Sunday, March 19, 2017

Behind A Guided Tour

With the arrival of Spring and its warm days, the tour season is upon us at the farm. While we do our best to show all of our visitors the ins and outs of life at Andalusia, sometimes those busy days get the best of us and there’s just too many folks to greet. That’s, of course, a good problem; I relish a house full of visitors. One of the reasons I enjoy the tour groups, though, is the ability to slow down a little bit. All of us have a few standard stories that we tell to the visitors, but a good tour is not all boilerplate. I rather like to digress, as if my entries on this blog haven’t given me up already, and I’ll divulge where I get some of my anecdotes.

One, of course, is Brad Gooch’s biography. Gooch’s research and interviews with folks who knew Flannery personally are an invaluable resource for questions about how daily life went for her and Regina. The pictures in that book, while largely familiar to most of us, are a page flip away for those who have never seen daily life at Andalusia during its days as a functional farm.

Further interviews with personal acquaintances of Flannery are available in a volume compiled on behalf of Andalusia by our former director, Craig Amason, and Dr. Bruce Gentry, Professor of English at Georgia College and a member of our board of directors. The folks in At Home With Flannery knew the O’Connors personally and interacted with Flannery and Regina in various capacities, from local business owners to piano teachers, and their perspectives provide me with a useful third set of eyes. These folks bring me out of what Flannery called “the darkness of the familiar” in one of her letters.

My most frequently-consulted source is, indeed, our old, heavily annotated The Habit of Being. Our directors put (here I’ll use a precise, scientific measurement) a whole slew of sticky notes and place markers in a hardback copy of Habit that point to specific structures and people unique to Andalusia. These highlights cover everything from Flannery’s visitors to farmhands’ family crises to the news of what flowers the birds recently took to eating. They’re Flannery’s words and feelings, of course, but she’s a fair reporter, I think. Sheer use has given that volume a bit of a lean and a couple of bare places in the cloth cover, but I won’t replace it anytime soon.

Thus, there’s more than physical renovations happen out on the farm. It’s my goal never to give the same tour twice. I try to hit the highlights that everyone’s there to see and hear about, but I try too to find some particular interests: the things a group has recently read, their experience with farmhouses of our vintage, and the like. The principle, as I frequently state in this space, is to engender a lifelong love of learning in our visitors through our love of our space and our writer. And if I have to go read compelling interviews and pithy, witty letters to give our visitors something to remember, I’d say we’re all winners!

Daniel Wilkinson is an Instructor of English at Georgia College and Andalusia's Bon Vivant. 

No comments: