The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild

Published 9:10 am Thursday, February 24, 2022

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Sad Smells and Freedom
By Katie Burton
My Grandma Pumpkin loved all things Hawaii. Usually dressed in a muumuu, she tended to her plentiful flower garden, lush and tropical, among her favorites were the Stargazer Lilies. Bright pink and freckled, they covered her front garden at the house where we spent our summers.
My sister and I didn’t take much notice of the garden, as we were busy with bikes, books and Kool-Aid. We’d enjoy our freedom to roam the safe community where my grandparents lived, far from the watchful eyes of our parents, who were raising their children during a time when kidnapping was advertised by the local media. The days when the local police department would come to elementary schools to fingerprint us all “just in case”. When milk cartons contained the latest images of kids gone missing, staring back at you as you ate your morning cereal.
We were free! Dancing to Electric Avenue on the patio table, our biggest worry was whether we could balance two pizzas on the handlebars all the way back to grandma’s house. She didn’t drive, so we would walk everywhere with her, to the grocery store or to the convenience store where she would give us money for treats. Grandma had a carefree air about her. We never seemed to be a bother and it probably helped that she was hard of hearing, she’d have an easier time tolerating us.
For some reason I knew that we didn’t have much time with Grandma Pumpkin. She wasn’t one to take care of her health, never had her ears checked, never fussed over diets and since she didn’t drive probably never went to the doctor. I knew to enjoy the small moments because somehow I knew that she would bring my first experience with grief and loss.
When that time came, I was newly teenaged and already losing that feeling of freedom that comes with childhood. It was a sad time and a long few days of being at the funeral home, with her body lying there with too much make-up and while I tried not to look. Overwhelming the room was the scent of Stargazer Lilies. It seemed that everyone who came to pay their respects knew they were her favorite. Neighbors who admired her garden all those years brought giant arrangements.
To this day, I can smell Stargazer Lilies from aisles away in the grocery store. And if I have my windows down and pass a garden with these pungent flowers, I know they are there – even if I can’t see them. It is a sad smell that reminds me of loss and death, with an odd mix of freedom.

Winter Sky: Gemini the Twins
By David R. Moore
In a previous article, I wrote about the constellation Orion the Hunter. I mentioned how Artemis, the moon goddess, placed Orion’s two favorite hunting dogs, Canis Major and Canis Minor, next to him in the sky. If you have a great imagination, you may be able to discern the large and small dog shapes in the star patterns of these constellations. However, all of us can see the great Winter Triangle. It comprises three stars: Betelgeuse in Orion, Sirius in Canis Major, and Procyon in Canis Minor. Look high into the southeast sky and locate the bright star of Betelgeuse, which represents Orion’s armpit. Then drop your view towards the horizon to find the brilliant star of Sirius. Sirius is the brightest star in the sky. Then raise your sights high in the eastern sky to see the shining star of Procyon. These three stars form a vast perfect triangle.
Gemini is one of the brightest constellations seen throughout the year and is located high in the sky eastward of Orion. Look for two identically bright stars right next to each other. These stars are Castor and Pollux, and they mark the heads of the twins. If it is dark enough, you will see two faint parallel lines of stars that make up the twins’ bodies, like a stickman drawing. The feet of the twins are not far away from the star, Betelgeuse. Castor looks like a single star to the naked eye, but a telescope reveals it to be a double star.
From mythology, Castor and Pollux were twin sons of Leda, the mortal queen of Sparta. Although Castor was the son of Leda’s husband, King Tyndareus, Pollux was the son of Zeus, the king of the gods. Nine months before they were born, Queen Leda must have had quite a night. As a result, Castor was mortal, and Pollux was half god. They grew up together with the finest of everything. Castor became one of the finest horsemen in the land, and the Pollux became a champion boxer. They were brothers and best friends. They stopped in a tavern for drinks one evening and met two beautiful women. Soon they were all drinking and dancing. Two big and ill-tempered local men walked in and took exception to these strangers dancing with ‘their’ women. A sword fight ensued, and Castor and Pollux eventually slew the local boys, but Castor took a wound to his side. At first, the injury did not seem serious however it became infected and turned into a mortal wound. Castor went to the underworld. Pollux loved his brother and longed to join him, but he was not allowed into the underworld because of his godly blood. Pollux begged his father, Zeus, to let him see his brother. Zeus declined at first but eventually arranged to have Pollux spend half of each day in the underworld with his brother. The relationship between the two brothers was so special that Zeus had their figures etched in the sky as the constellation we see today.

By E. Bishop
Many people have jobs that keep them mentally active but after retirement we still need to keep that brain charged. Aging changes the brain and creates age related cognitive impairment unless we choose to age with an attitude. So, learning new skills, participating in things that I enjoy and keeping active will be my new attitude in this next chapter of my life.
Before we both retired, my friend and coworker Kim was doing amazing works of art with her quilting. I was jealous; still am. I don’t know whether to curse her or thank her for encouraging me to give quilting a try. But, this will be one of my projects to stay actively engaged in retirement. In the past, I have sewn different things and even made a t-shirt quilt for my daughter but nothing really fancy. This past year, my mind has definitely been stimulated and my patience has been tested while working on a block of the month (BOM) quilt. I knew I was in trouble when part of the directions read “Ok, Take a deep breath, You can do this.” Only one more BOM to go!

Quilting started out being strictly utilitarian and was intimately connected to everyday life. Early quilts were just stuffed sacks, usually three layers used to provide warmth and to cover windows and doors to help seal out the cold. There was no time for decorative quilts. But, as time progressed so did quilting techniques. No longer were they just a functional item with the sole purpose of keeping us warm. After fabric started being manufactured and became more affordable, more artistic types of quilting became popular and quilters found a source of pride in making these heirlooms. My mother, Florence, and her sister, Inez, were two great quilters who have left my family a rich heritage in quilts.

Mother powered her sewing machine with a foot treadle; I remember it needing to be repaired every now and then and my oldest brother would come to the rescue. She had worn that thing out sewing all those years for her family. Her quilts were more of the pieced/patchwork or whole cloth style which could be made in less time. The plain “tufted” technique was her way of putting the quilt together. This is where strings are tied through in enough places to keep the three layers of quilting material together so it does not shift or bunch.

Aunt Inez was a master seamstress. She worked at Norman Stockton (an upscale men’s clothing store) in Winston-Salem as an alterations specialist. And, unlike my mother, she did not have children underfoot so she had plenty of time and expertise to do the more decorative quilting. She had an electric Singer and a full basement to pull down her quilting frame in. The hand stitching on her quilts are unbelievable, so evenly spaced. I think I would go blind doing that. I cherish two of her beautiful creations as well as several of my mother’s which I will one day pass down to my girls.

Not only do I want to pass those down, but maybe some quilts that I have made. Will they be worthy to be considered an heirloom or work of art? I doubt it, but at least I can say I tried. So Kim, thank you for your encouragement and maybe we’ll keep alive some of those brain cells.

RWG Literary Corner
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