I chuckled and howled all the way through Hank Stephenson’s essay “Don’t Think Too Hard about Avocados” [March 2024]. I relate completely to the author. There is so much heaviness in the world; it’s such a relief to laugh at ourselves. Just what I needed with my morning coffee.

Ann Potter Venice, Florida

For several weeks I was afraid to read Mark Leviton’s interview with Thor Hanson, “Under Fire” [January 2024]. I did not think I could handle reading about animals unable to adapt to our rapidly warming planet. But the interview was more hopeful than I expected. I love Hanson’s statement that bears know instinctively what is “perfect bear food.” How ironic that we humans, with our big brains, are so bad at choosing the right food for ourselves.

Alla Kamins Arlington, Virginia

Jared Harél’s poem “Last Bath” [January 2024] triggered memories of when my own children were young. It captures that bittersweet feeling parents experience as their kids grow up.

The poet’s description of the word privacy as “delicate” and like “new fruit” on his daughter’s lips felt like an arrow to my heart. How wonderful that the parent in the poem doesn’t laugh but chooses to respect his young daughter’s request for privacy.

Doris Collins South Hamilton, Massachusetts

When I read Jared Harél’s “Last Bath,” I felt like my heart stopped. Since my daughter died, I have closed off memories of moments like bath time. Harél’s poem opened the tap. Wow—how a few words on a page can touch so deeply.

Marilyn Craig Theodore, Alabama

For years when my copy of The Sun arrived, I would look for Doug Crandell’s name in the Contents. His essay “Anhydrous [October 2012], about how his father was blasted in the face with anhydrous ammonia and temporarily blinded, is one of the best I’ve ever read. I’ve used it in my seventh-grade language-arts classes when teaching similes and metaphors. One of my favorite lines is when Crandell writes about the novelty of having his dad, who worked long hours, at home while he healed, saying it was an “exotic experience, kind of like being allowed to keep a stray dog before his real owners came for him.”

My heart broke when I read Crandell’s latest essay about his father, “His Body of Work” [December 2023]. How brave it is of him to share such stories with the world.

Melissa Ivan Eugene, Oregon

Reading “His Body of Work” made me feel like I shared in the honesty, accountability, integrity, love, and anger of the Crandell family’s relationships. Writing like this instills in me a sense of awe for what it means to be human.

Cynthia Matskis Greenbelt, Maryland

When I saw Doug Crandell’s name in your December 2023 issue, it rang a bell. After reading his contributor note and googling him, I realized that I’d enjoyed his essay “The Union Waltz” in the March 2021 issue of The Sun and afterward read his memoir The All-American Industrial Motel.

I hope The Sun features his work in future issues.

John Bridges Quincy, Illinois

You can read a short story by Doug Crandell in this issue and more than twenty of his essays in our online archive at thesunmagazine.org.


When I was eighteen, I drove a beat-up van with a door that slid open as I went down the road. The steering listed to the left, and I could rarely afford to keep the gas tank more than a quarter full. I took care of a farmhouse in exchange for a place to stay and the canned food in the pantry.

I didn’t mind not having much money, though, because I had time. I meditated, wandered the wooded hills of Wisconsin, and read. I bought nothing I did not need, except for a subscription to The Sun. I spent the winter in front of the woodstove, reading each issue cover to cover. My subscription lapsed when I moved abroad, and when I returned, I spent years hinting to my loved ones to get me one for Christmas. Nobody did. So now, more than ten years later, I’ve subscribed myself.

These days I have two children, another on the way, and a business to manage. The issues pile up. Today my wife took our daughter to a birthday party, and the baby went down for a nap. It was the first time in months that I’d had an hour to myself. What would I do with this precious time? I sat by the woodstove and picked up the November 2023 issue of The Sun. I made it halfway through—just finishing Jimmy Santiago Baca’s exquisite poems [“Selected Poems,” The Dog-Eared Page]—before the baby started crying. I can’t think of a better way to have spent that rare hour.

Nicholas Tippins Eugene, Oregon

I thoroughly enjoyed “Quiet, Please,” Leslee Goodman’s interview with Gordon Hempton [The Dog-Eared Page, August 2023]. I have a home in the mountains, where I like to hike to the top of a hill. There’s a small airport for training pilots nearby, but aside from an occasional plane flying overhead, it is quiet. I sit on a dead log and write about what I hear, which is usually just the birds and the wind.

Linda Crooks Colorado Springs, Colorado

Leslee Goodman’s interview with Gordon Hempton made me think about the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota, where I have experienced the absence of human-made noise. The BWCAW is a protected wilderness where motorized boats or vehicles are restricted. Visitors must have a permit to enter and travel from lake to lake by carrying their canoe and gear over land. The rustic campsites and trails are maintained by the US Forest Service.

In my younger days I made several visits to this pristine wilderness, where the water was clean enough to scoop up and drink without worry of contamination. I remember floating in a canoe in the middle of a lake, listening to the wind rustle the birch and pine trees, waves lapping the rocky shore, birds singing, and loons calling to each other. This area has often been threatened by mining companies wanting to extract nearby minerals. I will continue to fight to keep the BWCAW quiet and unpolluted.

Gayle Colehour Eugene, Oregon

Your April 2023 Correspondence included a letter from Ruth Lee about how K.T. Landon’s poem “Devotion” [September 2022] helped her appreciate her dog and stop begrudging, as Landon phrased it, “the tedium of his needs.” These five words articulate what I’ve been struggling to define.

I’m ninety-one, and I sometimes get sick and tired of the morning and evening care required to keep my old body functioning, but before my husband died, I promised him that I’d do the best I could with my remaining time. I couldn’t have known then what that would entail, but I’ve learned to accept the tedium of my body’s needs, so I don’t force the burden of my care on others.

Val Neeley Dillon, Montana

The stunning images and insightful narratives in Ethan Hubbard’s photo essay “Salt of the Earth” [February 2021] resonated so much with me that I decided to buy his book by the same title. I was surprised to discover the ordering process involved either sending a letter to a PO Box or calling a phone number in Vermont. Intrigued, I opted for the latter and was delighted to find myself conversing directly with Hubbard himself. His warmth, humor, and passion for life were evident even from our short conversation. In a world increasingly dominated by digital interactions, it was refreshing to make a human connection.

Stacey Curnow Asheville, North Carolina

I have always loved The Sun, but six months ago I decided not to renew my subscription because some of the pieces make me cry, especially the stories about grief. Then my stepson, niece, and nephew all passed away: one from a drug overdose, one in a car accident, and the other from suicide. Tomorrow I will renew my subscription. I now realize that reading about others who have been on a similar journey helps me to feel less alone in my grief.

Joe Fanning Philadelphia, Pennsylvania