top of page

That Thing with Feathers: Hope and Literature in a Time of Pandemic

As communities grapple with how to function in a time of pandemic, so many decisions feel fraught and weighted. How do we move forward? What will the world look like once we emerge, and what must we do to shape it for the better? THP author Chip Ward considers all of this as he recalls a film shown to him as a young boy during a rainy-day recess.


Running the Movie Backward

by Chip Ward

When I was a child in elementary school I watched a movie that is so embedded in my memory that it is still vivid today. Like all children we hungered for recess and were ready to burst onto the playground where we could run and yell and shed the orderly suppression practiced for hours in a classroom. On rainy days the playground was closed and we gathered in the school auditorium to watch movies. Most were black-and-white stock films from the government on hygiene and safety. The grainy antiseptic presentation of these topics did not resonate in my eight-year-old mind. It is difficult to take brushing one’s teeth seriously when you have so much pent-up energy you want to bite someone.

Next the chain saws screamed and sawdust flew, coating the hardhats of the lumberjacks with the soft fresh cells of the tree.

There was one film, however, that was a big hit because it was run once forward and then again backward. The movie was made to explain how the timber industry turned trees into boards. First we saw the lumberjacks as they walked around the forest assessing the trees to select the most profitable. Then they unlo