Andalusia Farm Blog: Different Views | Arts & Culture
On family vacations, I was always the one who thought a hike in a nearby state or national park added an important dimension to the trip; my husband gamely agreed, while my two oldest children tromped resignedly alongside and my two youngest lagged decidedly behind, whining at evenly spaced intervals. So on this, my second visit to Andalusia, I was surprised yet excited to find that a walking trail had been cut through the grounds since my last visit, and I knew that was one thing I would not leave without experiencing.
The path began at the bottom of the steep slope that would have been in the center of O’Connor’s vision from her vantage point of the front porch. It circled the pond and wound into the woods beyond, a short circle of less than a mile. Walking woods, for me, is not a social event; like Thoreau, I much prefer solitary walks, the quiet of the trees surrounding me, my steps, the scurrying of squirrels, and the mingled calls of birds high above the only sounds.
When I walk, I stare, something O’Connor would have approved of, for in her essay “The Nature and Aim of Fiction,” she writes, “[T]here’s a certain grain of stupidity that the writer of fiction can hardly do without, and this is the quality of having to stare, of not getting the point at once. The longer you look at one object, the more of the world you see in it” (MM 77). My eyes rove as I walk, moving different directions than my feet, slipping up the scaled bark of a tree and squinting against the point of light caught in the upper branches. They rake the path in front of me, noticing the tuft of wildflowers at the base of a tree, the flick of a scrawny squirrel tail jutting from behind a rock. In the relative silence around me, what sounds there are resound more loudly. A thick hulled nut thuds from branches above to the leaf mulched path in front of me. I stoop to pick it up, an unfamiliar, slightly conical shape, unlike the hickory and walnut that litter my own woods back home in Indiana. A small metal plaque nearby tells me this is a pignut hickory, and judging from the number of hulls on the path, the woods of Andalusia are thick with them. I vaguely recall a reference to this tree in one of O’Connor’s stories—is it in “A View of the Woods”?—and when I return home I search for it, but cannot find it.