Sunday, June 22, 2008


Connemara is the name of a county in the west of Ireland. It is also the name of the land upon which Carl Sandburg's home for the final 25 or so remarkably productive years of his life, resides. During our speed-of-light tour of the Florida to Ohio corridor and back last week we spent three days in greater Hendersonville North Carolina with my partner in musical crime and his lovely wife. Al and Cindy took us on a roller coaster ride down the mountain to Flat Rock, assuming correctly that Connemara would be an inspirational place to visit.

I must admit that I have never (knowingly) read Sandburg -- but can assure you that I will in the immediate future. He was a poet, a biographer (Abraham Lincoln), a Pulitzer Prize winner (twice!), a collector of folk songs and a balladeer. Clearly a kindred spirit. He craved solitude for the sake of his creativity, and favored the simple life. Clearly a kindred spirit. He was a social progressive far ahead of his time and a lover of nature. Clearly a kindred spirit. He was obviously an insatiable reader -- having to have the floors reinforced in the house before he could move his 20,000 books into the old Civil War era house. Those books include a copy of my friend and near-neighbor Stetson Kennedy's "Palmetto Country" -- a collection of Florida stories published in 1942. Clearly a kindred spirit.

He was a night owl (that kindred ting again) -- typically preferring to work late into the night, heading to bed at 4:00 a.m. as his wife and daughters were rising to tend their flock of award winning goats (the ancestors of these goats still entertain visitors to the estate). Perhaps the best known of Sandburgs "popular" quotes was his referring to television as "the idiot box". Interestingly there is a Zenith television in virtually every room of the house -- sent to Carl by the President of Zenith.

Most inspirational to me was learning that a huge proportion of Sanburg's literary productivity occurred after he reached the age of 60. Contemporary American cultural norms would tell us that after 30 (or so -- certainly 50) our creativity, originality, and ability to positively impact the cultural and artistic temper of our time is gone. Learning of Sandburg's life -- his literary and social impact -- provided me with the hope that there is meaningful creative opportunity waiting down the road -- that retirement from one career in a few years holds the prospect of starting yet another. One more thing to look forward to as I continue down that road toward becoming an "old goat"...

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