Category Archives: Creative nonfiction

Love of Nature, Nature of Love Month on Wilderness Interface Zone

Valentine_722 Antique Valentine

Starting February 1st, Love of Nature Nature of Love Month will open its heart at Wilderness Interface Zone.  We’re issuing a call for nature-themed love stuff. Got messages of companionship, connectionship, or of loveship you’d like to send someone? Are you weird like me and your nature is to be crazy about people AND nature? WIZ is looking for original poetry, essays, blocks of fiction, art, music (mp3s), videos or other media that address the subject of love while making references to nature–including to that work of nature as earth-moving and variable as any other natural force, human language.

We’ll take the other side of the coin of affection, too: We’ll publish work about nature spun up with themes of love.  And as always, you’re welcome to send favorite works by others that have entered public domain.

Some of us have been around long enough to have the authority to urge you to let people you care about know how you feel at each opportunity that flies up in front of you. So if you have a sweet song or sonnet you’ve written to someone beloved–or perhaps a video Valentine or an essay avowing your love for a natural critter or space near and dear–please consider sending it to WIZ. We’ll publish it between February 1 and February 28. Click here for submissions guidelines.

Our fondest hopes for LONNOL Month: Putting into the currents of language flowing around the world some of the deepest, warmest, freeze-busting words we can find. And if things work out, we’ll also be running one of WIZ’s DVD giveaways, a Pre-Hays Code movie, King of the Jungle, starring loincloth-clad Buster Crabbe as Kaspa the Lion Man.

We hope you’ll join us for this month-long celebration combining two of the most potent forces on the face of the planet–love and language.

We love the things we love for what they are.  ~Robert Frost

One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.  ~William Shakespeare

Green Children by Jenny Webb

tomatoes in the garden-1 by Jenny Webb

Like me, my first children arrived in March. Looking down at them now, their branches bowed and thick with ripened weights, green through the sun’s steady warmth—these unruly creatures bear no obvious relationship to the sweet brown seeds carefully tucked into flimsy plastic trays and lovingly carried outdoors on the days spring chose to trail her warmth along the soil, stirring their pale souls toward the light. In the beginning, when we planted our garden, we worried over our sprouting family, Nick more than I. He cradled the trays as he moved them about the yard, seeking the sun with a visionary faith in our vegetable family. We figured that if the plants lived, we might qualify for a cat by winter and eventually, human children. Continue reading Green Children by Jenny Webb

The Trap, Part Three by Patricia K

Stone and junipers in Recapture Canyon. Photo by Saul Karamesines.  Click image for larger view.

Part One here.  Part Two here.

I wasn’t enraged, like a trapped coyote, because I hadn’t been really trapped, but I felt plenty angry as I put the Danger Tree behind me.  What a dumb trick, I thought, quite possibly one that could have ignited more trouble.  And yes, probably, it had been intended for BLM personnel.  That being the case, I was glad I’d triggered the gadget instead of a BLM officer, who might have not only taken its message more seriously but also regarded it as a threat, especially in the wake of the of local agones in which the BLM had played either black hat or white hat roles (sometimes both), depending on the angle from which you viewed their actions.  After the 2009  artifact raid, they’d pulled some of their rangers out of back country recreational areas for their safety. The mood of San Juan County residents simmering at the high heat it was, authorities harbored concerns that more radical elements might express outrage over Dr. Redd’s tragic loss and arrests of friends and relatives through violence rather than by the traditional outlets of Fourth of July anti-environmentalist floats, ATV activism and rallies, and the usual long, rambling letters to the editor that typically publish in local newspapers. Continue reading The Trap, Part Three by Patricia K

The Trap, Part Two by Patricia K.

Beaver Dams on Recapture Wash.  Photo by Saul Karamesines. Click on photo for larger view.

Part One here.

As my mind made sense of the scene, I said something like, “You’ve got to be kidding!” or (don’t laugh) “I’ll be doggoned!”  Words along those lines.  I took quick stock of my condition: unhurt, and no other sound suggested more surprises to come.  The trap was a light affair, probably capable of doing a rabbit or perhaps a fox some harm but nearly toothless against the rigid leather upper and hard rubber sole of my hiking shoe.  Yet the sight of my foot caught in an animal trap inspired twinges of shock and panic.  I am proud to say that I held those in check. After studying the situation, I pushed on the trap with my free left foot.  The device popped off easily and dropped into the dust.  I glared at the contraption, feeling an upwelling of anger. Continue reading The Trap, Part Two by Patricia K.

Thank you, 2012 LONNOL participants!

