I turned seventy this year, and I found Steve Kowit’s poem “Progeria” [July 2014] to be quite poignant. I even sent it to some of my former classmates. I do not share Don Perryman’s feeling [Correspondence, October 2014] that the poem is “obscene” because it compares the aged to those afflicted with the aging disease progeria.
In the letter immediately preceding Perryman’s, Dan Mesh describes his reaction to Joe Wilkins’s short story “Boys, Ten in All” [August 2014]. He writes, “We are all children trapped in progressively aging bodies.” This is what I felt when I read “Progeria.”
Brian Doyle’s essay “How to Hit Your Dad” [October 2014] struck a chord with me. Although my dad never hit my sisters and me, his emotional distance marked all of us. Like Doyle’s friend, I have grown tired of trying to figure out my father.
I made a choice to nurture and care for my own children in spite of my upbringing. I recently visited one of my adult sons, who is a playful and attentive parent. There is reason for hope.
I was moved by the authenticity of the narrative voice in K.C. Wolfe’s short story “Step Nine” [October 2014], and also by the narrator’s obvious attachment to the dog Max. My wife points out, though, that Max was basically kidnapped by the narrator, who conveniently ignores the impact this must have had on Max’s former owner. And what sort of future would Max have if the narrator, a drug addict, were to relapse? The responsible thing to do would have been to return Max and rescue another pit bull.
I was mesmerized by Leath Tonino’s interview with soundscape ecologist Bernie Krause [“Call of the Wild,” September 2014]. After I put it down, I immediately set out for a walk in a nearby wildlife refuge to hear for myself the natural sounds that are slowly being degraded by human industry and indifference. Following a steep, rocky trail, I came to a bluff overlooking a small creek, where I sat on a ledge and just listened. It was amazing. I recorded one minute of the natural chorus on my phone and played it for my husband when I returned home, but it mostly sounded like white noise. We will both return tomorrow to sit and listen.
“Call of the Wild” took me back to my childhood in south-central Oklahoma. Ours was a quiet house, because my mother was a singularly quiet woman. I was a rowdy kid but came to love silence, too.
For my retirement I’ve found a location with minimal human noise here in the Colorado Rockies. I often lie back in my recliner and listen to the chirp of the crickets, the cluck-cluck of the quails, the song of the meadowlark, and the wind. These sounds remind me of the birds and grasshoppers in Oklahoma. Strangely my memories leave out the thumping of an oil pumper that was so close to our house it might as well have been in the front yard. Its noise became so familiar we no longer heard it.
After reading the interview with Bernie Krause, I happened to walk to the store for bread. On the way, I listened to the sounds of the street, and then the sounds of the mall, and then the sounds of the grocery store. Each had its own song that I hadn’t noticed before, a song of life. It was beautiful.
In “Call of the Wild” Bernie Krause makes the somewhat shocking statement that the loudest car audio system is twice as loud as a gunshot at close range. While he is correct, he doesn’t mention that this system is not installed in an auto meant for human occupancy. Systems like this are built by hobbyists who are competing to create the loudest sound. They are fired off by remote control, with all spectators a safe distance from the vehicle.
Wendy Brenner’s rant on gluten [“Prayer for Gluten,” September 2014] left me laughing out loud as I thought of the long list of family members and friends I cannot have over for a meal without first taking inventory of their food abstinences and intolerances. I’m often left too daunted to invite them.
Bravo to Wendy Brenner for her clever and much-needed “Prayer for Gluten.” I’m so glad I’m not the only one weary of the gluten-free crowd and their humorless, hand-wringing angst.
It must be annoying for Wendy Brenner to have to deal with the masses who have jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon. As for me, I have to deal with constant heart palpitations, my kids’ leaky guts and temper tantrums, and my husband’s bloody diarrhea when we eat gluten, and none of us has celiac disease. The good news is that all of these symptoms disappear when we don’t eat gluten.
I wonder if Brenner can so easily overcome the chip on her shoulder? If she doesn’t want to do the research to figure out how gluten has changed over the centuries and why so many of us can no longer tolerate it, she should just ask a naturopath. That might cure her ignorance.
Wendy Brenner should thank the God she prays to that she does not have eating restrictions.
As someone afflicted with gluten intolerance, I am grateful to those who choose to forgo gluten as a lifestyle choice. Because of the increased demand, there are now many more nutritious and delicious food selections on the market besides the dry gluten-free bread of yore.
How wonderful it would be to partake of pies, cakes, cookies, pizzas, sandwiches, and quiches like everyone else. But, alas, doing so would make me sick. I’m also sickened by the smarmy, venomous, judgmental, pseudo-humorous attack by an author who has no idea what it’s like to live with this very real, life-altering problem.
Wendy Brenner’s “Prayer for Gluten” may be a clever and entertaining read, but it also presents adhering to a gluten-free diet as a joke. I regret seeing it published in your magazine.
Wendy Brenner responds:
For the record, I believe in both gluten intolerance and prayer.
I understand some readers might not find my piece amusing, though humor was my intention. I am surprised, however, by the personal assumptions made about me. A decade ago, in my mid-thirties, I underwent surgery for cancer: twelve inches of my colon were removed and the remainder was reconnected with titanium clips. Every day, still, I contend with dietary restrictions, physical pain, and the resulting life limitations. Perhaps this information will outrage some readers even further, but I hope instead they will take a moment to question their own unconscious biases and, yes, “intolerances.” Most of us, if we are lucky to live long enough, will experience considerable pain, illness, or disability. These conditions are often invisible. We can choose to use our pain to separate ourselves from others, or to better understand and empathize. For many months after my third or fourth surgery, I kept a note on my nightstand that said simply, “People with migraines.” When I woke up in pain, the note helped remind me that, while I might be suffering in isolation, I was not alone.
Thanks to Sparrow for describing his journey from belief to unbelief [“Beyond Belief,” September 2014]. I followed a similar path when looking for God. Now I have realized that I am too intelligent to believe in fairy tales. Science does a better job of helping me understand how amazing life is. Having given up the God quest, I realize I am responsible for my life and my actions. I feel wonderfully free and happy.
In your September 2014 Correspondence Amanda C. says that fourteen years in solitary confinement isn’t cruel in John Catanzarite’s case, because he was placed there for attacking a female medical technician, holding her hostage, and threatening to set her on fire.
Courts are divided as to just how long isolation as a disciplinary measure has to last for it to be a violation of the Eighth Amendment, which forbids “cruel and unusual punishments,” but I personally haven’t come across longer than eight years in the law books. Just a few months has been shown to promote insanity. In most jurisdictions, if an inmate kills another inmate, he ends up with a few years in solitary and a lengthened sentence.
The moment I wish torture upon another human being, whatever he or she has done, I not only perpetuate the person’s wrongdoing but bring it deeper inside me.
Steve Lambert responded to Ginger Chulack’s letter in an emotionally abusive manner [Correspondence, September 2014]. Chulack, too, was rude when she implied that Lambert was “a jerk” and egotistical. Both the letter and the response were unkind and unwarranted. Neither Chulack nor Lambert served their arguments well. I am left wondering why The Sun chose to allow this public display of disrespect.
I hope readers will be led to reflect on the finer aspects of discourse, and to think about how to stay true to their beliefs without alienating others. As an elementary-school teacher I have taught my students to ask themselves before they speak or write: Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?
I have been a faithful reader of your magazine for nearly twenty years. It has enhanced my life and my appreciation of the human drama being played out on the grand stage of this mysterious planet.
I feel such a connection with your writers that I often correspond with them directly. Almost all of them write me back.