Meet Me at the Butterfly Tree

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Cover of Meet Me at the Butterfly TreeFairhope, Alabama, is a small city harboring more than one paradox. On one hand, it is a unique little town—just a dot on the map—a town founded by a group of nineteenth-century idealists who were certain they could change the world. On the other, it is a prosperous, elegant, and sophisticated community with an aggregate of expensive shops and upscale homes. Yet there is something about it that defies description, an underlying story that has not been fully told.

Meet Me at the Butterfly Tree opens the curtain on a Fairhope that once was very different. It reveals the town in a simpler day, mid-twentieth-century, when eccentrics lived cheek by jowl with intellectuals, artists, and ordinary citizens. Once a bohemian retreat in an out-of-the-way enclave, the little village has expanded and grown, yet has not lost a sense of its former mission. Over a hundred years after its founding, the simple days are long past, but Fairhope’s appeal has not diminished.

This book, conceived as an instrument of renewal of the hope inherent in the town’s history and spirit, includes correspondence between the author and Robert E. Bell, whose novel The Butterfly Tree was set in Fairhope in the 1950s, and chapters by both writers about such institutions as The Soda Garden and Marietta Johnson’s School of Organic Education.

The memories shared by the writers trigger more tales, anecdotes, and character sketches. Combined here they reveal an extraordinary past in a very special place.

Mary Lois Timbes graduated from the School of Organic Education in Fairhope, Alabama, in 1958. She has lived in New Orleans, Atlanta, New York City, and Geneva, Switzerland. She has been a professional journalist, actress, and public relations executive. She returned to Fairhope in 1988 to found a professional theatre company, the Jubilee Fish Theatre, which operated on the Eastern Shore until 1997.