Editor’s Notebook: War, chickens, bees, good-byes & reversing cause and effect

Long before a variation on the phrase became a sport shoe sales slogan, I had a dream in which I wore a tee-shirt with “Shut up and do it” printed on the front—but in reverse writing, so that I would see and read it myself when I looked in the mirror. Clever, yes? And fitting. When we started CATALYST in 1982, the intention was to be a comprehen­sive directory and a calendar of events—no stories.
by Greta Belanger Dejong
Long before a variation on the phrase became a sport shoe sales slogan, I had a dream in which I wore a tee-shirt with “Shut up and do it” printed on the front—but in reverse writing, so that I would see and read it myself when I looked in the mirror. Clever, yes? And fitting. When we started CATALYST in 1982, the intention was to be a comprehen­sive directory and a calendar of events—no stories. The world already had plenty of words, I reasoned. Time to quit the talk; I would wrangle resources to enable action. Zero Population Growth. No Nukes. Too Many Words. You get the picture.

As you see, I did not heed my own advice. Almost immediately, CATALYST had plenty of “words.” Stories. Turns out we love stories; we are inspired by what others do. Often they are the catalysts to action. And sometimes the best thing to “do” is to sit down, shut up and enjoy a good read. That’s what I’m inviting you to do right now.

This may be one of my favorite issues in years. The columnists are all at the top of their game. The occasionals and specials are universally compelling. Read Sophia Nicholas’ interview with members of the Integra­tive Health Network and Ameri­cans Supporting Veterans Foun­dation on their efforts to curb the current suicide epidemic (an estimated 17 a day) among U.S. soldiers. This month they are bringing Byron Katie, founder of “The Work,” to Salt Lake to work with veterans and their families.

Then there’s Katherine Pioli’s story about trouble in the henhouses of unincorporated Salt Lake County. Meanwhile, chickens perfectly legal in the city. Go figure. Plenty of backyard poultry raisers in the county don’t even know their girls are illegal (yet). Let’s hope they all find each other, maybe through this story, and work in concert to change an embarrassingly backward law.

I don’t have chickens—yet. But it’s inevita­ble. I mean, aren’t you thinking about it, too? (Pet-sitters better start honing their poultry-care skills.) I’m ready for fresh eggs, the cute little hen house in the garden, and “growing” a better-grade compost.

From war to chickens—from the important to the frivolous? No, it’s not just about the birds. It’s about having a modicum of control over your own food supply. Or firsthand experience at just how fragile that supply can be, especially without adequate knowledge. I got a hive of Italian bees for my garden last year. Their first season they produced an astounding 40 lbs. of honey for me, and plenty for them to winter over on. They were busy in March. In April, they were gone. Hive collapse? Did they swarm, and now live in a suburban tree trunk? (Hmm… are bees legal in the county?) I’m puzzled and sad. And more respectful of the vagaries of nature.

This month Coach Jeannette proposes something I’d never thought about seriously before: reversing cause and effect. That certainly made me pause; then nod. If I tried that with my bees, would they come back? (I think I’m joking.) ­

On another note: This issue looks like the Katherine Pioli special. A Bryn Mawr graduate who wanted to keep up her writing skills (and a national parks firefighter in the summer), Katherine interned at CATALYST this last quarter, writing up a storm and in general making the office a more cheerful and interesting place. The piece we published about her year of eating with chopsticks got picked up by Utne Reader and New York Spirit. Katherine felt like family from day one. I’ll miss her very much.

Two other interns, who stayed to play a while after their responsibilities were completed, are moving on. For the past year Melissa Martin oversaw the calendar, and wrote an occasional column about recycling. Tamara Rowe, now a grant writer in the nonprofit sector, compiled our Comings & Goings pages each month. Good luck to both of you, and thank you for your good work over the past year.

No “Don’t Get Me Started” this month. John is in Spain, land of his childhood, on the photography tour of his life. We’ll expect some beautiful results next month.

Now, a huge thank you to Michael Cowley, Mac tech god, who has been slaving over a hot computer for the last 24 hours, readying all this electronic data for the printer. His knowledge is awesome, as is his big heart and willingness to show up and get the job done. Thanks, Mike. I don’t know what we’d do without you. 

Greta Belanger deJong is the editor and publisher of CATALYST. greta@catalystmagazine.net.