Excerpt from “Speculations: Trees” by William Morris

II.

A FEW DAYS LATER, an old man €”a carpenter €”came and chopped down the fig tree. It took the better part of an afternoon. The bark and outer layer of wood easily flaked away, but the core of the trunk was almost rock hard. The rotten, withered branches rained powdery shreds of wood, as his axe chiseled its way through.

          By the time he finished, the axe had dulled, and the sun embraced the horizon. His son-in-law came to call for dinner, and they dragged the tree home.  

          The next morning, the old man cut off the remaining, scraggly branches and rasped away layers of trunk until only the heavy core remained. When he finished, the piece of wood measured two arm lengths and three hands in diameter. The wood was darker than fig wood usually is; its grain tight and mottled.

          The old man let the wood sit for weeks in a corner of his workshop.   But then, after his daughter’s latest disappointment, a thought entered his mind, a thought he couldn’t let go of even though it filled him with horror and awe.

          He planked the wood and joined the boards to make a rectangular box. He cut two green branches from an olive tree and began the slow process of curving them. When they were fully cured, he trimmed and sanded their edges. He fitted the bottom of the box with four short posts and added the runners. He sanded it and rubbed it with oil and resin until the oddly dark fig wood took on an almost silvery glow.

          When it was done, he set it down. The cradle rocked ever so slightly, slyly mocking his talents. His daughter was old, almost past childbearing years. He moaned, brushed at his eyes and held his palms to his temples in disbelief. This thing he created was a beautiful abomination, a piece of devilish craftsmanship borne of unrighteous yearnings and a cursed tree.

          He could not bear the thought of giving it to her. The look on her face. The look that would be filled with pain and that fierce hope that he might know something, that some small prophecy had been burned into his mind and heart.

          He buried it beneath a pile of scrap wood in a corner of his shop. Two months later he died.

          Six months after that, his granddaughter came into the world, crying, her skin dark and rosy, eyes deep and thirsty, hair thick and black. Her mother rocked her in her arms €”her movements slow and tender; her rhythm even and precise.

___________________________________________________________

The elusive William Morris is the benevolent dictator-genius behind the Mormon arts and culture blog A Motley Vision  and, truth to tell, WIZ as well.   He lives in suburban Minneapolis with his wife and daughter. Refugees from the insanely-priced, but lovely San Francisco Bay Area, the Morrises love their new life in the frozen north. And don’t pity them, William still takes public transportation to his work* (a position in higher education marketing/pr at a college in Minneapolis). William’s professional career has caught up with him and he now serves in a public affairs calling for the LDS Church. Which is great, but he misses teaching.

*This is very important because it a) keeps his blood pressure low, b) means that the Morrises can remain a one car family, and c) gives him time to read and write.

“Speculations: Trees” won honorable mention in 2006 Irreantum Fiction contest and was published in Irreantum (Winter 2007/Spring 2008–double volume), 93-96.

Setting the story free: Words as worldstuff

A few years back, after attending a local storytelling festival, I wondered in this post what would happen if I released a story into public domain.   I resolved to work up the nerve to let go what some might imagine to be my intellectual property, to “breathe it out” into the common atmosphere, where anybody might breathe it in and make use of it.  

Then two years ago, members of that same storytelling festival committee recruited me to participate.   I was assigned to write an introduction for the festival, a preamble that would signal to visitors that the storytelling was about to begin.   Another purpose for the introduction: To support the opening ceremony during which each of the evening’s participants carried a lit candle into the auditorium as they entered single file.   The candles symbolized the intentional passing of stories–heirloom narrative valuables–from generation to generation.   Continue reading “Setting the story free: Words as worldstuff”

Hudson’s Geese: Reprise

(For Leslie Norris)

By Tyler Chadwick

Day’s last reflections
catch on wind-swept ripples
as two geese throw shadows
across watered silence.
Embraced by echoes,
each circles the other.
Tracing this current,
I watch Hudson’s pair
venturing back
across the continent:
Her wings bear no scars
of hapless encounter
with fox or wolf or man;
his body carries
no hunter’s spray,
the lead that felled him
to the dogs. They bask
in this dusking plane,
watching the horizon
gather them, leaving
phantom indentations
in the eyes of those who
understood their love.

 

Tyler Chadwick is an academic refugee from Utah living in Idaho with his wife, their three daughters, and their Miniature Schnauzer, Bosley. He leapt into the Mormon blogging scene at A Motley Vision (his home away from home) when Theric Jepson’s post about Onan’s sin coaxed him to finally plant his rhetorical seed in the field of Mormon letters. His poetry has appeared in Metaphor, Dialogue, Irreantum, Salome Magazine, Black Rock & Sage, and on WIZ (here and here) and AMV (here and here) and many of his poems and his Mormon Poetry Project can be found on his personal blog. He enjoys chasing clouds and draws his natural philosophy from Whitman: €œYou air that serves me with breath to speak! / You objects that call from diffusion my meanings and give them shape! / You light that wraps me and all things in delicate equable showers! / You paths worn in the irregular hollows by the roadsides! / I believe you are latent with unseen existences, you are so dear to me. €

“Hudson’s Geese: Reprise” was originally published in Irreantum: A Review of Mormon Literature and Film 8:1 (2006).   For Irreantum’s home page, go here.

If you would like to read  Leslie Norris’ poem “Hudson’s Geese,” go here.

Communion with the small: An essay by Theric Jepson

Theric Jepson is best known in Mormon blogging for his Motley Vision post on Mormon comics. That and his other Motley Vision work are listed at http://www.motleyvision.org/about-theric-jepson/ along with essays and short stories hosted at other sites. He is the editor of that Fob Bible thing that all the cool kids are talking about. His online presence is best summed up by listing thmazing.com, thmazing.blogspot.com and twitter.com/thmazing. His poemMorning Walk, Spring 2009” was published here in March; it and this essay together sum up Theric’s daily natural philosophy: We are part of nature and nature is part of God and both nature and God should be part of our everyday lives. Even living as he does now in California’s East Bay, Theric will pause to watch a squirrel or listen to a bird. He is particularly curious as to why deer are commonly seen three blocks from his house yet never in his neighborhood, and how in the world so many raccoons can fit into a single sewer drain.

 

Why do we cityfolk so often imagine it necessary to leave the paved world to enjoy the natural world? I can remember one Sunday at Brigham Young University, walking from campus back to my apartment along the south border of a parking lot, just looking at the bushes. Some still had leaves, others were bare. Some had berries. One of the berried demanded my attention: each of this bush’s berries had three leaves growing in to and out of the berry. Perhaps they had once been petals from the flower? I don’t know, but it was new and fascinating and question-generating.

A neighboring bush was already naked of leaves in preparation for the coming winter, but the younger branches were covered in a soft, pleasant fuzz. The closer to the main trunk, the more likely a branch was to be bare, but those further afield had their own fur coats. Was this for winter protection? Was the fuzz there year round? Continue reading “Communion with the small: An essay by Theric Jepson”