I used to tease my mom about her passion for bird watching. We all did—our entire family.

It is not as mean-spirited as it sounds. Her joyful bird walks are the stuff of family legend. One Thanksgiving, she left a boisterous meal to hike solo around the lake in sub-zero temperatures in search of a recently-sighted brown-headed nuthatch. My older brother thereafter jokingly dubbed our mom the “grey-headed nuthatch.” The nickname stuck. Meantime, whenever I felt that she was going on for too long about birds, I would channel my best Katherine Hepburn and interrupt, “Look Norman, the loons are back! The loons have come back to us.”

(Okay, maybe we are kind of jerks.)

Mea culpa. If the last 18 months of stay-at-home orders have taught me anything, it is that there is enormous joy to be derived from the smallest pleasures—bird watching among them. I spent hours this spring in an armchair in front of the bay window, drinking coffee and watching our resident cardinals (Doug and Kamala) snack on safflower seeds, and a trio of baby squirrels (Giannis, Kyrie and Devin—we are basketball fans) squeak and chase their way up and down our copper elm.

This year, I have also grown my first-ever vegetables—one emaciated cucumber and three cherry tomatoes so far, but who is counting?—gone on meditative walks on the rail-trail near my home, and adopted two kittens: joy, embodied. Joy has changed, in my mind, from an abstract—I will feel joy if… I will feel joy when…—to an energy, a spirit, that surrounds us every day. It lives inside the pages of a book or in the fragrance of a newborn’s hair. Joy resides in the slobbery snuffle of a rescue dog; the giggle of a toddler dancing with their shadow.

This issue of Exchange magazine is dedicated to joy in its many forms. A talented group of artists, educators, creative writers and deep thinkers share their experiences of joy, beginning on page 50. Curating and designing this section brought our team a great deal of joy; we hope reading it has the same effect on each of you.

This month, we are also recognizing the passing of a baton. Dimensions Educational Research Foundation’s CEO Nancy Rosenow, who for the past five years has been publisher of Exchange, retired August 1, 2021. Nancy has been a trusted and visionary leader across four decades, dedicated to children and to everyone she worked with. She made it her particular mission to mentor and elevate young women in our field, and I am one of many beneficiaries of her gracious friendship and collaboration. Nancy will continue to write for Exchange and remain a beloved part of our Exchange Press family.

Hear from Nancy herself about why welcoming our new CEO and publisher, Tara Schroeder, brings her joy—and learn a bit more about Tara herself. (Spoiler alert: she is magnificent.) Then, read what Tara has to say about joy on page 55.
Wishing you a day—a month—a year—a lifetime—filled with moments of joy.

Sara Gilliam author and former editor of Exchange magazine.

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