The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild

Published 9:22 am Thursday, March 29, 2018

“The Easter Bunny”

By Linda Barnette

At this time of year, adults are probably thinking about the religious significance of Easter whereas most children are probably eagerly awaiting a visit from the Easter Bunny.

I did some research about the Easter Bunny simply because I knew nothing about its history.      Apparently, the legend originated among the Lutherans in Germany.  The “Easter Hare” was the judge who decided whether or not children were good and deserved a visit from this bunny.

In the old legends, the Hare brought colored eggs, candy, and sometimes toys to the homes of children who had been judged to be good enough to receive gifts, much like Santa.  According to the material I read, this practice was first mentioned in literature in the late 1600s.

Rabbits, or hares, were popular motifs in the church during medieval times.  They, along with eggs, may have been symbolic of the fertility of the earth which usually happened at the time of the Easter season.  Eggs are also symbolic of new life.

In addition, Orthodox Church members typically fasted during the Lenten season, but eggs could be boiled and saved to be eaten later.  In later times, German Protestants habitually ate colored eggs for Easter. They boiled the eggs with spring flowers in order to color them.

The tradition of the Easter Bunny most likely came to America in the 1700’s with the German Protestants who settled in Pennsylvania and later migrated to other places.  Obviously, these traditions spread and expanded to include chocolate and other goodies.

Don’t mention this, but John and I already have our supply of Easter candy on hand!

“The Beginning of Fear”

By Beth Carter

When I was young our family loved the beach! We looked forward to visiting Oak Island every summer for a week of sun and fun. As soon as school let out, we packed up the station wagon and set out on our drive east. Anticipation filled the car as we recalled the memories of numerous trips of the past. Each year we rented a house right on the ocean front with a large porch and walkway leading to stairs which descended right onto the sand. As we got closer to the bridge that crossed the intercostal waterway mom would say, “Ok girls, whoever sees the ocean first is the winner!” We all moved about in the car until we each had a vantage point to participate in the contest.

My sisters and I spent days running between the sand and surf enjoying the freedom of the wide-open spaces. We collected shells and took long walks up and down the beach without a care in the world. That was until the summer I turned eleven, the year I call the beginning of fear.

Earlier that year, our church hired a new associate pastor named Brad. He was young, handsome, and very charismatic. My parents welcomed him with opened arms and became his mentors in a way. Brad was single and new to our community. They felt his being part of our family might ease his loneliness. They played matchmaker and introduced him to a young lady, Lila, who was a family friend. The two hit it off and started dating. We were all so excited because they were young and so much fun to be around. Brad and Lila took a special interest in me and my sister Tempe. My parents invited Brad and Lila to visit us at the beach that summer, and they accepted.

The day that Brad and Lila were to arrive was full of excitement. “Clean up this mess girls before they get here,” mom yelled. “Remember to give them some time to themselves while they are visiting.”  As soon as the couple showed up, we all changed into our bathing suits and hit the waves. Lila had never been to the beach and acted just like a child as she jumped the waves and screamed. Brad was an avid swimmer, so he took off swimming far out from the coastline. We all watched in amazement as he tackled the tremendous waves over and over. Lila was frightened and began yelling, “Brad, please come back you are scaring me!” Brad yelled back, “I’m fine. Watch this.” He dove head first into the waves. He must have sensed her fear and swam back to our location. We all laughed and played in the surf for several hours until Brad made a terrible mistake. He lunged at me, and before I realized what he was going to do, he dunked me under the water. I had not taken in enough air prior to the dunking and began to struggle and fight him as he held down my head. I am sure his intention was playfulness, but I panicked. From the murky sea water below,  I could see his legs and violently began hitting and scratching him. I could feel my lungs burning as they ran out of air, and I remember thinking “This is what it is like to drown, and I am going to die.”  My fight for survival instinct kicked in, and I somehow escaped his grip. As my head broke the water into the fresh salt air, I gasped and coughed, spitting water from my lungs. I ran crying from the water while Brad, Lila, and my parents laughed. “Do they not realize I almost died?” I thought.  For the remainder of their visit, I stayed my distance as the fear inside me grew stronger. The fear of not being in control, the fear of death, the fear of drowning, the fear of being held against my will, the fear of closed in spaces, the fear of losing my breath! FEAR became real to me for the first time at the age of 11.

