‘First we have to magically know what’s out there …’

I was talking on a summer afternoon with people who make community, who teach and make art and help people meet daily need. I was at Multicultural BRIDGE in Great Barrington on a hot, bright day, and two summer interns had asked me to sit with them and listen as they gathered oral histories.

The sky was open blue over cornfields along the Housatonic. We were talking about the Berkshires, and all of us, coming from different places, at different times in our lives, were sharing a sense that we wanted to know more.

We also all believed we could find more to know. The more we looked out into the community, the more we found people to talk with, and the more we felt a sense of potential.

Talking together, we could play and ask questions. We could see more in the world we live in and clarify the world we want to live in. As Rachel Hailey told me in a DEI Outdoors course this winter — ‘a sense of excitement and imagination and what can be possible … can help to get things moving.’

That energy, for me, is at the heart of what journalists do. It’s the rush of a summer night sitting on the curb in a theater lot and talking with summer journalism interns about the play we’ve just seen at Barrington Stage, jazzed with ideas and carrying takeout barbecue from Smokey Divas around the corner.

‘A sense of excitement and imagination and what can be possible … can help to get things moving.’

It’s the way I have seen students expand in excitement when a conversation touches their lives. It’s the way stories, over time, can shape the community, in ideas and then in action, and make real change in places that matter. How we care for each other. How we care for the land. How we teach history, and how we make the future.

Bring together experience and local connections and accountability, and we may have all kinds of ideas. Looking at my notes for that winter course, I see that I mis-wrote, or wrote, ‘with a magic want, let it stretch’ — and see how far we can open.

Today it seems apt. Journal, and journalism, and journalist, come from a root that means day, stories of the day, and before that, it means sky. We’re riding a great, creative potential energy in a wide and changing world.

BTW Berkshires