The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild

Published 2:49 pm Friday, July 5, 2019

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“Cultivating Happiness”

By Stephanie Williams Dean

On Friday mornings, I volunteer as a chaplain at a large hospital in Winston-Salem. Recently, one of my patients was hospitalized with depression due to the death of her husband. After a year, she is still unable to move forward in her life as she misses him terribly, and everything she engages in reminds her of him. She now faces living life alone, it would be important for her to begin visualizing a new life for herself.

I began to think about how I could best help her. She was already deeply involved in her church, which was the best place to start – getting right with God and nurturing her spiritual life. I suggested writing a list of the things she wanted to do in life but had never done. It wouldn’t be easy to force herself into new, unfamiliar situations by taking senior bus trips to untraveled places. It wouldn’t be easy to join meet up groups to connect with strangers and form new friendships. And it wouldn’t be any easier to study, do research, and complete homework to earn that college degree she had always wanted. It would all feel like a lot of hard work.

But, in the end, it would pay off.  I felt certain that if she would participate in new activities – ones she had not done with her husband – in time, she would find the joy in living once again. At the end of the consult, she told me that I had shared with her what she felt was the most valuable information she’d received and in such a brief encounter. She was excited thinking about writing the book she’d always wanted to write.

Life doesn’t just happen. You have to cultivate your life the same way one cultivates a garden – by working it, adding nutritious elements to it, and planting seeds. Don’t delay your joy. Cultivate your happiness by planting a few new seeds today.

“The Destination or the Journey?”

By Julie Terry Cartner

It’s about the journey, not the destination, I have to remind myself as I set out on a two-mile hike to Mouse Creek Falls in far western North Carolina, so far west that I actually went into Tennessee on I-40 before turning down a back road to return to North Carolina. My quest to visit all of North Carolina waterfalls remained on track.

Again, I remind myself, the journey. Otherwise, I would have missed the mountain laurels in full prime, their white and delicate pink blossoms dotting the landscape and occasionally showering gossamer petals on me as I traverse the path deep in the woods. I would have missed their gnarled branches and roots vying with rocks and ridges for their meager allotment of soil. I would have missed the dark, shiny leaves stretching for the sunlight like a ballerina’s arms yearning to fly.

Otherwise, I would have missed the doe cautiously peering through the beech trees vigilantly guarding her golden-eyed fawn secreted beneath dewy maidenhair ferns, the golden centipede diligently crawling across the path, its hair-like legs a riot of motion as it vigorously strained for the relative safety of the undergrowth on the other side, and the statue-like box turtle almost invisible amongst the rocks and wildflowers.

I wouldn’t have seen the lavender butterflies with their hints of yellow flitting to and fro across the backdrop of the moss-covered rocks, their skittering flight reminding me of children playing mother-may-I? or the amber mushrooms tenaciously clinging to sheer rockface. I marvel at the diversity of wildlife as I continued my trek.

Most importantly, I would have missed the small trail that led down to one of the falls with foamy-white water flowing down the rock covered stream, roaring around boulders and fallen trees and churning into pools of water, almost tranquil compared to the uproar around it. Had I been focused on my destination, I would have missed the icy green-blue water splashing frosty drops on my face, cooling me, while teasing me with the allure of sinking into its frothy depths. And, had I been looking down at the trail instead of up in the sky, I would have missed the hawk soaring gracefully in the updrafts of the creek.

When I do finally arrive at my destination, Mouse Creek Falls, I stand, mesmerized by the splendor before me. Cascading down sheer rockface are streams of water, tumbling, roaring, and meandering between cracks and crevices, diligently striving downward towards Big Creek. But its journey is just beginning, as Big Creek also tumbles downstream, playing peek-a-boo with a plethora of smooth-faced stones, moss-covered boulders, and shiny creek pebbles.

As I sit on a large, lichen-covered stone, I survey the majesty of God’s handiwork. I am awed by the power of the water, the steadfastness of the rocks, the loveliness of the trees creating a verdant-green bower over my head, and mostly just by the sheer magnificence that surrounds me.

