Senility must have hit me because there was one more episode of my attempts to see a famous author being thwarted, but I can’t seem to recall the details. Perhaps I’ve become SO accustomed to encountering these difficulties that I simply blocked it from my brain. You’ll just have to trust me that there was another episode. Maybe it will float up from the recesses of my memory bank.
Still, the poltergeists continued their efforts. Not content with simply preventing my seeing famous writers themselves, the evil spirits broadened their scope.
A few summers ago my husband and I decided to make a return trip from the beach via a new route, one that would take us through Mississippi. Delighted with this change of scenery, I seized upon the opportunity to direct our travels through Jackson, Mississippi, home of the wonderful (and elusive, to me at least) Eudora Welty. Though Ms. Welty had previously been summonsed to that Great Writing Room in the Sky, just seeing her home intrigued me. So off to Jackson, Mississippi we went!
But, alas, it just so happened that that was the very time when the Welty Foundation and the State of Mississippi were restoring the author’s lifelong residence. (I told you those poltergeists hadn’t given up!) Trucks, building materials, and yards of bright orange fencing covered parts of the landscape and blocked entrance, the house itself being closed to visitors.
Nevertheless, I picked my way carefully around the home’s perimeter, snapping photos and soaking in the sights of the place Welty called home for almost 80 years.
Her garden was a special delight, a treasure designed by Welty’s mother, Chestina, and built over decades. It still harbored heirloom plants in nearly an acre of space.
The plaque above includes this quote from Ms. Welty, providing a glimpse into the importance she placed on both gardening and adherence to details in writing:
The plaque reads:
An editor a long time ago told me, ‘Don’t ever have the moon in the wrong part of the sky.’ And that’s important. And I notice when I read other people’s works, often a man will have something blooming at the wrong time, because he never has been out in the garden. He doesn’t think it matters; he just names some flowers. Well, that destroys something for me when I read it, and I try not to make these mistakes.
Although not fully restored, the garden was lovely, with evidence of the original “rooms” typical of gardens of the period–areas delineated by borders of plants, a bench, new fencing, and a beautiful trellis.
Even in its emerging state, the garden was inviting, beckoning visitors to soak in the natural beauty–the birds, the varied foliage, the very atmosphere Welty breathed.
Hmmm….perhaps that garden was just a little too inviting!
Since the house itself was not open, I had to content myself with imagining the wonders the interior might reveal–that special place where Welty dreamed and thought and wrote of life in the South, where she captured the unique flavor of small town life and larger-than-life characters so real they still come alive for us today via her amazing photographs and such classics as “Why I Live at the P.O.,” “A Worn Path,” and The Optimist’s Daughter.
I imagined too that though the poltergeists might have short-circuited a full tour of Welty’s abode, still I could dream that this wonderful summer day just might end with a visit from Ms. Eudora herself. So I sat myself down on the porch to wait, hoping that at least her spirit might pass by.
The Welty home and gardens are now fully restored, work having been completed and the home and grounds opened to the public in 2006. A lovely book by Susan Haltom and Jan Roy Brown, One Writer’s Garden: Eudora Welty’s Home Place, captures the metamorphosis of Welty’s garden and includes fabulous photographs by Langdon Clay.