Honoring Margot Adler

New York, NY, USA

I was more deeply moved than I would have expected by the death of Margot Adler: journalist, priestess, lover of vampires, and fellow member of the great family of All Souls Unitarian Church.

I knew Margot Adler’s name and voice long before I ever met her. My father literally sets his watch by All Things Considered, and he always has his favorite reporters: Baxter Black the cowboy poet, Scott Simon, a few others, and Margot Adler. When their voices came on the air, the volume went up and we stopped to listen. I am an NPR junkie myself now, with my own list of favorites — Soraya Sarhatti-Nelson, Robert Krulwich, Laila Fadl — but Dad and I still have Margot Adler in common.

So in the fall of 2012, when she was going to preach in the pulpit of All Souls, where I was newly employed, I was ecstatic. When I was proofreading the Order of Service and saw her sermon title, “Why We Love Vampires,” I was enraptured. Even though she had preached at All Souls a few times before, I got there extra early that morning in case she needed anything.

When I walked through the parish house door, there she was, shorter and more stooped than I had pictured for such a giant of journalism, but with a radiant smile you can’t see on the radio. The other worship leader wouldn’t arrive for almost an hour, so I walked Margot upstairs and we stood at my desk and chatted, just as if we were old colleagues.

I had loved vampires for at least a dozen years longer than Margot, but of the 260 vampire novels she had read while researching her e-book Vampires Are Us, we had settled on most of the same favorites for mostly the same reasons. I had probably also been pondering why we love vampires longer than she had, but she had come to all my conclusions and taken them a step further.

Eventually, from vampires, we turned quite naturally to witches in popular literature. I have long said that if I were any kind of theist, I would be a Wiccan polytheist, and Margot Adler remains the Wiccan priestess most admired by the practicing pagans of my childhood church. In conversation, I learned that both Margot and I were impressed by the representation of witches in bestselling romance novelist Nora Roberts’ work.

We were interrupted by the arrival of the assistant minister, but I made time to sit and listen to Margot’s sermon in both services. Two years later, chatting with Margot is still one of my best memories of All Souls.

After that, she always had a hug for me when I saw her in church. Through Superstorm Sandy, New York mayoral politics and more, I always stopped to listen when Margot Adler’s familiar voice came on the air.

This past spring, I was walking through Central Park, listening to All Things Considered on my iPod, when Margot came on the air. It was a story about new super skyscrapers on the west side of Central Park that were stealing the sunlight from some of the park’s trees. I almost logged into the church database right there in the park to email her about how I had enjoyed the story and that I couldn’t recall seeing her at church recently.

Now I never will and wish I had.

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