I have written before why New Orleanians are New Orleanians, why we live here, why when we don't we wish we did-- oh, maybe that was a post as a guest on my better half's blog. I tell you what... here I sit yards from a levee that flanks a bend in the Mississippi, and I could just slap myself. Why, oh why, did I ever leave? Today I will write about just one part of this visit, just one reason why I'll have a hard time leaving at the end of the week. But there is more to come. So far being here has been an incredible bath in Louisiana culture. Much to say, much to consider, much to love.
Yesterday, my father and I spent part of the day walking the levee and exploring the batcher, which for you inlanders, is a strip of bog between river and higher land. The batture (pronounced batcher) fills and drains with river water according to season, weather, or time of day. It is a smidgeon of wildlife preserve, but somehow in that small space teems with multiple species of ducks and egrets who preen, pick, and bask in the dappled shade of vine, swamp willow, and cypress. There are traces of deer, rumors of boar, and hints of possum visits. My father and I wandered down a dry rise of land laced with shallow ponds of crawfish. We navigated rolls of dried mud which city workers piled to keep cars from the driving headlong into river. Poking our way with a long stick to fend off any wayward snakes, we made our way to the bottom where river lapped in a clearing of delicate willow. A dark-feathered duck slid gracefully from sky into water, then swam busily away as we stood to skip rocks and watch barge traffic. I saw a species of bird I have never once seen before here, a blue crane of sorts, and I could hear bustling in the wooded area behind me-- critters that scamper, peek out, and scurry away again.
When we hiked our way back up to the paved trail on the levee, we visually explored the expansive view: a series of parked barge anchors left to rust on the higher bank of an industrial site, dredging equipment, the turn of the levee that protected clusters of modest homes, backyards full of azaleas in every shade of red, pink, and white, an artist's studio with attached aviary, a red barn, and lush stands of spring-green cypress, massive oaks, magnolia, and fruit trees. The air is rich with flora and river. Even the water-churned soil adds a palpable tinge of breathable earth. This aroma, the slipping, patting sound of moving water, the humming dredge in the distance, the taste of river-scent are like the beckoning sirens of Greek lore calling, luring, gently pulling me to stay here.
If I could I would. The city of New Orleans engages me enough, but add to that the romance of bayou country... sigh, deep sighs. Just wait till I tell you what I've been eating.