Jergensen and Miner, eds, “Seasons of Change: Stories of Transition from the Writers of Segullah” (reviewed by Karen Austin)

Review
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Title: Seasons of Change: Stories of Transition from the Writers of Segullah
Editors: Sandra Clark Jergensen and Shelah Mastny Miner
Publisher: Peculiar Pages
Genre: Personal essays, short stories, and poetry
Year Published: 2017

Reviewed by Karen Austin

This far-ranging collection of personal essays, creative non-fiction, short stories, and poetry depicts a number of transitions that the authors have faced. Most have to do with shifts in faith and family roles, but not exclusively. They are very confessional. I feel a sacred bond to treat these narratives with dignity and tenderness.

Here are short summaries/reviews for each selection with their section title indicated.

(I apologize for making each vibrant contribution sound like a corpse. My summaries are particularly damaging to the poetry.)

* Indicates the ones resonated that resonated with me–limited to one asterisk for each section because I’m tempted to put an asterisk on all entries. I’m sure each entry has an audience, and I may revisit these and find some “speak” to me more at another time.

MEASUREMENT:

*”Three Dollar Attribute” by Teresa Hirst shows how a woman re-calibrates her outlook on life when the family income is significantly reduces. I enjoyed the way the metaphors connected the physical and metaphysical.

“Coming Up for Air” by Melody Newey is a poem that uses pearls, shells, and sand to depict various milestones.

“Beautiful Ashes” by Kylie Nielson Turley shares the journey she and her family took when her father was diagnosed with cancer and then her grief in the wake of her passing. Her grief is raw and unresolved.

“Measuring My Days: Coffee Spoons and Conjunctions” by Lisa Rumsey Harris uses Eliot’s Prufrock as a framework for her shifting relationship to fertility.

“Guarding Your Growing Season” by Julie K. Nelson is a poem that shows a mother regarding her daughter’s growth from girl to woman.

WELCOME:

“To Go Home” by Cathrine Keddington Arveseth is a sense-filled account of taking her children to stay with her parents when a sewer line break makes her own home inhabitable.

“Room and Board” by Melonie Cannon is a poem that describes a magical woman whose presence is subtly evident in various places in settings wild and domestic.

*”Emerald Grass and May Skies” by Tracy McKay shows how a recently remarried woman becomes part of an extended family.

“Gathering Sheaves” by Jes S. Curtis uses the biblical story of Ruth as a guide to a woman whose husband doesn’t die but walks out.

“When God Baked Pot Pie” by Terresa Wellborn is a poem that gives voice to a mother of twins encountering the divine through the mundane.

CYCLE:

“Ebbing Tide” by Melissa McQuarrie describes a mother’s many attempts to explain to her tween how girl’s bodies change with menstruation and how babies come into the world.

*”Ice Cream with Superman and Kafka”by Jennifer Quist gives several accounts of interacting with a relative who has a debilitating mental illness while also trying to describe the ephemeral emotion-relationship of charity.

“In Transit” by Gladys Clark Farmer Fetzer describes the many times the author had to venture out of her comfort zone while moving physical locations in and out of the US and moving through many family roles and milestones.

“Horizon” by Darlene Young is a poem that takes the readers through the time travel of long-term relationships.

“How Long?” by Darlene Young is a poem about chronic illness and a yearning to connect with God.

HUNGER:

*”Brownies and Bottled Peaches” by Jessie Christensen foregrounds food in an essay that quietly describes the entire (brief) lifespan of her courtship and marriage.

“Photocopy Warmth and Fortune Cookie Memories” by Teresa TL Bruce shares her perspective as a recent widow.

“The Marriage Bed” by Shelah Mastny Miner explores how physical intimacy has to jostle for space in a house full of children.

“Their Name Is Violet” by Sandra Clark Jergensen looks back to an ancestor for guidance about fertility and making a family in an unexpected way.

“Book of Genesis Rejects” by Claire Akebrand is a poem that imagines Adam and Eve as more multidimensional than the biblical narrative.

“The Black Cat Crossing” by Claire Akebrand is a poem that on the surface appears to be about a pregnant cat, but it’s about luck (serendipity, surprise and probably a lot more).

ACCEPTANCE:

“Blue Polish” by Kel Purcill celebrates the author’s child and all his oddities.

“My Inner Voice” by Michelle Lehnardt explains how the author had to edit her mother’s harsh voice that was a negative inner dialogue and how she had to revise her relationship with her mother over time, too.

“Open” by Sandra Clark Jergensen depicts the way the author became more of a risk taker after her adventurous friend encourages the author to run without shoes.

