The Uintah Mountains of Utah
Many months have passed since I arrived beneath the soaring cliffs and painted skies of my childhood. I shall be leaving soon, destination unknown. One more walk along the lake, listening to the soft murmuring voices of nature would be so pleasant. There is no time. I feel it coming, the urgency building like a wave.
Shuddering, I call out to God for mercy as another contraction thunders through my weakened body, shaking the life from me. Squirming atop the soddened cot, rivulets of perspiration run into my eyes. My hair is matted, sticking to my face. I am too tired to push it away. Gritting my teeth, panting through each interminable pulse; I white-knuckle the leather strap attached to the bed frame. Biting down on a soft piece of wood stifles my anguished cries. Why shouldn’t I just shout? It makes no difference. I am alone.
My logical mind hovers in suspended consciousness. By now, I had expected a lusty wail to gladden my heart, followed by a well-earned and contented rest. The stillness of the room has absolved me of that dream. The heavy pressure in my abdomen confirms it. Abject panic burns a hole in my resolve. Struggling to relax and reclaim my optimism, I continue to pray, trying to focus my mind elsewhere and abolish the discomfort. Cheerfully, I think: perhaps with one more push, we will be liberated.
Fighting to remain present and positive, I gaze at the fire. The flames dance high and low, keeping the room barely comfortable and smoky. The low crackling and popping are a relief, a staccato to the silence gathering around me.
Marina has gone for help. Plucky little Marina felt sure she could handle anything as my mid-wife. I don’t blame her self-assurance, but I do berate my own stupidity. Of course, she helped birth many babies in her village, but my baby is breach. How could she have known? How unwise of me to believe I could be as fearless as the Chinese women described by author Pearl Buck. Birthing a baby in a rice paddy is second nature to their culture – or is it but a myth? I am not a Chinese woman, though I thought I was as tough as one could be. Instead, I am alone, a squatter in a wilderness of my own making – desolate, dispirited, and too weary to continue.
Trying to muster sanguinity, I brightly remember there are reasons to keep going - so much time ahead; a life to live, and a child to be raised. Perhaps my love will come – but it has been too long. I have been irresponsible and selfish in my commitment to him. I have realized this too late. Squeezing my eyes closed, tears course down my cheeks remembering the sweetness of his kiss.
The soothing hum of the wind through the trees calms me. Branches scraping the outside wall produce a sawing noise that keeps me awake and focused. I hear the meadowlark in the field just beyond the road. Thoughts of my predicament recede as the next contraction begins.
Groaning, I steel myself. Perhaps I should submit like a leaf in a river, slipping effortlessly through turbulent waters. Would it hasten the inevitable? Can a baby slide through the birth canal fanny first and survive? Can I? The thought chills me.
Focusing on my breath, the agony tears me asunder. Consciousness blurs, but I fight to keep my concentration. Amid the ringing in my ears, I hear the gentle music of a flute; distant but steadily rising.
I am a fighter and refuse to die like this. I will not give him the satisfaction. My stone-cold father will not have the last word. Perhaps I was negligent, but not immoral as he would contend. He guessed my predicament even as I denied it. I banished myself. Isn’t that enough? I am not sorry. What is the point?
Rallying, I remember my sisters and our camaraderie. Smiling, I recall our slogan, “little rebels in blue.” Impatiently, I await their arrival. Where are they? Don’t they know I am suffering and awaiting their strength? How unwise it was of me to ever consider birthing my child alone in the backcountry. I should have gone to Paris. Now, it is too late. The months in this purgatory have left me empty and resigned.
Frightened, I wonder, will Marina return soon? Oh, Dear God, the flood of pain is unbearable. Through my tears, with anxiety in my voice I call to her, “Marina! Where are you?”
From the shadows, she quietly steps to my side. The look on her face is drawn and worried. Breathlessly, I clutch her hand and gasp, “Marina, the pain is excruciating. What am I to do? I don’t want to die.” Sniffing back tears, my confidence is flagging.
