If you’ve ever done any writing, or if you’ve read some writing, and if you live in Western North Carolina, there’s a pilgrimage that needs to be had to national historic site Connemara Farms, the home of Carl Sandburg. You go not because of a vague eighth grade memory of a poem he wrote about San Francisco — but wait, wasn’t he from San Francisco? No, New England. No no, not New England, that was another white-haired poet. The Midwest! Well, yes, most notably Chicago.
He did indeed live most of his life in the Midwest, but he spent his final 20-some-odd years on a goat farm in Flat Rock, N.C. And visitors to Connemara Farms come away with a common question: Why would Sandburg not have lived his entire life here?
The answer might be that it took him a while to find it. But more likely it was Sandburg’s wife Lilian who did the finding, because if there was a genuine farmer in the family, it was Lilian. She was a renowned breeder of champion dairy goats. And the goats that now reside at Connemara, milling around well-preserved red outbuildings — low-slung affairs with makeshift latches and hinges (a poet’s work if I’m not mistaken) — are the descendants of the goats that Lilian raised.
And the goats are worth the trip alone, but you actually go to Connemara because here is a place where two people created a haven, sweetly pursuing the least likely of professions. It would never have worked if she were a beautician, or he a salesman, but of course they weren’t. They were two people running the three-legged race of marriage, who got so in synch over the latter course of the race that all the other participants just stood aside to watch.