Mark Leviton’s interview with Thor Hanson [“Under Fire: How Animals and Plants Are Adapting to a Warmer World,” January 2024] gives me hope, but I disagree that changing our relationship with energy should be the focus of our efforts to combat climate change.

I clean houses for a living, and I see disposable income as one of the greatest environmental threats. Many people who do not have to worry about money leave on every light in their house. They routinely throw away food, and they buy new clothes, shoes, toys, and electronics without considering the impacts of transportation and packaging. We need to change our culture of waste into one of sustainability.

Name Withheld

Patrick Rockenbach’s interview “Claus, Inc.” [News & Notes; December 22, 2023] gives a peek behind the magic of Santa and Christmas, but it also left me with a question: Did Santa create the online superstore Amazon? I guess we will never know.

Michael Parsons Kennesaw, Georgia

You can read “Claus, Inc.” and other online-only articles on our website at


This has been a difficult year: the world is in the dumpster, and my age and health issues are quickly advancing, but I’ve found many ways to enjoy Christmas. One of them is Patrick Rockenbach’s interview with Santa. Thank you for this great free article.

Sharon Scott Louisville, Kentucky

I loved Patrick Rockenbach’s interview “Claus, Inc.” It presents a comprehensive view of Santa and our love for him and his ideals. I am eighty-one, and I still believe!

Bonnie Rohrer Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Because I have a higher-than-average risk of developing dementia, I initially resisted reading Derek Askey’s interview with Lynn Casteel Harper [“Speak, Memory”] in your December 2023 issue. But I was drawn in by Harper’s sense of hope.

My mom was vibrant and a gifted writer of short stories and poetry. As she grew older, her short-term memory declined, and she struggled with basic life skills. After my father’s death she became bitter and angry, and her health deteriorated. Assisted living was the best fit for her, but while the care was excellent and the facilities were beautiful, she was utterly lonely. The other residents would appear only during mealtimes; then they’d retreat to their rooms and close their doors.

Once her funds ran out, she was moved to a nursing home, where she had a roommate and the residents’ doors were left open. After a period of adjustment she settled in. The last time I visited her, I brought a good friend of mine. My mom explained to us that she was living in a castle, the other residents were her lifelong friends, and the staff were their servants. I can’t help but think that her writer’s mind was at work crafting this world for her. As we were leaving, my friend turned to me and said, “That’s the happiest I’ve ever seen your mom.” I couldn’t agree more.

Katherine Schuler Hood River, Oregon

My mother was diagnosed with dementia last year, after struggling to recover from a stroke four years earlier. Keeping her safe at home proved impossible, but her quality of life in the care facility where she now lives is not high, and she openly discusses her wish to die.

I live in another state, working six or seven days a week to stay afloat, and cannot afford to visit more than twice a year. My father is eighty-two years old and still working so he can help pay for her care, which costs more than $10,000 a month. My parents have retirement savings and social security, and my mom has a teacher’s pension, yet they are unable to afford care that preserves her dignity.

I appreciate the interview with Lynn Casteel Harper and understand the sentiment behind the idea of honoring people with dementia and changing the current model of treatment, but dementia patients require astronomical levels of care that are impossible to provide without the finances to do so. The lack of affordable long-term care and adequate social support are the real culprits.

Robyn McCallister Little River, California

I appreciate that Lynn Casteel Harper discussed the positive side of dementia. My mother developed dementia several years ago, and it has been increasingly difficult for her to find words and form sentences. Although her decline is hard to witness, her limited vocabulary offers a respite from a lifetime of hurt. Over the last year she has become mild and speaks with kindness more often. I’m grateful dementia has revealed this hidden side of her.

Name Withheld

Despite having a (mostly) perpetual subscription to The Sun for the last forty years, I didn’t read Cheryl Strayed’s essay “The Love of My Life” [September 2002] until you republished it in your October 2023 Dog-Eared Page. It was heart-wrenching.

My mom died five years ago. I loved her, and I miss her, but I did not have the kind of intense connection with her that Strayed had with her mom. Coincidentally I’d purchased Strayed’s memoir, Wild, a few months ago at a consignment shop but hadn’t opened it. I started it shortly after finishing the essay in The Sun, and I remain impressed by her determination to heal and come to terms with the pain of loss.

Linnea Lundwall North Kingstown, Rhode Island

Reading Cheryl Strayed’s “The Love of My Life” was like being blasted with a fire hose of emotions. I alternated between feeling shocked and feeling seen.

I lost my own mother a year ago and moved across the country unexpectedly. I’ve been dazed and numb for months, helplessly struck by inaction when there was so much to do. After reading Strayed’s essay, though, it felt like something shifted inside me. There is now a crack letting in light.

Tanya Stiegler Greenville, South Carolina

Cheryl Strayed’s essay and Staci Kleinmaier’s introduction to it are a striking contrast. Strayed details how she turned to drugs and sex to cope with her mother’s death. The account of her loss and grief is like sausage-making: it ain’t pretty. Kleinmaier’s (admittedly much briefer) comments felt satisfying and relatable. It’s probably beyond the pale to compare that short intro with the much longer essay, and obviously an author will write what they must. Maybe I’m simply seeing a reminder that between the author and the reader, it’s the reader who has the final say.

Tom Walsh Rockford, Illinois

Thank God for Jen Silverman’s short story “Scale” [October 2023]. I was shocked by how comforting it was to read a piece about a woman shedding her skin. After I finished, I went back and started it again, just for the pleasure of it. I’ve never done that before.

I’m fifty-two and started going into menopause a few years ago. For the first time in my life I’ve been thinking of my body as a burden. Silverman’s story left me feeling seen and protected.

S.K. Spokane, Washington

To shed my human skin. To sharpen my senses. To begin a new existence and slide into the night—these are yearnings I didn’t know I had until I read “Scale.” The main character’s change was beautifully described, so subtle and so believable. I will carry this story with me.

Janet Eddy Ashland, Virginia

When the October issue of The Sun arrived, I devoured most of it immediately. After the first few paragraphs of “Scale,” by Jen Silverman, however, I stopped reading. It made my skin crawl to think about a person developing lizard-like scales all over her body. Then I read “Transformation,” Finn Cohen’s interview with the author [News & Notes; October 10, 2023]. I was so taken with their conversation, I clicked on Silverman’s previous Sun story, “The Children Are Fragile” [April 2021], and was engrossed in how the author approached the controversial themes of sexual harassment and generational differences in perception.

This morning, with my newfound perspective, I read “Scale” to completion. It is, as mentioned in Cohen’s interview, a story of transformation—a modern reimagining of Franz Kafka’s “Metamorphosis,” but from the perspective of a woman. The author’s experience in drama, film, and television gives the complex dialogue a natural authenticity. It is an inspiration to read the work of such a widely—and wildly—talented person.

Doug Sylver Seattle, Washington