WIZ Retro Review Giveaway Double Feature: Come Next Spring and Merrily We Live

Movie-poster-Come-Next-Spring

Today is WIZ’s fifth birthday! To celebrate that and LONNOL Month, we’re giving away TWO free silver screen classics from days of yore for your viewing pleasure!

This first is a rerun from a previous WIZ Retro Review Giveaway, but it’s one of my favorite old flicks. Come Next Spring is a generous story with a quiet but strong heart.  Like many of these older films, rather than relying on in-your-face action sequences and special effects, loud soundtracks, and romantic drama that glues a box-office-compatible couple to center stage, Come Next Spring turns on resonant dialogue and actual, honest questions about family and community relations.

The story: recovering alcoholic Matt Ballot (Steve Cochran) returns to his Arkansas farm and the wife, Beth, and daughter, Annie, whom he abandoned twelve years earlier.  He’s more than a little interested to see what’s become of them since he left.  As he walks down the home stretch, he meets Annie.  Annie is a voiceless creature who keeps company with animals but runs away from her father, who doesn’t recognize her.  When Matt reaches the old homestead, he’s surprised to discover not only that his stoical and resourceful wife Bess (played beautifully by Ann Sheridan) has held everything together quite well without him but also that he has a delightful son, Abraham (Richard Eyer), born after Matt ran out on the family. Continue reading “WIZ Retro Review Giveaway Double Feature: Come Next Spring and Merrily We Live”

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Visitors to Canyonlands by A. J. Huffman

Red_Cliff_along_US287_between_Lander_and_Dubois_in_Wyoming by Wing Chi Poon

The rocks were caught by child’s eye,
and changed with the sunset
into horns and antennae,
goring and grinding, and going off.
Bumped into the night.

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You can find more of A. J. Huffman’s work here, here and here.

Human Nature by Merrijane Rice

576px-Birdnests_in_Tanzania_3549_Nevit

In the city,
glass-skinned buildings
like bitmapped mountains
pulse with interior stars.

Streets flow with headlights
like lambent corpuscles
navigating a maze
of webbed capillaries.

My neighborhood crawls
with progeny enough
to fascinate any ant farm gazer.

My house clings to earth
like mudded swallow’s nest,
bright as bowerbird canopy
strewn with colored nothings.

My children, too,
push over the edge
like wild, young larks
falling into flight.

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HeadshotMJMerrijane earned a B.A. in English at BYU. She then served for 18 months in the Washington, D.C. North mission at the LDS Temple Visitors’ Center. After returning, she married Jason Rice, and together they are raising a family of four boys in Kaysville. Currently, she works for Deseret Mutual in the Media Development department as a technical writer and editor. See more of her work here, and of course at WIZ.

“Birds of Tanzania” (2010) by Nevit Dilmen via Wikimedia Commons.

My Latest Trip to the Berkeley Botanical Gardens by Theric Jepson

Sequoia_geant

My Latest Trip to the Berkeley Botanical Gardens

was accomplished with more than the usual number of boys in tow.
Four in fact. Three mine  
and a friend.

To see the metasequoia and false rocks €”and mating newts
(it’s that time of year)
spotted first and immediately by my three-year-old
who can’t see a dirty sock on the floor no matter how I point
but a perfectly still newt under a foot of pond water
is unmistakable to his bright eyes.

He’s wearing a Cars cap over his long blond hair and his
favorite part of this trip seems to be the railroad-tie stairs.

The roses in their garden are dormant in February
But somewhere in the Gardens is my love
(with three other boys)
And I am hers.

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Now that his wife has bought a membership to the Berkeley Botanical Gardens, Theric Jepson should be able to visit them more often. He is the author of the novel Byuck.

Photo “Sequoia géant” courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Hands Down by Patricia Karamesines

handprint

For many, it’s a simple thing, going to sleep at the end of a day. For me it runs to the difficult side. I sleep with my special needs daughter to keep watch over her through the night. She’s often troubled by discomfort or becomes tangled in sheets and blankets. Sometimes, her arms and legs get caught on or under each other and she can’t sort them out. She may suffer reflux or other problems that need attention. We learned years ago that guarding her sleep reduces seizures to the point of eliminating them. It’s a tough investment that we think is better than the many unfortunate alternatives, including having to spend all night trying to resolve problems that have gone undetected until she erupts in fits of pain, crying–sometimes screaming. I think it’s fair to say that if we’d left her alone in bed all these years, she might have suffered a dangerous accident without our being aware until it was too late.

