Friday, February 28, 2014

The Possible

"Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible." - Saint Francis of Assisi

As I reflect on why I was seduced to pick up my whole life in Boston and move to Milledgeville to take the helm at Andalusia I was reminded of these wise words by the patron saint of animals, birds, and the environment. Indeed it was Andalusia as a place that brought me here. A place of inspiration and a haven for a supremely original and influential writer certainly, but Andalusia is also 544 acres of contiguous habitat for all kinds of flora and fauna as well as a place for humans to enjoy and connect with nature. So my aim is to start by doing what is necessary. Building on what has been accomplished to date here, I am finishing the work started on the Hill House and the Cow Barn with the goal of opening them to the public with programming and interpretation. Both structures are rich and redolent with narratives to be tapped about life on the farm for people as well as creatures. The Barn will also serve as swing space for rescuing the Equipment Shed, a threatened structure that is filled with what must be 100 years of farm tools and implements (including an eerily intact tack room). These projects, and others, are only possible through collaboration with volunteers (good citizens, friends, neighbors, artists, and students) and the financial support of individuals, foundations, agencies, and the business sector. It is the possible that excites me and drew me to the challenge of creating a relevant and sustainable organization for the long haul; an organization that will ensure this place is here 10, 50, 100 years from now. With your help that is not so impossible!

- Elizabeth Wylie, Executive Director
The Flannery O'Connor-Andalusia Foundation

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Labor of Love

Tomorrow is my last day at Andalusia and, therefore, it seems appropriate that my final blog post should come on Valentine’s Day.  Let me say at the outset how much I’ve enjoyed writing this blog and how grateful I am to our former director, Craig Amason, for giving me the opportunity to do so.  The blog has been a wonderful creative outlet and I’ve had a lot of fun with it.  Thanks to all of you who have been gracious enough to read it and share your thoughtful and insightful comments.  Thanks, most of all, to Craig for hiring me as Visitor Services Manager.  The 4 ½ years I’ve been at Andalusia have been some of the most memorable of my life.  Little did I imagine when I visited the farm for the first time in June, 2009 that I would soon be working here.  Talk about a dream job!  How many former English majors get to work at the home of their favorite writer?  During my time at Andalusia I have been privileged to meet many distinguished artists, writers, and scholars. However, it is the regular folks who love Flannery and visit Andalusia daily that I will miss the most.  They are the ones whose passion for O’Connor’s work has energized me and made this job so rewarding.  It has been a good run and I take with me memories that will last a lifetime.  Be assured of my best hopes for Andalusia’s future.   I will miss it more than I’m probably aware of at the moment.  What more can I say?  Working at Andalusia has been nothing less than a labor of love.
- Mark

Friday, February 7, 2014

Relentlessly Perfect

It’s no secret Thomas Merton was a big fan of Flannery O’Connor.  If the truth be told, he was a bigger admirer of her than she was of him.  In any case, when she died in 1964 Merton wrote a touching “prose elegy” that was published in Jubilee in November of that year, and later in his book of essays, Raids on the Unspeakable.  In concluding his tribute, Merton says “When I read Flannery I don’t think of Hemingway, or Katherine Anne Porter, or Sartre, but rather of someone like Sophocles.  What more can be said of a writer?  I write her name with honor, for all the truth and all the craft with which she shows man’s fall and his dishonor.”  The next year, after receiving the posthumously published Everything that Rises Must Converge, Merton made the following entry in his journal on April 23, 1965: “Yesterday Flannery O’Connor’s new book arrived and I am already well into it, grueling and powerful!  A relentlessly perfect writer, full of tragedy and irony.  But what a writer!  (Dancing in the Water of Life: The Journals of Thomas Merton – vol. 5, p. 233).  You get the impression that when O’Connor’s book arrived in the mail, the monk dropped what he was doing to read it.  He felt deeply connected to Flannery.  Note, for example, how he consistently refers to her by her first name.  According to Paul Elie, Merton thought of Flannery as the little sister he never got to know (The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage, p. 366).  And he praised her more highly than just about anyone else.  However, according to Elie, the praise is almost beside the point.  It is “in the familiarity, the intimacy, with which he spoke about her.  They  had never met, never corresponded, but Merton felt, and then put into words, the power that her work has over others – its ability to make us feel, as we read her, that we know her, that she is one of us.” (Ibid. p. 366)
- Mark