On the phone, at a gas station, in our dreams
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Leath Tonino’s interview with Eileen Crist on the consequences of human plunder [“Our Great Reckoning,” December 2020] and Naomi Stolow’s photo of the lion on the final page of that issue struck home deeply. I volunteer at a sanctuary for large cats — lions, tigers, pumas, and bobcats, among others — who have been taken from their habitat or whose habitat has been destroyed. Many were brought to the U.S. to be used as entertainment, sometimes in private homes, and many others have been confiscated by state and federal agencies.
I hope your magazine reaches those who have engaged in these practices — people who have not taken the time to thoroughly consider the consequences of their actions. I hope they are moved to action, and that they will take to heart the quote from Henry David Thoreau in Sunbeams: “Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it.”
My heart ached for Timothy Gallagher, for his patients, and for his family [“The Practice of Touch,” December 2020]. His explanation of the physiology of touch was a poignant reminder of what we are losing during the pandemic.
My partner and I are part of a community that gathers annually to follow the teachings of psychologist Virginia Satir, who extolled the importance of hugs: four hugs a day for survival, eight for maintenance, and twelve for growth. How many of us are currently not even crossing the threshold for survival, let alone maintenance or growth?
I thought about the fact that our community was unable to gather this year, because of COVID. Then I thought of my son, who turned thirty-five today. He lives alone across the country and has had no human touch since March. It was then that the tears came.
I sent Timothy Gallagher’s essay on the necessity of touch to the nurse practitioner who, four months earlier, gloved and masked, had squeezed my shoulder and rubbed my back as I described my mental and physical pain to her. Her touch felt like more than an act of simple human kindness. It was as if she was administering a powerful jolt of energy.
Though I haven’t seen her since, Gallagher’s essay prompted me to tell her how much she had strengthened me with her touch, and to say I wish I could do the same for her during this trying time.
Timothy Gallagher is a perfect example of the sort of frontline care providers who understand that healing patients and their families goes well beyond what can be accomplished through medicine alone. Having recently spent the night in the emergency room, I was awestruck by the compassion shown, and sacrifices made, by providers like him.
I was moved by Sy Safransky’s letter to readers requesting donations [“Become a Friend of The Sun,” December 2020]. As a new subscriber, I wonder what took me so long to find you. My first issue, November 2020, is dog-eared and stained with coffee and wine — and a few tears.
Margo Steines’s essay “A Very Brutal Game” [November 2020] was uncompromising in its exploration of rough sex. She charts a brave path, far from the tired trope of the damaged girl lost in self-flagellation and governed by past trauma. “I regret none of the seeking I did, not one strike, not one moment,” she writes. She finds transcendence in her journey, more powerful for her absence of shame.
The body and its desires are indeed mysterious. What a thrill to see its complexity honored.
As someone who’s subscribed for years, I’ve noticed that your magazine has become darker and darker. It may be me: we live in hard times, and I am more sensitive as I get older. But I will not renew this year. I need all the comfort, peace, and joy I can muster.
Some letter writers say The Sun is depressing, but I find that reading about other people’s challenges increases my compassion. I’ve been a subscriber for twenty-two years, and your magazine has deepened my sense of human connection. I haven’t felt lonely in decades.
Margo Steines’s essay “A Very Brutal Game” could be taken as a merely troubling account, but I’m grateful for her courage in sharing her experiences. It was a very brave thing to do.
Margo Steines’s essay about physicality broadened my understanding of violence as a way to touch and be touched. I’m turning eighty next year and I have not yet found how to talk about this complex part of me.
I long to be touched, but rarely can I find someone willing to do so in ways I envision would bring me pleasure, though there have been moments. Steines’s essay helped me understand why it is so difficult for others as well. I enjoyed reading her description of finding another who could touch in a life-giving way.
I’m standing beneath our backyard maple, leaning on the rake. The 2020 election was a week ago yesterday, and the entire world is watching the political circus play out in our deeply divided country. Autumn leaves are heaped in piles on the lawn. A gust of wind releases a flight of them, each its own unique color, each making the most of its one-way ticket to the ground.
I wish Pat Schneider, who described how she might make a world just like this one if she were God [“If I Were God,” Dog-Eared Page, November 2020], were here to see this spectacle of drifting leaves. I know she’d make a day just like this — in a country and a world just like this.
Vincent Mowrey’s wonderful reflections on his trip back to his childhood home [“Sitting on My Mother,” October 2020] reminded me of my own journey to Michigan in 2019. Though my trip wasn’t for a high-school reunion, it was a near-perfect revisiting of my own childhood: home, elementary school, favorite haunts. I stayed with an old friend who has kept in touch with many of our tribe.
As Mowrey writes, “How strange a time adolescence is. . . . I had no clue who I was or who I would become.” That was true for me, too, and it became clear only after I returned from that trip. My ten days there turned into something numinous, magical, where time stood still; in the weeks and months that followed, I could not adequately explain that experience to anyone.
It’s been years since I’ve been back to the barrios of my hometown, but I felt as though I visited there through the stories of the Latinx community in your October 2020 issue. The lives depicted there restored a piece in me I didn’t know was missing.