Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Poet’s Home

Last weekend we went to Flat Rock, North Carolina. We visited Connemara – Carl Sandburg’s home in the last phase of his life. It’s a great place and looks like a poor man’s version of Vanderbilt’s Biltmore house. The essential design is the same – a house in a hill, with a lake or stream below, surrounded by hills and mountains and great views in the porch. The house leave no doubt that it belonged to a writer with the many books and magazines and shelves all strewn about. It looks like a wonderful place to write with a writer’s studio at the 2nd floor. The whole property is about 30 acres with the Glassy Mountain behind the house and lots of hiking trails. A nice place to walk in nature and contemplate – a real writer’s abode.

Ironically, the house used to belong to the Secretary of Treasury of the Confederate government during the Civil War. It was later sold to former confederate officers. The first owner used to live in Charleston, South Carolina. The property was meant to be a summer home. In later years, it became the home of Carl Sandburg - the author of a Pulitzer Prize winning biography of Abraham Lincoln. I have a small paper back book of this work which was the first volume of ‘The Prairie Years.’ The book belonged to my grandparents and it’s one of the books I brought with me from the Philippines, then to Singapore and now here in the USA. I had wanted to read this book mainly because it was written by Sandburg and because it was about Lincoln.

At Connemara, Carl Sandburg is referred to as America’s poet and his style is reminiscent of Walt Whitman. He bought the place basically for his wife so she can raise prize winning goats. Apparently, she is a world renowned authority on goats. Her interest in goats was due to its health benefit as she noticed that her family’s health started to improve after they started drinking goat’s milk. So it’s amusing to learn that the poet bought the former confederate’s house not to write books on Abraham Lincoln but to raise goats. Nevertheless, it is a spectacular place with the surrounding hills in autumn with the stunning colors of the fall leaves. I took several pictures and I am glad I brought my kids here. We watched a video about the poet and learned all about his life and works.

We had lunch at Burger King in Hendersonville. It was a different feeling driving down Main Street since our last visit as the road was closed during the Festival of Apples. The small town charm was apparent everywhere. I agree with my office mate that his is a nice place to live. We next went to nearby Sky Top - an apple orchard. We walked through the orchard trying to look for apples but the harvest season has passed. There were some old apples lying in the ground. But the view from the top was great as we could see the nearby hills in their spectacular autumn leaves – yellow, gold, red, green – covering the mountain slopes. It’s really the best time to come and see the trees. Before coming home we eat apples in caramel sauce and drank apple cider juice.

It's these small towns and places that are wonderful to visit. I have visited the homes of 2 famous writers so far in North Carolina. I guess it’s a place that attracts writers especially with its heritage of Irish, English and Scottish settlers. Next week we plan to drive to the Blue Ridge Parkway so we could see the last days of autumn in the surrounding mountains. I did not have time to do much writing during the weekend although I was able to read the Fortune magazine I need to return and movies that I need to watch.

Aside from my road trips down around the area, I am learning more about the South. I learned more about the way of life here listening to Jimmy Carter’s book about his boyhood in Plans, Georgia. It’s a great book and I am now reading his book about peace in the Middle East. He is the epitome a moral upstanding southern gentleman which represents the best of this side of America.

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