From that time, I began experiencing what I did not know until I was in my early 30s were panic attacks.  As a child, I was constantly afraid of becoming sick or dying. I would hear a story on the news of someone with a brain tumor, and I convinced myself that I had a tumor. The news of a favorite actor’s death of appendicitis resulted in my experiencing severe abdominal pain. As a teenager and young adult, these episodes of intense fear became more frequent and debilitating. I experienced many embarrassing trips to the ER as well as 911 calls. Following the birth of my sons, I was diagnosed with a heart ailment and began medication to control my heart rate and palpations. Every morning I woke up in fear wondering which physical symptoms would manifest during my day. I began a very stressful job as a rehabilitation director at a local long-term care facility. The added responsibilities at work and home began to affect my ability to function.  Finally, I shared my fears with a close friend and co-worker. She put me in contact with a physician and counselor who finally made the correct diagnosis. The doctor described a panic attack as an abrupt onset of intense fear or discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes and includes at least four of the following symptoms: Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate, sweating, trembling or shaking, and sensations of shortness of breath or smothering.  Through my research, I learned that a panic attack doesn’t come in reaction to a stressor. It’s unprovoked and unpredictable. During a panic attack, the individual is seized with terror, fear, or apprehension.  The person may feel that they’re going to die, lose control or have a heart attack.  A host of physical symptoms may include chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea. In addition to these terrifying panic attacks, a person may start worrying about having the next one, so they experience what is known as anticipatory anxiety. The sufferer will start avoiding places where they had a panic attack. For example, if they had an attack in a grocery store, he or she may stop going to the store. This described what I had been living with to a “T.”

Following the diagnosis, I was prescribed a medication which to me was my miracle. The doctor explained that my symptoms were a result of my brains neurotransmitters getting out of balance, and the medication would keep the chemical serotonin at a correct level in my brain. Relief came at last. Within a few days, I no longer experienced the attacks that had debilitated me for decades.

I have long since forgiven Brad for what I believed was the onset of my panic attacks. During an innocent day of fun at the beach, his actions sparked a fear deep within me that haunted me for years.

Luckily today, thanks to the healing power of prayer, I can report that I no longer need medication or suffer from panic attacks.  I share this very personal story in hopes that I can help others, who may be living in fear, find freedom from this disease.

“In Her Eyes”

By Julie Terry Cartner

In her eyes I see pride. I see the woman she is today, but I see the woman she was yesterday, the day before, and all the days before that. I see the little girl who watched for her daddy to come home from work, the student who watched and practiced and learned, the young woman whose beau caught her eye from across the dance floor, the young wife who watched, with tears in her eyes, as her new husband left to join the military, and the joyous young wife, babe in arms who caught the first glimpse of her husband as he deplaned from the military aircraft. I see the woman who patiently saw life and death, triumphs and heartaches, and successes and failures of her family: her parents, siblings, and children of her own.

In her wrinkled skin, I see the plumpness of middle age, the glow of motherhood, the blush of youth and the dewy skin of childhood. I see memories, experiences, pain and joy, laughter and tears in each wrinkle of her timeworn face. I see the caress of the wind as she walked across the fields of her home, the stroke of the salt water as she swam in the bay, the icy fingers of winter as she struggled to bring in firewood, and the baking heat of the sun as she weeded and watered the garden to provide food for her family.

In her stooped shoulders, I see the abandon of the child tumbling cartwheels on the summer grass and climbing trees hand over hand. I see the young lady holding hands with a suitor. I see the strength of the worker, the supporting helpmate. I see the continual effort of making meals for her family, the eternal chores of the housewife. I see countless loads of laundry hauled to the clothesline, sodden and heavy, and innumerable loads hauled back inside, crisp and clean, the freshness wafting through the air like a breeze on a summer day. I see the strength that she needed to carry the burdens of her loved ones whenever she was needed.

In her arms I see her tenderness –her childlike arms filled with a stray cat, one ear battered and bent, one leg dangling, too much cat for her tiny arms; I see adolescent arms holding bottles for stray baby animals orphaned and scared, her adult arms filled with her babe as she gently rocks him, swaying to and fro in the ageless movements of motherhood. I see the careworn arms tenderly feeding her frail mother her supper, and helping her elderly father tie his shoes. I see her arm in arm with her beloved husband as they walk down the beach, then finally I see her tenderly holding his head so he can look out the window one last time before he says his last farewell.

In her dark veined legs and arthritic hips, I see a child who could once run endlessly down the beach or swim until the cold drover her out of the water to burrow under her towel, the girl who loved to dance, the bride who walked down the aisle, almost floating, in a sea of white lace, the mother-to-be pacing the halls of the hospital as her contractions drew closer together, the mother pacing the halls of her house as her colicky baby screamed in distress, the helpmate who followed the plow dropping seeds into the freshly turned earth, the mother who ran to her child when he was hurt, the woman who kept her house pristine, and the elderly lady who sits in a rocker on the porch, reminiscing about her long and lovely life.

And in her tender heart, I see the love. She never learned to guard her heart; her love, above all, is who she is. I see the child’s love for parents and siblings and pets, the adolescent’s passionate love for friends and her guy, the young wife’s love for her husband, then the young mother’s love for her children. I see the cracks from when her children questioned her, grew angry with her and rejected her in the passion of youth, then the mends in the rifts when they grew up and learned how special she is. I see parts of her heart break when her parents died, one right after the other. Then more breaks came when her sister and later, her brother died. I see the irreparable break when her husband died.  Finally, I see her heart bursting with joy when she holds each grandchild, and later the great-grandchildren. I see a heart, well loved.

