Friday, January 4, 2013

Happy New Year Carl Sandburg

This year we experienced magical fog up on Hickory Hollow Farm.  Our Christmas celebrations were as self indulgent as ever.  Lots of gifts, meals, parties and outings but no snow.  This was the first year without the magical fluffy stuff that has made our yearly reunion a challenge during a blizzard and sheer magic on most years.  This was nevertheless, the time when I contemplated a visit to a site nearby that had eluded me for sheer unawareness.  

It was on a day when the "fog came in on little cat feet" that we ventured from our hilltop to one twenty miles away.

We took the long drive where the twenty four oaks that line the pastures closest to the house stand as sentries to the future almost holding hands.

Our destination was Flat Rock, North Carolina and Connemara Farms the home of Carl Sandburg and his wife Lillian known as Paula, nee Steichen.  It was a cold morning and the climb up to the top of the hill where the main house stands was a good climb.  

A poet of extraordinary merit and candor Sandburg pictured above in a celebrated image by his brother-in-law Edward Steichen.  A collaboration between the two man put images and words in a 1955 Modern Art Museum Exhibition entitled the "Family of Man."  This exhibition was curated by Steichen, then director of Photography at MOMA.  It featured 503 photographs from 273 photographers from 68 countries.  The prologue to the exhibit written by Sandburg expressed the common belief in the universal oneness of humanity.

This was my first trip here and I would return with friends and alone two more times to  take in the wonder of this 264 acre farm, sanctuary and  National Historic Site for a simple American.  Carl Sandburg had very plain working class roots born the son of Swedish descendants.  He rose to prominence as a journalist and poet writing about the common man and his trials.    In all, Sandburg won three Pulitzer prizes, two for poetry and another for his landmark work on Lincoln, a fellow Illinoisan.

The house and land purchased in 1945 came with a Southern pedigree as they served as field gun emplacements during the civil war.  Sandburg is to have said that he had purchased a village rather than a house because there were so many out buildings.  His wife was more enlightened she felt they had bought a "million acres of sky."

Sandburg and Lillian escaped from cold Michigan to the milder climates offered in this rural settings.  Sandburg wrote a third of his works while at Connemara.
A rock ledge with a bentwood chair similar to the one Sandburg used to sit and contemplate
A Tabby is part of the live exhibits.  

Sandburg pursued his writings at Connemara, but his wife and daughters had other interests. Lillian, a Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Chicago in 1903 was initially a High School teacher while Sandburg found his writing legs.  Lillian developed an interest in goats while they were living in Michigan in 1935.  

Their eventual move to Connemara brought along a few tons of books and a major interest in goat herds.  Lillian had a goat dairy for 35 years but the business was really improving the quality of goats through breeding.  

Some of the ribbons from Lillian's Kids
photo from NPS website by June Glenn Jr.
The heirs from Lillian's herds are still in the park and please people and animals alike.  Limo who grew up with goats in his Ohio farm was in seventh heaven when he saw the goats unfortunately the National Park Service does not allow mingling of species.

Today, the Nubian, Saanen, and Toggenburg breeds are kept by the park to inform the public and allow bloggers to take photographs in situ.

I came to this hilltop thinking of some of Sandburg's poems.  This Christmas much more than travels and holiday cheer was going on.  Another lunatic got a hold of a gun a made the headlines in the massacre of innocents.  In Florida, one out of every twenty individuals carries a concealed weapon.  Some are proposing we arm our schools.  When will all this end? When will our politicians be able to think of the people they serve before the ones that pay for their re-elections? Are there no men or women of vision and honesty left?  Will we ever regain control of our country or is anarchy the path to freedom and liberty?

Carl Sandburg wrote:  "It is necessary now and then for a man to go away by himself and experience loneliness; to sit on a rock in the forest and to ask of himself, 'Who am I, and where have I been, and where am I going?"  I think we all need to do this and come up with a better answer...