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"I'm Old," he said
My Visit with the Director of Lawrence Radiation Lab
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Read To Me
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Living Simply
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I Had a Brother, Once
The Wild One
Insurance
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Full Moon
Are We Connected
Concert for George
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An Opportunity to Feel
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She Blushed
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Passion
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Do You Love God
Writer's Lament
Releasing Dreams
Relating to Cats and
Free as a bird
Silk Scarf
Alice at 21
Alice Evelyn King Skiff
Cookies & Milk
Animals in Mountains

An Opportunity to Feel

I subscribe to several periodicals: two model airplane magazines; The Atlantic Monthly; The Sun, a little magazine out of North Carolina ; Electronic Publishing, a trade magazine that happens to have a regular feature on computer photo retouching; Headlines from the New York Times, an e-mail listing with links to articles available on the Web; and the Ann Arbor News. The model magazines stimulate me to think about and plan activities in this hobby, much as a cooking magazine might do for those whose hobby is food preparation. The Atlantic helps me think about where I fit in the society I am part of. The trade magazine gives me tips for creating something special from ordinary photographs. The Times keeps me informed about whatís happening in the world and the News helps me stay connected to my town. All in all, itís rather more than I can read in a day. But I donít seem to be able to ignore any of them.

Especially The Sun. Itís full of the personal lives of ordinary people. Thereís usually one piece written by somebody with an axe to grindóecology, protest, the plight of some group of people somewhere, or the loss of something of value. The rest is mostly personal revelations or stories about the difficulty of fitting into the ways of the world. A big regular feature is a collection of readersí personal experiences about some subject, such as ďThe First Time,Ē or ďFathers and Sons,Ē topics like that. The Sun is a magazine right out of the Seventies. Actually, thatís when it began, with the publisher writing everything himself and peddling copies on street corners. Itís survived all these years without accepting advertising and without selling out to some bigger publisher, instead seeking grants from non-profit foundations and government arts councils.

Judith and I both read it almost cover to cover within a week of its arrival. Iíve submitted a couple of my own things to it, so far without success. Iím grateful for having it in my life, because it reminds me that there are people in the world who feel. Not everything in the world is about getting or selling or buying or even about thinking. Reading The Sun is like spending an intimate weekend with a small group of people you may or may not have met before, but whom you get to know and to identify with, whose pain and joy are a lot like your own, even if their experiences are not. Itís an acknowledgment of weakness we all share at some time or another, of doubts and fears and anger and hope and love. Itís a reminder of oneís own humanity,

Occasionally I can go to a movie or watch a television drama that I get caught up in. I can identify with a particular characterís plight or adventure. I can respond to situations that may not be like anything Iíve gone through but could nevertheless fantasize about. Thereís something grand about a movie drama, however. It may be about an ordinary person or group, but the presentationóthe big screen, the brilliant color, the flawless editing and directionótakes it out of my world. I have to put myself into that world for a couple of hours. When I read The Sun, Iím sitting in a room on an old sofa, holding someoneís hand while they tell me about their life. I canít lend my handkerchief to a character in a movie. Iíve been known to leave a theater with glistening eyes, but I seldom come away knowing someone very well.

Most of my life is like that. I may spend some time with other people, in meetings, or flying my models out at the field, or even over a dinner. Maybe itís because I donít share of myself easily; it doesnít encourage others to share deeply with me. One of the things I learned over the years in TORI or other community building groups was that I came away feeling most engaged and close with people I could open up to. Thatís what those groups were all aboutóconnecting on a deep level. The people I spend time with these days are seldom ready for that. The situations are more practical or ďsocialĒóa term that means to me less intimate and more polite. Iím not complaining. Intimacy needs a lot of uninterrupted time and privacy.

I know The Sun isnít private. Its subscribers must number in the tens of thousands. Still, when I settle back in my reading chair and immerse myself in its pages, it does feel a little like intimacy. People who read novels sometimes report that kind of feeling, as though the characters are real and somehow known. Some pieces in The Sun are fiction and some are not. It doesnít seem to matter as I read. I sense real people, with real feelings. And it prompts me to feel, as well. That helps to fill a space in my soul.

 

Donald Skiff, December 28, 2003

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