A family recipe, a childhood memory, a Depression-era handout
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It was endearing to learn from Doug Smith [“The Howling Wilderness,” interview by Al Kesselheim, January 2021] that wolves develop monogamous relationships, live in families, and need their space. It’s unfortunate that they’re often portrayed as antagonists in stories like “Little Red Riding Hood” or The Wolf Man.
I’m not vegan, and I feel for livestock owners who have had bad wolf experiences. I understand the push and pull between man and animal. But I have compassion for the wildlife running through my neighborhood. We have replaced their natural habitats with buildings and roads, and yet we are enraged when they intrude on our space. I applaud efforts to find more places like Yellowstone that they can claim as their own.
I’ve toyed with the idea of not renewing my subscription, but now that I’ve read your January 2021 issue, I’ll do no such thing.
Al Kesselheim’s interview with Doug Smith carried me back to my short residence in Montana. I spent my weekends there hiking in Glacier National Park and the outstanding national forests around it, but I worked in the Hi-Line region, where barbed-wire fences were more common than wildlife, and I generally didn’t care for my time in the state.
I also enjoyed getting to know Sparrow — or, as he has revealed to be his true name, Michael Gorelick. His essay about his mother’s death [“The Loss”] was like a key to his self. I, too, miss my mother, though she has been dead for fifteen years.
I will renew my subscription. How could I not?
In his heartfelt piece about his mother’s death, Sparrow wonders if he’s writing his journal for “people like [himself], who reach the age of sixty-six without having lost a parent.” My mother died last year when I was sixty-five years old, and I’m grateful that I had her companionship for so much of my life.
Some of us get so focused on dealing with our parents’ old age and their ensuing health issues that we don’t realize we, too, are getting old. I know I’m slowing down. I compare myself to my mom when she was my age and give her credit for what she was able to do in her later years, when she was well into her eighties.
Once both parents are gone, we truly are no longer someone’s child. We have no choice but to step into our new role as an adult.
I’m reading Leath Tonino’s “Letter from a Cabin . . .” [January 2021] while in voluntary seclusion on a sea island in South Carolina. Like Tonino, I am here for a month — he with his ration of Coors, I with my merlot. I even have a box of Fig Newtons, the same dessert as his. We both hike with binoculars slung over our shoulders. I go to the beach to catch a different sunrise each morning and to speak to terns, deer, and the occasional eagle. Shall I walk north or south? It depends which way the wind is blowing. I relate to Tonino’s lament that the “aimless freedom can be challenging.”
His explanation of loneliness, too, is spot on. I lived in the woods for twenty-five years, mostly alone. I plan to live the rest of my life near this beach. My children have agreed to dispose of my ashes in the sea. I’m grateful to Tonino for confirming I’m not the only one.
Leath Tonino’s “Letter from a Cabin on a Fifty-Mile-Long Dirt Road in Montana’s Centennial Valley, Written to My Sister in Vermont, August 2016, Never Sent” made me wonder — did she ever read it?
I had no idea that my little brother had written me a letter, let alone published it, until I stumbled on it in The Sun. But I wasn’t entirely surprised that he had thought of me during his month-long stay in the lonely, powerful, beautiful Centennial Valley of Montana: I was the one who had dropped him off there, after a two-week road trip together.
His letter reminded me of visiting the trumpeter swans, sitting under the stars late at night, and driving away the next morning on that crazy dirt road, amazed at the scale of the landscape. Though eager to return home, I was sad our trip was over and envious that his time with the swans was just beginning.
I know well the feeling he described of being more comfortable outside than in. Maybe it’s how we were raised? I’m a high-school English teacher, and, once, after Leath came to my classroom as a guest speaker, a student asked me, totally in earnest, “What did your parents do to you two?”
Nick Fuller Googins’s essay “Maine Escapes” [December 2020] reminded me of the time I cut loose some turtles that were tethered to a fishing pier at a resort in Mexico. The helpless animals were waiting to be sold to restaurants. They barely moved after I cut the ropes, too dazed and exhausted from their efforts to swim free. I had to push them away from the dock. It seemed futile, but I told myself maybe I could save one.
Like Googins, I also worked with at-risk youth. Some of those teens were amazing, others barely likeable, but they were all children who had been hurt. Occasionally I would meet truly gifted kids, and I would try to think of interesting books or creative assignments to inspire and challenge them. Though these efforts also seemed futile, I would think, Maybe I can make a difference for just one child.
Tracy Frisch and Finn Cohen’s interview with Rachel Louise Snyder [“The Most Dangerous Place,” September 2020] reminded me of the abuse that took place during my marriage more than thirty years ago.
My ex-husband used to tell me I was lucky he did not hit me. During one argument he got his rifle and cleaned it in the living room; I stayed in our bedroom wondering if he was going to shoot me or himself. During another argument in bed he clasped his hands together and began hitting the headboard. When he stopped, he said he had not hit me because he didn’t want to give me the satisfaction of calling the police.
The relationship did not start out that way — he could be charming and sweet — but over time he began to want control. I stayed with him for seven years. Emotional abuse wears down your spirit and makes it hard to leave.
I am deeply disappointed The Sun has continued the falsehood that domestic violence is done by men against women and not the reverse. Hundreds of studies compiled by Dr. Martin S. Fiebert show that women beat their men about as often — and at all levels of severity. Even the Department of Justice acknowledges that such violence regularly happens in both directions.
One of the leading cases won by litigator Marc Angelucci vindicated a male veteran who suffered domestic violence at the hands of his spouse over many years. I met and knew this man. I realize this is not politically convenient, but sometimes the truth has to be told whether it is easy or not. So often The Sun does just that.
Can we please set aside this futile scorekeeping and work together to create a better, more just world?
To Name Withheld: I’m so glad you managed to break free. Far too many aren’t able.
To Steven Svoboda: Men are indeed victims of domestic violence, and the numbers are fairly even when it comes to lower-level violence, such as emotional and verbal abuse, slaps, and so on. But the more lethal the violence, the more likely it is to be coming from a man. In domestic-violence homicides, for instance, women bear the brunt by overwhelming margins.
Also it is not simply a matter of who is doing what, but who has the power. Who is physically stronger? Who controls, for instance, finances and firearms? When you factor in these elements, it’s far and away women who pay a higher price.
More than a decade ago my father gave my family a gift subscription to The Sun. Perhaps because I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, I ignored it for well over a year. Eventually I got around to your moving mix of beautifully written poetry and prose. Without fail, each issue challenges what I know — and what I think I know.
So often it’s simply the letters to the editor, from seemingly everyday people like me, that have the greatest impact. That tells me a lot about the culture and community you have created.