This morning I poured myself a cup of coffee and sat by the window to read my April issue of The Sun. My eyes soon fell on Leslee Goodman’s interview with Julia Butterfly Hill [“The Butterfly Effect”].
I am an armchair activist. I send in my donation, talk up the cause, and perhaps pace back and forth in my room, lambasting invisible antagonists. (George W. Bush’s ears are still burning.) I talk the talk with family and friends and occasionally even write my senator and congressperson, then pat myself on the back and return to work.
Hill goes out in the world and acts, then pays the price.
I’m almost sixty-seven. Hill is only thirty-eight (if my math is correct). But that thirty-eight-year-old woman has inspired this old man.
The story and the message of Julia Butterfly Hill should be required reading in schools, corporate offices, governing bodies, prisons, and military bases.
She is right about the disease of “disconnect,” the malady of separation that allows us to maintain our distance from suffering people, from forests being destroyed, from oceans polluted and animals violated for our own use and pleasure.
Like Hill, I sometimes don’t know “how to be in this world.” When I see sentient creatures used for human food and entertainment, when I hear of more destruction of rain forests and tribal peoples, when I witness more big-box stores being built, I suffer.
The struggle is on.
Leslee Goodman did a masterful job of revealing the human being within the hero in her interview with Julia Butterfly Hill. It caused me to reflect on my own activism.
I often struggle to balance my inner desire for peace with what it takes to survive in a sometimes ferocious world. Hill’s reminder that love can be at the center of our every action has softened the protective shell around my heart.
Her two-year tree-sit to protect the redwoods was a great act of sacrifice. I am humbled by her example and commend her for continuing to stand — or sit — for what she believes.
In the last paragraph of her essay “Fall” [April 2012] Nancy Coleman alludes to “failure all around us.” Yet that afternoon she pulled her endangered son to safety and courageously recruited her ex-husband to comfort her children in a time of crisis. She has apparently established a manageable life in a new household where love abounds.
If she listens carefully, she may hear the walls of her house whispering, “Success.”
I sobbed my way through the last half of the April 2012 issue. Trying to figure out why this issue affected me so strongly, I realized it was the sense of relief that so many of the essays and stories conveyed: relief at hearing one’s name, at danger avoided, at knowing one’s loved ones are OK.
I am going through a month of anxiety: My sister is wracked with pain from her cancer treatment. A friend’s teenage daughter was raped, and another friend has been struggling with alcoholism. Pressures at work have kept me up at night. I’m longing for relief too: for my loved ones, my friends, myself. I long for the sense that it’s going to be OK, that we will land on the other side of all this bruised, perhaps, but not broken.
Thank you for a magazine that sometimes feels more like a prayer.
I have always been struck by the many letters and stories in The Sun from women and men in prison. But when I read the Readers Write piece on “The Best Feeling in the World” [April 2012] by a prisoner who threw her shoes off and ran through the green grass where inmates were forbidden to go, I found myself in tears. The things we take for granted.
If not for The Sun I would never hear the voices of prisoners. If not for The Sun I would forget.
To all the women and men in prison who share their stories and their humanity: Take heart. We’re listening.
Having fallen in love with The Sun while in prison, I’ve had to fashion an acceptable answer to the question from other inmates: what kind of magazine is it? For the most part inmates are familiar only with news and fitness magazines. I try to explain to them that if a news magazine is like a letter from their grandmother telling them it’s raining in Seattle, then The Sun is like a letter from their lover reminiscing about the time they were making love in the rain.
I’m impressed by the frequent communication from and empathy for prisoners in The Sun. I do volunteer work with College Guild, a nonprofit organization that provides free correspondence courses for prisoners, and I often find that I can relate more compassionately to my inmate students because of the writing in your magazine.
I welcome Sy Safransky’s profound thoughts on the plight of prisoners [Sy Safransky’s Notebook, March 2012]. As someone who works with the wrongly convicted and spends time in these institutions, I have seen firsthand how both innocent and guilty inmates struggle to maintain their humanity. One of the ways we assist prisoners is by buying them subscriptions to The Sun. It helps them understand that the people around them are not worthless, nor are they.
It was with great delight that I read Brian Doyle’s short story about chess [“Elson Habib, Playing White, Ponders His First Move,” November 2011]. It was so gentle, so full of love, that I immediately bought Doyle’s Mink River and could barely put it down until I finished it. Such beauty in fiction is hard to find.
I also must comment on Cynthia Weiner’s story “A Castle in Outer Space” [March 2012], which reminded me of my punk days in the midseventies for some reason — perhaps the costumes, the made-up names, the pretend bravado and fake danger. It had me howling in delight at its oddness and anarchy.
I imagine that you have received a number of letters criticizing you for publishing Ryan Berg’s essay “Tick Tick Boom” [March 2012]. I’m sure that some people had a problem with the explicit details, while others didn’t like the subject matter in general. I found the essay quite moving, and I thank you for taking a chance on it. As a gay man, I enjoy seeing work by gay writers in my favorite magazine, even when the lives on display are very different from my own.
Having played point guard on the basketball team in school, I thoroughly enjoyed Brian Doyle’s essay about his old teammate Tommy Crotty [“Meat,” March 2012]. Doyle brought me into Tommy’s mind and attitude toward his fellow players, which I found both hilarious and insightful. The calm, aloof, matter-of-fact way he ran his team is a sign of a great point guard: he was the boss; the others were the “meat,” period.
This attitude is detached and calculating yet fair, and gives the point guard freedom to operate to maximum efficiency on the basketball court. Ultimately the team benefits. How could anyone object?
Tommy Crotty seems to have been a graceful man. I’m sure he is sorely missed.
My brother unexpectedly passed away from liver failure on Valentine’s Day this year. He was only thirty-five. After his death, my husband and I were reading the February issue of The Sun in bed. I’d had an appointment with my counselor earlier in the day, and she’d advised me to reach out to my friends, but I wasn’t sure how. Then I read “No Ears Have Heard,” by Lee Martin.
In the last column of the essay, he writes, “In that instant she invited me into her grief.” I knew then that I somehow had to invite my friends into my own grief.
A month ago my mom suffered a stroke that left her with no movement on one side of her body. She is slowly recovering, but at ninety she finds the rigorous physical therapy daunting at best. She is, however, able to hold comfortably with one hand a copy of The Sun. (I’ve given her my back issues.) Both she and her roommate applaud the trim, ad-free format and black-and-white images. More important, the writing in The Sun has brought her out of a deep despair — a devastating obstacle for many stroke victims.
I have found one more reason to love this magazine.
Honestly I should be angry with you for all the times you’ve caused me to be late, to ignore phone calls and chores, to miss out on precious sleep, to cry and laugh out loud in public. But instead I find myself feeling grateful for The Sun’s existence. Thank you for feeding my soul.