Last week, I shared here on Peace Garden Writer about an incredible journey on which I’m about to embark: traveling to and exploring for a short time the place where one of my writer heroes — Flannery O’Connor — once dwelt.
My introductory post on our upcoming pilgrimage to Andalusia Farm in Milledgeville, Ga., is the first of several focusing on this writers’ adventure. But earlier today, a friend affirmed what this trip is all about in sharing an article, “Gathering Paradise,” from America magazine, which begins thus:
“The best way to get to know a writer whose work you love is to visit his or her home. This is especially true of writers who have died. To walk the floorboards she walked, to lay your hand upon the railing he gripped as he mounted the stairs, to enter the bedroom where she was born and the parlor in which he died are each acts of extraordinary intimacy. You can almost feel the presence of the writer, who ate and drank, breathed and brooded, lived and loved within these walls. This is the closest we can come to communing with the dead. It allows us to see them anew, as living souls like ourselves, fellow pilgrims along the journey to eternity.”
It’s an article worth reading for any writer who has either considered or experienced traveling to the place of a favorite writer and discovering — as Angela Alaimo O’Donnell, author of the article puts it — how an intellectual relationship is rendered incarnational.
“Pilgrimage to literary houses is a secular version of religious pilgrimage, on which travelers journey to holy sites associated with saints,” she says. “There one discovers relics—intimate possessions of the writers that tell essential truths about them.”
The friend who shared the piece aptly pointed out the one qualm with O’Donnell’s assessment, saying pilgrimages to literary houses are still religious, “precisely for writers or poets like Flannery who very much lived and breathed their spirituality and poured it out into every word they wrote.”
For those going on this adventure, she aptly added, “Your pilgrimage began the minute you committed to going.”
I have known ever since praying that this trip would come to be that if I were somehow able to go, it would be incredibly special for me as a fellow Catholic writer to experience Flannery’s home. But now, I’m even more elated that things fell together for me, against all odds.
The thought of strolling the grounds where this heroine of mine lived and labored, giggled and grimaced, is beyond gift. I can only imagine now what it will be like to experience those relics for real.
Q4U: Whose relics have you touched?