The first overcast morning in New Orleans feebly sprinkles tiny, warm droplets. It’s early and quiet. Something about rain, in New Orleans is strange, even as light and harmless as it’s falling now. My mind tired from a late night, drenched in green, gold and pearl beads and fake flowers in exchange for one St. Patty’s Day kiss on the cheek, after another. I’d just dropped off the rental car (driving to the office across town after reading the “closed – drop off at Convention Center” post-it note slapped over the “Open Monday 8am – 5pm.” It’s typical New Orleans.) Can we call a taxi for you? No I’ll walk. I’m already halfway out the door before they catch me with the receipt. I’m ready to go.
I walk through the gray morning. Trying to think about nothing after thinking so much the last few days.
It’s the sound of a lone trumpet, somewhere. It echoes off the high stone walls until it feels like I’m surrounded. (Stage Instructions: Cue the trumpet and please tell me what is this movie I’ve feel like I’ve been staring in lately?! I’m growing weary of the poignant moments…but here it is in front of me..) Playing through the morning fog the old gospel revival notes I know so well, “so sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me…” Then silvery notes get lost in the grumble of a delivery truck rattling down the street, the laughter of kids, the yelling of a thick man whose waiting for the traffic light to change.
As I keep walking, I find it again, a little stronger ”Once was lost but now am found…” My head aches, but it pushes my legs faster, stronger. Through the warm water and gray clouds, through the empty square, past the empty, folded chairs the street psychics had abandoned, past the giant silent church, past dark, quiet restaurants with rows of tables set in linen and china, waiting for the fever of another New Orleans night to begin, again. The final notes trickle slowly then cease, ”Was blind but now I see…”
The city exhales. Palm leaves rustle with the warm wind. A shuttered window slams closed. I keep walking.
It’s bittersweet. But how amazing is this? Being here, now. Living this, now. It’s not the best day, but I’m here. I would not be here, doing this now, but for a series of events–some amazing, some difficult. But all necessary. Now I’m seeing and feeling, in this moment, what no one else will ever see again.
Life is so abbreviated. How much time do I spend; running, chasing, worrying, fearing. Forgetting that, always, there is beauty to enjoy – even in these gray mornings. The gray itself is breath-taking. It’s different from anything else.
It’s worth the time it takes to walk home. In fact, I need to take time for myself and slow down to a walk. In writing about this morning, every morning, on this trip away, I realize I’ve found some perspective and peace, and acceptance that this too has meaning and purpose. It’s part of the adventure – not knowing what’s around the next corner. Just have to keep walking to it. What’s more, in these days, I’ve discovered something. Even though I’ve been writing since I was given a pink-paper diary when I was eight, I’ve been embarrassed by my clumsy prose and unsure what it was I wanted to say. Now, broken open, heart fluttering with nervous excitement, I’m somehow finding my own words. I’m finding my own voice. It’s not what I thought it would be, nothing really is, but it’s mine own and that feels good.
In the smokey distance, the trumpeter suddenly picks up the tempo and shoots out a happy, roller-coaster of a scale — keeping in time with my thoughts, or perhaps my heart keeping in time with his -– it’s a new, modified, jazzy version of Amazing Grace. Upbeat, hopeful, happy. My feet trip trying to keep up with the new pace of things.
It feels good to know again what I want and need. It feels good to realize I want to go home now. I’m ready. I smile. I suppose sometimes you have to leave. Get away from everything to know what it is you miss the most. To discover the things you think of when you are far away from all you recognize – those are the things that are most important. Those are the things worth keeping.
I make my list as I keep walking. The cozy little house with cedar shingles on Findlay Street, my peaceful little garden, my writing, the snow (oh the snow!), the bikes, the adventures of falling down and getting beat up and getting back up and trying again, taking my new nephew snowboarding, meeting my niece-to-be, laughing with my sisters, hugging my mother and father, talking to my brother, making new plans with old friends, living, realizing, learning – open and honest and kind as I can be – trying again, again, and love. Most of all, love.
He’s playing on the corner of Conti and Chartes. A faded, old accordion, that sounds like the French riviera forlorn but hopeful, playing in a faded vest and cap. I open up my wallet and give him every dollar I have. I want him to have it all and hold nothing back.