Issue 61 | Correspondence | The Sun Magazine


Somehow the last two months’ issues didn’t appeal to me all that much, but #59 really made up for that, knocking me off my feet in several instances. Maybe I find social issues more interesting than New Age consciousness, but even the poetry and cartoons were special this time. What a joy to open a magazine and keep saying “Wow!” feature after feature, instead of so many ho-hums. I feel I’m rather provincial in my magazine tastes, having only recently started reading some of the more slick national publications. THE SUN really does stand out as unique. It’s as well-written — better written than some, to my surprise — and equally relevant on the national scene. Part of THE SUN’s uniqueness is its personal focus. Few other magazines probe as deeply into the inner person, no matter what the topic, as THE SUN. I think THE SUN does a decent job of presenting the painful and comic sides of this inner view along with the ecstatic.

Two articles that affected me emotionally deserve special note. Jimmy Santiago Baca’s “Tales from Inside” had an immediacy and sensitivity that placed the reader right there in the compound with the men. Very tightly written, well crafted stories. At the other end of the emotional spectrum, I thoroughly enjoyed Ron Jones’ “We Killed Them.” I was smiling and whooping and hollering on the sidelines for those amazing, exuberant kids. How lucky those people are who don’t see winning and losing, for whom the struggle of living and walking around is so arduous that friendship and simply being together to have fun fills up their hearts.

Keep up the good work.

Louise Harris Durham, N.C.

Enclosed is a check for $12.00 to renew my subscription to THE SUN.

I don’t know how you people do it, putting out a fine quality magazine with great articles every month. And charging only $12 a year. With paper and postage the way it is, I’m surprised it’s not higher.

Anyway, I hope you’ll be around for many more years to come. Thanks.

Bob Soderberg Hollywood, California

Enjoyed your last issue, especially the prison interviews. Also nice to see that it wasn’t necessary for me to contribute to “Favorite Mags” to have In These Times mentioned. Guess there are many streams which flow in and out of the same river, or at least in the same direction. I only hope that we can flood the arid world of insensitivity, greed and ignorance before we all dry up.

Dan Graham Carrboro, N.C.

To quote your Editor’s Note: “The source of money is the source of life itself. . . .” I am astounded. I don’t claim to know the source of life, but I suspect it is something more than a piece of green paper or gold rocks. Different values — different strokes.

Sparky Kincaid Clovis, New Mexico
The Sun responds:

I’d be astounded, too, if that’s what I thought I’d suggested. My point was that money comes from the same “source” as everything else — not that money is the source of life.

A new twist to an old saying has our hearts very sad on Neahkahnie Mountain. Believing that you can’t see the view for the trees, new neighbors have shorn the limbs off the lower two-thirds of every Sitka Spruce on their property. Once proud and strong trees which swirled with the heavy winds of a winter storm, they are now straight and spindly trunks stretching high up to an ugly bush at the top, no less out of place here on the Oregon coast than if they had been cut down and Caribbean palms raised in their stead.

The Pacific Sitka Spruce grows only in this region, one of the few trees hardy enough to flourish against the winds that beat daily off the sea. Thick roots crawl along the ground surface, spreading out over a wide area to grab a firm hold and restrain the perpetual slide of earth into the water below. Long branches extend from the massive trunk to drink the rain which blows over the land in a mist. In a downpour, one can stand underneath for quite some time, warm and dry, before the drops begin to saturate. Mighty, ancient, and serene, the tall Sitka is a testament to the wonder and power of Nature.

A terrible sacrilege is committed when people fail to recognize that spirit, or treat it disrespectfully, a sad case of human arrogance. Long before the white man came here, the Coastal Indians revered this mountain as a unique and powerful spot. Most who live on Neahkahnie’s steep slopes were not born here, but they attest to the sensation that their first step onto the soil rang clearly in their hearts. It was a sign that they were forever changed and that this was Home. Until recently, most of the building has been done with care and caution, exhibiting a great respect for the potential dangers.

But as everywhere else in the country, increased population has made good land scarce and forced the price to phenomenal heights on land that is scarcely buildable. The new neighbors are not rich. Recently retired, they realize they don’t have a wealth of time left to them either. Their eagerness unfortunately destroys the best qualities of their purchase.

Misled by the realtor, they had a house designed to fit a spot where no tree would need to be harmed. But the set-back restrictions made that impossible, and the house turned out to be more than they could afford. Having invested so much money already, they decided to build what they could and moved the site, although it grieved them to cut three trees into firewood and to strip the remainder of their branches.

The view is spectacular — on that there is no disagreement. The crime, however, is that to enjoy the spectacular out of every window, simply on the assurance of the loggers who were hired to do the job, they did such damage without consideration of the alternatives. From their house in a beautiful forest, they could have made a path of 100 feet to the unbuildable spot where they could have had an unobstructed and still natural view of the coastline. Not satisfied by that, they could have considered a more subtle approach by tastefully thinning the branches.

Instead, selfishness — perhaps plain ignorance — supplanted moderation. The new owners have created a blight on the mountain. The trees look raped and ravished. One they treated with total disrespect by shaving only the middle third so that it looks like a French poodle, clipped and manicured. To get an even wider view, they received permission to do the same on the lot next to them, which has no plans for development for at least ten or fifteen years.

On a very practical level, they have committed a grave error which time spent on the property might have prevented. Storm winds constantly blast this mountain-side. Except for the Spruce trees, the vegetation is racked over on a terrible angle because of the power and consistency of the blows. Where the trees once afforded a natural windbreak and made a relatively calm and sheltered spot for a house, now the winds will tear straight through, screaming in the night. Very possibly the tufted tops may snap off and the trees will die.

From the beach, this new scar on the mountain is an oppressive sight. Some think it looks like a park, perhaps an annexation to the one up the road. Others predict it is the start of a logging operation, anathema to an environmentalist. Perhaps the most simple irony to this sad example is that the people cut their own trees to see the forest across the valley.

The freedom of the individual, although the essence of life, drives us nearly insane because we have the power to choose our actions, for good or bad, right or wrong. Morality is a joy and a curse because we must judge ourselves or remain ignorant and oblivious. To survive, we need to focus with sensitivity on the foundations which generate our values.

The four elements — earth, water, sky and fire (the Chinese add wood as the fifth) — must be preserved and protected. As far as we are able to comprehend the Cosmos, these are the fundamental forces that exist in our life. Conceptually so simple, the plain fact is easily forgotten that if these elements are contaminated, our life is proportionally tainted. It is not our place to purify, only to stimulate and perpetuate.

Without sensitivity, much of development harms the very life it is supposed to profit. Chemicals save lives, but produce toxic side-effects which pollute the entire ecological system. The combustion engine, by easing transportation, makes it easier to send troops to protect oil fields and create a war. Shelter is most definitely a requirement for survival, especially here on the Oregon coast where the damp and cold can be so miserably uncomfortable. But it must be done sensibly. Why build in a scenic place if you are to contort that natural beauty into a manscaped property? What good is property after death? Or if it slides into the sea? Why cut the trees that are a part of the view you want to see?

Christopher de Moll Nehalem, Oregon
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