Your October 2022 issue is a knockout. From Mark Leviton’s interview with Faith Friedlander on adoption and parenthood [“All in the Family”], to essays by John Paul Scotto [“A Private Thing”] and Barbara Kingsolver [“Somebody’s Baby,” The Dog-Eared Page], the issue is full of the great writing I’ve come to expect of The Sun.
Thank you for printing Barbara Kingsolver’s essay “Somebody’s Baby,” about how children are not valued in the United States. Like her, I am dismayed at the dog-eat-dog attitude that parades as individual freedom. Putting personal rights above what’s best for society is heartless, destructive behavior. I’ve worked with children all my life, and I’ve often thought if we could raise even just one generation to be less selfish and more empathetic, the world would be a better place.
Although tragic for individual families, the declining birth rate discussed in Tracy Frisch’s interview with Shanna Swan [“The Great Decline,” September 2022] may ultimately help future generations of people, animals, and plants. Humans have polluted and populated the earth to unsustainable levels. Overpopulation leads directly to climate change, shrinking wildlife habitat, mass extinctions, and wars over natural resources. Declining fertility rates are a natural consequence of our actions and a necessary rebalancing in our relationship to the planet.
Undoubtedly population size is an extremely important issue. To a couple unsuccessful in achieving a wanted pregnancy, however, this issue is not relevant. Exposure to chemicals that limit our ability to conceive and increase the risk of miscarriage and other reproductive problems compromises a basic human right. Additionally the decline in nonhuman-species reproduction is an indicator that declining fertility is not just a matter of choice.
Bruce McKay’s short story “Blue Ladder” [September 2022] is heart lifting. The author manages to weave themes of love, courage, and hope into a story about poverty, addiction, and loss. The main character’s longing to connect with his love interest and his brother is palpable. I lost my brother to addiction and mental illness; this triumphant tale will stay with me.
I’m reading your September 2022 issue in bed on a Sunday morning, listening to my husband and our nine-year-old son make pancakes in the kitchen. Our sweet boy has brought me a warm cup of coffee to enjoy while I read.
Steve Edwards’s essay “Luminescence” takes me back to my childhood home in rural Germany: climbing hay bales, catching tadpoles, and spending long summer evenings with my brothers. I find myself in Edwards’s story “so clearly it hurts,” to borrow his words, and it brings to mind my son, who is growing up in a world steeped in uncertainty. He is fortunate to have the love of his eighty-year-old grandmother, Oma, who will leave a big hole in our hearts when she passes someday.
It’s mornings like these that I’m especially grateful for The Sun and the beautiful, melancholic writing that reminds me we are not alone and maybe everything’s not lost.
In July an ultrasound showed that cancer in my dog Bella’s liver had metastasized to other organs. Three days later she died peacefully in my arms. I was still missing Bella more than I could have imagined when I received the September 2022 issue of your magazine. In “Luminescence” Steve Edwards writes about comforting his son after the death of a beloved great-grandparent: “Missing her means you loved her. . . . And that she loved you. Missing her means all that love hasn’t gone anywhere.” I am clinging to these words.
The essay “My Fight against Time” [July 2022], by Jim Ralston, made me consider that holding on to youth can be an act of greed. I am a vain woman born of another vain woman. My mother was never caught in public with a disheveled appearance, and she held on to her natural beauty well into her sixties. Her sole rationale for cremation was that no mortician would ever get her eyebrows drawn to her liking.
On her way to a doctor’s appointment one day, my mother demanded my sister stop the car and return home because she had forgotten to pencil in her eyebrows. But before my sister could oblige, our mother waved a dismissive hand: “Forget it. Let’s go.” Later that day she collapsed and died from a seizure caused by a disease that had been managed for years. Even now I sometimes wonder: What if she had gone back to fix her eyebrows?
Thank you for continuing to print the work of my favorite author, Sparrow. His words always make me laugh, because they ring so true. I especially love “A Guide to Home Acceptance” in your May 2022 issue. I live in a small studio surrounded by home improvers, and I’ve thought of posting copies of Sparrow’s essay on the telephone poles around here.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic I was an emergency-room nurse. Barbara Woodmansee’s essay “Every Baby Needs to Be Rocked” [May 2022] brought me to tears as it showed the challenging and beautiful reality of nursing, especially at the end of a patient’s life.
I often see people in my city who are experiencing a crisis like houselessness, drug addiction, or mental illness, and I think, “That is someone’s baby right there.” I feel so helpless. When I get home, I rock my boys and hold them tight, lingering in each sweet moment of our time together.
I didn’t know what to expect when I read Barbara Woodmansee’s “Every Baby Needs to Be Rocked,” but when I got to the paragraph about babies dying before labor had begun, I started to cry. I continued to sob until the end. When I collected myself, I read the poem that immediately followed, “What I Didn’t Say,” by Beverly Hartz, and the sobbing began anew.
I couldn’t control myself. I’m amazed at my reaction. I’m a seventy-three-year-old man who rarely cries, let alone sobs. Both pieces were heart-rending but also full of love and compassion.
I am a retired hospice nurse, and each vignette in Barbara Woodmansee’s “Every Baby Needs to Be Rocked” went straight to my heart. It felt like the writing of a kindred spirit and reminded me of patients I’ve known. When I read Beverly Hartz’s poem “What I Didn’t Say,” I broke into tears. Some folks say how depressing The Sun can be, but I find that it gives me hope for humanity.
The Sun makes perfect reading material for a multiday backpacking trip. It is a solace during long nights in the tent, and I frequently read every word in an issue.
Recently I was caught in the longest, hardest rain I’ve ever experienced. A small pond formed beneath my tent, and thunder boomed overhead. I sat on my sleeping pad, which was actually floating, with one hand desperately bracing the tent wall. Reading The Sun by headlamp was the only thing that kept me from panicking.
Yes, The Sun with a cup of coffee in the morning is wonderful — but on a backpack trip it is a lifeline.
I’m glad I recently found The Sun. It’s such a joy to read a magazine that is completely ad-free. My favorite section is Readers Write. Each month I look forward to those glimpses into other people’s lives. Thank you for putting something good into the world.
I’ve been a Sun reader since the early 2000s, when I found the magazine in a composting toilet at Iron Knot Ranch in Silver City, New Mexico. The writing — especially the Readers Write section — reminds me that real humanity exists.