, well into his 80s, passed away last week. Everyone who met him was touched by his warmth, humor, and loyalty.”

Elliot shared a few photographs that he’d taken of his longtime friend, and I found myself wanting to know more. Elliot wrote a whole book about his time spent doing field work in Africa, “Laibon: An Anthropologist’s Journey with Samburu Diviners in Kenya.” I asked him to write a remembrance of his friend Lugi, and a few days later, he came back with this moving, funny piece, now titled, “A Friendship Forged in Africa.”

I’m proud to publish it along with the accompanying striking photos, many of which Elliot took himself. A couple of the pictures feature Elliot’s wife, Marty Nathan, a family-medicine physician who’s also a Gazette columnist, and their daughter, Leah, who was a child at the time.

Most of the stories we run in Hampshire Life are about, well, Hampshire County life. In my mind, this piece still qualifies, even though it is mostly set in Africa. The ties that Elliot and his family developed with their “family” in Kenya remain strong, and it’s clear that they’ve brought a lot of what they learned and experienced there back home.

There’s a lot of wisdom packed into this issue. One of the fun parts about being an editor is helping writers come up with ideas. Sometimes it’s as simple as a quick email exchange, like the one I recently had with Naomi Shulman, who’s filling in for Caroline Pam this week. Naomi asked if I had any ideas for starting points for this February 2 edition. “No special theme,” I replied, “though it is Groundhog Day ...”

And with that, she was off. Her piece, “My Own Personal ‘Groundhog Day’ ” starts as a reminiscent riff on the 1993 Bill Murray movie and takes a bittersweet turn.  

If you remember, Murray plays a weatherman in the film — I should have mentioned that last week, while writing about our cover profile of weathermen Brian Lapis and Dave Hayes. 

Have a great Friday, everyone, and may spring come early.

Brooke Hauser