Every night, we go through the same ritual. We put on Priscilla Herdman’s music DVD Stardreamer for her, turning the balance control ’til the music hums from the speaker on her side of the room. I get into bed. Her dad comes in and we speak the ceremonial words: “Good night,” “I love you,” “Can you say ‘Goodnight’ to Daddy?” My daughter lets him know when she wants to go to sleep. Just before or just after he leaves, she utters to me a two-syllable sound that varies in coherence. Sometimes it’s just those two, softly hooted syllables, hinged by a   sound that seems like a combination between a glottal and nasal stop. Sometimes it takes the shape of a querying word: “cuh-gul?”, “cuhgd-duhl?”

Cuddle.

By the time we get to bed, I’m usually worn out. I just want to go to sleep. Sliding across the bed to tuck her knees up on my thigh and spread my left hand over her chest is just plain troublesome. And that isn’t enough. Usually, she wants my other hand on her, too, uttering her cuddle call until I relent. “You want me to cuddle more?” I ask. She hoots a soft yes. My hands together have an 18-inch span. Despite her age–nearly 21 years old–she’s very small, an effect of her microcephaly–reduced cranial size resultant of a severe, prenatal brain injury. My hands spread across her chest and upper abdomen and wrap around her sides.

Lately, despite rumbling hunger pangs for sleep, I’ve started paying more attention to what happens when I lay my hands on her, sometimes long enough that, beneath them, she falls asleep. I’m teaching myself to become more aware of and involved in the sensations of feeling my hands lift with the expansion of her one functioning lung when she inhales then lower again when her breath slides out. I get wrapped up in the rapid fluttering of what I call her butterfly heart against my left palm, straining to hear and feel my own slower heart beat in concert. I wonder over her misshapen rib cage, torqued by scoliosis, the sternum pressed upward, her skin stretched tight and thin across it like a hide over a drum. My still hands learn the shape and measure of it, resting and open, palms down, on the height of that upward curve. I compare the movements of my own breathings with hers. Through my hands, I feel other movements, murmurs, and gurglings in her abdomen.

Sometimes she grunts to let me know she’s done with the ritual–she’s ready to fall asleep and wants her space. Cuddle over. In recent past, that moment came as a relief as I unbent and rearranged my body into more comfortable shapes. Sometimes, I lost patience, pulled away, and told her, “Go to sleep.”

That’s changed. Sometimes, through my hands, I feel her relax into the foam topper we’ve put on the bed to make it more comfortable for her bone-jammed body. Her breath acquires soft, near regular depth, becoming rhythmic and peaceable. She sinks into sleep. Then I slowly lift away my hands and squirm back to my side of the bed, where I savor the sensations she’s given rise to in me. Sleep wells up then, not as abrupt relief from exhaustion, like the wind’s slamming a door between the world and my worn-thin senses. It comes more peacefully, like the slow glide of late evening into dusk, into night, complete with sunset displays of dreams. Going to bed still takes work, but the effort’s effects have become less oppressive and more revelatory.

The literally tiresome ritual is becoming, for me, a final, pre-sleep act of wondering over another deep layer of my life, another engagement in the mysteries. It exposes an added layer to the stratigraphy of connectedness and its ever-increasing expanse, linking up, diving then resurfacing elsewhere in our lives. There’s no end to the wilderness we call life. It changes even as we fix a gaze on it, taking the gaze with it, so that our seeing becomes part of the changing. The world gives rise to something new.

That first twenty minutes or so of bedtime is now a looked-for meeting time with Something Else as I place my hands on my little, living seer stone. We shouldn’t label them “special needs children”–unless we mean that they can meet and provide for our special needs. I’ve said this before, but I keep learning it, over and over, in new forms: The limitations here are not hers, and they’re not the developmentally delayed conditions of hundreds of thousands or millions of children like her. Those delays in development are ours–they belong to the rest of us who lie near to these souls yet are incapable of seeing through the windows they open, we who draw the curtains and put space between them and us because, we think, they ask too much of us. It’s too hard. It’s too late. We just want sleep. Like any profound question, they do ask too much, over and over. Cuddle? Cuddle? Cuddle? We are the ones who often fall short of intimate response. Even when my daughter is falling asleep, she catches me up.

