Photo by Lynn Walcutt

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Judith Walcutt

Judith Walcutt lives about as far away from the American South as you can live in the contiguous United States—on an island north of Seattle. This gives her some perspective on the matter of “the South” and how often, on a cold dank Northwest day, perhaps the fortieth gray one in a row, she longs for the fulfillment of that Keatsian evocation: O for a beaker full of the warm South . . . with its onomatopoeic beaded bubbles winking at the brim. Yes, give her some sunshine and something fizzy to drink—and she’s a different woman!

Born and raised in New Jersey, Walcutt considers she really grew up summering on Fire Island, which made her an islander at heart for life. With a BA in Literature and Languages from Bard College and an MA in Rhetoric, Linguistics, and Literature from the University of Southern California, what was a girl to do? Good question!  It was the ’70s!  Anything seemed possible . . . whether it really was or not is still a matter of debate. On the long road from there to here, she chose art over academics and sensibly moved to Seattle, where life was a little greener and a person could see beauty in all four directions. It did make all the difference.

She began her career in public radio—local NPR and community, listener-driven radio in the medium’s exciting early years—as a writer, producer, and freelancer for KRAB, KUOW, KPLU, NPR, APR, PRI, CBC, WGBH, WNYC, among other broadcast outlets.  In 1981, she founded and continues to executive direct the nonprofit, educational production company, Otherworld Media, whose mission is to encourage imagination and deepen comprehension in children and other humans.

In its forty years, Walcutt’s company has produced local, national, and international award-winning programs for public radio, TV, and stage, of which she and her creative partner and husband, David Ossman, are the parents.  These include the Grammy-nominated 50th Anniversary Production of the War of the Worlds, the international award-winning Empire of the Air: The Making of Radio, the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award winner We Hold These Truths: A Celebration of the Bill of Rights, which was a worldwide, all-network broadcast, in association with the National Association of Broadcasters for the 200th anniversary of the document’s ratification.

Other favorite projects include a full-cast, all-star audio production of a complete, true-to-the-book adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (a Parent’s Choice Gold-Medal winner) and an audio-immersive, surround-sound stage production of the play cowritten with her husband, Agatha Christie’s BBC Murders.

As creative partners, Walcutt and Ossman collaborated on raising two sons, Orson and Preston, who are treasured by their parents beyond worldly description.

Walcutt’s blog, “Minding the Sky” was first published online and can be found archived at Buried among these “sky-mindings,” which are a beginning Buddhist’s simple observations on the ordinary details of life, there are a few exceptional recipes for jams and chutneys which anyone can make given time, good ingredients, and loving intentions.

Walcutt’s current project concerns developing an online platform for school-age children encouraging the use of imagination, information-gathering skills, and critical thinking through creative engagement with libraries, museums, and other resources publicly accessible to children.

Ten Things I Can’t Do Without For Now

Only Ten Things?

There are a lot of things about living that I can’t live without, starting with living on an island north of Seattle—and when I am away from here, I miss it terribly: the color of the sky in the morning, bleeding through the cross-hatched lines of the fir trees all around us; the community organization that will come to your house and fix what’s broken, if you need it and you can’t get it done by yourself. And how about the wine-tasting room in the nearby village, owned and run by our oldest friends, where the very best musicians come and play while the sun sets behind them and the moon rises over their shoulders like a pink balloon? I can’t live without any of that.  And then there are the eagles and the owls.  They careen about the sky over our heads, noisily whistling or strangely hooting before landing suddenly on a snag branch.  The owls watch us, with their alien owl eyes, so close to where we drink our cups of tea in the morning, we feel their world inside our own.  It would kill me to lose any of this life here.  But if I take a more disciplined approach—like my life depended on telling the simplest truth, here’s a nice Aristotelian list for your interest and edification. 

  1. Water. Period.
  2. Family and friends who are also family
  3. Spiritual practice that encompasses yoga in the morning, walking in the afternoon, weekly practice with my sangha, and the words of my precious teachers in between
  4. Being in proximity to the actual, natural world, especially large bodies of water
  5. A good night’s sleep with dreams remembered
  6. A good book to read on the way
  7. A hot shower on a cold day
  8. Art supplies of all kinds
  9. Fresh fruit
  10. The great and guilty pleasure of binging on BBC mysteries and ice cream when the world is too much with me late and soon

Judith Walcutt's contributions: