In “Go Fly a Kite” [February 2010], a prepublication excerpt from her book To Have Not, Frances Lefkowitz mentions est (Erhard Seminars Training) in a list of what she considers to be fringe organizations. In the final version of her book the author removed the reference to est. For the record, in its time, est made an enormous contribution to the lives of more than half a million people from all over the world, including government leaders, members of the judiciary, and a complete cross section of professions: business, arts and entertainment, the military, the media, and the general population.
In “Go Fly a Kite,” Frances Lefkowitz achieves self-discovery, gratitude, and contentment twice: once through her Sufi mentoring, and another time through writing about her experience. The purpose of writing is to affect the heart. Interestingly, Arabic — the language of Islam’s holy book, the Quran — is written from right to left, toward the heart.
Not only Sufism in particular but Islam in general considers the heart “a template for what’s going on with the rest of you.” This is why Mohammed, the Muslim prophet, stated that the rectification of the heart leads to the rectification of the whole body.
Divine revelation and scripture remind us that our hearts need to be nourished as much as our body needs oxygen to breathe. To restore the purity of the agitated heart, Islam prescribes the remembrance of God: “Most verily, in the remembrance of God do hearts find calm” (Quran: 12:28). This is achieved through prayers, supplications, and other forms of worship, like the constant mentioning of the name “Allah” (“God” in Arabic) or, as Lefkowitz practiced, one of his attributes, such as “Al Fattah,” the Opener.
I enjoyed Nathan B. Kinkade’s letter about how his uncle sent him The Sun in prison and, after some initial disappointment, how Kinkade came to enjoy the magazine [Correspondence, January 2010]. I appreciated the courage and humility it must have taken for him to try something new, even if it wasn’t considered “macho” or “cool” in prison culture. Having served twenty-five years in a California state prison, I know that deviating from that culture’s norms can be fatal to one’s social status. I congratulate Kinkade for choosing what is right for him rather than what is easy.
Exploring the depths of the mind and the human spirit can be uncomfortable at times, but the ultimate gains are well worth it. Kinkade concludes that his uncle who sent him The Sun understands him better than he understands himself. I would say his uncle loves him more than he is able to love himself. But Kinkade’s letter indicates that he is discovering the means to love himself more each day.
In “The Good Earth?” [interview by David Kupfer, January 2010] Sandra Steingraber says, “You almost have to [get a chest freezer] if you want to live on your CSA produce year-round.”
No matter where you live, you can store locally grown produce in season without a freezer. We live in the northeast and grow potatoes, onions, carrots, beets, turnips, rutabegas, apples, cabbage, squash, and field beans in our garden. We store them all in a root cellar, or under a bench inside the house, or in jars on a shelf. When I lived in an apartment, I kept the bedroom unheated and was able to store most of our veggies under the bed.
When I began reading Sarah Rakel Orton’s short story “Scars and Scales” [January 2010], I thought I had picked up the wrong magazine. This story makes no sense whatsoever: When Mom dies of cancer, the remaining family members turn into crocodiles? Come on!
Some readers may enjoy tales straight out of a science-fiction movie, but I don’t. Please, more down-to-earth fiction packed with humor, drama, and human emotion.
I can’t say I enjoyed Alice Bradley’s essay “Eighteen Attempts at Writing about a Miscarriage” [December 2009], but it sounded as if I were writing it. I have had seven miscarriages, with no children at the end of it all.
I feel cheated that I never had kids. It was like some sort of evil joke to give me each pregnancy and then snatch it away — especially the second-trimester baby. Like Bradley I thought of all the things I had done that might have caused the miscarriages. (I, too, worked in my garden quite a bit.) I even thought my Husky could have brought on one of them by jumping up on me.
I have since found out I have lupus and a rare blood disease, both of which frequently cause miscarriages. So nothing I or my silly Husky did was responsible. The miscarriages still hurt to think about, but not as much. I am glad that Bradley didn’t end the essay on a feel-good note or say something about God’s will. I never wanted to make my miscarriages less than what they were: a loss of the life I’d once planned.
As a therapist I have sat with many women as they grieved the loss of an unborn child. I find that a large portion of the mother’s grief seems based on medical misinformation. Alice Bradley is no exception.
Our culture has an unrealistic and idealized view of pregnancy. We have forgotten that nature is never perfect. The truth is that 20 to 25 percent of all pregnancies spontaneously abort — i.e., miscarry — in the first trimester. To repeat: about one-quarter of all pregnancies. Many miscarriages occur so early that the woman may not have suspected she was pregnant. We focus only on the miscarriages that occur later, after a full pregnancy has been anticipated. So, if this happens to you, remember: you have not been singled out by God or Fate, and there is probably nothing you have done that caused the loss of the pregnancy.
Miscarriage is, indeed, a profound loss, but no woman who has miscarried is alone.
Alice Bradley’s essay so closely mirrored my own experience that I held my breath until I reached the end. Thank you for publishing such an honest piece about a topic that is one of our society’s last taboos. There is no announcement of or public mourning for a miscarriage; it is a deeply personal, internal pain in spite of how common it is. Over and over, as I became more open about losing my embryo/baby, so many other women would tell me, “I had one too.” I have found that sharing experiences with other women who have gone through this loss is the way toward healing.
When I reached the last paragraph of Sy Safransky’s December 2009 Notebook, I actually laughed out loud. Indeed, how about a magazine for the dead? Sy is thinking ahead, and so am I. I look forward to reading it.
Thank you for Markham Starr’s photo essay “Last Catch” [December 2009]. The photos are just beautiful, and the story they tell hits me right in the heart. I used to fish commercially in Alaska and along the coast of California. I loved that life when I lived it, and I’m sad that it seems to be on its way out.
Of the many issues of The Sun that I have read, December 2009, with the Readers Write on “Anger,” was perhaps the most excruciating, and the most useful. Let’s face it: anger hurts, yet it can be a healing emotion, moving us past obstacles we might otherwise never have overcome. Learning to understand and empathize with others’ anger is the key to forgiveness.
Your October 2009 cover with the graffiti “I was your city” excited me. I love the city. I love my city, Los Angeles. I was looking forward to an issue close to my urban heart.
Sadly many of the contributors seemed to have mistaken urbanism for materialism, claiming that modern city dwellers are obsessed with consuming and buying and would rather wallow in laziness than enjoy the basic pleasures in life. I understand that these are mostly economic analyses and not social ones, but the entire issue was so one-note that I was irritated by the end of it.
I am poor as hell. I can barely afford my groceries every week. I budget so I can see a concert once a month because live music means so much to me. I have no iPhone, BlackBerry, or Bluetooth. But Los Angeles, in all of its flawed, energy-guzzling glory, gives me smiles every day. There are ways to talk about the problems of cities that do not involve denouncing its residents for being lazy consumerists.
My eighty-nine-year-old mother lives in a nursing facility and has no apparent interest in anything but “passing on.” Lately, however, I’ve started reading to her from The Sun. We have always had a contentious relationship, but Readers Write has helped us achieve a level of peace and understanding that I never thought possible. Your magazine and its readers have eased and enriched these final days for my mother and me.
Martin Fishman, whose photographs appeared in fourteen issues of The Sun (including two covers), died February 3, at the age of seventy-two. He began taking photographs in college, but for most of his life he was employed as a social caseworker and supervisor by the City of New York. He retired early to pursue art and photography full time. The Museum of Coney Island has many of Marty’s photographs in its permanent collection. We will miss his eye for the wry and poignant moments of life.