The Circle Dance

The last few weeks have been a blur of airports and open
suitcases. Between going to conferences, giving talks, and
presenting our new business plan — a blueprint for sustainability
— I’ve hardly been home. It was downright blissful making dinner
with my family last night.

But I’m not complaining about all the travel, because I get to
meet so many of you. No matter how many times I’m told that our
work touches people’s lives, I am moved and grateful. In our
business plan, we say that it’s you — our readers — who make us
unique. You are incredibly engaged in your lives and your
communities, and you act on your passions.

Increasingly, the line between our subjects and our readers is
blurring. Last week I met Tod Murphy, whose Farmer’s Diner was
featured in a story about ‘slow money’ in the Sept./Oct. issue. He
told me this story: ‘I was reading Utne at my
father-in-law’s house in Olympia, Washington. I was sitting
upstairs in the loft, looking out over the forest. I had been
reading the biographies of some of the people Utne had
selected as most influential. There was Wendell Berry. I read and
reread that piece and immediately went out to the bookstore to
purchase a copy of The Unsettling of America. It was that
purchase that led me to realize I was a born farmer, that I possess
what is now called an agrarian sense of values. It was reading
Wendell Berry, discovered through Utne, that developed the
philosophy that lead me to create the Farmers Diner.’

And then there is Thomas Naylor, whose Vermont Manifesto we
cover in this issue (pg. 66). Back in 1989, Naylor was a professor
and corporate consultant living in Virginia. He read an article in
the magazine that we reprinted from The Vermont Papers, a
visionary book extolling the virtues of small-scale government from
Vermont-based publisher Chelsea Green. Fast forward to the present
when Naylor, now a Vermont resident, is leading a Vermont
independence movement.

This year we will mark our 20th anniversary, and there are
several ways we are planning to celebrate. One is by sharing
stories of this cycle — how we have inspired you and how you are
living an inspired life that inspires us and others. Send
submissions to Utne’s 20th Anniversary, 1624 Harmon Place,
Minneapolis, MN 55403.

We’re also relaunching the neighborhood salons movement we
pioneered in 1991. We are working with a number of partners to
convene a national conversation about our hopes and dreams for our
democracy beginning in March with salons in 1,000 living rooms,
cafes, church basements, and union halls across the country. There
will be a voter registration component to this initiative, as well
as a concerted effort to reach out to all the networks we
intersect. For more on how you can get involved, go to

On another front, your positive response to our redesign and the
receptivity created by the current political climate has persuaded
us to undertake a direct mail campaign for the first time in three
years. You are always our best advocates, however, so here are a
couple of ideas: Several readers, entirely independently from each
other, have taken the initiative of sending gift subscriptions to
their doctors, dentists, and other health care practitioners. It’s
a great way to expose a lot of people to new ways of thinking, to
promote independent media, and, of course, to help us. If you
aren’t in a position to give subscriptions, then do a little
guerrilla marketing — one reader leaves her back issues in

P.S. We hear from you that our ads are a valuable source of
information; they also are an essential source of revenue to us. We
try to be sensitive to your concerns, but we’re far from
infallible, so we really appreciate your feedback. In this issue,
after much internal discussion, we are running an ad for an
additive-free tobacco. I consider it a measure of my versatility
that I both do yoga and occasionally smoke, and additive-free is
certainly a better option. For some people, there is no such thing
as a good smoking option, so we know that we may be making a
controversial decision.

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