August 29th, 2007

make levees

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when i woke up this morning, i thought i would just let today's date roll away. i wasn't going to think about it. i wasn't going to post. i'm not a sentimental person. i forget birthdays, anniversaries, other occasions for which i am usually reproached for letting slip the abyss of my mind. i've never had a head for numbers and dates fall in that category. i'm not sure how it is then that i remember today. but i do. and i remember exactly where i was at this time two years ago.... sitting in my office in new orleans east wondering "what now?"
bah, if i'd known then what i know now. hell, if i had known just the day before what i know now. i don't grieve my losses, though i lost everything. in a personal way, i thank Katrina. she taught me to prioritize. she taught me what is really important in life. she taught me to minimize - even more than i had. she taught me the value of friendship. i didn't struggle to rebuild and even that makes me grateful for the complete loss i experienced. i often joked that i was lucky i didn't have to clean out my fridge because it was gone.
this doesn't mean i've forgotten the negatives in her wake. this doesn't mean i have taken lightly the loss of lives, both human and animal. i haven't forgotten. this, i never will.
i never gave up on new orleans. i was back in the city weeks before i was allowed to be. it is only by new circumstances that i am not living now in new orleans. i am just within in her reach in slidell. it hasn't crossed my mind that new orleans isn't home. people ask me where i am from and i still say, though with a strange mix of pride and shame, New Orleans. after all, i still pay a slip fee and utility bills every month. i still go to school there. :)
yes, new orleans is my city. i am proud to swim home. i still believe we will recover. we must. we are a stubborn kind, those of us who stay. but i think we have to renew our strengths and we have to fight harder to not just rebuild, but to reclaim. there is more than enough political diatribe on the web today, this anniversary of governmental disgrace. the arguments are all the same. i won't bother. today i don't seem to have the energy. but those of you here, you know the fight. don't state solutions, we all, each and every one of us, must become a part of them.
Never give up. Never give in.


image from mysticknyght


i've written often of the propensity for life to sweep you up, shake you around a little and toss you across the room. my life does this on a regular basis, so maybe it has provided me with the gift of bouncing back from wherever i am tossed. but every time i land, i have a new perspective, even if a bit dizzy. so it has been with the last two years. i am still a bit dizzy.
in january of 06 i managed to articulate what i call my katrina optimism in a letter to katrina. today i re-read it. i feel the same.



Dear Katrina,


In just a few short hours you completely changed my life.

I want to thank you for showing me how to put things in perspective. You taught me how important the intangible things in life are, and how unimportant the tangible things should be.

You took from me all my jewels, to show me how blessed I am to have the gems of family and friends. You ripped from my home, long cherished sentimental possessions only to remind me that memories are in my heart, not my hands. You scattered and tore from my closets the clothes that kept me warm to show me that warmth can be found in the home of kind strangers. You destroyed the escape of my movie collection and television to remind me to go out and be. You ruined all my books, many of which I should have long ago donated after reading. You washed away my car to let me experience what so many less fortunate do. You sent me to the shelters to teach me humility.

I had to spend hours just trying to remember the things I owned to learn if you can’t remember what you have, you have too much. Now, before I make a new purchase or bring another trinket home, I stop and think, “Will I be upset if I lose this tomorrow?” If the answer is yes, I pass it by. I had become too attached to “things” and less attached to people. My home became my haven, a place I would hide on days off, turning the phone off and diving onto the couch with a remote control. I should have gone to the park while the trees were still there. I should have forged better relationships with my neighbors then instead of now while we find each other’s belongings in the mess.

Katrina, you tried to shove us into a sense of community – instead, many of the threads of community unraveled. We scattered, we ran, and most may never return. Remnants of empty homes will long serve as a reminder of your wrath. Yet, those who have returned brought with them a new bond. We talk to each other in the grocery store aisles. We build roofs together. Some of us have more patience in traffic. Though we shared before the same streets, the same schools and churches, and the same parks, we now share the same story. It took us a while, but our sighs and cries have turned to strength. We will recover, rebuild, and renew. I hope we can learn to do it together, as a community.

Katrina, you were a tragic teacher. Your lessons will not soon be forgotten.

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