Valentine_Antique image woman bird cupids

Wilderness Interface Zone would like to thank participants who put their hearts in our Love of Nature Nature of Love Month.  The list includes:

Elizabeth Pinborough
Kathryn Knight
Gail White
Ashley Suzanne Musick
Sarah Dunster
Chanel Earl
Sarah Dunster
Mark Penny
Laura Craner
Gerard Manley Hopkins
Jonathon Penny

You all helped WIZ celebrate love and nature with fair fond tokens of well-worded affection.  Thank you!

Thanks also go to our readers and commenters.  There’s still plenty of room open (until March 24) on our LONNOL month giveaway of Typhoon, starring Dorothy Lamour and Robert Preston.  If you’d like one, please go to that post and leave a comment.  I’ll contact you for shipping information.  WIZ offers these DVDs free to readers in appreciation for your presence here and for your support of WIZ’s mission to create a rhetorically-diverse space for Mormon nature literature (though, of course, all nature writers are welcome–see submissions guidelines here).

Also, WIZ’s 4th Annual Spring Poetry Runoff Contest and Celebration will open on the vernal equinox, March 20, with categories for both competition and non-competition, an open-invitation spring haiku chain, another Retro Review, and other revelry.  Please make a note of the Runoff’s pending arrival and watch for announcements detailing this year’s activities and prizes.

Again, deepest affection to you, contributors, and to you, readers and followers of WIZ, for your continued presence here.

The Twisted Butterfly by Laura Hilton Craner

Butterfy by Laura Cramer

(written with love and in honor of my Nana upon the event of her passing in Sept 2011)

The cigarette flared red then dimmed as Nana took a drag. She and tapped its ashes into my mother’s pansy box. In the summer twilight, I could barely make out the silhouette of her shoulders as she leaned against the deck railing and exhaled. They were slumped shoulders, burgeoning out of the curvature of her spine and rump. The lines of her legs were thin and smooth inside her pants, feet and knees close together in perfect line with the deck slats.

This visit was the first I could ever remember seeing Nana in person—there had been a rift in the family that took years to bridge, so many years that no one could even tell you why it started. Even though I had called her and interviewed her for all sorts of school projects (my grade school reports on New Mexico, Billy the Kid, the Depression, and even Orson Wells’ War of the Worlds were all based on Nana’s colorful retellings) we never connected. She was distant, a voice over the telephone line, a picture filed in a cabinet.

Until today, August 20th 1998, five days before my older sister’s wedding.

When she arrived earlier today in full color and complete with her retinue of fat, randy poodles, Chico and Chipper, I was surprised. I knew she was coming—I was ousted from my bedroom and my bathroom for her and her dogs. But meeting Nana in person was uncanny.  She was loud and relentlessly dressed in patterned neons and jewel tones. At dinner she had eaten more Mexican food than the rest of the family combined and was constantly laughing, crowing, “ho, ho, ho!” By turns delightful and flirtatious then sarcastic and cunning, Nana was mesmerizing and frightening. She left me speechless.

“You know, I still got it,” she had greeted me. “I might be old, but I still got it. I used to be a real looker. Hooo, wee. Bet you didn’t know that about your old Nana.”  She gave her hips a shake as she sauntered toward the house, whistling at the dogs.

She was seventy-one years old. I was seventeen.

Tonight on the deck, I let the screen door slam closed to alert her to my presence. “Where are the dogs?” I asked as I leaned awkwardly against the porch railing, my elbows parallel to hers.

“Down there. Poopin’.” She gestured at the darkened yard. An almost infantile smile flitted across her lips where her cigarette hovered, daintily settled between two fingers.

“Did they like their dinner?” I had watched her carefully open a can of cooked chicken and shred it lovingly over freshly made rice. The concoction was then meticulously stirred as she called the dogs over to her and fed them bit by bit straight from her hand, their dull pink tongues wrapping stickily around her fingers.

“Et ev’r bite,” she said, lapsing into her country Texas accent. “They love my cookin’.” She stretched out the word love, making the “uuv” rise smoothly for emphasis.

“That’s good.”

“You ev’r decide to come down t’ New Mexico and see me, I’ll make you chile rellenos. Mm-hmm. I love ‘em. Then I’ll show you how to make necklaces and lace. I’m pretty good at those things too.”

She lit another cigarette and I tried to play cool, even though I imagined her lungs turning blacker every second and could feel my own throat tighten at the acrid smell. Growing up in Utah the only people I’d ever seen smoking were disgruntled teenagers, who didn’t make it look near as good.

“It’s a nice night,” I said to distract myself.  “Lots of stars. In the summer I usually sleep out here. It’s so peaceful.”

“I know about the stars too.” She smirked a little as she said this. “And all them, you know, what’re they called . . .” She struggled for the word, sounding her age for a moment.

