The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild

Published 10:24 am Tuesday, August 29, 2023

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By Julie Terry Cartner

The simple things. Farmstand fruits and vegetables. An osprey protecting her brood of nestlings. Peaceful walks through the woods or along the shoreline. An egret posing in the marsh. A field of sunflowers, goldfinches darting here and there, and monarchs fluttering from flower to flower. The sun setting on the beach, the fiery orange glow meeting deep blue water.  A blue heron taking flight. A cozy chair and a great book. And, of course, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Life is complicated, complex, and challenging. Keeping your head above the water requires hard work. The responsibilities of being an adult can be overwhelming. Careers, church, home ownership, personal relationships, marriage, children, and all their needs, and possibly, if there’s any time left, hobbies and a social life fill our days and nights, a whirlwind of exhaustion.

Sometimes, we just need to stop, take a step back, and give ourselves a break. Sometimes we need to exchange the chicken cordon bleu, mushroom risotto and green bean almondine meals of life for the sandwich of our childhoods. Peanut butter and jelly can’t answer all of life’s challenges, but maybe this comfort food can make our struggles more palatable.

Sure, peanut butter and jelly can be complex with more choices to add to our stress levels. After all, decisions must be made, right? Peanut butter: Smooth or chunky? Jiff or Peter Pan? Jelly: Strawberry? Peach? Grape? Apple? The bread: White? Rye? Brioche? Multigrain? Then we have the most important questions. Crust on or off? Cut from top to bottom or diagonal? Halves or fourths? First bite from the center or from the end? Questions long debated by children of all ages.

But we don’t have to make this so complicated. If we return to the simplicity of childhood, the choices are answered by what was available. What did Mom have stored in the pantry and refrigerator? What was there was what we ate. Decision making simplified.

When I go to the home of my childhood, I prefer the simple things. I need no distractions. My requirements are basic. I need a towel, sunscreen, water, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Though I love the rich assortment of locally procured seafood, lunch on the beach needs only to be PB&J, seasoned only with the briny sea air. In the same way that a hot dog surrounded by a ball game tastes better than any other hot dog, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich tastes better when sitting on the beach.

For me, life slows down, worries dissipate, responsibility all but vanishes. I am one with the beach, the water, the sun. I can breathe. I can feel the tension disappear from my body like a big, furry dog sheds its winter coat.

We should all have this place, this magical place, where adult responsibilities temporarily go away. A place where peanut butter and jelly is the answer to all the questions. A place to sit and just be. A place to escape. A place where I can just be Jule and sit on a beach eating a chunky peanut butter and strawberry jelly sandwich, cut on the diagonal.

Old Memories

By Gaye Hoots

I celebrated my seventy-eighth birthday a few weeks ago and realized that while I enjoy many of the modern world conveniences, I cherish most the memories of my childhood. We don’t realize how lucky we are as children. An adult is always responsible for providing you with food, shelter, and safety. We never have that again, yet I was out of the family nest at seventeen. Wanting independence and doing things my way had its price. Most children don’t grasp this, although my great-granddaughter told me when she was three, and I asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up, “I don’t want to grow up.”

When I moved from the family home, I was clueless and the only wages I had received were for occasional babysitting. Milking the cow twice daily and working in tobacco on the family farm did not pay, but I was given all the necessities and the best food I ever had in my life. I had no idea what food, housing, or basic daily needs cost.

Because I had a year before graduation and was married and living with my mother-in-law, I did learn a few basics. When I graduated, I had a summer job as a teller and bought a car from my uncle, which my grandfather financed. That fall, I began working at a bank in Winston. A job followed this in the computer department at Hanes Hosiery. Roy was reluctant to let go of the small trucking business he had, which was not profitable, so finances were a struggle. By the time Cami was born, he had started buying real estate, finances improved, and we built a home.

When I took a leap of faith and moved out on my own, I got a crash course in Finance 101. I did manage though, and was able later to attend nursing school while working full-time to complete a MSN. Growing up on a farm, I got the basics, and living in Advance I had support from much of the community. We all did in that era. We learned survival skills, honesty, and kindness, which extended to our children.

While my roots are in Advance, I live in Oriental and love that area. It is smaller and quieter than Advance is now. When I visit Advance, I am in touch with friends I have had for over seventy years. Keeping up with them on Facebook and seeing posts and pictures from my childhood reminds me of the best times; when I felt my grandfather and father could protect me from any and everything. And they did.

Playing on the farm and spending time with Grandpa was priceless. He was not religious, but when a small duck or bunny died, we buried it and had a funeral. When a piglet was too small or weak to nurse; he gave it to me, and it thrived. He taught me to nurture the vulnerable and bury the dead. I learned about the cycle of life there and the value of family. Grandpa was a realist and a tough man, but when one son with a drinking problem came to the house, he let him stay and provided food but never money.

He had strong opinions, but I never saw him threaten violence. My father said he often thrashed them soundly as boys but never spanked me. When Daddy would, Grandpa would say, “You can’t do that to girls. They are just stuck together.”

I have never again experienced the feeling that the world was my oyster and I had no cares. I learned I could accomplish what I wanted, primarily through my own efforts, by working hard. I tried to give my children and grandchildren the same knowledge and strength, and they had Dad’s farm, but not the experiences I had.

Since retirement, I have had time to dust off those old memories and reconnect with old friends. The young grands remind me of times from my childhood and I love replaying them.


By Marie Craig

     In case you don’t know what AT stands for, it’s Appalachian Trail.  This is a hiking trail that starts at Springer Mountain, Georgia, and ends at Mount Katahdin in Maine.  The trail goes along the ridge tops of the Appalachian Mountains.  Recently, I have hiked very short parts of it, and years ago, backpacked on a section in Western North Carolina.  But on August 17, 2023, I finished the 2024 miles virtually.  My smart phone counts how many steps I take in a day and converts that to miles.  The app I used was WalkTheDistance and it simulates actually hiking the trail.  There are maps and photos to make you believe you are really there.  I began this BC, Before Covid, so it’s been a long adventure.

     These 3.8 years have been filled with many challenges and adventures, but I have stayed determined to walk at least three thousand steps a day which is about 1.2 miles for me.  During this time, I have gained two granddaughters-in-law and two great grandchildren.  There have been changes in weather, politics, and current events during this time.  Even during Covid quarantine and my minor case, I encouraged myself to walk at least three thousand steps a day.  I’d like to think that this has benefitted my overall health and self-determination.  A few times several minutes before midnight, I found myself walking frantically trying to get my steps in before it became the next day and the count started over.  I felt like Cinderella.

     Research shows that the AT, completed in 1937, is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world.  It crosses fourteen states and has more than three million visitors each year.  Virginia has the most miles, 550 miles; and West Virginia has the least, 4 miles.  The easiest states to hike are Maryland and West Virginia.  The hardest states are New Hampshire and Maine.  The trail passes through six National Parks and eight National Forests.  These agencies and volunteers maintain the trail.  Only 25 percent of those hoping to hike the entire trail in one attempt succeed.

     In 1955, Emma Gatewood, mother of eleven children and victim of domestic abuse, told her children that she was going for a hike in the woods.  She took a denim bag that held a blanket, a shower curtain, a few utensils, and just a few other things.  She wore out seven pairs of Keds during her hike of the entire trail.  She repeated this in a few years, and then hiked the Oregon Trail.  My accomplishment means nothing compared to these feats, but I am still happy that I had this challenge and met it.