Monday, March 14, 2011

Where One Writer Began

Eudora Welty once wrote, "Location is the ground conductor of all the currents of emotion and belief and moral conviction that charge out from the story in its course." Last week I spent four days in Mississippi with my parents and one of the highlights for me was seeing Welty's home in Jackson. I mentioned recently that I loved One Writer's Beginnings when I read it in graduate school. Even though it's been several years since reading her memoir, much of it came back to me upon visiting her hometown.

Here is the home she lived in from age 16 until she dies in 2001 at age 92. Much like Carl Sandburg's home in Flat Rock, NC, Welty's home has been left just as she had it in the 1980s when she was doing lots of writing and traveling. It's sunny with large, comfortable, functional rooms and ordinary, every day furniture. It looks like the kind of house anyone could live in. What I enjoyed most about the house were the books she had everywhere and her typewriter upstairs in her bedroom. I also loved that she spread her manuscripts out on the dining room table so she could view the piece as a whole, and often physically cut and pasted parts of pages together to rearrange the order of her stories.

As we were wrapping up with our tour guide, we had the pleasure of meeting the former director of the home and Welty's niece, who favors her aunt for sure.

This was the first time I have visited Jackson, and I particularly liked two downtown landmarks that are associated with Welty. First, the Lamar Life building (below with the clock tower) was her father's insurance company. After reading One Writer's Beginnings, I know Welty associated clocks and time with her father, so it was wonderful to see that his building boasted a clock. 

As a child, Welty often roller skated to the library from her childhood home near downtown Jackson. In her path was the Capitol Building, and she usually skated right through the lobby.

Just before leaving town, we drove to her childhood home (it looks like it's a private residence today). I tried to snap a good picture but this is all I could get. The house is just down the street from an elementary school that was letting out. There were parents' cars and buses everywhere, and a police officer told us to move on. 

All of this helped put Welty in perspective for me. I think it's time to do some rereading!

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