Learning to ride, falling down, getting back on
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Short on time to read, I was planning to let my subscription lapse. Then I received the February 2017 issue, my last, with its gentle threat of “The Sun will soon disappear from your life” emblazoned across the cover wrap. Still I was not moved.
In the issue, however, was Diana S. McCall’s interview with poet David Budbill [“Weapons in the War for Human Kindness”], which read like a great conversation with a trusted friend. It could not have come at a better time. I have renewed my subscription.
Your remembrance of David Budbill was a fitting tribute to a man who was true to his beliefs. I arrived in Vermont at the same time he did, became fast friends with him, and remained so to the end. Unfortunately Budbill was never elected Vermont’s poet laureate while he was alive. We are petitioning the state to give him this honor posthumously.
While The Sun never fails to provoke thought, rarely have I been so grateful for an issue as I was for the February 2017 one. Having been in mourning for our country since Election Day, I was heartened to read David Budbill’s perspective from fourteen years ago, even if it is discouraging to see we have made so little progress since the George W. Bush era.
Watching the recent presidential election, my husband and I alternately wanted to laugh and cry. When I read Leath Tonino’s essay “Write-Ins for President” [February 2017], I felt ashamed at having forgotten what matters most. Tonino says it clearly, wisely, and beautifully.
I could hardly be more different from Krista Bremer. She is female, and I am male. I am probably twice her age. My children are grown and have children of their own. I did not marry someone born in a foreign country or with a different skin color. But her reaction to the 2016 election [“American Winter,” February 2017] expressed my feelings better than anything else I have read. I thank her for helping me handle the election of our so-called president.
Rebecca McClanahan’s essay about her elderly parents [“What Love Looks Like from Here,” February 2017] could have been written about my own mother and father. Like McClanahan, I, too, was a “first responder” to their needs. For ten years I went to bed with clothes laid out for the dreaded dash to the hospital. People often said my octogenarian parents were cute. I wanted to shout, “They’re not cute! They are the elders of the human tribe and deserve to be treated as such. If you want to see cute, go look at a puppy.”
Rebecca McClanahan’s “What Love Looks Like from Here” made me cry. I was touched by the beauty of her parents’ love for each other and her love for both of them.
Despite complaints from readers about Stephen Elliott’s essay “Sometimes I Think about Suicide” [November 2016], you printed another essay about suicide in your February 2017 issue: “Fourteen Steps,” by Jennifer Rabin.
I am glad you chose not to shy away from a topic that makes many uncomfortable. At several points in my life I have thought about committing suicide, not because I was selfish or feeling sorry for myself, but because I was having trouble finding a way out of my desperation. That neither Elliott nor Rabin killed themselves is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.
It’s rare that I come away from an issue of The Sun not moved in some unexpected way. In recent months you featured two very different essays about depression: Stephen Elliott’s “Sometimes I Think about Suicide” and Jennifer Rabin’s “Fourteen Steps.” Depression touches the lives of many every day, and as both writers can attest, its terrain is unnavigable at times. I applaud you for delving into this landscape.
Jane Bernstein’s essay “Still Running” [February 2017] spoke to me. Like her, I started running in the 1970s and am still a runner. During a difficult divorce years ago, I had an epiphany after charging up a steep hill: I’m an endurance athlete. I will endure.
And I have. I never run with music and seldom with others, because I cherish the solitude and that moment when my mind stops yammering and I finally see the trees and the sky and hear my footsteps on the road. Like Bernstein, “I just love it. I need no other reason to run.”
In his essay “Everyone Thinks That Awful Comes By Itself, But It Doesn’t” [February 2017] Brian Doyle says that life’s hardships come “hand in hand with normal.” In the same issue you ran an announcement about Doyle’s surgery for a brain tumor. You included this quote from Doyle: “Be tender to each other, teach a kid to read, laugh, be more tender than yesterday, repeat, ad infinitum.” Like his essays and stories, his comment is simple, elevating, and generous.
When I saw the donation request for Brian Doyle in your February 2017 Correspondence, my first reaction was concern. His writing has always touched me, as he has the capacity to put my vague feelings into precise and beautiful language. My second reaction was sadness that I couldn’t afford to contribute.
Then I remembered an interview you did several years ago with an activist who said something to the effect of: “If you drink anything other than tap water, you have extra money.” Busted.
I made a small donation to Doyle’s family, and I wish him a full and peaceful recovery. I will follow his advice and try each day to be more tender.
With a few credits from a community college, I’m no academic. I spent a lifetime as a logger in the woods of Northern California and southern Oregon, and I’m a gun owner and a proud American. So I am far from a liberal.
But this letter is not about me. It is about the cover of your February 2017 issue, with its photo of two Syrian children. The girl looks like my granddaughter. They are about the same age, I would guess. Seeing her in a refugee camp breaks my heart, and I wonder if she and her sibling are safe, fed, and warm. As a “great nation” we should rush to their aid. Though President Trump would have us believe these children are terrorists, I think he and his inner circle are all cowards.
I have been a Sun reader since I stumbled across a bin of issues in my high school’s library. Twelve years later I am in my first year of teaching at a different school. I love my job and my students, but I didn’t anticipate how challenging it would be to inspire and lead young people in this political climate. Sometimes it’s hard to focus on my job when I feel as though the world is falling apart.
This past Friday I came home in a blacker mood than usual and read your February 2017 issue in one sitting. Every piece moved me deeply. I cut out the Sunbeams and pasted them around the house. For the first time all week, I felt as though I could exhale.
Your February 2017 issue was prophetic. As I write this, protests are occurring in airports all over the country in response to President Trump’s executive order banning immigrants from seven countries, including legal green-card holders.
Publications like The Sun are exactly what we need right now. Unlike a tweet or a news story, your magazine sheds light on the truth while providing hope that together we can stand strong and resist. I will leave this issue in the airport for a fellow traveler.
I’m behind on my reading, so I didn’t open my January 2017 issue until the day of the presidential inauguration. Reading Barack Obama’s “A Politics of Hope” speech had a curious effect on me: instead of watching the inauguration, I dressed in black and started drinking.
I was dismayed that readers in your December 2016 Correspondence came away from Claire Halliday’s essay “The Possible Universe” [September 2016] with only the sense of it as vulgar or erotic. I found much more in it than that.
As a woman who has had an affair with a married man, I found it more realistic than many pieces in your magazine. I’m glad Halliday was brave enough to talk about things few writers will. Some of us need to hear them to know we are not alone.