Sunday, August 17, 2008

Currents and tides

ebb and flow. My mother (comfortably situated in the French Quarter for the past 27 years) has always lived near water, and cannot imagine living inland. But, does she go to see the water? (Umm, like never.) But she knows it's there, and probably lives by its movement, if one were to match her moods and flurries of activities to the nearby river. I live next to Bayou St. John and view the water everyday for a few minutes, and when I did live in a non-waterfront city (Columbus Ohio) I went a bit mad (would drive back to a lake-fronted city hours away every other week for months) and could never find the vista that appealed to me while in the middle of Ohio.

The tides and currents here at the crescent seem to me to mirror the ebb and flow and currents of the people who live here. I just said goodbye to a few friends who left town-one, who moved away after the levee breaks and was back visiting another who was moving to Italy, and a third who was traveling with the new Italian resident to help her get situated and would then come back to her artist life.
I thought as I said hello and goodbye to them that New Orleanians always seem to be flowing, never with jerky movements or ideas, and just as water can break rock ultimately, they are without cease as they move to what they know they must do.

That seems to be happening again and again. Some leaving and some returning to this "bowl in a saucer full of water" (as someone described the city to me long ago). Some fighting now, some doing battle at the outset of the troubles, spending all, leaving for a bit and now returning to pour more water on the fire.
My friend Pat returned this week, after living in Tyler Texas for 3 years. (A less likely person to live in Tyler Texas would be difficult to find.)
I have not spoken to her, but I feel as if I know how she feels this week, waking up in her house, with no travel plans to think through, looking at her things in her lovely home, remembering them, and walking in her side yard, silently talking to her trees.
Another just finished her house. I imagine her sitting there, smiling. Or, cooking in huge pots with steam and seafood smells rising.

People from away think that water is what betrayed us in 2005, but we all know that it was the lack of intelligent design and responsibility from a concrete government that did us in; levees broken, and no answers ever been given as to why so much of our money had resulted in concrete poured on top of peat.
So citizens took it upon themselves to investigate the levees.
City tells us green space will replace neighborhoods; citizens take it upon themselves to change that decision.
Corruption at the highest levels of city government, so individuals take on the role of clearing the debris to see the truth.

We rise together when we see the overwhelming need to amass, and when the work is done, we dissipate our combined strengths and go back to quiet individual needs.

Ebb and flow. When I was a child, my mother brought us here in the summers to stay with our grandparents and so she could reconnect to her city, before returning to the cold Midwest and its eveyday potato and meat life. How sad she was for so many years in Ohio, away from all that she knew and believed in, away from her river. I know this because when we moved here in 1980, she became a person I had never known; a New Orleanian. It just happened that the tide that returned her to her city took 18 years to come.

That ebb and flow is our strength, because we are all ready to match those rhythms and use its power as long as it takes. We may ebb at times, but we will most certainly flow together again.

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