For my birthday last year I received a subscription to "The Sun" magazine. This magazine is edited and published by Sy Safansky. It is clearly a labor of love. Printed on 30 percent postconsumer recycled paper, the "about us" information includes the following quote:
"Subscriptions are the blood in the vein, the meat on the bone, the smile on the face of a healthy magazine. Six months $21"
While most magazines make the big bucks on advertising, this periodical survives on donations and subscriptions. Times got hard, with the recession, and recently the editor sent out letters to his readers explaining his situation. You got to admire the guy's candor and concerns. He has so far, not had to lay off any of his faithful staff. He doesn't want to, nor will he break down and accept advertising.
So what kind of magazine is the Sun? It is a mix of fiction, non-fiction, beautiful black and white photos and readers write in. Every month is a contest based on a theme. The winner will receive a complimentary one year subscription. Themes for the next six months are posted with deadlines. Some of the themes are: Medicine, Making it Last, Singing, you interpret each theme as you wish and submit a double spaced typed entry. While some magazines might print only the top three applicants, or do this sort of thing only once a year, this is a regular feature in the Sun. The readers writing takes up not small portion of the magazine. It is a wonderful, unique way to herald new voices in the field of writing.
Although the readers write are submitted as if they are all from personal experience I guess there is no way to know if a clever person is writing fiction in the basement on such themes as "Sugar" or "Addiction." The ones chosen for print never cease to impress me with their poignancy. There are people who request to be published anonymously when the subject matter is especially intense, such as childhood abuse. Topics are intentionally broad in order to give room for expression, and writing style is not valued over thoughtfulness or sincerity.
Each issue itself has a theme. The last one I received had a running motif of money (or perhaps lack thereof) regarding a tough childhood. I liked very much a short story by Laurel Leigh, entitled "Shoeless." Our protagonist is a "tall for her age" 12 year old girl, traveling the country with her father, she calls "Jake" and his two friends. She is a tough kid, in a tough spot, although very much loved by the men who are caring for her. Laurel Leigh describes herself as "currently squatting in a Washington's Whatcom County with a dog who eats a lot." Her story in this issue is part of a collection inspired by her father and his banged-up cars.
The story reminded me that there are worse things in life than being poor. If you are poor, and yet valued, by people who love you, you are much better off than a rich child who is being abused, sexually or physically, humiliated, shamed or neglected. Neglect is the silent abuse that is seldom reported. I seem women all the time, in supermarkets and banks, putting their kids last. You don't have to spend 24 hours with them to tell that their make up and hair is more important to them than the child tagging along after them. My friend Martina chided me once, "You don't know, Ms muffintop, maybe they're just having a bad day. . . ."
But seriously, if you loved your child, on even a bad day, why would you shame a child?" Or worse, pair guilt with shame to create that full protein â€“ like rice and beans on a plate of life? A person can live through an awful lot of unintended pain, when shame is not painted over it by those who are supposed to love and protect us.
Another deeply poignant piece in this last issue was entitled "After all this over" by Doug Crandall. Our protagonist is a young boy who experiences the loss of his family's farm in the 1980's. I am probably just his age, as I remember during that time period my friend's grandfather being paid by the government to let his land lay still. We would go out and pull the stray wheat that came up from last year's seed, so that he would not be accused of "growing" and lose his subsidy. It was frighteningly demoralizing. The acres and acres of empty land surrounded the white farmhouse making it seem smaller than it really was.
In the piece by Mr. Crandell he described how it is one thing to see your John Deere tractor at auction, and quite another thing when it gets down to the personal items: the dinner plates you ate off of, all of your life, your mother's desk, and so on. His pain is visceral. In the face of great tragedy families tend to pull together or fall apart. His appeared to go into a frozen shock. His parents were denied the luxury of falling apart, as they still had children to raise and bills to pay.
Sometimes the things that Greed tragedies are made of, do not require a villain. Life hurts when we lose our farm, our home, our sense of what makes us who we are. It is not always quick or easy to re-invent oneself as a factory worker or insurance agent, after a couple generations of farming. This current recession has seen an awful lot of musical chairs in the economy. Software designers are taking classes to become chefs, waitresses are taking classes to be hair dressers, stylists want to be real estate agents. Everyone wants to believe that just a little bit more education will afford them the lifestyle they once had. Except who is going to hire a chef when people are cutting back on eating out? Isn't that why the wait help is switching to personal grooming? And aren't hairstyles becoming more natural, as people lack the discretionary funds to upkeep a peacock coiffure? And real estate, will it ever rebound?