A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

Purchase collections of Elizabeth Hudson’s columns at ourstatestore.com. As an only child, I invented games for myself suited for solitary play, ones that involved secret passageways and hidden rooms. At

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

Purchase collections of Elizabeth Hudson’s columns at ourstatestore.com. As an only child, I invented games for myself suited for solitary play, ones that involved secret passageways and hidden rooms. At

Purchase collections of Elizabeth Hudson’s columns at ourstatestore.com.


As an only child, I invented games for myself suited for solitary play, ones that involved secret passageways and hidden rooms.

At home, I crouched into the tight space under the stairwell and pretended it was the cabin of a spaceship, the cockpit of a race car. In the woods beside our house, I balanced atop fallen logs and imagined myself adrift on a raft. At my grandmother’s house, I draped her percale sheets over the dining room chairs, creating my own private hideaway. Beneath the billowing fabric, I was an explorer in a cave; I was an adventurer in my safari tent.

My grandmother, who grew up with eight brothers and sisters, made sure that my solo adventures never became lonely. She’d kneel down and crawl into my private fort, casting herself as a villager coming to visit the queen or a first mate delivering treasure (cookies) to the pirate (me). I think, now, of the discomfort her arthritis must’ve caused her as she hunkered down on the floor, but she never let it show. Often, she brought bed pillows for us to lean against and books, Agatha Christie and Hardy Boys mysteries, for us to read together. Among those, my favorite was an oversize, illustrated hardback titled simply Gnomes. I can still see the cover, with its rosy-cheeked, white-bearded imp squinting beneath his red cone hat.

We spent hours absorbed in the invisible world of these mythical creatures. We giggled at the drawings. We pretended to hunt for real gnomes on our neighborhood walks. I don’t even think the book was intended for children, but it was the most imaginative thing I’d ever seen, and it marked my first realization that adults, too, craved a sense of awe and wonder, that the magic of storytelling shouldn’t be confined to childhood.

We weren’t the only ones enchanted by gnomes. Around this time, Tom Clark, a theology professor at Davidson College, began sculpting his famous figurines, the first one in 1978, creating more than a thousand in his lifetime. Occasionally, I spot one at an estate sale or in an antiques shop, and I think of my grandmother and how she encouraged me to keep a spark of whimsy in my heart, to see the world with wonder in my eyes.

I hope I’ve done that.

Recently, I spent a weekend exploring the town of Manteo, a storybook place if ever there was one. I took my morning walk over the Cora Mae Basnight Bridge and watched the sun rise over the Elizabeth II; I wandered over to the Mother Vine, the 400-year-old muscadine grapevine — it’s on private property, but the owners have created a trail accessible to the public — and stood beneath its webbed thicket, catching glimpses of a brilliant blue sky through the branches. And I spent an afternoon at the magnificent Elizabethan Gardens, walking among the tulips and dogwoods, a perfect day made even more so when I rounded a curve on the path and saw, tucked among the rhododendrons — can you even believe it? — three gnomes! Not real ones, of course (how I wish!), but concrete or stone, bearing their weathered and moss-covered patina, all of them smiling that mischievous grin I remembered so well.

Look what I found! I thought, and in that moment, I wished my grandmother could’ve been there to share in the discovery, how happy she would’ve been to know I still find delight in hidden corners. I walked away, my heart filled with light, and took one look back. And it may have been my imagination, but I could’ve sworn I saw one of those gnomes give me a wink.

 

Elizabeth

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth Hudson
Editor in Chief

 

print it

This story was published on Mar 25, 2024

Elizabeth Hudson

Hudson is a native of North Carolina who grew up in the small community of Farmer, near Asheboro. She holds a B.A. degree in English from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and began her publishing career in 1997 at Our State magazine. She held various editorial titles for 10 years before becoming Editor in Chief of the 88-year-old publication in 2009. For her work with the magazine, Hudson is also the 2014 recipient of the Ethel Fortner Writer and Community Award, an award that celebrates contributions to the literary arts of North Carolina.