One goes by “Ernie” because he admits using his real name — George Washington — can be “awkward.”
Another identifies herself as “a mom, grandmother, step mom, cyclist, hiker, traveler, artist, friend and partner” who says “getting the newspaper delivered is something I can’t imagine going without.” (We like that.)
Another created his own newspaper in the fourth grade and, seven decades later, still has ink in his veins.
And the fourth has been writing in some form or another most of her life, and has written two unpublished books — both of which were destroyed in the Camp Fire.
It’s quite a group, and they are Ernie Washington, Sheryl Kennedy, Ronald Angle and Kathy Steenson — your North State Voices columnists for 2022.
The four were selected by our judging panel earlier this week, and their columns will begin appearing on our Opinion page every Thursday beginning Jan. 6, 2022.
Editor Mike Wolcott said this year’s entries represented “a really good group,” adding “Picking four people out of all of the entries we get is never easy. This year, it was harder than most. We literally liked them all.”
The columnists face a tough act to follow. Lizi Lee, Sarah Peterson-Young, Amber Woodward Gravitt and Bonnie Pipkin (whose final column runs today) have received rave reviews from our readers throughout 2021.
“I’ve noticed every group is a little different,” Wolcott said. “Our current group excels at unique, real-life perspectives on everyday scenarios — and they’ve had quite a range of experiences. The new group coming in are all just flat-out great storytellers. It’s going to be another fun year.”
You’ll get to know each by their writing; here is a sample of some of the passages that won us over.
From Ernie Washington: “I’ve been a lawyer for 50 years and still can’t quite bring myself to quit. There are a couple more big cases I’m involved in, but I’m close — real close, I think. Not so with my other job of farming. I worked with my dad with livestock as a kid, and later joined in working at the almond orchard he acquired south of Durham. I’ve been on my own raising almonds since 1977. I can’t imagine not being out with my dog listening to the geese and Sandhill cranes, pruning young trees on a crisp winter day or coming home greasy, dirty and smelling of diesel after some harvest disaster on a triple-digit late August afternoon.”
From Sheryl Kennedy: “On November 13, my birthday, I woke up. I opened my eyes and smiled; I made it. I have lived longer than either of my parents. I do not take this gift lightly. It is truly a gift. I have read that many people who lose their parents in their younger years have this same fear, this strange awareness of their own mortality. But, when the line is crossed, the relief and gratitude is real. Frosting on the cake! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all stopped for a moment and bowed our heads in gratitude for what we have? The ugliness and divisiveness of this world are so caustic and corrosive. Here we are! How fortunate we are. How does it help the world to be angry and mean?”
From Ronald Angle: “It was on one of these wanderings that I had what I still consider a highlight of my 75-plus years of mountain camping. I was on a forest highway that should have led me over the Cascades and down into the basin of Medicine Lake. But near the summit, the paved highway became snow. It was early spring and the winter snow had not yet melted. My elevation was over 6,000 feet. I stopped and reviewed my options. I was pulling a small travel trailer and making a reverse turn was not an option; there was snow on both sides of the pavement at that point. So I went into reverse and began to slowly back down the road, using my side view mirror. And that was when I saw the wolf.”
From Kathy Steenson: “Looking back on my life versus lives of others, I wonder who decides who gets lucky and who gets to be fortunate. Was I fortunate to have parents who taught me right from wrong, yet lucky that dad’s whippings never physically harmed me? Were my siblings and I lucky to have moved and changed schools seven times by the time I graduated high school, but fortunate that the changes taught us to be independent, flexible, and interested? Was I lucky or fortunate that my childhood life prepared me for the life of a military wife? It’s a thought-provoking conundrum, considering if what happens is pure luck or being fortunate.”
We trust those snippets will leave you wanting more. They sure had that effect on us, and that’s why they’re our 2022 North State Voices columnists.