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The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild

Gifts from the Sea

By Julie Terry Cartner

As I sit on the beach of my childhood, the beach of my heart, I look at rocks that have been there for centuries – since glaciers deposited them at the end of the Ice Age. More worn and surprisingly smaller than the rocks of my youth, they still stand strong and tall, inviting children of all ages to climb, explore and dive from. I wonder if the wonders of the deep still hold the magic I remember so well. I allow myself to remember:

Cool water caresses my skin as I dive off the rock and into the icy water of Long Island Sound. Frothy bubbles form a trail behind me, returning to the surface, but I do not. Flipping under and diving deep, I sink to the bottom, my hands reaching out to delve through the slippery strands of seaweed fiercely attached to the rock.  With practiced ease, I skim across the rock’s surface, rough barnacles abrading my palms. Then I find my prize, their deep blue shell beaks angling upwards as a baby bird stretches up for a morsel of food. Sliding my hands along, I count dozens until my lungs, begging for oxygen, force me to the surface to draw in lungfuls of briny air, so crisp and clear it tingles down my throat.  Then, just as quickly I return to bottom, now knowing exactly where to go.

Salt stings my eyes as I peer through the blue-green water and begin my harvest.  Fibrous strands of roots fight a losing battle as I grasp handfuls of mussels and pull until they reluctantly surrender to my demand and release.  I carefully slip them into my mesh bag tied at my waist and go back for more until I’ve gathered enough for a meal.  Curious minnows, their silver-gray scales shimmering in the nautical light, slide by as I complete the afternoon’s harvest.  We’ll eat well tonight.

Once again acceding to my body’s demand for air, I push off the rocky bottom, heading to the surface, but at the last moment, I realize a jellyfish is between me and the brilliant blue sky. Twisting quickly, I change direction, but not quite soon enough, and fiery flames of tentacles burn across my arm. Drawing air into my starving lungs, I assess the damage.  Luckily, only the end strands of tentacles had hit me, and though I know I’ll have an itchy night, I’m aware it could have been much worse.  I’ve suffered through the agonizing pain and swelling of diving straight into a jellyfish, the tentacles wrapping around my face and neck and sliding down my body, leaving a trail of misery behind.

But today, I swim briskly through the water, the foaming waves pushing me towards the rocky shore, my cargo safely floating beside me.  Soon ashore, my calloused feet make no mind of the rocks below me as I join my sister on the beach.  We sit at the water’s edge, the waves brushing against our legs and gurgling down through the pebbles as we clean the mussels, using rocks and clam shells to remove the barnacles and lady slippers, then tug the beardlike hairs of the roots until the shells reluctantly release them. We place the cleaned muscles in a clear bucket of seawater.

Tonight, we’ll steam our catch until the tightly clasped shells release, opening reluctantly for us. The mouthwatering aroma of salt water and seafood will fill the house as we dip the delicious morsels of goodness into savory melted butter and feast on the bounty of the sea.

The rocks still stand, proud and strong, but sadly, the bounty of the sea has been ravaged by time, pollution, over-harvesting, and climate changes. The once plentiful crops of mussels, clams, scallops and oysters are scarce, and I am ashamed that my voice has not spoken; thus, has not been heard.  We must, we must protect our oceans, our world.

Life is Good

By Gaye Hoots

We are currently looking at a repeat surge of COVID. Those of us who are vaccinated are not entirely protected, but the deaths are primarily unvaccinated persons. I was skeptical of the vaccines at first, knowing they had only temporary FDA approval and that it takes a few years history to see all the possible effects. When the cases escalated, I did a risk assessment and opted for the shots. I received the Pfizer, and the research is leaning toward a booster shot being necessary. The Pfizer now has full FDA approval.

Two of my family members had COVID, and it was similar to the flu, they said. Both recovered at home. One daughter is a nurse and had her first Pfizer shot. She had 3 days of flu-like symptoms following the shot, possibly due to the fact that she had COVID previously. Her employer may mandate the shots as she is working in Florida on a COVID unit. The good news is she receives additional COVID pay which more than doubled her salary. My grandson, who is in the Navy, will be required to get his. When I go grocery shopping or out to eat I feel comfortable with the social distancing as most people in my age group are vaccinated. Those with poor health should proceed with caution.

My brother and I planned a trip to Harrah’s in Cherokee, and we were notified a few days ago that masks are required. The population there is mostly our age group and hopefully vaccinated. It looks like the Davie County students will have to wear masks. It is impossible to keep the younger students in compliance. Can you imagine a teacher with 30 first-grade students making sure that each student keeps their mask correctly in place and still managing to focus on a lesson?

I believe booster shots will be required and given yearly like the flu shots. We will have to use our judgment to protect ourselves. When you are retired, you can stay out of crowds and limit your social contacts, and mask, but this is not true for those in the workforce.

They have not recommended shots for those under 12 years old, and many who are eligible are reluctant to get them. Minorities may be skeptical because of the history of the Tuskeegee experiment. Other young adults feel their health is good and don’t consider it to be worse than a bout of flu.

Whatever our choices, we have to live with them, and there is a risk of dying. Every day there is an account of someone dying because they were unvaccinated and died from COVID. There may have been a death or two associated with the shots as well. I read the research and will get my booster when it is available.

I can only speak for my own family, and no one has lost a job due to the pandemic, no one has been sick enough to require medical attention, and no one has been involved in any confrontation with another over their views on masking. Praying this will be valid for all of you as well.

Exactness in Music

By Marie Craig

Beginning music students are taught to play the notes exactly as written.  If you’ve studied any sort of musical instrument, I’m sure you remember this.  I know I do.  Even now, many years later, if I’m unsure and play a chord on the piano, leaving out a note, I feel as though I’ve personally insulted the composer.   Perhaps that’s a trait of left-brained persons.

I marvel at musicians who can play by ear or improvise or get lost as they instantly create magic as they play jazz.  I think my brain is not wired that way.  I’m just grateful that I had an opportunity to take piano and organ lessons and follow the notes with precision.

I’m reminded of a story told to me years ago by the mother of a twelve year old boy who was beginning piano lessons.  The family lived near a college campus and were good friends with the college band director.  He was at their house one Sunday afternoon and enjoying a leisurely visit with the parents when he saw the boy’s simple piano book on their piano.  He went over and started improvising.  This basic Sousa march of very easy notes became a diverse concert as the tune morphed into a dynamic march right down Main Street, followed by a soothing lullaby and then a syncopated jazz rendition.  The adults were really entertained by this creativity.

The boy walked into the room when the music stopped.  He looked at the band director and said, “That’s not right.”

I wonder how many golden moments we miss because we have too many preconceived notions of what “is right” and what we like best.  We were in a big city years ago and spent the night because our flight home left early the next morning.  Looking in the newspaper, we saw an ad for a show at the planetarium.  The name of the show and the entertainer’s name were not familiar to us but we decided to go.  Once inside, we noticed that everybody else was a lot younger than us.  We commented on how wonderful that so many young people were interested in astronomy.

We discovered later that this was a laser show accompanying Pink Floyd music.  We had no idea and would probably have skipped it if we’d been familiar with the music.  I tore a tissue in sections for each of us to cram in our ears because it was so loud.  All in all, we enjoyed it, but it was an experience that we might have missed.  Our teenage sons were very amused.