Author Susan Haltom of Ridgeland visits Columbus Wednesday to discuss her award-winning study, “One Writer’s Garden: Eudora Welty’s Home Place,” at the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library at noon. Photo by: Courtesy photo
June 16, 2012 4:38:55 PM
Near the end of her life, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Eudora Welty (1909-2001) still lived in her parents' home in Jackson. Her mother's beloved garden she had helped tend there many years earlier, however, had all but disappeared -- a fact Welty lamented. Today, it has been restored to its former glory, thanks to garden designer and preservationist Susan Haltom and a committed core of volunteers.
In "One Writer's Garden: Eudora Welty's Home Place" (University Press), Haltom provides a rich exploration of the garden that influenced Welty's work. On Wednesday, the Friends of the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library and the Hitching Lot Farmers' Market bring Haltom to Columbus to discuss her book. In addition to more than 250 photographs by noted landscape photographer Langdon Clay, it contains many previously unpublished writings by Welty, including literary passages and excerpts from her private correspondence about the garden.
The Table Talk presentation is from noon to 1 p.m. at the library located at 314 Seventh St. N. But everyone attending is invited to bring lunch at 11:30 a.m. to socialize before the program. Iced tea will be provided.
Haltom, who was recently honored as the 2012 winner of the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters' award for nonfiction, began researching the story told in "One Writer's Garden" in 1994 and volunteered to lead the restoration effort. Haltom visited with Welty at her home during the last year's of the writer's life.
"We were in her living room and it was so poignantly sad when she said, 'I can't bear to look out the window and see what's happened to my mother's garden,'" Haltom told the Jackson Free Press in a previous interview.
"I think that people have lost the working garden," Welty shared in a conversation with Haltom before the restoration. "We used to get down on our hands and knees. The absolute contact between hand and the earth, the intimacy of it, that is the instinct of a gardener."
In their talks, Welty cautioned Haltom, "Don't make the garden something it wasn't." Haltom followed that advice. Careful work has restored it with heirloom plants suited to a time period of 1925-1945, the first 20 years the Weltys lived in the house and Chestina Welty, Eudora's mother, created and tended the garden with her daughter.
The garden opened to the public in 2004. The house, a National Historic Landmark, is open to the public as a museum.
For the first time, readers of Haltom's chronicle learn about Welty's connection with her garden, a place that served as a wellspring for her creative mind.
"We're looking forward to Susan's visit," said Friends member Jo Shumake. "During her talk, Susan will include some archival Welty photographs and color images of the restored garden."
To learn more about guided tours of Welty's home and garden, visit eudorawelty.org, or call 601-353-7762.
Table Talks are presented every Wednesday in June at the library. For more information on the series, contact the Friends at [email protected], or call the library at 662-329-5300.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.