A few days ago a 20-something Navajo student named Danielle Yazzie brought in her annotated bibliography for my review. Clearly, she felt passionately about her topic–special education, how the public school system treats special needs children, and how special needs categories have changed over the last 50 years. She couldn’t help but put in her own heartfelt views–not exactly appropriate for a bibliography. I tried to guide her away from that, just so she could meet the requirements for the assignment. I suggested that she save those thoughts for her essay.

But at the end of the bibliography she included a personal annotation that I decided to leave in place. This is what she said: “To me, the category gifted and talented students includes disabled students because they offer so much insight into the world around us.” A spectacular perception from such a young woman. I said I agreed and looked at her dark eyes. There was no exchange of secret acknowledgement of the sort that those of us who are mothers to brain variable children sometimes flash to each other. This bright girl, not a mother herself, took her truth completely in stride.

So maybe we are catching up, moving past the edges of our limitations. Maybe we’re becoming caught up. And these kids are spurring our development, enabling breakthroughs. Teaching us to walk with better balance, speak ourselves more fully, become more involved in this world. Maybe they’re moving us past ourselves to deeper meaning and more fully realized life.

I live with a cutting edge being. This cutting edge person wants me to cuddle with her. Hands down I am the luckiest unlucky person I know.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

To see Patricia’s bio and other work, go here, here, here, and lots of other places, including WIZ’s sister blog, A Motley Vision.

Quote from Danielle Yazzie used with her permission.

Edited 2/21/2012 at 9:52 a.m.

The Curse of Eve by Scott Hales

426px-Grafe,Gustav-Mutter_Erde_3

*

The girls stand together, arm-in-arm, at the lip of the desecrated grave. The night before, as they lay in bed, they had listened to the wolves yelp and snarl over the corpse. As widows both before the age of twenty, they’d held each other until the noise died down. At dawn, they loaded their dead husband’s shotgun and hiked up the mountain to see what remained of him.

**

The girls had met two months earlier. The older had just arrived by handcart from the streets and textile mills of Manchester. The younger was the orphan of a Salt Lake City drunk whose wife had died one summer day in Wyoming. That afternoon, neither girl had known much about the man they were to marry by day’s end. When they buried him, he was little more than a stranger, a man they had failed to bring through a fever. His name was Henry. He stood six feet tall in his boots. His age, thirty-four, was equal to their ages combined.

***

The younger girl knew Henry from the home of her bishop, a man who had crossed the plains with Henry and Henry’s first wife. That night, Henry told her about his farm in Cache Valley, the solitude of the mountains, the peace of sunsets and sunrises. He told her about the death of his wife and children. She listened silently as he said that no man should live alone as he lived.

The older girl learned of Henry from his brother, Thomas, the missionary who taught her about Zion amid the squalor of her back alley home. You wouldn’t like him, Thomas said, laughing. He’s nothing like me. He never speaks except to pray or shout at his children.

Thomas loved the older girl. She had dark eyes and hair that reminded him of the wheat fields of his childhood in Illinois. They planned to marry in Zion, but he died on the voyage home. She held his hand until the time came to give his body to the ocean.

****

When Henry was alive, the girls passed each day and night in silence. Now, with their husband’s body lost to the desert and the bowels of wolves, they speak to each other with the shyness of a new friendship. The younger teaches the older songs she learned from her mother. The older tells stories of Manchester and England and the Atlantic Ocean. She talks about Thomas as a missionary but not as a lover. At evening, they sit outside and read from the Book of Mormon and the revelations of the Prophet, the only books in Henry’s house.

The nearest neighbor to the girls is three miles away. Their bishop is ten miles to the south. Horses make the girls nervous, so they rarely attend meetings. When they do, the younger drives the wagon. Food and water are always scarce. In their nightly prayers, the girls ask the Lord for preservation and guidance. Together they carry their dead husband’s babies.

*****

Four months after Henry’s death, the girls wake from a noonday nap to find a man on horseback at their front door. He is dressed in a soiled cotton shirt, sleeves rolled to the elbows, and a blue pair of army breeches. His hat covers his eyes and casts a shadow over his face. His neck, forearms, and hands are sunburned and striped with sweat. A pistol is holstered at his waist.

€”You women have food? he asks.

€”We ain’t, the older says.

€”No bread? the man asks.

