Christine Byl’s interview with Eva Saulitis [“Every Reason to Stay,” January 2017] was deeply moving. My favorite line, also applicable to my own life, is “I had to face a reality I did not want to acknowledge.”
Saulitis describes the limitations of science when it’s practiced poorly: direct observation is supplanted by technological approaches, and research grants are limited to the latest disaster, after it is too late to acquire baseline data.
So much talent, money, and effort is wasted on injurious pursuits like manufacturing armaments and promoting consumerism. Think what could be achieved by supporting the work of creative, committed people like Saulitis.
Although I grew up on an apple ranch in Washington State, a continent away from Eva Saulitis and the Upstate New York vineyards of her youth [“In the Body That Once Was Mine,” January 2017], my exposure to manmade toxins paralleled hers. From the first budding leaf to the last apple harvested, the orchards were drenched in pesticides, the names of which all seemed to end in -thion. I dragged a hose from tree to tree, dousing each with the potent chemicals. When a young coworker and I met at the end of our rows, we would spray each other to cool down.
Other pesticides were applied by crop-duster in early fall. As the plane buzzed our houses, we rushed out to stand in the mist. I worked harvests in the packing shed where I ate a half-dozen apples daily — fruit that had been bathed all season in toxins and then dunked in tanks of fungicide on its way to the packing lines.
The toxic exposure has yet to affect me. I can only conclude that my survival is testimony to the explanation Saulitis’s oncologist offered her: “We live in a poisoned world. Some people have the genetics to handle it, some don’t.”
My love of Heather Sellers’s essay “Pedal, Pedal, Pedal” [January 2017] may only be superseded by my love of cycling itself. She captures how being on a bike makes you feel both like a better person and like a child again. Ride strong.
When I finished your January issue, I picked up my checkbook and made a donation on top of my annual subscription. Thank you for every piece of it, from the reprint of Barack Obama’s 2004 speech to the Democratic National Convention (just at the right time!), to Christine Byl’s tender interview with Eva Saulitis, to the raw and candid essay by Connie May Fowler that reminded me of my own childhood [“The Edge of the World”], to the short piece by Sparrow [“My Jets Cap”], to the exquisite poem “Wanting,” by Mark Smith-Soto. I needed all of this to keep me stable in a month of turmoil and discouragement.
The emotions that the 2016 presidential election kindled in many of us can be difficult to sort out. I am grateful for the wise counsel offered in the January 2017 Sunbeams. This page will stay open on my desk to help me get through the next four years.
After reading a hundred or more issues of The Sun — and particularly after the January 2017 issue — I have only one major criticism of your magazine: not enough pages.
As a workers’ compensation lawyer, I appreciated Amlan Sanyal’s photo essay “Three Dollars a Day” [December 2016]. It brought back memories of my grandfather, a coal miner who worked for a dollar a day in deplorable conditions in Oklahoma and Pennsylvania. These people are the heroes of labor.
In your December 2016 Correspondence, reader Jennifer P. labeled Claire Halliday’s “The Possible Universe” [September 2016] as “erotica.” I can’t say I’ve shared Halliday’s experience, but I’ve been close to women who were sexually abused and humiliated. It upsets me that anyone would think of this as erotica, which implies it might be titillating. I believe most men would not find Halliday’s essay erotic. I am loathe to think of anyone enduring what she did and am heartened that Halliday was willing to share her experience, as it may help those with similar histories.
Though some of your readers were upset with Claire Halliday’s essay “The Possible Universe,” I’d say she achieved what she set out to do: show what it’s like to be in an abusive relationship. As someone who has been in abusive relationships, I found it painful to read. It wasn’t just about sex, as some readers seemed to think. It was about the author’s self-destructive need to win love from someone who is unavailable.
When did Sun readers become so Victorian? The number of people who write in to say that they’re disgusted by something you’ve published and are canceling their subscriptions amazes me. A story that makes you uncomfortable is often doing exactly what it should: sharing a new perspective and pushing the conversation forward. If you don’t like a piece, there is always the option of skipping it and moving on to the next.
Jeanne Supin’s interview with Bruce Perry [“The Long Shadow,” November 2016] resonated with me, because I had an abusive childhood. He focused on human connection as a solution to the effects of trauma, but never mentioned animal companions as an alternative. Some traumatized people who cannot engage with humans live a full and happy life by connecting with animals and immersing themselves in nature.
After reading Ellen Collett’s essay “Undue Familiarity,” about teaching inmates in juvenile detention [September 2016], I was questioning my own relationship with younger inmates here in prison. I’m reluctant to talk to them other than to ask how they want their hair cut at the prison barbershop where I work. A day or so later I cut R.’s hair. He’s twenty-three and told me he has been locked up since he was fifteen. I felt compassion for him.
Collett’s essay had humanized R. for me. Last week I asked R. if he wanted to read it. He did, and afterward he and I had a good conversation. Collett gave us a way to talk to each other in spite of our age difference. The Sun broadens my perspective, increases my empathy, and softens my hardened opinions.
Unable to afford my long-running Sun subscription, I let it expire in May 2016. I held out until recently and then splurged on a renewal. The first issue felt like a week of steady rain after a long drought. And out here in California, we know a little something about droughts.
I subscribed to The Sun for years but let the issues pile up until they filled an entire dresser drawer. I would read them when I took the bus to work during the winter months, but when the weather turned warm and I rode my bike, the magazines stacked up again. I couldn’t bring myself to recycle them. After I retired from my job as a social worker, I made a resolution: I would read every issue I had saved, cover to cover — a Sun reader’s version of preparing every recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
There were sixty-five issues (not counting the ones that would arrive as I was reading). The oldest was May 2009. My goal was ten issues a month. I started in mid-April and finished yesterday. I read with a pen and highlighter in hand, ripped out articles to save, and passed many of them along to my husband. I appreciate that The Sun often covers so much of what’s important to me: the roles addiction and family dynamics play in people’s lives, and the visionary takes on our dysfunctional world. It gives me the feeling that we’re all in this together.
I look forward to the next issue.
I lived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, when you were just starting The Sun many years ago. I liked it and probably would have liked it more if I’d been able to fully understand what I was reading, but I had just come from Poland and had a limited command of English.
This year, while browsing my local library, I rediscovered The Sun and subscribed immediately. I’m so happy that I can now understand every beautiful word as I read it from cover to cover.