Did you know that American short story writer Flannery O’Connor had a peacock farm when she was still alive?
This I did not know. Until I learned about it in a most peculiar way.
I’ll get to that in a minute.
The Middle-of-the-Summer Outdoor Music Festival
My first exposure to O’Connor, like many of you, was when I had to read her “The Geranium” and “Everything That Rises Must Converge” in high school.
Unfortunately nothing came of that first exposure until I went to a Christian outdoor music festival somewhere in Central Illinois.
My wife and I were in our late twenties and peculiarly out of touch with the world. Every one was at least half our age–and a little older.
Just a little.
These children were comfortable in the extreme heat put off by the constantly beating sun. They were comfortable showering once (give or take a day) during the three-day festival. They were comfortable sleeping in tents on an old pig farm.
They were not bothered by the thick methane gas seeping from the ground. The loud music that never stopped. Nor swimming in an old, muddy pond (where they presumably showered and peed).
At twenty-nine I felt old. And needed a little comfort. Which I found under a tent where there was a Flannery O’Connor reading going on.
O’Connor in the English Lit Tent at Evening
The reading was in the evening, so it was cool, but that still does not explain why the Wheaton College professor behind the lecture was wearing some formidable dress and jacket made out of woolish material.
She, too, looked out-of-place.
I’m sad to say I do not remember much about the lecture. It centered around O’Connor’s faith, and obviously her stories. When she finished her talk, I threw my wife that look that says, “Can I buy something? Do we have the money?”
My wife said, “Yes, you may buy the book.”
So I jumped up and grabbed the complete collection of Flannery O’Connor’s short stories.
In the following week I read through the entire collection.
“The Geranium” and “Everything That Rises Must Converge” were not the stories I once thought they were. It seemed like I’d read someone’s dream version of those two.
I ended up bull rushing through “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” because I was like I know this story–I KNOW THIS STORY! How or why, I couldn’t tell you, but it was like I finally found what I was searching for.
If I was searching for it.
The last two stories, however, did me in. “Parker’s Back” and “Judgment Day.” I finally found a writer who managed to do something artful with Christian themes.
O’Connor’s Peacock Heaven
The question faded as did my interest in Flannery O’Connor until a few weeks ago when I was exchanging emails with a good friend. He was sharing some pains he had with a previous employer and looking for advice on freelancing as a writer.
He ended the email with this sentence:
One day, we are going to be visiting Flannery O’Connor at her unspeakably beautiful peacock farm in Heaven, talking about Jesus and sharing our experiences…..there will be no sense of time and no trace of deception.
She had a peacock farm? Yes, she did. And it will be in heaven? Well, that’s debatable.
Then in struck me: what makes him so sure she would be in heaven to begin with? So I texted him:
Mature thing to say. Fair enough. So I responded:
My friend knew more than I did:
“Not writing watered down ‘Christian’ stories. That’s what struck me to on my first pass through her stories. And it is probably what has inspired countless other Christian writers and readers.
And what about her sincere love for Jesus? I guess I’ll have to go and look that up.
But is she in heaven? I don’t know (you can’t look that up). Does that minimize her work? I don’t think so. Do you? Do you like Flannery O’Connor? Or peacocks?
Let me know what you think. Brutal and all.
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