With a broken-down oven, in a hotel kitchen, on an uninhabited island
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My wife and I are taking our first extended camping excursion in our trailer. Like Steve Edwards [“A Thousand Cups of Coffee,” September 2021] we have embraced the ritual of morning coffee on this trip. I get everything ready the evening before: cones with coffee in the filters; cups with powdered cacao, cinnamon, and a dollop of honey; water in the teapot.
Edwards likens making coffee to the practice of meditation. For me, it’s more like tai chi: I wake up before my wife, and, so I don’t rouse her from sleep, I must maneuver slowly, quietly, and mindfully about the trailer. The burner warms the tiny space.
Yesterday, sipping our coffee as the morning sun filtered through the pines, I read Edwards’ essay aloud. By the time I’d finished, our eyes were moist. We realized this ritual is another way of saying “I love you.”
Steve Edwards’s “A Thousand Cups of Coffee” prompted a memory: When I was forty, I started living with a nurse who worked the late shift. I had a sales job and got home at about 10 PM; Sue left for work around 9 PM. We mostly saw each other on our days off.
One day, before she went to bed in the morning, Sue left a mug of coffee on the kitchen counter with a note: “I made your coffee for you — enjoy your day.” It was so sweet I didn’t have the heart to tell her I didn’t like coffee. I took the cup to work and dumped it out so she wouldn’t suspect.
The next morning I found another cup on the counter.
This went on for about three years before we separated. A few days later, having just moved into my own place, I started craving coffee. Maybe it was the routine I missed, but ever since I have had a large cup of coffee each morning.
I am now seventy-five. That’s 12,775 cups. Not bad for someone who doesn’t like coffee.
As an incarcerated person, I was moved by Laurie Rachkus Uttich’s poem “It’s Friday Afternoon in the Florida State Penitentiary and the Men Read Poetry” [August 2021]. I echo her student Marco’s sentiments: “It be just like that.”
In prison most of us have been damaged by the traumas of our lives, but few dare to expose their vulnerability. The veneer of machismo disguises the truth: we are all just as afraid and uncertain as every other human being on the planet.
Ruby Shaw’s “The Other Side of the Mountain” [August 2021] is a real tightrope walk. Rarely does an author so movingly evoke such extremes of bliss and despair in a single short story.
Her contributor’s note says she “has been doing yoga for decades and has seen zero progress.” I say keep it up. She must be doing something right.
I don’t know how Marc Inman managed to write with such honesty, restraint, and compassion [“My Brother’s Dinner with the President of Sears,” August 2021], but I am grateful for it. His essay reminded me how painful and complicated love can be, and that sharing such stories is one way we survive them.
Rachel J. Elliott’s photo of figs [August 2021] is sensational: the angularity of the leaves and the spheres of the fruit, the geometry of the veining on the leaves, the stippled light. I grew up among old fig and persimmon trees in California in the forties and fifties. I was moved, even as a little kid, that someone had planted the trees many years ago, and they’d survived so long without being tended. And every year, they faithfully produced fruit, which no one collected.
Elliott’s photo reminded me, too, of the straggly peach tree that I discovered along a stretch of Cannery Row in the 1980s. The area was mostly cleared and fenced off. Each year, visiting my elderly parents in August, I would trespass over the fence and take one or two tiny peaches. They were like receiving the Host: the sweetness of unearned grace.
All these memories from one photo.
In Mark Leviton’s interview “High Time” [July 2021], Alyson Martin and Nushin Rashidian tackle the rise of cannabis with clear-eyed facts and straight talk — not the Reefer Madness lies I was fed in college. I had my first toke during the Nixon administration, at the start of the War on Drugs. The act of sharing a joint with others was part of the counterculture of those times.
One night a friend and I broke into a campus building and smoked pot by the fireplace in the echoey interior. When a security guard’s flashlight found us, we thought our futures were doomed. But since we were white and in college, we were sent back to our dorm. If we’d been Black, I now know, things might have been different.
Thank you for Mark Leviton’s interview with Alyson Martin and Nushin Rashidian on the legalization of cannabis. I support legalization because of cannabis’s beneficial (medicinal and recreational) properties, and because it will end the racist sentencing that has disproportionately incarcerated Black people for drug offenses.
I live in the “Emerald Triangle” of Northern California, where the cannabis crop has supported our local economy for years. Unfortunately we are struggling to fight off a corporate invasion that seeks to monopolize the industry by buying up large tracts of land for industrial production. These companies don’t care about the environment, our increasingly scarce water, the dangers of wildfires, or our community’s economic health. Yet our board of supervisors is inviting corporate growers by dramatically expanding the amount of land that can be used for cannabis production.
A sad story, indeed. Even a beneficial and medicinal plant can ruin the land and its people when capitalism gets its claws into it. Locals are fighting back, however; a petition to repeal the ordinance allowing large growers received more than six thousand signatures.
I was relieved to discover, after reading the first two pieces about the benefits of cannabis, that the whole July issue was not dedicated to the subject. Many believe cannabis to be harmless — or, at least, far less dangerous than some other drugs. But it is not harmless to everyone. It had a negative impact on my life.
As a recovering addict, I often crave a more complete conversation around cannabis legalization and use, one that is sensitive to those of us in recovery. As I took steps toward health and happiness in my life, abstaining from alcohol and drugs — including cannabis — was part of that effort. For me and many others, there are going to be growing pains as we move toward legalized recreational use.
When I reached the end of “Ghost Dogs” by Andre Dubus III [July 2021], I closed the magazine and sat for several minutes. Dubus tried to wall off his heart from the panoply of dogs in his life, and he felt undeserving of the love and trust they showed him. But the “steel door” he had built inside himself was no match for wagging tails and thoughtful eyes.
This type of simple-yet-complex writing is what keeps me looking forward to each new Sun arriving in my mailbox each month.