cemetaryHave you ever walked in a Louisiana cemetery?  Passed through the shadow of a mausoleum hearing nothing but the crunch of gravel beneath your feet? The sound ricochets off the stone making you wonder if you are really alone. Your eyes glance over your shoulder before rationale kicks in. Nothing to see but a tombstone maze and names begging not to be forgotten.   Life hovers around the edges with the sound of passing cars and the cicadas’ song.  Oak branches embrace the weeping angels resting on top of the graves, consoling the guardians who are never off duty.

These monuments offer a physical representation for the lives they hold. We want desperately for their size to mirror the impact the deceased had on our lives, unsatisfied still with the stone tombs and mausoleums we erect to fill the void they left behind. Wishing we could fill the cracks in our hearts with the same hard stone. Wishing we could wrap ourselves instead in a concrete fortress where nothing has been lost.

The names and dates tell a story, but the story is not complete. There is so much more inside of the concrete.

 

 

me gotta go, me oh my oh

Me gotta go pole the pirogue down the bayou.

A few days a week, I venture out of the city. I follow the concrete away from the oak-lined streets, through the marshlands, over the Mississippi, and down the bayou.  It is a quick hour to the edge of the earth.  The distance isn’t long, but it is a far cry from the experience of the city.

New Orleans may be the heart of my Louisiana, but down the bayou is the spirit. Home of the hook setters, mud riders, feather pluckers, roux stirrers, and tail pinchers.  It has a humble beauty, not in the architecture or monuments, but in the love that is found there, unfiltered by formality.  The bayou quietly ushers water lilies downstream, occasionally getting caught by a closed pontoon bridge or a resting shrimp boat.  Life moves a little slower, but the love is louder.  This is where salt of the earth people are born.

When my husband came down the bayou to meet my parents’ friends for the first time at a boucherie (read: pig roast), I was surprised by his reaction.  It wasn’t the freshly-made gratons (read: pork rinds) or the stories shared in thick Cajun accents which would stun any city boy that made an impression, it was the people and their genuine affection for each other.  He noticed it first in my parents, unquestionable is their love for one another after 30 years of marriage. After witnessing the same in their friends, he had to hypothesize that maybe it was deeper than just their love.  Maybe it’s something in our muddy water that strips away reserve.  Maybe it’s just good Cajun genes.  Maybe without the noise of the city, people can turn their ears inward and find music there that just gets lost anywhere else.

Or maybe we were blinded by a pork-and-beer induced euphoria. It wouldn’t have been the first time.

Whatever it is, these people have it in abundance and that is what keeps me coming back every week. They set a high bar for us newlyweds and make life all the better.

Son of a gun, gonna have big fun on the bayou.

 

 

My imaginary friend is better than yours

Shotgun Sydney is a treasure hunter, both for beauty and booty. Her feet never tire of wandering; her hands relish the tightness of hard work.  Her senses embrace all her home has to offer.  With an observant and present mind, she cherishes the moment, taking in the warmth of the sun, the smell of moss, the taste of freshly boiled crawfish washed down with a cold six-pack of Dixie.  Anxiety and insecurity play no role in her world.

Shotgun Sydney is an alligator wrestler unencumbered by fear.  Tall marsh grass is merely a stepping stone as she is the predator, never the prey.  She is harsh and logical, strong and graceful.  She is not to be quarreled with. She fights for the people she loves and things she believes in, just like her mama taught her.  Uncertainty has not met her and is not welcome.

Shotgun Sydney is unapologetically herself.  An ability, in my experience, only afforded in one’s imagination. She is a manifestation of my most confident self. She is the owner and creator of my big girl panties.  I am her landlady and her rent is paid in the occasional burst of guts, nerve, and big brass balls.

Being a landlady to someone so potent isn’t such a bad gig.  In my free time, I’m a happy newlywed, dog owner, writer and obsessive reader living in double shotgun house in the heart of Louisiana. On any given day, while Shotgun Sydney is off fighting for world domination, the things that plague me are a little more down to earth:  How can I live on a diet of fried seafood and also fit my ass into these jeans? What is the most effective brand of doggy breath mints? What is our plan in the event of an apocalypse? How do I get my parents to call me less than 15 times a day?  Is it too early for a daiquiri?

The last one is easy, the answer is always no.  It is never too early for a daiquiri, especially in this great state where you can get them at the drive-thru.

There is so much love and so much to love this far south.  New Orleans is my home, Cajun is my heritage, and I take every available second to enjoy it (Shotgun Sydney in tow for emergencies).

So stay awhile, see if you like it here.  We sure do.