Michelle and Tal offered me their cottage for a week this summer. Prime time on a northern lake. How could I say no?
One morning I slipped down to the dock just as the sun was rising, and curled up in a Muskoka chair with a pile of newspapers and magazines. And a cup of tea.
"The price of seeing is silence." Marge Piercey's line came to me so, at first, I simply sat and breathed and watched. An otter was busy on the shore. A great blue heron flew overhead. A loon called out from the other end of the lake. And, as the sun climbed, the dock spiders appeared. They crawled up between the two-by-fours to warm themselves. These super-sized arachnids must be the fastest creatures on earth - with the slightest twitch of my foot, they disappeared.
I reached for one newspaper. Then another. Flipped through a magazine. Before long, I threw them all down in frustration. (Spiders went flying!) Everything I read was full of stories of New Radicals, and I was here to get my mind off work. I stood up and shook my fists in mock rage at God.
Jumping into the lake brought me back to my senses. "Wait a minute," I thought, climbing out and dripping all over the papers. "Look at all these people who've found ways to put the skills acquired in their careers to work on the world's greatest challenges. Isn't that great?" Gratitude replaced frustration, and I began to think about the journalists who had shared these inspiring stories.
Cottage mind takes a while to develop. I had to sit for a bit longer before the second thought came. "Wait a minute," I said again, sitting up a little. "We do all kinds of things to recognize, honour, and support the people who do this important work, like social entrepreneurs. But what about the storytellers? Who's saying 'thank you!' and 'keep going!' to them?"
Take a look at some of the articles I read that morning, and see if you don't also feel grateful for the men and women who discover these New Radicals and share their work with us. In telling these stories, they are helping us re-imagine our work and our world.
• From the Guardian's environment editor, John Vidal, this piece on how African women will suffer from climate change and what an African Nobel laureate is doing to help.
• Nicholas Kristof at the New York Times writes about an exceptionally brave Pakistani woman.
• From Brian Mockenhaupt at the Atlantic, what today's veterans can learn from tales of the Trojan War.
• A review of a book about a small-town America soccer team made up of refugees from Tim Lewis at the Observer.
• An article about urban farming, from Catherine Porter at the Toronto Star.
It was time to join the others for breakfast. But before I climbed the sturdy wooden stairs up the side of the granite cliff, I turned to the lake to recite a poem in thanks for generous friends, for New Radicals and the people who write about them, and for the beauty of the natural world. It's by the storyteller best known for the children's classic Charlotte's Web, E.B. White.
A Natural History
The spider, dropping down from twig
Unwinds a thread of her devising,
A thin, premeditated rig
To use in rising.
And all the journey down through space
In cool descent, and loyal-hearted,
She builds a ladder to the place
From where she started.
Thus I, gone forth, as spiders do,
In spiders web a truth discerning,
Attach one silken strand to you
For my returning.
So, dear readers. Is anyone honouring these storytellers? Are there awards and fellowships and other things I haven't heard of for writers? And will you share the details with me so that I can help spread the word? And, do tell, how was your summer?
Julia Moulden's new book is We Are The New Radicals: A Manifesto for Reinventing Yourself and Saving the World. Download chapter one for free. She also writes speeches for the world's most visionary leaders.
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