Monday, April 6, 2009

A Trip Down Flannery O'Connor Way...

This past weekend, I had the dual pleasure of not only escaping Atlanta for a day, but seeing Southern writer Flannery O'Connor's homestead. For those of you in the Atlanta area, the farm where she lived--aka "Andalusia"--is in Milledgeville, Georgia, a little over an hour outside Atlanta. Take I-20 East, Go South on 441 for 30 miles. Boom, you're there. And if you have the time to visit other Southern author homesteads, there are many within driving distance of Atlanta.

Strange things happen when one escapes a metro city. We're so frenzied with work, life, etc. that we often don't "see" things. Worse yet, we don't realize we're missing out until we get the chance to escape. We've gradually grown accustomed to fuzzy sight, and leaving for a spell gives us that perfect 20/20 vision. Suddenly we realize how much better everything looks, smells, sounds.

15 miles outside the city's limits, I began to breathe easier. 18-wheelers were no longer jockeying for position along our potholed interstates; anything left undone at home was out of sight, out of mind; and the further away we drove, the more industrial-looking neighborhoods and businesses gave way to rolling green pastures peppered with horses and cows, red barns and silos, and a more relaxed pace. Try as we may to remember these gems so close to the city, we often forget they exist.

Flannery O'Connor's homestead is a beautiful farmhouse with an amazing front porch overlooking a lake. She loved peacocks, so there are vases with peacock feathers everywhere, along with peacock rugs and framed paintings. The white stove and kitchen cabinets reminded me of my grandmother's kitchen.

Her desk and typewriter were in her bedroom on the first floor, as she had lupus which eventually caused her death. She used crutches to get around, yet every morning--without fail--she wrote for 3 hours before taking care of farm life. All these daily events while on crutches. I was astonished to learn more about her. She attended college (and got her Master's degree) when most women flocked to become housewives. She studied at Yaddo with some of the greats. And she continued to write daily despite a debilitating disease.

My mantra coming away from learning this? No more excuses. Some days the muse might appear, other days she may be elusive. But consistently showing up to the page is the only way to charm her into staying.

Walking around the farm, including seeing the barn (see photo above) which inspired her short story, "Good Country People," was like strolling back in time. Fat, fuzzy bumblebees danced near the flowers; a warm breeze blew, bringing a smile to everyone's face while there; a green furry caterpillar inched its way along dark gray rocks. It was an enlivening afternoon.

Returning home was interesting. Atlanta is a jealous city; her gravitational pull on residents to stay nearby comes with a price for those who escape her grasp on occasion. Re-entering the city--no matter what day, time, or route--is like re-entering the Earth's atmosphere without a heat shield. It's as if the city keeps a detailed record of the residents who betray her by leaving, and she'll make it hell on them upon return so they're reluctant to leave again.

But not me. Plenty to see and do nearby...and plenty to blog about. Happy writing and creating, all!


Willena said...

So, go on 50 miles southeast of Milledgeville; you run into Bartow, my momma's hometown. You know what a pull that has on me. I love how you called Atlanta "a jealous city," since it rarely lets me go, either.

The Writers Canvas said...

Thanks, Willena! "Jealous" does seem to be the best description of Atlanta, doesn't it? Somehow leaving town is always easier than returning. In our case, 285 had wrecks, the downtown connector had construction, and all the side streets near Midtown were crowded from some big event at Piedmont Park. Took forever, but finally got home :)

I loved the whole area near Milledgeville. Highway 441 was beautiful; reminded me of desolate Indiana stretches of land, or southern Oregon.