#TwoForTuesday: Two of my Unsung Female Heroes

Many unsung female heroes have crossed my path. I haven’t known any famous people, so all the heroes in my life – male and female – are unsung.

I’m going to break the “Two-For” rule today and write about just one of my unsung female heroes, my great-great-great-great-grandmother, Mary Morrison. I know her only through names and dates on the written page and a plain rock that marks her grave in Spears Graveyard, but she is my hero.

Mary Morrison (17??-1781)

I know few details of this Mary Morrison’s life. I don’t know if she had a bubbly personality or was a negative person. I only know her from the circumstances of her life.

She was born in Scotland, probably on the Kintyre Peninsula in 1732. She married John Morrison from the same place. They came to America, lived in Pennsylvania for a while, then moved to North Carolina in the 1760s.

Mary and John had nine children. John died in 1777. Tradition tells us that he was ambushed by Tories not far from his and Mary’s home. Knowing that he would soon die, he wrote his will in August of 1777 and died less than a week later. From John’s will, we know that Mary was expecting their last child at the time because he made provisions for the unborn child.

Sadly, Mary died early in 1781, leaving her minor children in the care of relatives. We also know that when Mary was sick and writing her will that one of her daughters was very ill and it was uncertain if the daughter would survive that illness.

What a hard life Mary must have had! I hope she had joy in her life.

I marvel at how she left Scotland for the great unknown American frontier. She left a place on the sea for a new life 200 miles inland in the backcountry of North Carolina where the woods and meadows were filled with all sorts of wild animals about which she knew little or nothing. She must have feared every day for disease or injury to herself and her family.

I live on land today that has been passed down from generation to generation from John and Mary. I came to feel a real kinship with Mary a few years ago as I worked in our vegetable and flower garden.

Summer Squash
Dragonfly in our garden

I practiced organic gardening, much as Mary would have in the 1770s. I imagined Mary growing some of the same vegetables and varieties of flowers on this same land. I enjoyed the butterflies, writing spiders, hoppy toads, dragonflies, birds, and box turtles that visited the garden, and I liked to think that Mary did, too.

As I was always on the lookout for copperhead snakes while in my garden, I can’t help but think Mary kept an eye open for them, too. One of the earliest things my parents taught me was how to distinguish between a copperhead and a non-poisonous snake. I feel sure that was an early lesson Mary and John taught their children. Also, how to identify and avoid poison oak.

I can imagine Mary showing her children how to pluck a honeysuckle blossom, bite the end of the stem off, and suck in the sweetness of the flower.

Passion Flower

When wild passion flowers sprouted in her garden, I hope she left them to grow, bloom, and produce lollypops.

When the wild orange butterfly weed bloomed in sunny spots in the yard, I hope Mary showed her children the black, yellow, and white-striped caterpillars munching on the green leaves, and I hope she knew to tell them that those caterpillars would one day be transformed into brilliant Monarch butterflies.

Wild Butterfly Weed and Monarch Butterfly Caterpillars

Mary did not have benefit of a tractor to till her garden, comfortable 21st century clothing to wear in the summer sun, or an air-conditioned house to retreat to when the heat and humidity got the best of her or when her back ached or blisters rose on the palms of her hands.

Raccoon in our yard on April 28, 2014.

I gardened because I wanted to. Mary gardened because she had to. If deer trampled her corn or raccoons raided her apple trees, it could be a matter of life or death for her family. When it happened to me, I just got mad and bought corn and apples at the supermarket.

When the deer and raccoons decided to eat all the plants in my garden, I raised the white flag of surrender and stopped gardening. Mary didn’t have the luxury of stopping. In fact, she probably didn’t have the luxury of stopping for a single day of her life. She could never stop working hard or worrying about her family.

My heart breaks to think of her on her death bed in March of 1781, writing her will, and wondering what would become of her orphaned children.

When I get to Heaven, I will sit down with Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandmother Mary Morrison and hear all about her life and her garden.

Grandmother, you’re my hero!

Until my next blog post

Thank you, Rae, of “Rae’s Reads and Reviews Blog” for this month’s #TwoForTuesday blog post prompts. I learned about her prompts in her January 8, 2019 blog post:  https://educatednegra.blog/2019/01/08/two-for-tuesday-prompts/comment-page-1/#comment-1646.

I look forward to seeing what Rae has in store for us in April. If you’d like to participate, visit her blog and tell her you’re interested.

Let’s continue the conversation

In the comments section below, tell me about one or two of your unsung female heroes.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog today.

Janet

So it is.

Do you know someone who often ends a sentence with the phrase, “so it is” or “so he did” or “so they are?” You get the picture.

In my blog post on October 21, 2018 (Independent Bookstores are the Best!) I mentioned a bookmark that I purchased at Foggy Pine Books in Boone, North Carolina (see photo below) and I promised that I would explain why I just had to buy that particular bookmark in today’s blog post.

