the sandburg goats

Feb 19 2004 Kelly Norton

Well, first we missed the exit onto 25. On the way to Asheville, it is easy enough to go from 25 to 26, but it’s less obvious on the return trip so we missed the first exit. Stephanie was on the phone at the time, and I interrupted her conversation with the statement: “I think we just missed our exit.” With utter nonchalance, she raised an eyebrow to warn against further interruption and continued her conversation. I did what comes natural to a man who has just reached his thirties, I drove. I drove past another exit before Stephanie looked at me and said, “Do you know where you are going?” “Not really”, though I was sure there was another exit onto 25 coming up. She pulled out the terrible map that we had lifted from the hotel and started looking for an alternate route, “take the next exit to Flat Rock.” She held up the map keeping her index finger on the area of interest for my benefit. I glanced over and saw a label for highway 25 along with callouts for Flat Rock and the Carl Sandburg home.

Now, I have been to Asheville on several occasions. I have visited everything bearing the name Thomas Wolfe, but I had never really figured out how to get to the Carl Sandburg home. Yet, here it was, right beside the big red circle and the black line indicating the center of Flat Rock., and most importantly right beside the intersection with highway 25. We veered off on the exit and followed the signs. The weather forecast for the day had been grim and we had seen sparse sleet on the windshield since we left Asheville. We pulled into the parking lot and there wasn’t a home in sight. “Some home”, I thought. I grabbed my camera and we began to follow the signs that pointed the way to the house just as a hard sleet began to fall. I hoisted the small Winnie-the-Pooh umbrella above my head and we started up the hill.

The place was virtually desolate, no one save a couple of seemingly local characters were out in the weather to see a minor American poet’s hillside farm. We climbed the drive past a stump that resembled a stool, past an empty garden spot, past a gleaming white house and up to the goat farm which was apparently the reason for their move from Chicago in the first place. The pinnacle of Connemara, as it was called, was the center of a personal calm. The falling sleet and the bitter cold winds found some resonant agreement, a bitter contentment with the uncontrollable elements of exposure. We stood looking over the downward sloping pastures and the peaks of the adjacent hills and then moved on. I took a few pictures and a few more breaths before the sleet forced us to retreat back down the mountain and out of Flat Rock. Being lost, many thanks to Dante, is as much a spiritual experience as any other. All the characteristics are there: fear, mystery, hope. But most of all, being lost serves to reaffirm your faith in the almighty

… Chance.