Antidote to a Mexican circus fall: a CATALYST spring.
—by Sophie Silverstone
As I head to Washington, D.C. for the summer, I embrace how fortunate I am to have worked at CATALYST this spring with the chance to learn from my step-mom, Mama G, Greta.
CATALYST has always been a part of me. Whether it was that hippy magazine that my parents owned, or the only employment that seemed interesting to me after returning from some months ice-skating in a travelling ice circus in Mexico, until this February I’ve always thought CATALYST was so mysterious. How do John and Gret give birth to one of these babies every month, year after year, with such a small staff, and without ever missing a single press date?
You could attribute it to a big ol’ night-of-production super-heroic endurance, some swearing, and the ritualistic Pago burgers, but that would be discounting other important elements. This baby has many parents. They astound and inspire me.
There’s Gret, so full of wonder. I’ve always said CAT is like Greta’s environmentalist, psychedelic, community-centered brain artistically throwing up on newsprint every month. Not to mention so freaking intelligent and good-natured—a giggle from Greta can turn any production disaster into no big thing.
Then there’s John, my genius dad. Engineering it all, while refreshingly grumbling away in his Don’t Get Me Started column. A psychic predicted him to Greta many years ago, describing him as “a good potbelly stove.” That’s him, 99% of the time wearing his generic wife beaters from Costco. This month he fires away about a French economist’s findings: Wealth accumulates.
Katherine Pioli, rock star staff writer, wilderness firefighter, biker girl, I look up to her in many ways. This month she tackled stories on hydration, bamboo bicycles, and float tanks. Jane Laird, holding down marketing and ad sales; the stuff that keeps this thing afloat, so wise and sweet—also a Facebook whiz. Polly, art director, uber-mom and stained glass artist who busts out beautiful layouts like nobody’s business—the delightfulness gene she and Greta share is so magnificent (Polly is Greta’s niece).
Pax Rasmussen—the work ethic on that one! He transitioned to a full time job at the U of U recently, but still handles all of our Internet affairs and writes a column, too. I wish I could take a walk in his brain and take notes.
Lacey Kniep, who compiles our Calendar and Rocky Lindgren who makes it so good-looking. Suzy Edmunds and Carol Coleman who do the numbers—such wonderful, steadfast people! Not to mention the top-notch contributors; Dennis Hinkamp; this month he has a message for Godzilla, but I think perhaps we could all heed some advice for the barbaric monster inside all of us; Charlotte Bell, who reminds us this month to be humble and realistic with our bodies and disciplined in our ego; Amy Brunvand, who digests all the important environmental information for us; and Suzanne Wagner, whose perspective of the cosmos always resonates when I read her empowering messages. June is going to be a good month.
June marks six months since I woke up from a dream that I was in a Mexican circus. It was beautiful, so other-worldly, so melodramatic, it couldn’t be real. But spending the fall in the Mexican circus was exactly that, a fall. Falling in lust with a fantasy, and falling on the ice—a lot. When the ice is made in two days without a Zamboni, you’re not performing on an ice rink, you’re moon-walking on moguls. (Yep, there was a Michael Jackson number… and trapeze, juggling, clowns, Sleeping Beauty, Prince Charming, Santa Claus, Tarzan—all of it. Dreaming yet?)
The thing about falling, though, is that it teaches you to get up. You get over the embarrassment that you fell, and you learn. I learned about trust, façades, relationships, family business, what actual harsh living conditions look like (coffin-sized crawl spaces down by the wheels of the circus semi-trucks for worker families), Catholic society, money, power, machismo, and how the “gypsy lifestyle” ain’t sustainable unless you’ve got an extremely stable, inner grounding. The aura my generation glorifies of a gypsy lifestyle feels great when you’re running on post-show adrenaline and looks pretty in pictures. Especially when you’re wearing red lipstick, fake eyelashes and vibrant eye shadow every single night. Yes, it all looks fabulous on the outside, but what about what’s going on in the inside?
When you pay so much attention to your outer presentation (and you live in a Mexican soap opera), it is easy to ignore a lot of inconvenient feelings inside, and in turn you float away from reality. You can pretend you’re in a pleasant, worry-free dream.
CATALYST—so tuned into reality: community, culture, what’s intellectually intriguing, and challenging environmental and political issues—thank God for it (and my family), because working here has tuned me back into reality when my dream turned into a nightmare. You can only stay in a dream for so long before you have to wake up. I woke up this spring, and found myself surrounded by immensely knowledgeable coworkers who aren’t afraid to take a deep, honest look at our world and say, “This, with all its imperfections and difficulties, is valuable, and worth paying attention to.”
Breathing in acceptance and reality, breathing out denial and fantasy, I’m ready for a wondrous summer.
See Sophie’s circus journey through videos on vimeo.com/silversophia
Sophie Silverstone is a multitalented member of the CATALYST staff and a real trouper.
We love Sophie!