From the moment of our arrival last week, we absorbed ourselves in the multi-sensory experience that is life in New Orleans: the perfume of river rich soil, dampness, life teeming among the constantly brewing and spreading green growth of tree, vine, and flower; the humidity that mists our hair and graces our skin; the color that thrives everywhere--the blossoms of crepe myrtles reflected in the aftermath of an afternoon rainstorm, ripple-less puddles holding still and perfect to mirror pink petals and twisting, cream-colored trunks. On the levee, we listened to the engines of tugboats groan and roar against the strain of moving barges upriver. Herons, cranes, and pelicans called to one another as they broke into the open sky from the sanctuary near the river edge. Here beyond levee and river bank, ancient cottages with delicately carved scrollwork and filigree lean into one another under the weight of Louisiana sun, paint colors burning against pale blue sky, and yards flanked with emerald palmetto, frond, and fern with bursting purple, pink, blue, and white blooms in shapes of every kind tucked between. Sidewalk heaves away from the wandering roots of oak and magnolia. Cemetery walls cradle fern in the cracks of white-washed stucco and brick. Shade and mottled light lessens the burden of afternoon sun. Clean-lined and playfully modern architecture sparkles like diamonds where old cottages gave way to the fatal surge of water six years ago.
This is the city I remember, the one that saturates the senses. New Orleans with her full skirts, heavily hued, breathing against the sultry wet air that river, lake, and gulf sweep her with. Tendrils of vine curl about her waist and flowers twist throughout her hair. Faulkner once described her as aging gracefully in the dark, but I see her as rebuilding her prime years once again, fostering newness with the break of spring into summer.