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Bookmark by Peter Pauper Press, Inc. (www.peterpauper.com)

There are a scattered few individuals among my father’s siblings and their descendants who pepper their speech with such sayings. One of my father’s sisters used these idioms. The interesting thing about this within our family is that none of her children or grandchildren picked up the practice as far as I know; however, one of her nieces uses the idiom a lot. I doubt if she’s even aware she’s saying it, so I don’t want to bring it to her attention. If made conscious of it, it might influence her speech pattern. She has young grandchildren, so it will be interesting to see if they pick up the idiom.

Is it from Kintyre?

A few years ago, I learned that in days of old this very idiom was common in the speech patterns of the people of the Kintyre Peninsula in Scotland. That just happens to be where my Morrison ancestors lived before coming to America in the 1760s. I was delighted to learn that the idiom had perhaps been brought to America with my great-great-great-great-grandparents.

Or is it from Ireland?

Now a monkey wrench has been thrown into the mix. My sister enjoys reading novels written by Maeve Binchy. They take place in Ireland. The idiom “so he did” showed up recently in Ms. Binchy’s 2012 novel titled, A Week in Winter. I haven’t read any of  Ms. Binchy’s cozies, but I checked this one out just so I could enjoy her use of “so it is” (or a variation thereof.)

A few weeks ago I read the novel, Lying in Wait, by Liz Nugent. It takes place in Ireland. I’d gotten a little more than halfway through the book, to page 180, when I came to the following sentence:  “ʻA real gentleman, that’s what you are, now, a real gentleman so you are.’” And then, on page 262, “Very good to me so he was, before he even met Karen.” I thought perhaps the author had given this idiom to one particular character to distinguish him or her from the others but, when I looked back to the first example, I discovered “so you are” and “so he was” were said by two different people.

Does this quaint idiom come from Scotland or from Ireland? After ten generations in America, is there any way to tell? There probably is, but I don’t have the resources or energy to get to the bottom of this. For the time being I’m happy just to enjoy hearing and reading “so it is” occasionally.

Since my last blog post

I’ve been taking care of my sister. I’m “chief cook and bottle washer” for a while. I haven’t had much time to read or write.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book or two to read. I’m still reading The White Darkness, by David Grann. It is a very short book, but I’ve managed to make a two-week read out of it due to hospital stays, two trips back to the emergency room, and keeping track of pill and physical therapy schedules. I picked up two new releases at the public library and look forward to starting them this week.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog. I appreciate it! I welcome your comments.

Let’s continue the conversation.

Is there an idiom such as “so it is” within your family or circle of friends?  Tell us how and when it originated, if you know.

Janet

Diana Gabaldon’s First Line in Outlander

“It wasn’t a very likely place for disappearances, at least at first glance.” – first line in Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon.

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Outlander: A Novel, by Diana Gabaldon

What place?

What is this place? Where is it? What kinds of disappearances? Are the disappearances only in the past or is there one in the offing? If so, who is going to disappear, and where are they going? At second glance, does it become obvious that it’s a “likely place for disappearances?”

The hook

That one 12-word sentence brings up many questions. In so doing, it accomplishes what a novel’s first sentence is supposed to do. The reader is compelled to keep reading in order to find the answers to those questions. It “hooks” the reader.

The tip of the iceberg

When Diana Gabaldon penned the opening sentence in Outlander, I wonder if she had a clue what an adventure she was embarking on as a writer or what an adventure she was inviting readers to take. It turned out to be the first step we took on a journey that continues today.

If you are a fan of historical fiction, time travel, or Scotland and have not read Outlander or the other books in Ms. Gabaldon’s Outlander Series, it’s not too late to start. I got sidetracked after reading Fiery Cross, so I have some catching up to do!

This is a series that you definitely should read in order because one book builds on the previous one. I have enjoyed the “Outlander” series on TV. It is excellently done; however, it doesn’t take the place of reading the novels.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. (I’m reading A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman.) If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Janet

Some books I read in February

On February 21 I posted a blog about some of the books I read in January. I think in the future I will blog about the books I’ve read in a given month at the end of that month or first couple of days in the following month. I have good intentions, but you know what they say about those!

“Exploring North Carolina” is one of my favorite shows on UNC-TV. The host, Tom Earnhardt, never fails to educate and entertain as he explores the varied and rich geography, geology, flora, and fauna of the state. Although the vast majority of my books come from the public library, Mr. Earnhardt’s book, Crossroads of the Natural World: Exploring North Carolina with Tom Earnhardt was a book I knew I wanted to own. It’s the kind of book from which one can learn something new every time it is read. As if I needed any encouragement to visit every nook and cranny of North Carolina, this book makes me wish I could spend all my time doing just that.

