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Editor’s Letter: On wisdom and gravitas

  • Me with ace reporter, photographer and artist Andy Castillo.


Friday, September 21, 2018

By KATY McCOLL LUKENS

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A few years ago I bought my mom a tiny letterpress book of quotations called Cheerful Thoughts at Thornes. She was sick; she had Stage IV breast cancer. But even then she lived the idea that we can frame — and reframe — our own reality. And erudite pick me ups always help.

​​​​​​In the years since losing her, I’ve been looking for ways to replace the warmth and wisdom I used to rely on her for. She was so good at what Rudyard Kipling called delighting in the little things, like snuggling fat babies fresh from the bath and making her children feel good and loved no matter what kind of foolish and impractical things we pursued. She didn’t teach us how to affect global change — that wasn’t really her thing — but she did teach us how shift our own perspective.

These days I find myself wanting to hear more from people with experience and gravitas. This issue’s contributors have that — and talent — in spades:

I’m terribly proud to present Frances Crowe, Northampton’s pioneering peace activist, as the new “Friday Takeaway” columnist for Hampshire Life. When I reached out to Frances to gauge her interest in writing for us regularly, I told her that I thought of the column as things that help us find meaning (or humor or beauty) in everyday life. I wanted to hear from her about lessons to live by, and was confident that other readers would, too.

She said she mentioned the idea to some friends, and they said, “It’s about time. To focus on living, instead of dying.” She shares her story of what matters on page 3.

The other ballast in this issue comes from Vinnie Ferraro, who’s taught legions of students how to frame — and reframe — global conflict and economic issues at Mount Holyoke. Vinnie  wrote the cover story on page 12. He is a first-rate raconteur — no one describes going off the gold standard better — but he’s also a dedicated gardener and exceptionally kind person.

As a father, he scheduled his office hours so that he’d always be home to make dinner for his sons. Now, he is a grandfather besotted with his first grandchild and full of hope that he will have the opportunity to watch her grow.

The emotion of his words is illustrated — beautifully — by staff writer Andy Castillo. I knew that Andy had all manner of talents — he regularly shoots the photographs for the stories he reports, but I was in awe when he showed me a fine pencil drawing he did of Martin Luther King, Jr. And even more in awe when he dashed off a sketch — the drawing that ultimately became this week’s cover — in 10 minutes flat.

I feel grateful to be surrounded by all this talent. After all, it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy, says David Steindl-Rast. That’s a very cheerful thought.

— Katy McColl Lukens

 klukens@gazettenet.com