Local celebrity writer Daniel Wallace has written about both!

You may have encountered Daniel Wallace any number of ways: playing ping pong on a Monday night in the Ballroom, on NPR recently talking about his new book, Extraordinary Adventures, or reading from Cat’s Pajamas to a full house in Chapel Hill. Or you may have read the great article Wallace wrote for Our State magazine in 2015 about this Five-Star General Store here in Saxapahaw.

Daniel Wallace is known for his weaving of tall and small tales which are insightful and funny (if sometimes dark, as clouds and life can be), about everyday people, and the wonder and perpetually surprising rhythms and happenings of lives that ring true and familiar, whether colorized and planted in Birmingham, Chapel Hill, or Saxapahaw.

I am a Wallace fan (FOD, as his friend and fellow local celebrity writer Alan Shapiro put it), and I am a fan of the Five-Star Store, where, as Jeff Barney has said, the goal was never to get big but to become more deeply rooted. The General Store’s goal has been and is to be open to all, and to provide, generally, what The People want, basics that serve the community with care. A dynamic everyday plan requires and revels in the vital energy of everyone here and also everyone who comes, as Wallace wrote, to be a stranger or just to be strange.

Just as the Chapel Hill’s Just Bee Apiary collective (whose products we carry!) understands that the relationship between taste and home comes from “terroir” (from the tiniest invisible Earth element to the melding of sweet and sour colors), Jeff and Cameron, the staff, and those who serve and join us participate at every level in the Store and community creation. We participate by sharing garden bounty and fresh meat, creative dishes and carefully crafted products , by filling orders, dropping in to say hello, picking up sundries, buying gas, or ordering two sides of brussels sprouts once a week with dinner. We enthusiastically feed the roots as well as the garden of this community in all kinds of ways, by caring. Jeff refers to the food made and served as “soul food”: “what makes it soul food is its uniqueness to this place and these four walls.” Everyday creation.

In his 2015 article, Daniel Wallace wrote about believing that there are unmapped tracts where dinosaurs might roam, in Bigfoot, in the possibility of stumbling over a treasure trove, and believing now in Saxapahaw. I’m a never-ending believer in possibility too, and in the “magic” that makes this village what it is. Here’s an example: Friday night the film, The Neverending Story was shown in the amphitheater next to the Haw River Ballroom. Lots of children (old and young) were watching the age-old “fantasy” unfold—“the Nothing” threatens to destroy Fantasia and beckons the human boy (Bastian) to fulfill his part, by caring enough; adventures ensue.  Left Bank Butchery’s hot dog cart was there, and the Haw River brewery was open for business. All of this, and a full-moon too.

Extraordinary adventures reveal what drives us, charge us to pay attention, as messy or extravagant as any moment may be, whether catching or eating big fish, dancing in front of the Haywagon stage, looking over the river from Cup 22, the Eddy, or a backyard close by beneath a full moon, or chilling at a five-star gas station with bakery baskets, local melons, good food, big smiles or … whatever each brings to the table.

And speaking of tales and extraordinary adventures, I saw the film Wonder Woman, which just came out in local theaters to box-office-record-breaking ticket sales. The first time a female superhero has had her own Big Box Office film, in the trail of Batman and Superman! Jill Lepore’s book, The Secret History of Wonder Woman came out in 2014, and Lepore is talking to audiences everywhere about what got her on the trail of the superhero’s beginnings. She is a historian and journalist who was asked by the New Yorker to write about Margaret Sanger and the beginning of Planned Parenthood. One bit led to another and she landed in archives where the Sanger Papers and the papers of Gloria Steinem and Ms. Magazine were kept. It turns out that within the iconic Superhero story is a fascinating family story threaded with its own intrigue and adventure.

William Moulton Marston, the psychologist who created Wonder Woman, wrote a regular column for Family Circle about conventional family life with his mistress, Olive Byrne, even as he and Olive Byrne and his wife, Holloway, lived their most unconventional life. Marston was thought of as an “expert on truth,” but lived a secret life, then presented that secret life as a kind of utopian fantasy connected by iconography and more to the currents of our human and national history of mental, emotional and physical slavery and the great hunger and struggle to break the chains that bind. Jill Lepore completed the collage of connections, to Margaret Sanger in particular, by following the pieces of documented clues. There are always clues.

The Wonder Woman stories, like many superhero stories I imagine, are animated by references to fables and stories about the ancient Greeks and other ancestors, including the Amazonians. There are always battles between “corrupted” humankind and the forces of Good. This is where the cresting wave of extraordinary adventures always rises, like the running wave of a river through green land with high banks and low, where branches reach from trees that have long bent toward the water and where the memories of men and women linger.

As our present (in any time) challenges our ideas and beliefs about Life, and our life, it seems to me we can learn best, now, perhaps, from recognizing that life is a collage, with each of us choosing and creating our reality every day, individually and together, and the surface variations are like the River that so many of us love and that reminds us we ARE the river of life too—reflective, sometimes turbulent, sometimes peaceful, moving with the life within us.

Ultimately, aren’t all stories family stories? Wonder Woman’s origins are in a fascinating family story which involves one of our pioneering advocates for equal rights. Our iconic superheroes have their own histories, created by humans, with trails and beliefs to follow: how they were crafted and inserted, celebrated and launched into our collective consciousness and run like the river, shaping our emotional story and our world.

In the League of Superheroes, each is a hero in their own right, with their own story, but when they are called upon to join forces (to work together), they do with mighty results. Another tangled family of sorts. Ambition always falters without a family story, a network of support which builds gets stronger.

In the extraordinary adventures of the current village of Saxapahaw, rivers converge in the people’s mingling, just as they do in the confluence of the Mill and bridge that overlook and cross the Haw. Colorful canoes and kayaks are part of the view and experience and create their ripples too, real and digital. We humans do that.

One recent afternoon I served food to a customer who worked for many years as a land surveyor. He had not been to Saxapahaw for a while, but grew up in the area and knows a lot of its history. He said he remembers when plans were being made to renovate and “re-activate” the Mill and more. He said he thought it was impossible. “I’m glad I was wrong,” he said, laughing as he took a bite of his sandwich. “It couldn’t have happened without the right people.”

GPS-driven, summer-drive-or-ride-in-the-country driven, steam-powered, or walking, come see us!. Grab a cold drink, pet the well-loved pets that may wander by (on leashes), order a bite to eat (I recommend the pork shoulder sandwich!), and drink in some Brigadoon. This enchanted place rarely disappears in a mist, and we can return almost anytime we are driven to. The things that unite us remain both magical and knowable. Just listen to the River.

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