Freak of the Week is my Wednesday column featuring a person doing wonderful work for the betterment of humanity. Artists, teachers, truth tellers, environmentalists, movers and shakers doing work worth recognition answer a battery of questions to help us glimpse inside their world. Prowl around, have a read, leave a comment, share the feature and help build the world a solid basis for future good.
This week I am happy to introduce you to, my dear friend, high-jinx hiker, party thrower, and editor or Orion Magazine, Jennifer Sahn. Here is the cyber interview we shared:
Cff: Who are you? What do you do? What is your line of work? Tell your history in 200 words or less.
Jennifer Sahn, Editor of Orion magazine; wife; mother; defender of public lands, local food, small schools, renewable energy, equal rights...
Cff: How do you know Crispina? Tell a story – how did you meet? When? Where? Who introduced you?
Not really sure how we met. Perhaps at the Union or the Old Eg? It wasn’t the night we met, but I do remember an evening when I spent a probably inappropriate length of time admiring a little furry change purse that she had. Or maybe it was beaded, not furry. Anyway, that change purse somehow signified that its owner was a person of substance. Which she very much is. I’m honored to know her.
Cff: Who/what has been most influential in your work?
A college professor named John Elder who met my interests with encouragement and served as matchmaker for my first and only real job. But also, the amazing group of writers with whom I get to work: Wendell Berry, Terry Tempest Williams, Rebecca Solnit, Luis Alberto Urrea, Anthony Doerr, Barbara Kingsolver, Bill McKibben, and many more.
Cff: If you could (you probably are) send(ing) a message to the world what would it be?
It’s okay to be fashionably late. You don’t always need to say the right thing. Occasionally losing your cool with your child in public is an unavoidable part of parenthood.
Cff: When and how did you know to follow the path you have chosen?
I didn’t know I was following a path. It’s always felt like bushwhacking to me. But I did have a minor epiphany when I realized that a career had chosen me. I’d been tempted to veer off in other directions, but stuck by my work as an editor, and at some point I figured out why. With editing things are always fresh, and as an editor you are
always evolving. Each story is different, and each requires a certain amount of self-education.
I recently edited an essay about Mars, so I learned where you go on Earth if you want to pretend you’re on Mars, and I learned how what’s happening geologically in those places is similar to what happens on Mars. I also edited a story about Thoreau’s laundry. There is no consensus on who actually did Thoreau’s laundry, as it turns out, but much speculation. And, incidentally, the town of Thoreau, New Mexico, has four laundromats.
Some of what I learn is more troubling, like the fact that mammograms miss
30% of all breast cancers. I learned that from editing a piece called “Exposed: The Mammogram Myth and the Pinkwashing of America.” I have a pretty full editorial toolbox at this point, but there is an endless supply of new challenges.
Cff: Where do you find your inspiration/motivation to continue?
In the extremely clever things my son Henry says, like, "I’m making a pipe that will never need to be cleaned because I’m making it out of pipe-cleaners"; in both extreme and subtle forms of beauty; in the endless capacity for creativity possessed by the human mind.
Cff: Aside from working, how do you spend your time?
Laundry. Mixing cocktails. Planning ambitious journeys that may never be taken. Futzing around in the kitchen. Trying to be a good wife and mother.
Cff: What is one of your fondest memories? Why?
Radiohead, Thunderbird Stadium, Vancouver, August 30, 2003. Hail to the Thief tour. Flocks of geese flying low over the crowd.
Cff: Tell about a magical moment that comes to mind when you look back on your life experience?
Well, actually, I’ve been lucky enough to have lots of magical moments. If you climb enough mountains you are guaranteed a steady stream of them. And/or if you procreate. There was also that time in my twenties when I drove through the Painted Desert blasting Led Zeppelin (the album).
Cff: If you were able to prepare a meal for anyone – dead or alive, who would it be? What would you want to discuss with that person? What would you serve?
Don’t have a good answer for this. But I think I know what I’m making for dinner tonight, which means I’m ahead of the game by my own standards.
Cff: What is your favorite color?
The color of my favorite faded Patagonia hoody, which changes color in different light like a mood ring.
Cff: What place is your favorite travel destination?
Campsite #11 at Benedict Pond, though they recently made “improvements” so it’s not as nice as it once was.
Cff: What is a goal or focus for your next 12 months?
To continue being a culture maker who is also making some kind of difference in the world. To continue nudging Henry toward a state of wonder and gratitude. To continue the tradition of family Scrabble night.
Cff: How would you like to be different from who you are now, in 10 years?
Whatever it will take to prepare me to be the mother of a 19 year old, and possibly an empty nester.
Cff: Paint a picture of your legacy. How would you like to be remembered or thought of?
She had a great editorial sensibility, and a great eye for detail. She remained on the side of truth and justice without exception. And she made a damn-good potato-leek soup.
Cff: Do you have an upcoming event or significant happening that you would like to promote with your blog posting? When? Where? Details and contact information please.
Two stories I edited (“Mysteries of Thoreau, Unsolved” by Rebecca Solnit and “What the Body Knows” by Joni Tevis) just won Pushcart Prizes. I wish they were posted online but they’re not. To read them, you’ll have to subscribe to Orion. Hint: take advantage of the $19 introductory subscription offer. Go to: http://www.orionmagazine.org/. Then click on the box in the top-right corner.
Cff: Please clearly state your name, business name, address, telephone, email, website and business hours of operation so they can be included in the blog post.
Jennifer Sahn ~ Editor Orion magazine 187 Main Street Great Barrington, MA 01230 413.528.4422 www.orionmagazine.org twitter.com/throwin_shadows