On the phone, at a gas station, in our dreams
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A couple of years ago I felt as if I were reading the same content over and over in The Sun, and I let my subscription lapse.
Eventually I gave in to one of your regular entreaties to reconsider, and I’m glad I did, because your May 2016 issue brought many treasures. “Righteous Babe” [interview by Mark Leviton] made me absolutely love musician Ani DiFranco. Poe Ballantine’s short story “Torpedoes D’Amour” had me feeling twelve years old again, swept up in those wonderfully awkward feelings. Tony Hoagland’s poem “Cause of Death: Fox News” was a brief antidote to the wrongheaded hatred that affects many of us these days. And I was impressed by your tribute to the late Stephen Levine, “Let It Shine.” I’ve always had trouble with traditional notions of how we die in this country. Levine managed to remove the rouge the funeral home insists on putting on death.
Thanks for encouraging me to resubscribe.
Tony Hoagland’s poem “Cause of Death: Fox News” [May 2016] struck a chord. I recently left my husband, though I’d promised him I wouldn’t. I just couldn’t take it any longer. For the last decade Fox News was the soundtrack of my life: urgent voices warning of looming disaster while my husband sent hate-filled e-mails claiming that the Others were taking over our country. His only conversation consisted of gibberish he’d heard from his favorite anchors.
When I last saw my husband, he was stomping around behind the house, scanning the surrounding area for rattlesnakes, Mexicans, and Muslims.
Rather than being disappointed by Sy Safransky’s editorial judgment in printing David Lancy’s statements about female genital mutilation [“The Kids Are All Right,” interview by Mark Leviton, February 2016], perhaps the readers who wrote in [Correspondence, May 2016] should be grateful for the dialogue that Lancy prompted.
It is unfortunate when readers are hijacked by one or two sentences in an interview. I look forward to the often startling ideas in The Sun and appreciate pieces that force me to rethink what I thought I knew or that introduce me to new terrain. Frequently I disagree, but I relish being pushed.
Robin Wall Kimmerer [“Two Ways of Knowing,” interview by Leath Tonino, April 2016] reminded me that if we go back far enough, everyone comes from an ancestral culture that revered the earth.
The invading Romans began the process of destroying my Celtic and Scottish ancestors’ earth-centered traditions in 500 BC, and what the Romans left undone, the English nearly completed two thousand years later with their demoralizing land clearances. My more immediate ancestors finished the job by moving their families from Britain to America.
Having followed the “green path” for thirty years, I’ve relearned ways to listen to the land. All earth-centric cultures, past and present, work with the seasons; the movements of the sun, moon, and stars; and the cycles of growth of plants, animals, and ecosystems. When we pay attention, both practically and ceremonially, to what the earth shows us, we become more fully human.
Earth-centered cultures use songs, dances, and ceremonies to connect with the spiritual beings of the forests, mountains, and seas. This aspect of ancestral traditions is probably beyond anything a scientist would believe, much less set out to measure, but it is essential nevertheless.
Thanks for printing Leath Tonino’s interview with Robin Wall Kimmerer, whose writings have deepened my affection for the earth. My women’s book group read her book Braiding Sweetgrass when it was first published, and we’re still discussing it. Kimmerer has a gift for teasing wisdom from the natural world.
This week twenty plugs of sweetgrass will arrive in my mail. I’ve already planted berry bushes and fruit trees in the yard. The white cedars out front give me healing teas. When I hear the birds sing every morning, I think: How lucky I am to live in this brighter, more awakened world.
I’ve been a nurse for forty-four years, and Mary Jane Nealon’s essay “A Healing Touch” [April 2016], in which she describes the importance of being emotionally and physically present for patients, made me want to shout, “Right on!” I later read her memoir, Beautiful Unbroken: One Nurse’s Life, which made me laugh and cry. Nealon has joined the ranks of my favorite Sun writers.
Mary Jane Nealon’s “A Healing Touch” reminded me of one of the best compliments I received in my forty-seven years as a veterinarian: I was treating a Norwich terrier when the dog’s owner said that she had just come from her doctor, and she wished he had examined her as thoroughly as I was examining her dog. She wasn’t trying to be funny.
Thanks to Paul Grafton [Readers Write on “Bosses,” April 2016] for sharing the secret to washing windows with warm water and newspaper. It’s a skill that had eluded me, a seventy-plus-year-old woman, all of my window-washing life. My windows look better than they ever have, and it took hardly any time at all. Even my grandmother, a woman who worshiped at the altar of all things sparkling, would have been impressed.
I’ll admit, when I opened the April 2016 issue and saw that my Readers Write submission wasn’t published, I was disappointed. I’m a busy clinical psychologist and mother, and until recently I hadn’t written creatively for more than thirty years. Some days I wonder if my reawakened passion for writing is simply a childish dream I should put away — again.
But then I read Heather Sellers’s essay “Unlocked,” and I wept at this line about her mother: “In that moment I saw that I wasn’t going to be able to love her and survive.”
I don’t really care whether I’m an author or a reader, as long as I can be a part of this community of courageous individuals who speak the truth.
After reading about Sparrow’s earache remedy [“Garlic in My Ear,” April 2016], I would like to share our family’s method for lowering a fever: When my toddler son had a fever of 104 degrees, my wife told me to slice an onion, which she placed in my son’s socks. A short time later the fever dissipated. Today my kids use the same remedy on my grandchildren.
Thank you for reprinting the words of the immortal Edward Abbey in your April 2016 issue [“The Serpents of Paradise”]. Even in this season of bombastic political posturing, we can remember that all creatures are kindred, all men are brothers, and demagogues shall pass from the scene. They always do.
I suppose Sam Mowe’s interview with Jack Miles [“Embracing Ignorance,” March 2016] gave some readers good feelings toward religion, but it had the opposite effect on me. I won’t deliver an angry critique of liberal Christianity, but I do want to say this to the seekers out there: Religion is not the only game in town when it comes to community. I found community — or, rather, community found me — when I began to engage with the world and share my gifts. Be patient. Sometimes it is better to be empty than filled with fanciful ideas. Sometimes it’s better to be lost than transported.
Poe Ballantine’s essay “No Longer on the Map” [March 2016] was strangely uplifting. He describes tragic characters and landscapes — and even his own botched suicide attempt — with honesty and humor. The material is depressing, but he gives us the sense that we’re all in this together.
I discovered copies of The Sun in the recycling box here in prison. What a find. The stories and essays have great drama and beauty. They touch my heart with reminders of my past as a free man and hopes for my future.
I try to create beauty myself. Because I am not allowed to purchase art supplies, I rinse the dyes from M&M’s to make water colors. When the paint has dried, I add detail with some colored pencils that I am lucky to have. I’ve learned that less can be more. The Sun’s format, too, is simple and clean. All of the color, all of the emotion, is right there in the writing. When I read your magazine, I am transported and made human again.
Each issue you publish feels like a true friend, the kind who asks the questions I long to be asked, and who gives me the funny, lonely, sad, joyful, no-bullshit truth about what it means to be alive.