Issue 238 | Correspondence | The Sun Magazine

Correspondence

I can identify with Diana Stuart Greene’s “On Becoming a Postfertility Woman” [August 1995]. I have baby clothes in boxes, and carriers tucked in the attic — and my youngest is twelve years old. A few years ago I talked my husband out of a vasectomy a half-hour before his appointment. Even though I knew that I didn’t really want — and that we couldn’t afford — another baby, there was something too final about a surgeon’s knife. I thought it would cut away my memories of those expectant months and the energy I had carried within me.

But now, with one daughter driving and the other in junior high, the romance of pregnancy is gone, and I’m ready for a different kind of energy. Maybe I’ll invite my women friends to a postfertility dance and tell them to wear lingerie.

Helen Henry Olympia, Washington

Thank you for Theodore Roszak’s interview with Carl Anthony [“Environmentalism and the Mystique of Whiteness,” August 1995]. What a breath of fresh air! I have been a fervent environmentalist for as long as I can remember, but always held back from fully embracing the environmental movement because it seemed kind of elitist and vaguely lacking in something that I was unable to articulate — that is, until I read Anthony’s comments.

My own ecological perspective has been greatly enriched by my work with homeless women. Their courage, grace, and grit remind me of the green grass stubbornly poking up through the hot asphalt of the inner city. These women live in a human toxic-waste dump of abuse, addictions, social alienation, and despair. While many will lose spirit and succumb to these forces, I am amazed by the number who eventually manage to attain a deep, soulful acceptance and compassion. Anthony is right. People of color and others who survive oppression have much to teach us. Like Nature herself, they have been brutalized. Yet their stories are a tribute to the creative life force that manifests itself through cycles of destruction and rebirth. The wilderness of the human soul is every bit as wild and beautiful as a forest.

Carol Montgomery Denver, Colorado

I play a game with my four-year-old niece: I kiss her on the cheek, and she rubs the spot with her hand and says, “I wiped it off.” I chase her and kiss her again. Anyone watching us (and this game is played with other adults around) can see that she is leading the game, all giggles and teasing. If I don’t chase her, she comes back, grabs my sleeve, and says, “Aunt Cathy, I wiped it off,” then runs away, looking back to make sure I’m chasing her, slowing down to wait for me if I’m not.

Until I read the replies to Mark Pendergrast’s “Daughters Lost” [Correspondence, August 1995], I had never even thought of how this game could be misinterpreted as an abusive violation of her boundaries. Are we to become afraid of our children, denying them loving touch and silly games, overanalyzing all interactions? Every child I’ve known has at some point loved a version of the “you-can’t-get-me” game. What kind of message would we be sending if we didn’t accept that invitation to chase, tickle, kiss, or engage in rough-and-tumble?

Recently, I touched this same niece’s hair — a simple affectionate gesture, I thought — and she said, “Don’t touch my hair,” in a tone that let me know this was not a game. I stopped instantly and will not do it again. It’s difficult to convey with the “bare facts,” but not at all difficult to tell in person, when something is a game and when it is a violation of boundaries.

None of this proves that Pendergrast is telling the truth, but it does point out the difficulty of judging someone else’s actions without having the whole picture. As a hypnotist, I’m aware that memories can be suggested and also created through a collaboration of client and therapist. This is a big concern. But as an aunt and soon-to-be mother, I am even more concerned about the possibility that we are creating a world in which we’re all afraid to touch and play.

Catherine Dumas Miller Durham, North Carolina

I read Mark Pendergrast’s reply in the Correspondence section with great interest, and, though I admire his courage in addressing some of the vitriolic letters, I gasped when I read his comments about Diana Maria Castro’s “Annie’s Hair” [June 1995]. How can he ask for attention to and understanding of his own anguish, then brush off Castro’s story as “a melodramatic, stereotypical piece”? His explanation of the story’s moral is ridiculous.

Yes, Castro’s piece is fiction, but as such, it is an invitation to understand a child’s confusion. I feel it accomplishes that, and does so powerfully.

Gunnel Reznikoff Valley Stream, New York

I, too, was tempted to write after reading Mark Pendergrast’s “Daughters Lost.” He clearly expressed the pain of feeling wrongly accused, judged, and convicted. But for every father or mother falsely accused, untold numbers of children are abused.

Reading Pendergrast’s lengthy response to letters from The Sun’s readers raises the question: How is it that those letters which agreed with him he found “supportive,” yet those that didn’t support him he could immediately tell were “knee-jerk reactions”?