*”The Woman That” by Melonie Cannon is a poem that describes two different women and the tension between the two.

“The Baby Is Crying” by Elizabeth Cranford Garcia is a poem that describes building tension and release by describing a deer hunt. (Is this a plausible interpretation? I’m not super skilled at poetry interpretation.)

REVERSAL:

“Back to Work” by Heather Bennett Ohman writes about how her views of nontraditional students changed dramatically once she became one.

*”One Night in Bermuda” by Julie Blue La Mar offers a lyric description of being a nontraditional Mormon woman.

“Ben Comes Home” by Michelle Lehnhardt describes the shifting relationship with her son as he takes on more and more adult roles as a missionary, college student, and then groom.

“We’d Rather Be Ruined” by Melissa Dalton-Bradford recalls that time from her childhood when her mother had surgery to correct a spinal problem.

“Last Night I Prayed” by Melody Newey is an eleven word poem that packs a lot of punch.

ENTROPY:

“Unclean” by Emily Bishop Milner reveals the increased struggle the author has with keeping her house clean as she adds children to her family.

“Reviving a Doused Testimony” by Emily Clyde Curtis shares her vacillations between faith and doubt, which includes a reading of Elijah’s quest (1 Kings 19) to commune with God.

“Ears to Hear” by Kylie Nielson Turley examines the changing relationship she has with her physical voice and her metaphorical voice (self-expression).

*”A Place to Wait” by Becca Ogden describes the author’s relationship with her ailing grandmother during the older woman’s decline in health.

“11 PM” by Elizabeth Cranford Garcia is a poem that conveys night noises through the written word.

EXCHANGE:

“Kate, River Guide” by Kate Nelson Stirling depicts how the author gained the ability to express her true self while working as a river guide.

“Lessons from the Valley of the Shadow” by Linda Hoffman Kimball invites the reader to walk alongside the author’s experience as a spouse to someone undergoing cancer diagnosis and treatment.

*”I Tell My Children” by Melody Newey is a poem about the legacy she hopes to leave for her children.

“Stepping Out on the Ward” by Heather R. Kimball describes the day of her baptism (as an adult living in Kazakhstan) and the complex, tender reflections about that event.

“Tennis Haiku” by Melissa Young is a poem about the choice to play with her children instead of writing a poem. (I see what you did there!)

GRAPPLING:

“How to Kill a Cocktail Party” by Tresa Brown Edmunds is a view into parenting a child with disabilities and the difficulty of forming relationships with people who don’t share the experience.

“Truths Revealed from a Naked Adonis” by Leslie M. W. Graff shares the journey the author takes while seeking to find confidence as an artist–and teen coming into her own.

“Uncalled For” by Anna Sam Lehnardt shares the shifting viewpoints about not feeling called to serve a mission and how to respond to social pressure to do so.

“Field Walking” by Angela Hallstrom is a short story about a woman taking a break from family responsibilities. (This reminds me of “The Swimmer” by Cheever, but with more hope and connection.

“A Different Leaving” by Terresa Wellborn is a poem about the tensions between being a mother and pursuing her own talents and other interests.

*”Ya’at’eeh” by Terressa Wellborn is a poem that describes her father’s interaction with her during a couple of key life events.

GRAFTING:

“Because of Bob” by Sherilyn Olsen describes her changing relationship with her estranged father.

“Twice Removed” by Courtney Miller Santo shows friends can become like family (aka fictive kin).

“Jesus Is Here” by Lisa Garfield shares memories of her baptism, which occurred when she was an adult.

“Becoming Grandma” by Dalene Rowley does just what the title declares–it explains how the author became a grandmother.

*”An Unfamiliar Grief” by Heather Bennett Oman shares the tender feelings the author had when her father died.

“To My Children, Who Will be Asked What They Are” by Elizabeth Cranford Garcia is a poem that captures some of the ways the persona’s children are identified by their race (or presumed race).

CONNECTION:

“Salt Water” by Jennie LaFortune describes trips where female friends seek to deepen their friendships.

*”Unleaving” by Luisa M. Perkins is a short story about a woman undergoing cancer treatment who remembers a childhood friend of hers through the fog.

“Breaking Character” by Christie Clark Rassmussen recounts a couple of romantic relationships and the awkward transition between dating and making a serious commitment.

“Ebbing Toward the Veil: Three Generations” by Laura Yates Niedermeyer is a poem about the author serving as her grandmother’s caregiver and the meditations she experienced about the complexities of their relationship / family roles.

“Memory of Place” by Rosalyn Eves is an exploration about the influence of place on cultural memory, family, and self.