Hello there. After a week off I am back on the porch with another southern lady who enjoys sweet tea just as much as I do. I’m joined by North Carolina native Author Gail Cauble Gurley and today she’s sharing with me how much her past and sense of home has influenced her writing. There are some meaningful moments here that I think we all can learn from. Let’s listen:
As a North Carolina native, I have always been amazed, intrigued and even disappointed at times in our weather. The sun is shining brightly today on a blue-skied winter day but looks are deceiving. The air is sharp and even the slightest of breezes rustling outside nips at one’s ears and nose and fingers. The large front porch where I basically grew up beckons me so I wrap myself in a quilt and head to the porch swing, empty but inviting. Many of my ideas are found and my memories dwell on this porch. It is the birthplace of FEARLESS HEART and contains legends I heard and people I knew growing up in small town USA. It was only after I was grown that I realized I had been a daughter of poverty. Love abounded in my family: love of each other, love of education, love of country, love of God and all that is right and proper in the world. What we lacked in worldly goods and monetary means was more than compensated for by the deep love shared.
Even as a child, writing was second nature to me and I enjoyed so much escaping onto the pages of a piece of paper. The computer entered my life much later and freed me to record my thoughts more quickly than writing with a pencil on a piece of notebook paper or a typewriter with an eraser. I was intimidated and frightened by this new technology but learned to embrace at least a portion of it. Thus, I was able to capture my recollections of times past. The words flowed easily as my heart recalled a special, gentler time, despite the hardships created by lack of worldly goods.
Sunday lunches after church in my grandmother’s kitchen; long summer afternoons on the large front porch visiting with aunts and uncles and cousins by the dozens; playing croquet in the side yard under the huge Chinaberry tree; capturing lightning bugs and placing them in jars with holes in the lids; and lying on our backs, studying the stars above as the day reluctantly ended. In the coldness of winter, playing in Grandmother’s bedroom under the large quilt rack holding the latest quilt she pieced together to ward off the long, dark nights; laying on the worn wool rug in the living room listening to stories of my long-gone grandfather and his mischievous sense of humor; hiding behind the kitchen stove while a pig raised in the summer was slaughtered for sausage and ham and ribs; staring at the bounty in the pantry from the summer garden and fruit trees; and anxiously awaiting the large paper bags filled with oranges, red apples, pecans and English walnuts, small boxes of raisins and chocolate covered marshmallow Santas at the annual church Christmas pageant.
Our lives were simple but fulfilling. We were tucked in at night by hard working parents, taken to church every Sunday, dressed in homemade dresses created at Mother’s sewing machine, loaded into the used car and taken to the local drive-in theater most Saturday nights and on road trips through our county, counting cows in the pastures along the way.
As I began to write FEARLESS HEART, my heart warmed and the words flowed effortlessly. I had left my home many years earlier thinking I could find something better elsewhere. There was no anger or animosity, just the desire to experience something else. I learned much about myself during the process of FEARLESS HEART. It pulled me back to my roots and caused me to realize just how empty I was without the comfort of my heritage. My restlessness to return home was answered in an unbelievable, nearly miraculous manner when my husband and I were able to purchase the home of my grandmother. Built in 1907 by my grandfather, it left the family in 2004. We were able to purchase it in 2011, spent a year making major renovations and moved into this much loved home in 2012. I was home. Much had changed but much remained the same. As soon as I stepped onto the expansive front porch, I was home. When the front door opened and I stepped inside, I was home. As I worked in the kitchen, I was home. The large backyard. The pasture in the back. The walls, the ceilings, the floors all welcomed me home.
Many doors have opened to me in my lifetime. There have been disappointments and tragedies but the gifts and love have vastly overshadowed the negative influences in my life. Writing FEARLESS HEART has taught me that I have the strength inside to face obstacles and overcome negatives so as to move forward. I have been blessed with a deep ability to remember the past and also the wisdom not to let any harsh memories jade my writing or my beliefs. If it hasn’t killed me, it has made me stronger!
Writing touches my soul and allows me to reach into the souls of others. It is my gift to myself and to my world. Even if no one had ever read FEARLESS HEART, it was still a great blessing to me personally and has fulfilled my mission and purpose.
Wow, Gail. That’s a wonderful reminder of how much our past is a part of us. Sometimes whether we want it there or not. It is however, a wonderful place from which to draw not only story ideas, but character references and emotions. Our past is part of what makes us who we are and embracing it into our writing is a wonderful way to had depth.
Thanks for joining me today, Gail. You can find out more about Gail on my Porch Guests Page.