Flame Prince, Sweet September, Sugar Baby and Purple Cherokee. These are the tastes of home-not the names of superheroes-that greet me upon my return to North Carolina after the summer in England and Ireland. Peaches, watermelon, heirloom tomatoes. As much as I love these homes away from home, there’s really no place like where you’re rooted and grounded in family, friends, and love. This was seen in family supper gatherings, a bridal shower, a wedding, and reunion time on Ocracoke Island, NC’s rugged Outerbanks village, 40 miles into the Atlantic Ocean.
The summer was a gift: time writing and researching about World War Two London while staying at Goodenough College. Then I headed to University College Cork’s International Association for the Study of Irish Literature and presented on the opus of the brilliant Irish author Denyse Woods. Work days were enhanced by long twilight walks in London’s blooming Regents Park and along Cork’s River Lee, dinners with friends, pub evenings with women writers and traditional Irish music, and farmer’s markets everywhere. Some time was spent investigating logistics for NC State’s 2017 study abroad program. The gift of such work is a thing of joy for me.
The highlight of my summer was working with my friend and comrade Denyse Woods, who continues to teach me much about writing, motherhood, and life fully lived, as her five novels explore and reflect*. To give readers a taste of that, I include her story that won the first ever Florida Keys Literary Flash Fiction Prize, also known as The Hemingway Studio Prize, which you can read here “Wallpaper” by Denyse Woods-Irish Times (copyright 2016, Denyse Woods).
Denyse was the last friend I saw before returning to my home friends and family. She inspired me in continuing the research and writing I began in summer. I’m looking forward to seeing Denyse again in December during a unique writing residency-details forthcoming!
Until then, I’ll close with Anon’s lines: “To be happy at home is the ultimate aim of all travel.” And those peaches, figs, watermelons, and heirloom tomatoes? Preserves, pickles, chutney–and Ocracoke fig cake!
*Overnight to Innsbruck (2002), The Catalpa Tree (2004), Like Nowhere Else (2005), Hopscotch (2006), If Not Now (2008). Stay tuned for the forthcoming essay A 21st Century Irish Jane Austen: Meet Denyse Woods/Devlin.