The Witness Tree: Memoir Of A Ritual | By Michael Ventura | Issue 195 | The Sun Magazine

The Witness Tree: Memoir Of A Ritual

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Correspondence

Thank you for “The Witness Tree” by Michael Ventura. That piece may indeed be “risky” by everyday standards, but for me it was like coming home to open arms. I appreciated Ventura’s willingness to bare his struggles and musings about love, death, sanity, friendship, family, passion, awe, community — and ultimately, trust in the interconnectedness of humanity.

As someone who struggled for years with my sanity — in and out of psych wards, labeled with catch-all diagnoses, drugged into a false “balance” in order to survive — I know how much the dance with sanity can devour one’s existence. To paraphrase Anaïs Nin: no one goes mad except out of loneliness. Yes.

That wisdom is echoed by the way Ventura heals his loneliness — a healing that goes way beyond the embrace of a friend, no matter how important that embrace may be.

Hats off to you at The Sun for having the guts to publish a piece that comes straight from the soul.

Cat Saunders Seattle, Washington

Tonight four women are coming over to pray.

I just read Michael Ventura’s “The Witness Tree: Memoir Of A Ritual” [Issue 195]. I used to check out his column when I picked up the LA Weekly at a fashionable little deli near my house. Sometimes I really liked his writing. Lots of times I thought he was full of shit, self-absorbed — even by L.A. standards — to an incredible degree. Sometimes the column would start off great but end in an inspection of Ventura’s bellybutton lint. I thought maybe if he drank a little less, took better care of himself, or went to bed before three in the morning, he’d lighten up.

But today as I sit entertaining hopes and fears about our new “girl’s praying group,” his words read fresh and inspire. I might even read a little of it tonight in our circle.

Gretchen Newmark Portland, Oregon

I’m still vibrating from “The Witness Tree: Memoir Of A Ritual” by Michael Ventura. What a hell of a piece. I read it greedily, the way I used to binge on Twinkies.

I have been doing ritual through psychodrama with a long-standing group. Ventura’s piece both echoed and foreshadowed some of my own experiences and thinking. And in between the echo and the shadow, he nailed everything right to the cross.

P.S. The new cover layout looks great!

Diane Gallo Mount Upton, New York

Listen, don’t let the turkeys gobble you up! Stay true to your inner voice. Stay in shape! Keep working out. Pray, meditate, dance, weep, and gnash your teeth. Do whatever it is you’re doing that keeps you doing what you’re doing. I don’t know of anyone publishing more alive, inspiring, accessible poetry and prose than The Sun. And as for your slacking off on publishing writers of “stature” . . . lordy, lordy. It seems to me just about everything you publish has “stature.” It’s a seamless garment. There’s no stitching between the Blys and the Antlers, the Sparrows and the Levines. You are not elitist, and that is a good part of your saving grace.

I just read Ventura’s “The Witness Tree” and am inspired. Rosenthal, Ventura, Ram Dass — all are writers who do not deal in “givens.” Nothing is given. Everything must be filtered through individual awareness and verified, over and over again. Evolution hinges on diversity. It is the venom of sameness in our veins that has us in delirium and will stop our heart from beating if we don’t slash an X over the puncture wound and suck the poison out. X marks the spot.

John Bennett Ellensburg, Washington

I guess in a country where book learnin’ and the official-looking degrees it generates are more important than years of experience, I shouldn’t have been surprised to see a letter like Bill Schlicht’s [Issue 195].

For me (and I’ve been a reader for about eight years now), one of the great joys of The Sun has been the disappearance of big names and an emphasis on the innate wisdom that is present among those who remain unknown. A good PR campaign is a thing of wonder and a joy to behold, but it doesn’t make a message any more profound. That there are those among us who walk around unrecognized and yet are filled with wisdom is an intriguing treat. By blessing such writings with the mark of Serious Publication, The Sun enables us to see a little of the wisdom in ourselves more clearly.

P.S. Michael Ventura’s “The Witness Tree: Memoir Of A Ritual” [Issue 195] was about the most exciting thing I have ever read — deep and thrilling. And “Italian Supper” by Daniela Kuper was the perfect dessert.

Victoria+Dodd Medford, New Jersey
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