Magic, Bones, and Family Legacies: The Story Behind “Through Earth and Sky”

Last week saw the release of my story, “Through Earth and Sky,” in the debut issue of Bracken Magazine. This is a really huge moment for me, since out of all my fiction so far, this story is one of my personal favorites, and possibly the most important piece to my family. (Story spoilers to follow!)

“Through Earth and Sky” is completely different than all my other short fiction work. It is at once the most personal—and in a way, the least personal—story I’ve ever written. Why the dichotomy? Because this story wasn’t written about my own life. It was written, in part, about the life of my husband’s maternal grandmother, Daisy.

Daisy was one heck of a woman. My husband still fondly recalls the Saturday afternoons he and Daisy spent together watching matinees of Godzilla movies and Hammer films. She was the person who fostered what would become my husband’s lifelong love for the horror genre, a love that led him to Pittsburgh for special effects training and ultimately helped him navigate his way through independent horror filmmaking, which is how he and I met. I often wonder if we would have ever found each other at all if it wasn’t for Daisy’s inspiration in his life.

Grandma Daisy and BillWhile “Through Earth and Sky” is obviously fantastical (meaning it is, at its core, a work of fiction), there are many similarities to what we know about Daisy’s life. Now granted, when it comes to her life, much of the information is in bits my husband has pieced together through the oral tradition of his family as well as what we could learn through genealogy records. For example, like the protagonist in my story, Daisy was raised in a religious orphanage where the women did their best to scrub away all remnants of her Sioux heritage. As adults, Daisy and her sister are said to have married young, and sometime later, her sister allegedly vanished, with Daisy insisting that her sister’s husband was to blame for the disappearance. Tragically, the word of a non-white woman in West Virginia in the 1950s was not taken seriously, thus little investigation was made into Daisy’s claims. To this day, as far as we know, her sister’s body has never been recovered.

However, Daisy was a fighter, and she persevered, raising a strong family and never losing her sense of wonder in the world. Sadly, she died just one year before my husband and I met. This is one of the greatest losses of my life—never having the opportunity to meet someone who had such a huge influence over making my husband the man I love. So “Through Earth and Sky” is my way of honoring this incredible woman whose strength and giving heart still resonate through my life each and every day, even though I never earned the privilege of sharing even one conversation with her.

Sometimes, as an artist, your work can seem like such a small token to offer in remembrance of someone. But at the very least, this story meant a lot to my husband. When he read it for the first time, he said that I captured her spirit perfectly, that “Through Earth and Sky” was one of the most profound gifts I could have ever given him. For a writer, no other amount of praise in the world can be greater than that. So this story is my offering to her, and I only hope it serves her memory well.

So if you’re into magic realism with a melancholy dose of the macabre, please consider giving “Through Earth and Sky” a read. And while you’re at it, be sure to send a wink and a smile to Grandma Daisy.

Happy reading!