Friday, April 22, 2016

The Comfort of Home

Andalusia reminds me of my childhood home. No, it’s not a farm, but there is a farm right down the road. Our house sits back in the woods, no neighbors visible. Well, you could count my Mawmaw, aunt, and cousins as neighbors— they’re the first house on our long winding driveway. But they’re not neighbors as much as just another unit of the family that’s only a two minute walk. We’re a tight knit community tucked away on an old dirt road.

When I visit I am always relieved by the silence. The evening air is full of tree frogs, cicadas, and crickets, but the chorus of humming rises and falls naturally, like it’s the forest’s heartbeat. Our porch is the perfect place to let the night air whisper against your face while you swing and look up at the stars.

The sky is so breathtakingly clear out in a place like that. Stars, comets, and entire galaxies are visible in a way that even the smallest town’s lights can obscure. I’m sure this was the case at Andalusia in Flannery’s time. After those years in town, at Iowa, and in New York, I wonder if she ever looked up at the night sky and felt at awe. The sky plays an important part in her works- blistering white afternoons, blood red sunsets, and even big turnip shaped clouds. I don’t recall any stories with night sky descriptions, but Flannery was probably too tired from the lupus and the treatments to stay up late and look at it. From what I’ve heard she did a lot of porch sitting in the afternoon or evening.

If you’ve ever been in Milledgeville at sunset, you’ve likely seen some amazing colors splashed across the sky. These beautiful sunsets are especially breathtaking at Andalusia (hence the new Thursdalusia series) where the light dances under the trees and winks off the pond. I can imagine Flannery taking all of this in as she spent time convalescing with her mother and the other members of the farm. It’s well recorded that she was reluctant to return to Milledgeville, but I think the farm did her good. I suffer from migraines, anxiety, and depression; trying to maintain an active life and still take care of my body can be exhausting.

My visits home aren’t necessarily frequent; it’s a three hour drive to Centralhatchee and I’m happy with my life in Milledgeville. But the visits are good for me and after a weekend of fresh air and quiet, I feel a little more in touch with something spiritual. For Flannery, I’m sure it was God- she was famous for being as devout a Catholic as they come. I’m not sure what it is for me yet; maybe God, maybe Mother Nature, maybe just peace with my own thoughts. The name of it doesn’t really matter to me. I just know that if I need to find a little bit of whatever it is while I’m in Milledgeville, I can drive out to Andalusia and breathe.

Jessica McQuain is a senior Creative Writing and Spanish double major at Flannery's alma mater, Georgia College. She enjoys gardening, reading, and writing poetry. 

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