Saturday, August 22, 2015

From Andalusia to Savannah.

This post concludes the chronicle of the Southern road trip that Matt Dunch and I took in the spring, with stops in Louisiana, Alabama, and, as seen here, Georgia. Keeping with the Catholic and literary emphases of the trip, on the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker we paid a visit to Andalusia Farm, the rural homestead where Flannery O'Connor lived from 1951 until her death in 1964 and where she wrote most of her published fiction. Open to the public since 2003, Andalusia still looks much as it did when O'Connor lived there with her widowed mother; exploring the property, it's easy to imagine Flannery at work on a short story, writing letters to friends in faraway places, or tending to her peacocks (though it bears mentioning that, with the recent death of Manley Pointer, only one living peacock remains at Andalusia, down from a group of forty in Flannery's time - sic transit gloria mundi).

The front porch at Andalusia, a good place to sit on a spring day.

Flannery O'Connor's bedroom and study at Andalusia, located just behind the porch seen in the preceding photo. The pair of crutches near the bed offers a poignant reminder of the acute lupus that struck Flannery in her mid-twenties and left her increasingly housebound; since Flannery was unable to climb the stairs to the second floor of the house, this former sitting room on the first floor became her bedroom as well as the place where she did most of her writing at a desk right beside her bed. Among other items in the room, I was struck by the presence of a volume of the Breviarium Romanum sitting atop a pile of books on the bedside table.

The dining room at Andalusia, just across the hall from Flannery's bedroom.

The 544 acres of the Andalusia property include rolling hills and woods as well as developed farmland.

This pond is also on the Andalusia property; it's only a short walk downhill from the house to the pond, but it was sobering to think that Flannery O'Connor would have been unable to make the walk for much of the time she lived here.

Andalusia Farm is located on the outskirts of Milledgeville, a small town about one hundred miles southeast of Atlanta. Born in Savannah, Flannery O'Connor moved to Milledgeville with her family when she was thirteen and spent most of her remaining years there. After graduating from Peabody High School in Milledgeville in 1942, Flannery stayed in town to attend Georgia State College for Women, now known as Georgia College. Georgia College has changed a lot since Flannery's time - it became coeducational in 1967, and, notwithstanding the 'college' moniker, it is now a university - but the campus still has a genteel, easygoing quality.

The library at Georgia College is home to Flannery O'Connor's personal papers as well as a memorial room including items like this college yearbook (where Flannery's surname is inexplicably misspelled "O'Conner").

Also on display in the Flannery O'Connor Room at Georgia College is this typewriter used by the lady herself.

The interior of Sacred Heart Church in Milledgeville, where Flannery O'Connor and her mother attended daily Mass and where Flannery's funeral was held following her death in August 1964.

West Hancock Street, Milledgeville's quiet main drag, seen on a pleasant spring evening.

Flannery O'Connor's grave in Milledgeville's Memory Hill Cemetery.

Moving two and a half hours east of Milledgeville and further back in the chronology of Flannery O'Connor's life, this is the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Savannah, where Flannery was baptized in 1925.

Lafayette Square in Savannah, where Flannery lived for the first thirteen years of her life; obscured a bit by trees and the fountain in the middle of the square, Flannery's childhood home is visible in the center of this photo.

A historical marker outside Flannery O'Connor's childhood home in Savannah. Though the house is open to the public, Matt and I decided to forego a visit in order to see other sights on our one full day in Savannah; after an especially evocative stop at Andalusia a day before, I suspect that this house would have been a bit of a letdown in any event.

Pulaski Square, one of the twenty-two squares of Savannah that help to give the city its particular charm.

Here is Forsyth Park in downtown Savannah.

Of course, Savannah is known to most people for reasons that have nothing to do with Flannery O'Connor - in recent years, the city has attracted particular notoriety thanks to John Berendt's 1994 book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and a subsequent film adaptation by Clint Eastwood. To acknowledge the Midnight connection, here is the Mercer-Williams House made famous by the book and the movie.

Less of an international tourist draw than the Mercer-Williams House but just as deserving of a visit, here is the Jepson Center for the Arts, one of several Telfair Museums in downtown Savannah. Housed in a lovely modern building designed by Moshe Safdie, the Jepson Center collection includes a respectable selection of works by the likes of Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol as well as a Midnight icon, the Bird Girl sculpture seen on the cover of Berendt's book.

Showing that a particular Southern tradition is alive and well in Savannah, this downtown clothier features seersucker fashions for both men and women.

Broughton Street in downtown Savannah, captured at nightfall on the last evening of our trip.

On the aforementioned Broughton Street, here is my intrepid traveling companion at Chive Sea Bar and Lounge during the final dinner of our trip. Matt was the one who first came up with the idea for our Southern road trip, so it seems appropriate to end this series by thanking him again for the inspired suggestion that we spend part of the spring exploring a part of the world that was largely new to both of us. I'm grateful for his company and for the adventure, which offered a fine vacation in the weeks preceding my ordination to the priesthood. AMDG.


At 10/09/2015 10:24 AM, Blogger Tyrell said...

We have two pea-hens on our farm, Joe. I cannot imagine the unholy din that 40 would make... I cannot imagine writing under those conditions!


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