You, dear reader, and I have been having long conversations over the time you've been reading this magazine. Whether or not you write to me, I try to listen—to imagine your concerns and your joy. This editor's column, my 156th letter to you, marks the close of my years as editor of Minnesota Conservation Volunteer. For the past three decades, my relationship with you and the natural world has animated my life.
Now, making this strange passage called retirement, I feel a little like Alice dropping down a rabbit hole into uncharted territory. To get my bearings, I am trying to follow some of my own advice. In the May–June 1997 issue, I wrote: "The lessons of navigating in the woods could apply almost anywhere as a person attempts to mark progress and maintain a course: Know where you came from. Watch where you're headed. Start where you're at."
Where I came from takes me back to summer weeks in western Minnesota with grandparents on the farm and grandparents living in town. For us grandkids, staying in both places seemed a lot like camping. We pumped pails of cold well water and heated it in kettles on the stove for washing dishes, clothes, and us. On the farm we could take a quick shower with solar-heated rainwater from a bucket and hose rigged up alongside the garage. In town and country, we used outhouses and, honest, Sears Roebuck catalogs. Those were the 1950s, before my uncles installed indoor plumbing—improvements we kids barely noticed but which the grandmothers repeatedly praised.
Here at the DNR magazine, I've been watching, and guiding, where we're headed since 1986. My on-the-job training started with editor emeritus Robert Kraske, who hired me as associate editor. On my first day, he put a large box of letters from readers on my desk and assigned me to read each one. Thus he wisely introduced me to you and your passion for outdoor life.
When my mentor announced his impending retirement, I worried that I was not ready to act in his place. But when DNR leaders offered me a chance to take over, I followed Teddy Roosevelt's counsel: "Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell 'em, 'Certainly, I can!' Then get busy and find out how to do it!"
To begin, I enlisted the help of people with more knowledge and experience than I had. Besides being critically important to a fledgling editor, teamwork invites creativity and invigorates everyone. Over the years, I've been fortunate to hire and work with many dedicated people—far more than I could name here.
Today our ace team (Lynn Phelps, Mike Kallok, and Keith Goetzman in editorial; David Lent and Sue Ryan in circulation) collaborates on almost everything. We live by a few unwritten rules: Meet deadlines. Don't assume—verify facts. Serve readers—what does the reader need to know, see, discover? Try to make each new issue the best one ever.
Since 1940, excellence has been a hallmark of The Conservation Volunteer. In my time here, we've acquired many new tools for polishing that tradition. In 1986 we were typing stories on typewriters or word processors. We sent edited manuscripts to a typesetter, who set columns of type for the editor to cut and paste into page layouts. By 1989 we were working on desktop computers and sending files directly to the printer. In fall 1992 black-and-white photos gave way to full color. Before long, instead of slides, photographers were transmitting digital images online.
Throughout the changes, the magazine has stayed true to its mission of encouraging conservation, sustainable use, and enjoyment of natural resources. And you, MCV readers, have marked its progress.
Readers make everything possible. Your contributions support Minnesota Conservation Volunteer from start to finish. No other magazine that I've ever heard of anywhere in the country can make that claim. The life of this magazine relies uniquely on you.
What animates your life? For me, and perhaps for most of us, the root cause is a verb—love. We love this place called Minnesota, our home, our natural community. Beginning at home, we expand our vision to love the Earth deeply, truly, and actively.
Thank you all for being such a vital part of my life for so long.
Kathleen Weflen, editor