€”No, says the younger. Try the next house. Please.

The man dismounts and enters the house. He removes his hat, unholsters his gun, and levels it at the head of the older girl. With his hat he points to a sack of flour perched on a barrel in the corner of the room.

€”What’s in there?

€”Get out, the older screams.

€”Tell me, the man shouts. He places his hat on his head and slowly makes his way across the room to the sack. The barrel of his gun remains aimed at the older girl’s head. She watches the unmoving tip of the barrel. When the man reaches for the sack of flour, she screams again and rushes the intruder. The gun fires and lead tears through the older girl’s left hand and lodges in her arm just above the elbow. She collapses to the floor, wide-eyed and strangely jerking.

Seeing blood pool on the packed-earth floor, the younger girl cries out. The man, indifferent to the gore, grabs the sack of flour and turns to leave. The younger girl meets him at the door with her husband’s shotgun. She shoves it weakly into his stomach and pulls the trigger. The piece misfires as the man clubs the girl across the face.

******

In the days that follow, the older girl loses her arm and her baby. The bishop, the man who took saw to flesh to save her life, tells her that she and the younger girl can live in his house, be a part of his family. He offers to marry them if they will have him. The girls whisper at night as the collective snores and nightsounds of the bishop, his five wives, and eighteen children settle over the homestead. In the morning, they tell him they will return to the wilderness, to their husband’s home, as soon as they are able. He does not argue with them.

*******

A hard winter settles in as the younger girl’s belly swells with her dead husband’s child. The older girl, her sister in all but blood, tends now to the sheep, the cow, and even the horse. She splits wood one-handed and carries it into the house a few pieces at a time. When she is able, when her knees and ankles and back are not aching from the curse of Eve, the younger girl lights the fire and cooks the evening meal. At night, she reads scripture to her sister by lamplight.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Scott Hales does not usually write fiction, but when he does, he tries to keep it around 1000 words. He blogs at A Motley Vision, Dawning of a Brighter Day, and Modern Mormon Men. He also maintains a personal Mormon literature blog,  The Low-Tech World. When he isn’t writing short short stories or blogging or parenting, he is writing his doctoral dissertation on the Mormon novel.

Photograph of   the statue of a mourning woman by Mutter Erde.

Near a pond, with bread by Percival P. Pennywhistle

Blake's lambs

If ducks be here, Lord love €˜em,* €¨
For ducks** were made by Him:
۬Like lambs and tigers,*** sticks and stones, ۬
Whales and whistles, broken bones, ۬
Dogs and squirrels, cats**** and mice,
۬Girls***** and gimmicks, fire and ice.
۬And, if ducks, then children,****** too;
۬Which is to say, the Lord made you.*******

_________________________________________________________________________________________________
* There is, as the most precocious among you will already know, a saying about ducks and lords and love which has a profound and mystical meaning at its heart, as the Professor is attempting to show, and so will not spoil by giving it away here.
** Among, as is about to become apparent, a host of other things (though not, clearly, individually), several billion of which are not mentioned here, but at least two handfuls of which are.
*** The Professor thanks his auspicious and decidedly dead colleague, William Blake, for the notion, which can be found in his haunting and intricately illustrated book, Songs of Innocence and Experience. Indeed, the image above the poem is a portion of one such illustration, which is why it is of lambs and not of ducks. (The tiger, as it turns out, is hiding on another page.)
**** The Professor has included cats against his better judgment.
***** This fact will, perhaps, surprise young male readers, but it is true, and the Professor is pressed to report that girls are not only more interesting than boys in the main, but they also generally smell better.
****** Do not, under any circumstances, allow your parents or your older brother to convince you otherwise.
******* Which is not to say that He meddled in any particular or immediate way in your making €”that is entirely your parents’ fault €”rather He made the system by and into which you were born, which he occasionally bumps and nudges, but only, the Professor suspects, when invited to.
Nor can He be held responsible for broken bones or other maladies and misfortunes. Such things are, we must accept, a part of life. To think otherwise is to engage something called a €œtheosophy, € which is box-like, awkward, cumbersome, but ultimately less weighty or important than it thinks it is.
In any event, Mr. Blake’s lamb would agree, bleatingly.
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Professor Percival P. Pennywhistle, PhD, is, as many of you already know, handsome and brilliant and hard at work at several collections of poetry for people, especially smallish and precocious ones.