Carol Marshall Orange, California

I very much enjoyed Michael Pollan’s “Weeds Are Us” [August 1995]. As a vegetarian here in prison, where vegetarianism is looked at as defiant or peculiar, I have recently come to appreciate weeds and their great value. Since my access to vegetarian food has dwindled in the last few years, I have taken a crash course on edible plants and have found many weeds to be quite tasty and nutritious. I am also grateful for their adaptability and hardiness; the yard crews here are instructed to cut weeds down and tear them out as fast as they appear, but while a “crop” is destroyed in one part of the yard, another is surfacing elsewhere. Having to hunt for my daily bread keeps me in tune with nature and respectful and appreciative of food. If more people did this, I think it would eliminate much of the overconsumption and many eating disorders so prevalent in today’s society.

Jeri Becker Frontera, California

Thanks to Michael Pollan for his delightful and insightful article on weeds. I also was a victim of the right-to-life-of-weeds syndrome, and outgrew it almost as fast.

Dandelions were my nemesis. Many times I was caught standing in the yard, the battle rage upon me, a variety of wicked-looking instruments by my side, prepared to wage war against an evil, malignant, and merciless foe. I even had to be physically restrained from buying chemical weedkiller, which, in my normal state of mind, would be akin to torturing house pets.

Then I started to notice what Pollan confirms: there are no dandelions in the wild. The old-growth trails where I walk my dogs, for example, boast no dandelions. There, the weeds are grass iris and delicate yellow vetch, Oregon grape and trillium.

Is it true, then, that the hated, hardy weeds are products of our own cultivation? Are they then ours to do with what we will? Can we exterminate them in good conscience? Or are we even more obliged to give them free reign?

These are merely academic questions, because the truth is we can’t exterminate weeds. No matter what means we stoop to, we have to come to terms with the fact that the dandelion god is, quite possibly, stronger than all of ours put together.

Amber Miller Corvallis, Oregon

In defense of weeds: Michael Pollan is dead wrong. Weeds are wild. They are a vital part of the process known as ecological succession, in which weeds grow on disturbed land as yet unsuited for other species. They enrich the soil and make it possible for other plants to grow there eventually.

Disturbed land existed long before humans, thanks to such natural disasters as floods, landslides, fires, and storms. Yes, weeds have benefited immensely from and thrive on human-made disturbances, yet they were in no way created by them. Weeds are not “imperialists” — they are simply ephemeral plants whose advantage lies largely in their lightning-quick growth and reproduction. Weeds are soon replaced by the stable plants of a mature ecosystem, should humans allow one to develop.

In categorizing naturalists and environmentalists who defend weeds as naive romantics, Pollan betrays his “realist” view of nature. The only creatures on this earth who “extend their dominion so far and as brutally as they can” are humans.

Jonathan Paynter Carr Rye, New York

Hi. I am a fourteen-year-old, and I think The Sun is the absolute best magazine I’ve ever gotten my hands on. I’ve been reading the Readers Write section for about a year and recently started reading the magazine from cover to cover. I even ransacked the house for old copies and read every one. It gives me great insight and a new perspective for looking at things.

Many of the complaints in the Correspondence section seem very childish. Their authors seem unable to deal with what is printed in the magazine. They sound like the type of people who do not want to look beyond their own noses. Little do they know what they could see if they would just open their eyes.

Alison Fader-Brock Nantucket, Massachusetts

All your Readers Write topics sound the same. They have a dreamy quality and lend themselves to a moralistic twist. Everyone is writing in knowing what you’ll accept. Don’t you think it’s time to shake it up?

Dylan Gaffney Grapeview, Washington

Quite a few years ago, I read Modern and Primitive Art, by Charles Wentinck, and learned that many famous people I had thought were unequivocally original had drawn inspiration from the works of anonymous artists in little-known cultures.

Subsequently I went into architecture and began to notice that truly inspirational structures — the piazzas of Italy, the Gothic cathedrals of France, the pueblo villages of the American Southwest — represented the essence of “folk” designs.

Later, I met a woman who compiled the works of five- and six-year-olds confined to hospital beds. Everywhere I looked, I found the trained eye and hand being surpassed by the amateur.

Then, about a year ago, a friend gave me a subscription to The Sun and I read the Readers Write section.

Case closed.

Norman Maynard Poolesville, Maryland
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