With a broken-down oven, in a hotel kitchen, on an uninhabited island
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One morning last December The Sun office was encased in a shimmering layer of ice. Overnight much of North Carolina had been hit by an ice storm that cracked tree limbs and downed power lines. My family — along with hundreds of thousands of others — awoke to an odd silence: no buzzing alarm clocks, no humming refrigerators, no chattering radios. Homes in the area remained cold and dark for up to two weeks.
By the second day, my husband and I had burned all our firewood, drunk all our instant hot chocolate, and melted our teakettle by accidentally dropping it into an open fire. Temperatures slid to twenty degrees, and our toddler’s whines bounced off the cold walls. So we loaded her in a backpack and ventured out in search of warmth. After passing dozens of darkened homes, we came to our neighbor Charlie’s house, which radiated light and heat. People who had never met crowded into his living room for oatmeal and coffee, while local children who had spent the night on his couch ate breakfast in their pajamas.
Power was restored to The Sun office before it returned to most staff members’ homes. Sy, our editor, arrived at work each morning with the rumpled look of someone who had spent the night stoking a fire — which he had, in his living room, with his wife and his cats curled up against him for warmth. Days later, when my power was restored, two co-workers whose electricity was still out arrived at my house with children, sleeping bags, and food salvaged from thawing freezers. We divided up shopping lists and errands. We bathed our children, prepared meals, and ate together. And after the dishes were done and the children were tucked in, we huddled around our kitchen table and told stories late into the night. The blanket of ice and darkness pressed everyone to shed the excess layers that separate us and to discover hidden resources in one another.
Each month, The Sun strives to rekindle our connectedness through writing that honors beauty and truth, not profit and self-improvement schemes. In each issue, readers and writers engage in passionate, unpredictable, revealing conversation, and smooth-talking advertisers have no place at the table.
For those who are revived by authentic human connection, The Sun could make an ideal holiday gift. Perhaps you know a budding writer, a stubborn idealist, or a lover of good fiction and poetry who would appreciate a gift subscription to The Sun. Or maybe you know someone who has spent some time out in the cold and could use a place to get warm.
During the holidays, we make it easy for you to introduce friends to The Sun by offering a 50% discount. For a limited time, all one-year gift subscriptions are only $17 — and you can order as many half-price gifts as you like. (We’re sorry, but you cannot renew your own subscription as part of this offer.)
As a holiday gift, you may also want to give one of our books: The Best Of The Sun, volumes I, II, and III; Sunbeams: A Book Of Quotations; or Four In The Morning: Essays By Sy Safransky. All books in The Sun library are 20% off during the holidays. Buy all three volumes of our Best Of The Sun anthology and enjoy a 25% discount. Or purchase all five books in our library, and save 30% off the regular price.
This offer expires December 31, 2003, but an early reply helps us process your order more quickly. We’ll send a card announcing your gift. And we’ll bill you later, if you wish.
A few weeks after the ice storm, I heard an elderly couple interviewed on public radio. They said the power outage drove them into their basement, where they huddled together around a small heater. It reminded them of their upbringing in rural North Carolina — a lifestyle they had traded for televisions, radios, computers, and other amenities. After power was restored, they vowed to unplug their appliances once a month and become reacquainted with silence, and with each other.
Each month The Sun invites readers to find a quiet place to settle in and enjoy the kind of intimate conversation that emerges unexpectedly from stillness. This holiday season, amid the whirl of shopping and preparation, I hope you and your loved ones find a few quiet moments to be together. In spite of what advertisers want us to believe, our most precious gifts to each other don’t come in fancy wrapping.
P.S. To order subscriptions or books, you may fill out one of the holiday order cards in this issue, or visit us online at www.thesunmagazine.org.