“Poison Ivy”

By N. R. Tucker

If you’ve lived in the southeastern United States for long, you understand that touching any part of poison ivy, poison oak, etc., can result in a painful rash. In fairness to these plants, each human has a built-in immunity that will counteract the rash a few times. The number differs from person to person. I have never broken out in a rash, but I’m faithful to the process. As soon as I leave the garden, I wash any exposed skin (usually hands, arms, and legs) in cool water and soap to remove the oil which contains the poison. My husband, however, merely has to think about poison ivy for the rash to appear. His is so severe he must go to the doctor for prescription strength meds.

The year we spent two wonderful weeks in Scotland, he mowed the yard before we left. That’s all. He mowed. He didn’t pull weeds or anything of that nature. The rash didn’t appear until we were across the pond. He ignored it for a couple of days, but we finally went to a pharmacy, where they had to research options as they don’t have these types of poison vines. Yet another reason to love Scotland.

This is a good time to point out that while cats and dogs carry the oil on their skin, they will not break out. Humans, however, can pick up the oils from their fur and get a rash.

One summer, due to events outside my control, I was unable to work in the yard much. The wooded hill became an unofficial research project for which vine is stronger: poison ivy or kudzu. I observed that kudzu rules but allows poison ivy to grow beneath it as an understory plant. Isn’t that nice?

This summer I was hiking on a well-known trail off the Blue Ridge Parkway with my daughter and her dog. We saw poison ivy everywhere. Just before mile seven, we stepped off the path to allow a group to approach. I placed my foot wrong, and my knee objected. In my haste to correct my stance, I lost my footing and fell backward into a stump covered with poison ivy. Only my pride was wounded, but the number of people who wanted to help me get up was staggering. I guess that means I’m old. On the plus side, I didn’t get a rash from that tumble.

In the final analysis, poison vines are a hazard in North Carolina, but something most of us understand. In my case, a quick cleanup to be sure no oil remains on my skin is what is required. If you’re like my husband, I recommend you stay away from the vines at all costs. As luck would have it, he’s more than happy to follow my recommendation in this case and stays away when I’m pulling weeds.

“My First Job”

By Linda H. Barnette

When I was a teenager, I decided that I wanted to get a job so I could earn my own money.  Of course, there were very few opportunities for young people in those days.  I don’t really remember the details, but I got a job at Rintz’s 5 cent to $5.00 Store uptown.  It was essentially a dime store, meaning that the things people bought were inexpensive.  I worked on Saturdays and on holidays all through high school.  The work was not hard.  We just had to learn where the merchandise was located and how to use the cash register.  In those days we had to be able to actually make change on our own.  Those old registers did not tell us how much to return.

Mrs. Rintz assigned us to certain areas of the store.  My favorite spot was the candy counter, which I loved because I had always liked sweets. I vividly remember one man who was what we call now developmentally delayed who came in every Saturday to get candy.  Since he never really had enough money for what he wanted, I took what he gave me and considered it paid in full.  Never once did I discuss this with anyone, but in my heart of hearts, I felt like it was the right thing to do.  We’re talking small change here anyway.

One of the best times of the year was the Christmas season.  During that season Mrs. Rintz opened up the second floor of the building and filled it with toys and Christmas decorations. Lots of people came up there to shop in “Toyland,” as it was called.  Although it was an exciting time for most people, we who worked up there nearly froze because there was no heat. We laughed and talked about Toyland for years.  It really was fun!!

Another thing that I recall is having lunch at the American Café, which was right down the street from the store near what is now the coffee shop on Main Street. My family rarely ate out in those days because there was almost nowhere in town to go, so I always looked forward to my Saturday lunches.  Usually, two of us would go together and order something inexpensive, like a hamburger or a hot dog.  I did have good enough manners to leave a small tip!!

The experience of working at the store was a very good one for me. Since I was a very shy person, it was difficult for me to meet the public, but I learned how to be friendly to everyone. I also realized that it was important to treat everyone as if they were important, which they were. For the rest of my life, I have tried to do that.

We didn’t make much money then, about $.35 an hour, but I saved almost all of it in a cookie tin, and when I went off to Catawba College, I had accumulated a fortune of $80.00 and had learned many lessons!