While The Sun’s staff has been working remotely for the past year — a length of time only the most pessimistic among us predicted at the beginning of this pandemic — I’ve had a few occasions to stop by the office. Each time I enter and don’t smell coffee brewing or hear the copier churning out paper or see the mail carrier walking through the doorway, it’s disorienting, and more than a little sad. The musty smell of the basement has permeated even the second floor. The blinds are cinched shut.
The day we all said goodbye to one another, I snapped a picture of the view from the window over my desk, and I later made it the background of my laptop. I wanted to remind myself, amid the myriad distractions of working at home, where I really am when I’m on my computer. Now, at the office, a layer of dust has taken residence on that once-clean desktop and the things on it: an enamel pin of my favorite football team, a cup of red ink pens, a framed photo of my wife. Standing here, I feel like a ghost.
I’ve felt this way many times: when I’ve vacated an apartment, or switched jobs, or finished a semester of teaching — hell, even when I rolled up my sleeping bag after a week of summer camp as a boy.
Donors have kept this impossible boat afloat through some pretty stormy weather. That the miracle repeats itself month after month makes it no less miraculous.
Though my desk has fallen into minor disrepair, The Sun has persevered. Readers, many of whom have felt frayed and disoriented and drained during the pandemic — and some of whom have lost jobs and loved ones — have reached out with heartfelt letters and candid Readers Write submissions. Authors have continued to send us uncommonly perceptive pieces that challenge and enlighten. Photographers have submitted pictures that give us a new way of seeing. And donors have kept this impossible boat afloat through some pretty stormy weather. That the miracle repeats itself month after month makes it no less miraculous.
I would hate to think what this past year might have looked like if we depended on advertisers to sustain The Sun instead of readers like you. Luckily the magazine left that revenue stream behind decades ago, not because we don’t purchase shoes and car insurance and breakfast cereal, but because some spaces deserve to be preserved outside of the buying-and-selling machine that’s swallowed nearly everything else in our country.
If you value that undistracted, honest, beautiful space in our pages as much as I do, I hope you’ll consider becoming A Friend of The Sun. By making a donation, you put an issue in the hands of someone who can’t afford it. You pay a writer who woke up well before dawn to get the words just right. You compensate a photographer who braved tear gas and truncheons at a protest to get the perfect shot. You put the ink in the printing press. You put the coffee in the pot.
Since my office at The Sun is by the front door, it has afforded me countless, mostly welcome, interruptions: The young man who regularly brought us copies of a free neighborhood newsletter, cheaply printed and hand folded, which always reminded me of The Sun’s precarious beginnings. The unfailingly friendly clergy from the First Baptist Church across the street who dropped off packages delivered to them by mistake. And the many Sun readers who were passing through or had made a pilgrimage to see where the magazine they loved was produced.
Of course The Sun has never really come from that building, any more than a poem comes from a pen. Nor will the pandemic really be over when we return to the office from our isolation. There will still be the enormous work of listening to those who have lost so much, of offering our gratitude to those who have sacrificed. We’ll have to take a long look at the devastation and all the inequities the pandemic has highlighted. And we’ll take stock of the other things that matter: the family and friends we’ve waited so long to see, a view from a window, a magazine.
Before I leave my desk at the office, I remember another desk I left behind: the wooden monstrosity crammed into my small boyhood bedroom in rural Pennsylvania, where I took my first fleeting stabs at writing. It’s the desk where, a few years later, I opened a strange mailer from a magazine I’d never heard of before, with black-and-white photos and interviews, essays, stories, and poems: The Sun. I couldn’t believe a magazine like that existed. It was exactly what I was yearning to find.
P.S. You can become A Friend of The Sun by donating online at thesunmagazine.org/donatenow. Your gift is tax-deductible, and we’ll send a receipt for your records.