“Constellations?” I guessed.

“Yep. That’s them. Constellations.”

“I never learned much about those.”

“They’re each a story. See that one up there with that line of three stars and the kind of square above it and below it. That one is a story.  It’s a. . . a  . . .” She trailed off, smoking and thinking. “Oron. The Twisted Butterfly. That’s what it is. I can’t remember the story, but that’s what it is.”  She looked unsatisfied, her face grimacing from mental indigestion.

I followed her gaze into the sky and the constellation popped out at me. It was actually Orion, complete with his lovely three-starred belt. But then I tilted my body a little towards Nana’s, lining my shoulders up with hers, and tried to see the sky the way she saw it. And there in the night sky was a twisted butterfly, trying to turn its flight around, trying to fly up into the sky.


Laura Hilton Craner is a mommy and sometimes-writer. She lives in Colorado with her husband and four children.  She blogs at and is a contributor at the Mormon Arts and Culture website, A Motley Vision (  When she isn’t reading, writing, or cleaning up after someone, Laura spends her time hiking, canning, scrapbooking, and dabbling in the expressive arts.

LONNOL Month call for submissions

Antique valentine woman rose butterfly3

Roses are red;
Their odor is heady.
LONNOL month’s here–
Are your Valentines ready?

It’s Love of Nature Nature of Love Month on Wilderness Interface Zone, and we’re looking to publish love abroad.  Do you have a message of friendship and love you’d like to send someone? WIZ is looking for original poetry, essays, blocks of fiction, art, music (mp3s), videos or other media that address the subject of love while making references to nature.  We’ll also take the flipside: We’ll publish work about nature intertwined with themes of love.  Besides original work you’re welcome to send favorite works by others that have entered public domain.  So if you have a sonnet you’ve written to someone dear to your heart–even and perhaps especially your pet hamster Roley Poley or faithful horse Old Paint–or perhaps a video Valentine or an essay avowing your love for a natural space near and dear–please consider sending it to WIZ.  Click here for submissions guidelines.

Besides rolling out a (hopefully) heart-embroidered carpet of love-art, we’ll also be running two WIZ, nature-laced, romantic DVD giveaways, Typhoon, starring Dorothy Lamour and pre-Music Man Robert Preston, and a Pre-Hays Code movie, King of the Jungle, starring scantily clad Buster Crabbe as Kaspa the Lion Man.

We hope you’ll join the celebration.  Let’s warm up February with fond feeling.

Making Friends With Winter by Sarah Dunster

800px-Fence_after_snowstorm2 by Julian Coulton

It snowed today, for the first time. October 6th.

When my family moved to southeast Idaho, we knew that Winter was one of the by-products we were choosing. That “W” is capitalized, because winters here are real winters—you couldn’t survive without shelter. In Utah Valley, where we’ve lived the last ten years, you likely couldn’t either, easily… but there’d be a chance. Some random steaming garbage pile might keep you warm at nights if you found yourself homeless.

Not here.  We now live in Idaho’s Siberia. You’d think that, farther north in places like Sandpoint, it would be much colder, but no. The carryover from Washington state’s more temperate coastal climates makes the panhandle and other, more northern places a much easier place to grow things like tomatoes, for instance.

Here in Idaho’s Siberia there are miles of landmass and ridges of mountains to keep us from any friendly ocean breezes. In January it dips down toward negative twenty. And the winds are to be reckoned with—tearing in from the southwest, lifting sod off the fields before the ground freezes, withering the branches of any non-hardy fruit tree.

You plant your Polly peaches northeast of your house, here in southeast Idaho. The Honeycrisp apples and sour pie-cherries and, perhaps, the pears and plums might survive (all these are currently imaginary—a vision dancing in husband’s head and mine.) But not the peaches.

Our new home is hyper-insulated. Six-to-ten inches of polyurethane foam keep the elements away, and our body heat, so far, has been enough to keep us toasty and warm, even at that lethal six-o-clock hour when bare feet hit concrete floors and children shiver through showers.  But it’s coming. I know it is. My Viking blood is waking up, warning me, prompting me to drag out the giant tupperwares full of snow rompers and wool socks and mittens and hats and thermal underclothing.

We have neighbors close by who warned me that the key to life in our new little city is to “live it up in the summers and fall. Take every second you can and enjoy them… because when winter hits, everyone shuts themselves indoors. You don’t see anybody. And it drags on so long… the snow. The cold. The isolation.”

I asked him, don’t you go out to play in the snow.

He shrugged. “Yeah. But it gets so cold. Cross-country skiing and sledding just aren’t fun in below-freezing weather.”

