The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild
Published 9:35 am Tuesday, November 23, 2021
Look for Joy
By Julie Terry Cartner
I stand with my dad on a large rock protruding into Long Island Sound looking northward. He points out the colors, at first barely visible across the horizon, then larger and bolder as night firmly overtakes the light of day. “Those are the Northern Lights,” he tells me in a voice filled with awe. We can’t see them often from here, but when we can, what a show. Clutching his hand in my, much smaller, one, I’m torn between looking at the lights dancing across the sky, and the look of wonder on his face. A hard-working farmer, it was rare to see him take a moment to embrace a moment.
Tears fill our eyes as the doctor hands us our newborn child. Filled with all the emotions, wonder, fear, overwhelming joy, we can only stare and exclaim. Her long eyelashes, ten fingers, ten toes, her rosebud mouth, her blue eyes, that perfect skin that only a baby has… Is there any experience greater than the miracle of birth?
The eighteen-month-old toddles on unsteady feet across the beach. Although she’ not new to walking, the shifting sand beneath her feet is a new experience, and she’s torn between delight and worry. Delight wins, and she turns to us, her parents, and says, “Wow, Mommy, a great big bathtub!” She twirls in circles, embracing the endless blue sky and the far-reaching ocean. Then she plops down on spun-sugar sand and runs her hands through it, the crystalline fragments sifting through her fingers, a waterfall of colors.
It’s early, probably about 6:00 on a Saturday morning. We are asleep, exhausted with the rigors of jobs and three small children. Our daughter runs into the room, arms outstretched, spinning in circles. “It’s morning! It’s morning!” she exclaims, as if morning were the most exciting experience in the world. I embrace our beautiful girl, so full of wonder over the beauty of a new day.
The night is dark and clear, and the sky is full of stars. Snow covers the ground except where a small bonfire burns, giving us a place to warm our hands between runs. It’s our three-year-old’s turn, and she and my husband go hurtling down the long, snow-covered hill. Giggles erupt as they come to a stop, and he rolls her off his back and onto the snow. Then he lets her ride the sled back up the hill as he pulls her. She sings, songs of her own making, as delight fills her little body. “It’s so beautiful,” she exclaims, “the stars, the snow, the night!”
I watch as my husband pulls tickets out of an envelope. “Would you like to go to a Braves game?” he asks our six-year-old son. Unable to express his joy in words, he dances, leaps, jumps, and spins around the living room. “Really?” he asks in a voice so choked with enthusiasm he can barely squeak out a response.
I watch my oldest son, standing way too close to the edge of a precipice, looking across the Grand Canyon. I’ve seen his teenaged face for many years try for a sophisticated look, but today, his adult face shines with wonder. The expanse of the Grand Canyon lies before us, and it’s so much more, so much more, than we’ve ever imagined. The colors. The size. The unparalleled beauty. It’s all there for us, and our family drinks it in.
I smile even as I type these words, able to visualize the indescribable happiness in those moments. I hope I never forget.
In a season dedicated to being grateful, I challenge you to take a step further. Look for joy. In this challenging world of today, with Covid still controlling much of our existence, with painful news on the television almost every night, with all the hurts and fears that can plague us, look for joy. Remember the childhood awe of your first view of the ocean or mountaintops covered with snow. Remember that present that was so much more than you ever expected you could barely form words. Remember that starlit night, that fantastic show or sports event, that winning touchdown, or the day he asked, or she said yes. Remember that first look at your precious child. Remember that feeling. Today, and every day, be grateful, yes, but even more, look for Joy.
By Marie Craig
A leads to B; B leads to C; C leads to D, etc. That seems to be the way life works. I had an example of this during the past several months.
My dear friend gave me a copy of a self-published book about the history of Western North Carolina based on the author’s extensive collection of vintage postcards of that area. Since I have lived in several of these towns, I was extremely interested. The author mentioned another book, Land of the Sky. I ordered a copy and read it with delight. It was written in 1877 by Christian Reid from Salisbury. This is a pen name for Frances Christine Fisher.
This second book describes in first person a trip from Salisbury to Western North Carolina by a group of young adults and an aunt who was the chaperone. The journey starts with a train ride from Salisbury to Old Fort. The train tracks were not finished from Old Fort to Black Mountain, so the next part of their trip was by stagecoach. The book is very detailed in describing the scenery, the people, and the experiences each person received. Their destination was Asheville where they stayed in an elegant hotel.
They took a side trip to Warm Springs (later renamed Hot Springs) and delighted in the hotels, other travelers, and mountain excursions. They returned to Asheville for a few days, and then journeyed to the Brevard area. The trip took about a month, and the reader is present with them in their exploring. On their return trip, they rode by wagon to the top of Mount Mitchell and camped out one night in a cave. Then it was time to return home to Salisbury by way of Chimney Rock.
This book’s beginnings were chapters in “Appleton’s Journal” a weekly magazine. It was published in Brooklyn, New York. The male editor of the magazine promoted women authors, which was unusual at that time.
The edition I read was a copy of the original book with small type. There were line drawings in the book which are extremely accurate for the scenery depicted. I watched a Zoom lecture describing this book and the illustrations. This was in the age of block printing; each letter was a tiny lead square which was joined by other letters, of course in reverse image so that it would print the opposite or correct view. The lecture described the illustrator who accompanied Christian Reid on this trip to take sketches and later carve in wood to create a block for printing these elaborate, beautiful pictures.
