A Note Of Thanks

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Photo of Mary South - Editor in Cheif - Soundings Magazine

Mary South

I remember the first time I walked though the door at the Soundings offices in Essex, Connecticut. It was more than four-and-a-half years ago, but I recall taking special note of the moment and reminding myself that even good first days at a new job are hard ones: Which of these people will wind up being friends? Where are office supplies stored? Why isn’t the Internet working? (Turns out that almost everyone at 10 Bokum Road became a friend; the office supplies were downstairs under lock and key, and we still don’t know why the Internet is chronically slow.)

Even though I work remotely, I’ve been coming to the office to close each issue, and that’s long enough now to feel the rhythm of the seasons here, to anticipate change as it unfolds. In late fall I feel melancholy the week the pick-your-own farmstand finally cuts down all the zinnias and puts the chain across the driveway. Soon afterwards the streets of Essex twinkle like a winter fairyland, heralding the arrival, not of Jesus, but ye olde Colonial-style carolers who drive the regulars from the Griswold Inn up the street to The Seal in December.

January and February are months of cold, gray silence: The yards have plucked all but a few boats from the river and wrapped them to hibernate — there’s a still, frozen quality to days of low light and zinc skies.

But then, a crocus! Banks of tight forsythia buds line the roadsides, showing only a hint of impending lemon yellow. The slumbering boatyards awaken, stretch, and the large shed doors rumble open. Soon they are hives — bustling with workers, ladders, forklifts — all focused on finishing punch-lists before seasonal launches. Spring is a short, greased slide into long, warm summer nights on the river, ice cream shops that are open until dark, candy-colored slacks and gin and tonics. And the fields are full of zinnias again.

The only constant in life is change and if we’re alert to it, each new moment is also unavoidably a goodbye to the previous one. My very talented spouse just won the Rome Prize, a year to study at the American Academy in Rome, Italy. And there’s no way I’m going to miss out on the chance to live in Italy for a year. So, next month, and the October issue, will be my last as the editor-in-chief of Soundings.

It’s been a wonderful job — not without its challenges and frustrations, of course — but there are three joys that have always made it worthwhile.

Putting together the right mix of articles has been consistently fun. What do Soundings readers want to learn about and be entertained by each month? There must be new boats (always!), but also great restorations, maritime traditions, seamanship expertise, nautical books and art.

Soundings readers are knowledgeable, experienced and smart — the editorial bar has been held high by you, and trying to clear it each month has kept my work really engaging.

Of course, I’m no dummy: I found an amazing crew to help. In my time here, Pat Mundus, Jeff Bolster, Daniel Parrott, Capt. Lou Boudreau, Sam Devlin, Mario Vittone and other All Stars have generously taken an oar. And most recently, I have had the hard-working companionship of fellow galley slaves Briana Smith, Gary Reich, Kim Kavin and Pim Van Hemmen to help me row this open boat in every kind of weather.

Truth be told, though, my very favorite part of Soundings has always been waking up early on the day we ship the issue to the printer, making a cup of hotel coffee and getting back in bed with my laptop. I open up a blank word document, watch the cursor blink and think what am I going to say this month?

The future is unwritten, but one thing I know for sure: I’m going to miss you.

msouth@aimmedia.com

This article originally appeared in the September 2018 issue.