Saturday, March 13, 2010


Outside, I hear the thunder rumbling. A crack at first, followed by the slow rumbling that reminds me of the belly of a beast. The rain is falling steadily outside, pitter pat, pitter pat, and I hear it running down the sides of the house. My mind is flooded with memory. Just for a moment, the flood of memory takes me to places all over. I am momentarily suspended in time, and I am far, far away from my neighborhood.
And I am back at home. The thunder in New Orleans was unlike the thunder here. It is much rainier in that Gulf region of the United States. In the summer in New Orleans, it is not uncommon to have a little thunder every day. Some summers, it will rain a little bit every afternoon...or early evening.
Summer in New Orleans can be stifling heat and extreme humidity to anyone who is not a native. I loved the summer in New Orleans, and the heat rarely got to me. Maybe because I have always lived in the South. The mornings in the summertime were not always hot, and sometimes that is when you could feel the breeze coming off the Mississippi. As the sun comes up over New Orleans in the summer, it is moist as the breeze brings in little bits of the Mississippi. The sun is not yet hot enough to create a sauna, but you can tell it is just over the horizon.
If you are not from New Orleans, you probably would complain about the humidity. You get used to it when you live there. I personally can almost breathe better in the humidity. When it is really humid, there seems to be an extra layer of haze that lies over the city. The sky is not blue and cloudy on those days, but instead takes on a kind of light grey to white.
But, the summers are constantly sprinkled with showers that offer some relief from the heat of the day. Almost every afternoon, the sky will darken up and thunder can be heard in the distance. It is so beautiful there. The sky may be bright blue and covered with clouds. Or the sky may be blue, and clear. Or it may be one of those hazy, humid days. Nonetheless, the sky darkens and the thunder begins to rumble.
The sun is often still shining as the thunder begins to rumble over New Orleans. It is like a hungry giant. It starts with a slow rumble, short and in the distance. The skies seem to start flickering at the first rumble. Slow and steady, the giant's hunger grows, and the thunder seems to roll through the streets of the Quarter. Gaining momentum and volume as it rumbles right through the city, thunder claps above your head.
And the sky sometimes opens up at this point. Sometimes even when the sun is still shining on the fringes of the skies. Summertime rain is fast and hard, often falling in huge drops...spotting the Quarter from the river moving in. Sweeping through the projects and the fauburgs and through the business district, and mellowing out after the first few minutes.
The first few minutes are rapid, and pelting and foreboding. If its not a big storm, the rain will quickly lighten up, and heads start ducking out of bars and alleys and restaurants. Hard and quick, duck into a bar for a shot, and the momentarily be on your way...the thunder seems to just rumble right past the sanctity of the Quarter.
Katrina was different, though. I remember hearing the thunder clapping, waking me up as I tossed and turned, sweating and kicking. I remember startling awake with each loud clap, jerking my eyes open to see the flashes bright across the sky. More quickly, the lightening and thunder came, until almost flashing and clapping in unison. Over and over again, the lightening is lighting up the sky...quick and fast like gunshots. And the thunder is rumbling and clapping so frequently it reminds me of an explosion. Violent and angry, this giant is way beyond hungry. He seems to have come with a vengeance.
The next day, as the sun rose with the waters, the evidence of the vengeful giant lay apparent to all the onlookers. The copper roof of the Cathedral is twisted and bent, while pieces are strewn about. The streets are covered in debris, as it was blown everywhere. Wood and metal and sticks and dirt and furniture and other coveted items. The wind has ripped through the city, leaving a path of destruction in its wake...only to be finished off by the rising waters.
Outside, the rain is beginning to slack off. The thunder has stopped. Looking out here, I see hills where the water is just running down the sides of the street. And I am reminded of living where it is flat. You could see for miles when you looked down the streets of New Orleans because it is so flat. The sky seems to hang down lower in the Crescent City, so low that some days it seems like you could touch the clouds. I miss the landscape down there.
I regret that I did not soak up the city the way I should have in the years I spent there. I missed out on just observing the lovely world around...the river, the old buildings, the history, the magic, the feeling that you get in certain places. I missed out on soaking up her energy and her vibe, and just reveling in that magical feeling the city provides. I was caught up in the grind, and I never stopped to admire this unique world. Now, miles and miles away I am taking notice of all the details I missed from just the memories in my mind.
I miss New Orleans terribly. She is never far from my mind, as I write about her...she cultivates and grows in my mind. My heart is never far from that home. And my body is never near that home. This is a better place for my life now...and mostly it is the only place for my son to grow up surrounded by family. We always come back home where our roots are. We may long for those days past, but we are grounded firmly by our roots. And I am blessed to be able to come back to my roots, that for so many years I refused to water....and they became brittle and dying. Until I was able to come back home to drink once again from the family well.

1 comment:

  1. Sweet post. Once you have children, family is all; even if it is just you and your children.