Now that Sue Grafton is nearing the end of the alphabet, I decided to start reading her books. I read A is for Alibi in January and plan to continue reading my way through her popular alpha series. I couldn’t help but notice how telephone communications have changed since A is for Alibi was published in 1982. It almost places the book in the historical fiction genre.

Another case that falls into the “so many books, so little time” category is John Grisham and his books. I finally got around to reading Gray Mountain. (Yes, Sycamore Row is still on my “want to read” list — which is growing far faster than I’ll ever be able to keep up with.) I thoroughly enjoyed Gray Mountain. I love the way Mr. Grisham gets his points across regarding social justice issues without beating us over the head. In Gray Mountain, he puts a human face on how surface mining has scarred so much of our nation’s coal-producing region.

I was delighted to win a copy of The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement, by the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II with Johnathan Wilson Hartgrove. I participated in the Moral Mondays Movement in North Carolina in the summer of 2014, so I was eager to read Dr. Barber’s book. Even though I pride myself for staying informed about local, state, and national politics, Dr. Barber’s book opened my eyes to some historical connections that I had not made. This book shines a light on dirty politics in North Carolina but gives strong hope that this current grassroots movement will persist.

The Dark Road to Mercy, a novel by my fellow North Carolinian Wiley Cash, is primarily set in Gastonia, North Carolina and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It is the sad tale of two young sisters abandoned by their father and then left in a children’s home when their mother died. Long lost Dad shows up and wants his daughters. Thus begins a tale that will keep you wondering what’s going to happen next and what the final outcome will be. If you want to read what inspired Mr. Cash’s book, read his author page on Amazon.com. I’ll be on the lookout for his next book.

David Baldacci’s The Guilty was the next book I read in February. Mr. Baldacci did not fail to give the numerous twists and turns for which he is known. This whodunit is a true page turner. As a Southerner, I think the accents were at times overdone, and I was surprised he made the mistake of having a character ask another character, “What do y’all want” when obviously speaking to one lone individual. Also, I’ve never heard a Southerner use the term, “Yous.” On a positive note, he did spell “y’all” correctly, which is something some Southerners don’t do. The deeper I got into the fascinating story, the less I noticed the vernacular. Not sure how I’d feel, though, if I were from Mississippi.

Perhaps I am just sensitive about the accents because use of accents and brogues in dialogue is something I’m struggling with in my fiction writing. I’m dealing with Carolina backcountry settlers from Scotland, Ireland, and France and slaves from Africa in my historical novel manuscript titled The Spanish Coin. Since I’m a novice writer, who am I to criticize someone like David Baldacci? I’m striving to strike a balance between giving characters authentic voices and overdoing vernacular to the point that it distracts the reader from the story. It is a writing skill I must master.

Now I’m afraid this post is too long. Do I need to blog about what I’m reading more often than monthly?

A writing contest I wanted to enter

The playing field is rarely level. Don’t get me wrong; I am not whining. I’m just stating a fact. The playing field at school is never level because every child has a unique home life. I didn’t grasp that as a child. I had a peaceful, supportive family and assumed all my classmates did, too. It was years later before I realized that based on statistics, many of them were probably abused. Many of them probably did not know what it was to live in a home with two loving parents who encouraged them to always do their best and always do the right thing.

Fast forward to January, 2015. I wanted to enter the TransitionsAbroad Narrative Travel Writing Contest. The “no entry fee” was a big enticement for me. So was the $500 first place prize. The idea behind the contest was for people to write about experiencing a different culture and appreciating it. I had an idea and I put several hundred words on paper. Something drew me back to the writers’ guidelines. The part I kept stumbling over was about how submitting digital photographs would enhance any entry. In other words, accompanying pictures were not mandated but it would be difficult for an essay without illustrations to compete. I mulled that over in my head for more than a few days and concluded that my story’s chances of winning were slim to none.

I had the privilege of visiting Scotland just years before the advent of digital cameras for the amateur photographer. It was a grand experience — one I never expected to have. Scotland is beautiful. I went through about a dozen rolls of film.

Scotland was a pleasant place and life in the countryside and in small villages moved at a slower pace than I was used to in the United States. Darting into a pub for a “quick lunch” was impossible. By the third day of leisurely two-hour lunches became so enjoyable that my sister and I wished we could bring the practice home with us. As cultures go, that of America and that of Scotland are not very far apart; however, the Scots still know how to take time to smell the roses.

Chances are, I would not have won the contest. Not having digital photographs to submit with the piece, though, put me at a disadvantage. Even so, I have advantages that most people in the world can only dream about. Without my travels in Scotland, I would not have been able to submit the nonfiction piece I entered in the Southern California Genealogical Society’s writing contest last month. That time, I had the advantage. All writers draw on their experiences, and I will always be grateful for having the opportunity to visit Scotland.