You might look right past her, discount her as someone whose life is soon to end. But she is so much more than this. She is the sum of all her experiences, and she deserves to be revered. You might only see the bent and wrinkled body, the shuffling steps, the cloudy eyes, but if you do, you are allowing a precious gift to slip unnoticed through your fingers like a jellyfish that can’t be caught. Because she is life. She is experience. She is love and she is joy. When I look at her, I see all this and more; in her eyes I see the serenity of a life well lived.

“The Arches”

By N. R. Tucker

Some hikes test your stamina, others test your ability to read maps. The best hikes bring you closer to nature. In the 1980’s, we hiked and camped at the Arches National Park in Utah. It was the week of the 4th of July, and the heat was oppressive. Temperatures stayed in the high 90s during the day, but at night, the temperature would fall into the low 50s.

Our six-month-old traveled on our backs as my husband and I took turns with his added weight. The baby was still nursing, so food wasn’t an issue. Packing out the diapers was a smelly and bulky issue.  As we used up the water we carried, the weight was replaced by dirty diapers. At least we didn’t have to haul both at the same time.

The views were magnificent. Delicate Arch, the iconic Arches photo, was worth seeing, but other destinations grabbed my attention. Walking between the Cedar Mesa Sandstone, with its multicolored banded spires, was a visual reminder that humans, with our short life spans, are merely passing through this world. Hiking into a valley, like Squaw Flat, revealed a wide range of juniper and pinon trees, as well as shrubs and grasses. The plant life adds a touch of green against the yellows, oranges, and reds of the sandstone. Some trails tricked the mind into thinking no other human had ever been there until I saw the pictograms.  While documentaries provide the look of the park, they fail to provide the smell of the land and the feel of a breeze atop an arch.

At first, I thought the area was devoid of life, but closer inspection revealed red-tailed hawks, scrub jays, pinon mice, and, of course, insects. Though I know coyote and big-horn sheep reside there, they remained hidden from view the entire week.

Amidst the grandeur of the many arches, natural bridges, and towers, I found myself humbled that I was able to visit such a place. The peace I felt in the Arches, I have never experienced anywhere else. It was as if my family was alone in the universe with only the stars to bear witness to our journey. There were no lights to interfere with the incredible view of the night sky, and silence lent a reverence to the trail. Standing atop an arch revealed a three-hundred and sixty-degree view with no manmade structures in sight.

Unless we were hiking to a significant point of interest, we rarely saw another person on the trail. In a place like this, how could I not take a moment to thank God for the landscape and for the opportunity to visit? The joy I felt in that place has not diminished through the years.

“The Business of Saving Lives”

By Stephanie Dean

“What do you do?” The next time I’m asked that question, I’ll answer it this way. “I’m in the business of saving lives.” There was a time in my life when I worked in the medical field and helped save the lives of people experiencing life-threatening emergencies. Later in my career, I helped overweight patients slowly dying from obesity-related comorbidities restore their health and reclaim their lives.  Today, the answer has taken on a different meaning.

My sister and Christian author, Suzanne Matthews, asked me, “What are you doing to celebrate Holy Week?” She’s into questions. Her book is all about the questions Jesus asked and why he asked them.

“Just the usual. Nothing special really. Just getting ready for Easter and going to church.” I responded.

Really? Nothing special? Her question illuminated for me what I need to be doing. Getting quiet. Reflecting. Taking a pause in my “busy” life to make sure I’m devoting my attention where it needs to be focused.

In Christianity, Holy Week is the week before Easter, the week before Jesus rose victoriously from the grave. The last week of Lent, it includes Palm Sunday, Holy Wednesday, Tenebrae, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday but not Easter Sunday. Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus entry to Jerusalem. The three following Holy Days commemorate events from the last days of Jesus’s life. Tenebrae is a celebration of the evening before or early morning of Maundy Thursday and is an extinguishing of candles leading up to the last three days of Holy Week. Maundy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper Jesus shared with his disciples. Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus and Holy Saturday is the day before Jesus’s resurrection. Immediately following Holy Week is Easter Sunday, a celebration of the Resurrection.

The power of the resurrection that raised Jesus from the dead has not diminished. That same power raises dead sinners to life. From the death of Jesus, we have been granted life everlasting through salvation. This supernatural power is the fuel to my Christian life of faith. Through my personal ministry, “Make Me Ministries,” I’m in the business of using my God-granted talents to give back in the ways I can. As a Christian, I’ve been called upon to help others and to share the Gospel story. This Holy Week, I invite you to get to know Jesus. A strong personal relationship with Him changed and saved my life. It will save yours too.

Yes, my business is about saving lives, and I need to get on about my business.