John Howard Griffin, Thomas Merton and the house in Mansfield
October 14, 2007 § 38 Comments
My first husband Phil and I, before we were married, moved into this little house in Mansfield, Texas. It was 1971 or ’72; I was 19 and he was 21. A friend named Obie had found it first and went there to rent it, but for some reason it was not right for him. However, he came to our apartment straight away to tell us that we had to see it, that it was right for us. There was urgency in his voice and he convinced us to go right away to look at it. We currently were living in Arlington, Texas (Phil had been attending the University there).
We went the next day and it was right; we rented it and moved in. Mansfield at the time was a small hamlet south of Fort Worth and north of Midlothian, Texas, located on highway 287 with one blinking red light in town, at the highway. The house was located in the country over the preverbal “other side of the tracks”. It was sitting on 25 acres of grazing land and beyond that were 25 acres of woods. The house itself was one long room, with a kitchen at one end and the bathroom at the other; the living space was in-between. The whole wall facing out to the back yard acreage was glassed in from floor to ceiling, with an inside planter that had climbing geraniums growing that covered the windows. On the opposite wall was a wood burning fireplace where what looked like a Georgia O’Keefe painting hung.
We soon found out that this was the house where John Howard Griffin wrote the book “Black Like Me”. The main house, a couple hundred feet next door, was occupied by his mother-in-law, Mrs. Holland. She shared with us how proud she was of her son-in-law, and showed us some of his photographs. He was a photographer and put a book together on his photographs of his friend Thomas Merton, who was a trappist monk living at Our Lady of Gethsemane Abbey in Kentucky.
Evidently, he and Thomas Merton were very close and he visited Thomas many times. As you may be able to imagine, the house was magical; it was a magical time for Phil and I anyway with spiritual portals opening up and consciousness expanding. We feel like we were divinely guided to be in this house.