Her kind eyes brim as she hugs my hand to her soft cheek, and whispers in her native accent, “They are coming – hold on dear friend, they are coming.” She sponges my face with cool water and allows me to slake my thirst.
I think: She doesn’t know what to do, but she knows I am desperately close to the end. The pain is rising. Locking my flexed knees, I bear down. My pelvic floor tears. I whimper, knowing I should have held back. Perilously loosing blood, I cast an urgent glance her way, whispering, “Has the baby come?” Looking over my knees, she shakes her head in despair. Weakening, I feel darkness descending upon my quivering condition. With unconsciousness, the pain melts away, taking with it the fear.
Present again, my sisters have arrived, mercifully they have brought mother. Mama’s touch is always magical. My heart lifts as mother positions herself between my knees, shouting instructions to Marina for hot water and sheeting.
“I am saved.” I whisper to them, managing a wan smile of appreciation. My sight has diminished again. I perceive only watery shapes. Angels surround the cot, bending to give me heavenly comfort and joyous greeting. An explosion of light takes me and I begin to float.
Weeping in regret, my sisters are blaming themselves. Simultaneously, I feel my mother’s unconditional love and tragic loss. Feverishly she is attempting to work a miracle. She calls to me over the gulf. “Elizabeth, stay with me dear,” she pleads, “Don’t you dare leave me daughter!” A tumult engulfs her as she works to save me.
It’s too late. I am in the light and feel the bliss of crossing into the arms of God. A mournful cry issues from the darkness, as mother lifts my newborn from the afterbirth. For a split second, I see the bluish cord wrapped around her shoulders. Seeing her lovely little face and bright eyes, I am relieved. She is alive, beautiful and tiny as a fawn. Thoughts of my tender lover are my last. Weeping, I fling my arm backward desperately grappling for life, while slipping into the bright void of death.
The twists and turns that kept cropping up had me glued to my seat from start to finish. The vivid description of Nova's
beloved mountains, characters, flora andfauna were rich in detail and beautifully written. I hope there is a sequel to this book
in the near future. Nova's story isn't finished yet.
Love, love, love this novel! Painted Skies is one of the best books I've ever read. The reader is led through an adventure of
a lifetime. If you enjoy BarbaraKingsolver and Sena Jeter Naslund, read this book. I savored every minute and didn't
want to be finished. Looking forward to more from this author.
This is a beautiful mystery with a well-conceived plot and vivid descriptive passages. Intriguing interactions occur psychically
between characters still alive and supernaturally with some who have gone before.
This is one amazing book! The images it presents to the reader are truly wonderful. I felt as if I were in the middle of the action
all the time. As well, the plot is unusual, winding around so you're not sure what will happen next!! Well worth the read.
Hats off to the author!!
I enjoyed this book very much, even though it was somewhat out of my "comfort zone."
I didn't know what to expect, and was very pleasantly surprised to find that I enjoyed something far from the Civil War
history and run-of-the-mill mysteries that I normally read.
This tale has a more twists and turns than the beautiful canyons she describes. The book is exceptionally written and
having lived in and around Salt Lake City, I can testify to the accuracy of the depictions regarding the surrounding mountains.
I know you will find that the authors photo like narration will illuminate a vivid picture in your mind. The story is marvelous in
a number of areas regarding the human spirit and emotion. I alsolove the ethereal ties that we all experience at one time or
another. I highly recommend this to anyone who likes a good story that leaves you with warmth and a little ponderous about those
things we know and yet cannot see. You will not be disappointed. I look forward to more stories from the author.
Although this is Sue Simonich's first published novel, she is by no means a stranger to the literary world, having previously
written articles and full histories on a wide range of subjects. `Painted Skies' is a delightful and unusual story, with a slightly
darker thread running through it. The author keeps the suspense going until almost the bitter end - no mean feat - and the
twists and turns of the plot are often unexpected. Her descriptions of the mountain country are beautiful and such that one
has a lasting image of the scenery throughout the book; it is so easy to `return' there.
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