Healing Stories

What we see depends on where we look

| May / June 2004

When I first met Jay Walljasper, our departing editor-in-chief, just shy of 20 years ago, I was an at-home mother of a toddler and Jay was a handsome, unmarried, up-and-coming journalist who was interviewing to become the magazine's editor. His background and writing skills were impressive, and his interests were a good complement to those of my husband, Eric, who was the founder and editor-in-chief. Jay came to our house for dinner, and our son Sam took a major shine to him. At the time, Sam was being toilet trained (by happenstance, Sam just called from the airport in Venice, Italy, and gave me permission to use this story) and consequently spent most of his waking hours bare bottomed. He insisted on sitting in Jay's lap and then proceeded to demonstrate for Jay some of the more magical workings of his private parts. Jay's credentials were strong, but what put him ahead of the other candidates, in my book, were his graciousness, humor, and aplomb in dealing with a persistent toddler.

Since then, I have had ample opportunity to appreciate those qualities as well as his professional gifts. I have had the privilege of watching his life as a husband and father unfold; we've met challenges and grown together. After Eric left the company and I stepped in, Jay, who had become editor-at-large, took on a new role as editorial director. In the past four years, we have done a lot of soul-searching together, honed the magazine's mission, and discussed, during many walks around the lakes here in Minneapolis, what sorts of stories have the greatest potential for cultural transformation. He has been my ally and friend, giving me the peace of mind of knowing that his integrity, creativity, and craftsmanship were invested in every page of the magazine while I was getting a crash course on the business side of the company. I wish him all possible joy and success as he leaves the magazine.

You know this, Jay, but it bears public acknowledgment: We wouldn't be here without you. Eric and I both thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

The truth is that Jay can't get very far away, anyway. Not only do our families live across Lake Harriet from each other, but Julie Ristau, his wife, who was the associate publisher when Jay arrived two decades ago, and has more recently acted as interim publisher, is now spearheading the formation of the nonprofit Utne Institute and its pioneer project, Let's Talk America (see ad on page 26).



Meanwhile, we are delighted to name Karen Olson editor. Though we haven't given her the naked toddler hazing yet, she has already stepped gracefully into her new role, along with an editorial team that is bubbling with creativity. You'll be seeing an evolving vision in these pages in the months to come.

In many ways, evolving vision on all levels is what we're all about. Recently, I was in Chicago at the annual convention for the Church of Religious Science to give a speech. I talked about how essential it is for us to pay attention to what stories we choose to tell and how we tell them. I drew on the life and ideas of my friend Matt Sanford, who became a paraplegic at 13. Today, 25 years later, though he's still paralyzed, he's a yoga instructor as well as a writer who's been exploring the concept of 'healing stories.'