Posts Tagged ‘mountains’

A Dead Man Inspired me to Become a HANC

Mountain at Flat Rock NCOn a trip to North Carolina, my husband treated me with a visit to Connemara, Carl Sandburg’s home in Flat Rock. I researched the historical site online before we visited the 248-acre property that Mr. Sandburg called a “village” and his wife called “a million acres of sky” now managed by the National Park Service. The website, while thorough, did not prepare me for the inspiration that came shortly after we joined the guided tour already in progress when we arrived.

kiosk at cannemara


Known as America’s Voice, Carl Sandburg was more than a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who legitimized free verse, recorded folk stories and spoke for those too weak to whimper. He wrote what some consider the comprehensive biography of Abraham Lincoln despite being told that poets had no business writing serious prose. He turned every no he heard into more than a yes; he turned them into personal success.


kiosk at cannemara working man



The wandering poet pursued writing seriously with the encouragement of a college professor. A West Point dropout, Mr. Sandburg also left Lombard College without a degree and became active in politics, advocating for the end of child labor and protesting the exploitation of laborers.


handwritten letter to Sandburg


Sandburg spent two months wooing and winning the affections of Lillian Steichen, a woman who initially did not find him appealing. The tour included quotes from some of their correspondence and made me renew my resolve to write more hand-scribed letters to those most dear to me, though I will bear in mind the social mores of our current technological era.


corner bookshelves at Sandburg home

The 20th century was only eight years old when Sandburg wrote his first love letter; the Kennedy administration a recent memory when he died. In the 21st century, lovers and business people, brothers and sisters, friends and strangers communicate electronically, using tools and technology unknown to Sandburg. He frequently shared information with friends and newcomers to his social circle by placing a copy of something he’d read in their hands during a handshake. Knowing this, inspires me to share more relevant information with my readers.

Sandburg bookshelf with ladder


The only rooms not lined with bookshelves were the bathrooms and the kitchen. Just looking at his personal library, I was inspired to read even more. Sandburg’s daughter, Margaret, was also his librarian. The family brought more than 17,000 books in the move from Illinois to North Carolina. Most of the books and periodicals in place at the time of Sandburg’s death at age 89 remain as they were in 1967 and reflect the political and social environment of that era.








Nature window frame

As we walked through the three-story home, the guide pointed out the lack of curtains. Sandburg’s wife, Lillian, had said that windows were meant to frame nature, not hide it.

window frames mountain

Although the “Poet of the People” read and wrote in nearly every room of his home, Carl Sandburg chose a dark office without a view of Mount Pisgah, which he said was too distracting. He also chose to write at night, when his mind was sharpest, though he was still a devoted father and husband.


Inscribed on one of the plaques at the entrance to the park is one of Sandburg’s quotes.


“There is a place for me somewhere, where I can write and speak much as I can think and make it pay for my living and some besides. Just where this place is I have small idea now, but I am going to find it.”


Sandburg typewriter

As most writers, I have also yearned for that place somewhere, a place where I can also write and speak as much as I can think, a place that will pay for my living with a little extra. Until my visit to Connemara, I knew that I would eventually find my place to write, though I had no clue how to begin my search. I only knew my current situation did not provide what I needed. Without knowing I’d even been inspired, twenty-four hours later, I’d found my place.


Sandburg lake at fence



Returning from North Carolina to its southern sister, the tranquility and beauty of Carl and Lillian Sandburg’s home had eased my concerns. For the first time in years, I loosed myself of the shackles of my own work-a-day woes. I was on a holiday from my day job and I wasn’t concerned with writing or editing or even photography. I enjoyed the views and the fresh mountain air.

yellow house in the country

Then I walked into my mother’s modest home. Perfectly cool on a warm  April day, initially; within a few minutes, she’d flipped the thermostat from its air conditioner setting over to heat. Fifteen minutes later, she complained she was overheated, a cycle that repeated. She seemed more agitated and forgetful than I recalled from our visit with her just a few days earlier and my husband and I noticed other signs that led us to a simple conclusion.


We must move in with her.


sunset through tree house backyard

The easiest hard decision we have made as a couple will return me to my childhood roots and the place where the seeds of my writing had been sown.

We must say goodbye to suburban living near a large city and prepare to embrace the isolation of rural life in a small county.


I will become my mother’s HANC because I can’t yet accept the fact that she needs a live-in caregiver. So, I will be her Housekeeper, Activity director, Nutritionist and Companion.


rooster in house


We will  trade our close-knit city neighborhood for a pastoral setting that is part redneck, part hillbilly – everything I have struggled to overcome for years. I am intrigued how the rural setting I longed to leave fifteen years ago, now feels exactly like the place I need to be.

rocking chair


Perhaps Carl Sandburg had it right all along. My mother’s home will be that “place for me somewhere, where I can write and speak much as I can think and make it pay for my living and some besides.”

Testimony Ann ZTestimony Lucy

Okay, so I’m also an editor. Testimony John
















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