One year ago today, after Nagin called for a mandatory evacuation and I studied the animations and predictions, I wrote my last pre-Katrina blog post.
Then, D and I boarded up the front windows of the house, pulled the plants and rocks inside, packed up the Honda full of our most valued belongings and began what turned into a 16-hour journey to txyankee‘s home in Texas. Never did we realize what would happen to this city and how long each of us would have to stay away from home. As I said in an earlier post, writing is my catharsis. As D drove, I scribbled in my notebook to stay centered. These are some of the thoughts unshared with anyone until now:
“The anxiety rushes and then recedes like the waves of Lake Pontchartrain. It starts with an eerie calm and a happiness of a hue heretofore unseen. Denial is indeed a nice place to visit. My mind goes blank as it detaches from the forms of body and mood.
“Wait, where am I? Sitting in a car heading up Highway 589 to Jackson, MS and, by doing so, avoiding a Category 5 hurricane that possesses the strength to level my city and my way of life in less than a day. Suddenly, the solar plexus tenses, the breathing wavers, the walls begin to close in and the tears pour from the aquifer of my soul.
“What was that quote I smartly invoked once? Something about the existence of civilization at geological consent. Yes, we have borrowed enought time and land from a place many call home, but meteorological permissions aside, there exists a beauty in the hubris.
“Nestled amongst the flood walls and earthen levees, such an unabashed tenderness grows, nourished to the point where citing our crime statistics is an utterance of love and walking through tourists and roaches a proferrance of dignity. You love it or you don’t, you get it or you don’t, and those who stay do.
“For when you journey past its failings, New Orleans holds an allure for a million natives and transplants with one thing in common – they are incurable romantics about the concept of home. Why else do they brave traffic on the corner of Rampart and Canal on a Saturday while on bicycles? Why do they single-handedly pick up trash, fill in potholes on their streets and direct traffic when the city has failed them? This is a life less ordinary.
“I want to see my friends again. Talk and laugh with them as I gently pull a green bean out of the Mary fixed by Katie and welcome the Cajun life force that pushes its way into my parched interior. I want to walk home, smell the magnolias, climb up my wrought-iron spiral staircase and pad on my ancient hardwood floors to a bed that overlooks a street older than the United States, the every-fifteen-minute RTA bus be damned.
“What I don’t want – to wade through homes and wreckage to reclaim valuables soaked through with the silt of several thousands of years. To worry about not seeing my friends again and in the manner of our mutual choosing. To drive through Collins, MS en route to Texas wondering about the life scattered behind you. The unsure nature of this journey kills – will it or will it not disrupt most, if not all, aspects of a life lived and planned? Katrina’s mercilesness lies in her inability to inform and in her dharma, that she is what she is.
“This hits too close to the reality of August 1990. I couldn’t be there when trouble hit and my father was in trouble. What would I have done then? What can I do now? The plan of shaking my tiny fists at the approaching storm sounds inspiring, but would I not have instead said, “Oh, to be any place but here with the lack of utilities!” The water is bluer on the other side.
“This is a storm within a storm – a plan within a plan. Where to now? What next? Until the winds pass and the waters recede, my home will have to be this makeshift raft of uncertainty. All I know is I miss you, New Orleans and your strange people. Please don’t let this storm wash us away.”