Of course, he’s part Samoan and part Jamaican—he’s not used to this. Well, neither am I; I grew up in Northern California. But my Viking ancestors will jeer at me from the other side of the veil this winter if I don’t make the attempt…

Winter and I are going to be friends. I’m determined.

So this morning when the first snow started slanting down, soaking our alfalfa field and bringing out the sweetness of it’s purple smell and swelling the gutters with puddles, I shook it off. I  piled coats on my kids, snapped the baby into her fleece bear-hoodie and we walked to our homeschool co-op.

On the way home, two of my children slogged through a puddle. They were chattering by the time we got home and whimpering a bit. They will learn about winter, that the friendship has boundaries.

I fed my kids lunch and made my year’s first pan of cottage-friend potatoes, the most wintery of foods. My husband came home from work tonight and spent eight hours prying the lid off the boiler that heats our house and examining the rusty innards. I sense    already that his friendship with winter will involve more of a wary respect. And I admit I’m nervous. For me, friendships can be awkward at first. I get overwhelmed. I have my moments of despair: Did I say the right thing? Did I do something that revealed too much of my vulnerability, too soon?

Today I watch the snow fall through the big French doors and the windows that look south, east and north from our kitchen/dining room. I pretend nonchalance and think of the flakes as gifts. I allow the excitement to well up inside me at the prospect of four-foot drifts, of building a sled hill in the backyard, of cross-country skiing on the groomed trail by the icy-jade river that runs through our town. Of family snowball fights and cozy evenings cuddled around a TV screen watching movies that aren’t too scary but are scary enough to send my five year old shuffling to our room in the middle of the night, asking to be kissed and tucked back in.

We chose winter, and so winter will be a highlight of our year. We will make friends with winter. I’m determined.


Sarah Dunster photoSarah Dunster is an award-winning poet and fiction writer. Her poems have been published in Dialogue: a Journal of Mormon Thought, Segullah Magazine, and Victorian Violet Press. Her short fiction piece, Back North, is featured in Segullah’s Fall 2011 issue. In addition, Sarah’s first novel Lightning Tree will be released in spring of 2012 by Cedar Fort. Sarah has six children and one on the way and loves writing almost as much as she loves being a mom.

Time for Love of Nature, Nature of Love Month on WIZ


For the second year, we’re making February “Love of Nature, Nature of Love” month on Wilderness Interface Zone.  To celebrate Valentine’s Day, all month long we’ll publish poetry, essays, blocks of fiction, art, music (mp3s), video or other media that address the subject of love while making references to nature.  Or it could go the other way around: We’ll publish work about nature that also happens to give a nod to love.  That presents a wide field of possibilities.  We’re seeking submissions of original work or you can also send favorite works by others that have entered public domain.  So if you have a sonnet you’ve written to someone dear to your heart–even and perhaps especially your dog–please consider sending it to WIZ.  See the submissions page in the navigation bar above.

Also, February 24th is WIZ’s birthday.  We’ll be two years old—a toddler now.  To celebrate, a couple of posts will offer presents to our readers.  Because without you, dear readers, where would we be?

There’s more than a slight hint of thaw in earth and air.  The light is growing longer.  The first waves  of the Canadian geese migration are rolling through the southern Utah county where I live.  Hen-and-chicks and stork’s bill are beginning to preen.  The coyotes are pairing off.  February is a good month to warm things up.  Got love?  Celebrate it here on WIZ.

WIZ kids: Call for nature writing by children

School’s out—at least for kids in my neighborhood.  In theory, this means they’re outside more, turning over rocks, taking pictures of what they find with their camera phones, using their iPhones to run a quick Internet critter identification search, engaging in texting one-upmanship (bgz r gr8), so on and so forth.

Okay, maybe they’re not doing it like that.  (But oh, what I could have and would have done with such technology in my wild child days!)  In fact, maybe they’re not going out into the Mystery much at all, if Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods gives an accurate account of how children and nature have fallen out of love.  But there must be some kids still getting out there, developing lightning-fast reflexes from chasing lizards, solving the whole-body puzzle of climbing a tree, honing their future driving skills by walking on logs across creeks, etc.

It’s in the hope that nature children still exist somewhere that Wilderness Interface Zone is issuing a call for nature poems and short essays written by children.  The works may address any aspect of nature and the child’s relationship to it.  Poems should be 50 lines or under and essays 150-1000 words.  If you have a budding nature photojournalist in your family, we will consider posting his or her photos.  Children ages 6-18 are invited to submit work to from July 6, 2010 to July 31, 2010.  Depending on how many submissions we get, we’ll post them in batches off and on July-August.  Parents and kids: Please review submission guidelines here before submitting.