“The trees were full of silver-white sunlight, and the meanest of them sparkled.”Flannery O’Connor, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”
Last week, I visited Andalusia, the house and former dairy farm where Flannery O’Connor lived with her mother from 1951 until her death in 1964 at age 39. Flannery completed most of her writings at Andalusia, having to return home as a result of her lupus diagnosis. The disease, less treatable in the 1950s and 60s than it is now, would eventually cripple her, and complications as a result of her illness led to her death at age 39. Just north of Milledgeville, Georgia, the acreage is a pastoral oasis of sorts. Visitors to Andalusia can tour the house for a small fee, walk the grounds, and explore the outbuildings. Flannery is my favorite fiction author, and this is the third time I have visited Andalusia–but my first time visiting since Georgia College and State University took ownership of it in 2017. The college has committed to restoring and repairing the house and outbuildings as well as preserving the original furniture. In Flannery’s bedroom, the crutches she used are propped against her writing desk, and two of her dresses are on display, along with photos of her wearing them. It is always eerie and emotional for me to be there, and this time was no different–although the outbuildings, including the farmhands’ cabin, seemed particularly resonant to me this time. The day was only mildly cool, but the crispness of the air and the dampness of recent rain seemed fitting for a winter pilgrimage, as did the quiet of a walk around the grounds. The afternoon December light cast everything in a golden glow appropriate for a holy experience.
“What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than not to believe. If you feel you can’t believe, you must at least do this: keep an open mind. Keep it open toward faith, keep wanting it, keep asking for it, and leave the rest to God. ”–Flannery O’Connor, The Habit of Being