I became interested in this author and researched her in the Rowan County Public Library History Room. I also went to her gravesite and saw the North Carolina historic marker nearby. My additional research using the U.S. Census, online family trees, and public records gave me more information.
Her mother died when she was less than 3 years old. The 1850 census shows her, 3 years old, with her father, Col. Charles Frederick Fisher, her twin brother and sister who are 9 months old, and her father’s single sister, Christine. They are people of means, and her father, president of the Western North Carolina Railroad and publisher of The Western North Carolinian, personally paid to equip a regiment to march into the War Between the States. As he led his group into Manassas, he was shot dead.
The aunt continued as head of the household for the three children. Christian Reid was a precocious child with great story-telling abilities which served her well as she wrote 40-50 books that were popular all over the United States and translated into Italian and French. The one I read is the most well-known. The book title, Land of the Sky, is still used to describe the Asheville area, and this book resulted in its readers flocking to WNC to enjoy the beautiful mountain area.
She married in her forties to James Marquis Tiernan. He owned silver mines in Mexico, and they lived there for a while. Christian Reid learned much about the area, and she used it in some of her books for background. When her husband became seriously ill, they returned to Salisbury. After his death, she played an important part in the cultural development of her native town. She died in 1920 at age 73. There is a special monument to her in front of the Rowan library.
Her aunt who dedicated her life to raising these three children lived to be 99. She was a patient in a hospital in Charlotte the last five years of her life. Her niece, Annie, the twin, moved to Charlotte so that she could visit her twice a day even though the aunt was senile. About a week before the aunt died, Annie was leaving the hospital after dark and stepped out in front of a streetcar and was killed. Annie’s brother was a judge in Bryson City.
All these people and books and drama in the adjoining county to us over a hundred years ago that very few of us know about.
By Gaye Hoots
I headed back to Oriental after a few days visiting with family in Advance. The trees’ brilliant red, yellow, and orange colors seemed more vivid than I remembered in past years. Perhaps our senses are enhanced as we grow older, or our minds are less cluttered, and we can fully appreciate them. I took Underpass Rd. to 158 to see more colorful trees set against a clear blue sky with fluffy white clouds.
When I passed Bailey Rd., I thought of Callie Bailey, remembering her as a high-scoring basketball player. I have not seen her since we were kids, but I have her daughter on Facebook. Callie let me ride with her to basketball practice in high school; otherwise, I could not have played on the team. She now lives in the beautiful home where she grew up. It is a plantation-style home at the end of Bailey Rd.
Beside Bailey Rd. is the home we built on land that had belonged to Roy’s father and later my father. I remembered my children playing there and the time I spent planning the details of the home. Across the road is a small property my daughter owns and where she lived when her son was small.
Memories of several friends and neighbors played in my mind as I drove past their homes. Edie Hartman played basketball and rode with Callie to practice. She married her high school sweetheart, and they built a large brick home set back on the road on a large acreage tract.
The only time I left school without explicit permission was in the seventh grade with Edie and her older sister, who drove. We went to Winston to watch “Jailhouse Rock.” I smile, remembering how exciting it was at that age.
To my surprise, my next stop was at Bojangle’s, and there was not a long line. My view was still the beautiful foliage. I savored my country ham and tomato biscuit. The slightly salty taste of the ham was offset by the sweetness of my Pepsi Cola. I relished every crumb or almost every crumb as I did share with the birds.
My next stop was at the rest area in Burlington, and the colors there were brilliant. One of the things I question the logic of is placing a bubbling, gurgling, water feature a distance from the restrooms. As a nurse, we used running water to encourage patients to get urine specimens, so placing a water feature seemed a poor choice.
The display of colors lasted until I reached New Bern. There the blue expanse of water intersected with multiple concrete bridges, and a picturesque shoreline signaled I was close to home. There was little color in the trees from there to Oriental. The blue water and white boats docked across from my home welcomed me.
By E. Bishop
It was on a Wednesday morning in September. School had just started a few weeks earlier. Wow, my last year of high school. I was a bus driver for the elementary school that year of 1971-72. Can you imagine? I still can’t understand why they let me do that. I was excited that it was my final year even though I had no clue what I was going to do afterwards. Anyway, that morning while I was getting ready to leave for school, trying to be quiet so as not to wake my daddy, his bedroom door slowly opened. He was not out of bed yet, so I gently closed the door and went on my way.
About an hour or so after getting to school, I was called to the principal’s office. That morning, instead of being able to write down a statement for my yearbook photo, I was being told that I was needed at home. My daddy had died. A cousin came to pick me up from school and took me home.
Instead of just gently closing that door…?
As I’m writing this next section, it is the 13th day of October. I am reminded of another moment that I should have been there for someone. Her birthday would have been on this day.
On the last day of January 2013, I was driving home from work late in the afternoon. As I got closer to the intersection where I would turn into my road, there had been an accident involving three cars. When I was allowed to proceed through the intersection, I noticed that the middle car looked very familiar even though it was crushed almost like an accordion. When I turned into the road for home, I stopped my car, said a prayer for those involved in that accident and hoped it was no one I knew. But, that one car seemed so familiar; I sat there wondering if I should go back. The police and ambulances were on the scene; those people were being taken care of but I still had a sinking feeling it was someone I knew. When I got home, I called her number, but there was no answer. Later in the evening, her daughter called me. Yes, indeed, it was someone I knew very well; my sister-in-law. She slipped away that night. I still regret not going back.
Nothing is a given; savor every precious moment in this life. I ask that you start by being grateful for all the blessings of family and friends.
RWG Literary Corner
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