The New River High Tide
$10 available at Jacksonville Council
for the Arts • 826 New Bridge Street
Once in a while, a writer comes along who not only writes for the mere enjoyment of pairing the perfect set of words together, but who seizes the moment to pay homage to the lessons she’s learned in life. Writers have the ability to pass along invaluable messages—and not to neglect these moments but to follow their dreams. For Jacksonville author and poet Patsy Lain, it’s this very ideology which propelled her to pick up the pen and inspire others to embrace their talents, even if they are in the September of their years.
Married to Marine GySgt. John Michael Lain for 26 years until widowed in February of 2005, Lain was born in Onslow County and has lived here for nearly all her life. With countless bodies of work under her proverbial belt—essays, poetry and now anthologies—the catalyst for her to detail her thoughts, feelings and memories brimmed when her husband passed. All can be found in the “The New River High Tide” anthology, published in 2008, available at the Jacksonville Council for the Arts located on Old Bridge Street, downtown. Lain has solidified herself as one of Jacksonville’s most talented and beloved favorites, and it only took her a mere five years to do it.
“I’m getting older,” she says with a smile and lifetime of wisdom, “and writing for me is a way to tell my story of how I lived and what I’ve experienced. Although I talk a lot, I feel it’s better to put things down on paper sometimes. Writing has always been what I wanted to do, and after my husband passed away, it was a way for me to reflect.”
A true child of the South and daughter of hard-working farmers, who also worked on Camp Lejuene, Lain takes pride in her roots, acting as a member of Jacksonville’s local group OOPS! (Onslow Outdoor Painters Society) and running a flea market, The Bargain Barn, located at 859 Freedom Way. There, all of Lain’s crafts, including her artwork, wood carvings, novelty signs, wind chimes and her writing, can be purchased. According to Lain, the store is a way for her to keep to her humble beginnings and not “wave her own flag.” Though she has certainly climbed the employment ladder through the years.
“I was first a telephone operator, then I did clerical work,” she says, reflecting on the several paths which led her to the small bedroom town of Hubert. “[I have] been a marine wife, opened a flower shop, but then quit, because writing has always been my passion. When my husband passed, it was time to pick up the pen, reflect and follow my dream.”
Her most fond pieces of prose are two separate short stories, titled “The Love Letter” and “Deer Hunting and the Bear.” Centered around fear and survival, “Deer Hunting…” is a simple tale that traces the footsteps of Lain’s late brother, Tommie Kennedy, as he suddenly became the hunted instead of the hunter during an annual fall hunting trip. Though the premise seems humble, the hidden meaning behind each word is anything but modest. As Lain points out, it’s not so much what is said which makes the difference, but what is not said that can change one’s perspective on life. For her, recalling the childhood story of her brother’s struggles to make it back home further solidified her urgency to write.
Lain’s steadfast belief to live life to the fullest is the focus in “The Love Letter.” She shares with readers a moment of weakness she experienced during her marriage. Told in a voice that indirectly portrays the writer, “The Love Letter” describes a woman who finds a letter in her husband’s pant pocket when she goes to do laundry. As she reads each line, she thinks he’s having an affair and travels the gamut of emotions from A to Z. When she finishes the very last line, she realizes it’s really a love letter meant for her for Valentine’s Day.
“What I do now is embrace what I love and reflect on what I loved as a child,” she says. “I only have one son and I’m putting my stories of my life down for the rest of the family and for those in Jacksonville to learn from. I’m also 60 and I think, I don’t have that much time left, and I feel like I’ve wasted all these years [not writing]. When others read my work, I hope they get the sense to not wait until it’s too late to do what they love. Learn to find time for yourself. It’s never too late.”