Friday, April 28, 2017

A Sanctuary's Sanctuary

A tour this morning at Andalusia was greeted not just by yours truly, but by the peafowl, as well: their enthusiastic voices rang out around the farm for most of the morning. Springtime is an active season for Manley II and Joy/Hulga, of course, between his attempts to get her attention with a dancing spread of the tailfeathers and her steadfast refusal to pay him much mind. Their seeming disagreements during the dances notwithstanding, there are some rare moments of seeming agreement between the two of them: choral singing. I speak, of course, of the distinctive peafowl call. It’s somewhere between anguish and exuberance, and I really can’t tell which unless I see a hawk overhead. Manley II, younger, has a sort of bluegrassy tenor voice, Joy a deeper alto. In good times, it’s a pleasant shout; in bad, a full-throated honk that would make a whole flock of geese take notice. Flannery said in one of the letters that she stopped counting at 50 peafowl. I can only imagine the hue and cry if they all starting going at once. 

Flannery’s birds had some practical uses, as well, though I wonder if they were outweighed by the birds’ tendencies toward volume and flower bed ruination. (I think chiefly of that wonderful anecdote from Alice Walker’s mother, who, during a visit to the farm years ago with her daughter, was unimpressed by a spreading of tailfeathers and instead told Alice that those things would “eat up every bloom you’ve got if you’re not careful.”) Appetites for destruction aside, between her peafowl, geese, ducks, guineas, chickens, and heaven only knows what else, I am sure the insect situation at Andalusia was firmly in hand. I would think that there’d be hardly any of our now ubiquitous mosquitos and such with all that avian activity. Furthermore, some of those chickens likely became, for lack of a better term, 8-piece buckets on special occasions.

The foregoing, of course, are just the domesticated birds of Andalusia. There’s still a contingent of wild turkeys in the vicinity that sometimes find themselves by the horse barn or on the hiking trail, and the ever-present crows and aforementioned hawks will periodically battle over prime perching space within earshot. 

We are, in short, a bird sanctuary within a bird sanctuary. Those honks and screeches of the peacocks are but slightly discordant notes over the course of our days, but they’re charming and endearing. We, of course, welcome you to come sing along with them—Manley’s got to dance for someone, after all.
Daniel Wilkinson is Andalusia's Bon Vivant and Peacock Choir Director  

Friday, April 14, 2017

Visiting Flannery

For Good Friday, we are pleased to offer this poem by Alice Friman.
--Daniel Wilkinson, Editor
Visiting Flannery 

Across the pond and up the hill
from where I sit, the lady’s house—
her room of crutches and ugly drapes,
the flat and sorry pillow. Her Royal
turned for concentration to a wall.

I come often, greet the orphaned space,
wave when I leave. But today, Good Friday,
I wonder what she’d think—this Yankee
heretic, two generations from steerage,
scribbling by her pond across from
the screened-in porch where afternoons
she’d rest, enjoying her peahens’
strut and feed. How old is too young
with so much left to do? Even the barn,
reliving her story of what happened there,
is buckled to its knees.

Suddenly, a flash from the water—
fish or frog—and I too late
to catch the shine. The Georgia sun
dizzies my head and I am no saint.
Nor was she, although there’s some
who’d unsalt the stew to make her one.
Still, I like to imagine—before the final
transfusions and the ACTH that
ballooned her face past recognition—
the two of us sitting here, watching the trees
sway upside down in sky-water, ecstatic
in the bright kingdom she refracted in a drop.

Funny how two pairs of eyes fifty years apart
make one in sight: a country pond
floats a heaven, and patches of trillium
spread their whites, laying a cloth for Easter.
She smirks. Easy imagery. We do not speak,
both knowing what won’t sustain when clouds
roar in like trouble, the trillium inching
toward water, fluttering like the unbaptized
lost, or the ghost pages of an unwritten book.

Poet, Alice Friman, is Professor Emerita of English and creative writing at the University of Indianapolis, and Poet-in-Residence at Georgia College & State University. She has published six full-length collections of poetry: The View from Saturn, Vinculum, The Book of the Rotten Daughter, Zoo, Inverted Fire, and Reporting from Corinth.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Rainy Nights in Georgia

This past week has been an adventurous one, to say the least. Two days’ worth of tornadic weather joined the disastrous fire on that Atlanta interstate, and we topped it all off with an earthquake under Lake Sinclair that measured a 2.5 on the Richter Scale. If there ever was a weekend that called for watching a golf tournament and early-season baseball, this one surely qualifies. “Therapy sports,” one might call them.

However, with severe weather comes some additional responsibilities for us at the farm. One of the trees in the front yard lost a significant section of its main trunk in this week’s high winds, which have continued over the course of this week. Further, the needs of the horse barn stand in ever sharper relief as sections of the tin roof report in the stiff breeze. Even the peacocks take precautions: their heat lamp is still humming along in these cooler evenings, despite the calendar’s insistence that Spring has arrived.

Storms can even get the law involved out here, oddly enough. Thunder “right on top of the house” as my grandmother would put it has in the past set off the security system in the main house, and yours truly was almost to row up to the house in a driving summer storm a year ago with a member of Milledgeville’s finest. That officer had never been here as a tourist; while the rain died down, I gave him the condensed version of the house tour.

I won’t mind a little cooperation from Mother Nature this weekend, and I’m sure that mass of visitors in Augusta would prefer to be dry. If the weather holds this weekend, we will locate some volunteers and a chainsaw or two, and the front yard will appear roughly normal in short order. Then, maybe, I can see how the pros deal with it all over in Augusta.

Daniel Wilkinson is Andalusia's Bon Vivant and has been known to make very large divots on local golf courses.