03 December 2014

Na Floresta

I spent Thanksgiving in Picayune MS on acreage belonging to a lesbian couple. I was the invited guest of one of their dear friends. Their house is a work in progress, mostly a bio- and eco-friendly design sensibility with a good measure of that "raw" resourcefulness that I find so prevalent among the people of the Gulf Coast and bayous.

A kitchen, dining area, living room and sleeping space occupy the main house, a massive, many-windowed structure built 11 feet off the ground. The approach crosses an open, circular, grassy area bounded by a delightful variety of structures and semi-structures and work areas and projects-in-progress; then, up a flight of sturdy but irregular steps to a balcony-porch that overlooks the yard...and beyond into woods.

They are flood survivors. They have learned some lessons. The house sits on stilts. The only visible evidence of prior flooding were the deep ruts in the road leading back to the house, some still cupping water. Nothing close to the water content in this accompanying photo (borrowed from Porter Briggs website). But I did have my first up-close encounter with a cypress tree on a walking tour the day after Thanksgiving.

Cypress is tightly interwoven in so much of New Orleans' history, something I learned while living there right after Katrina. I had read of cypress and heard of cypress and witnessed damaged cypress and signed petitions for the protection of cypress...  But I had never actually seen a living cypress. They are majestic and mysterious like redwoods. They embody stillness --  and demand it. Their silence is eloquent and sacred. Strange, yet also familiar in a timeless, fundamental kind of way.

We were seven for Thanksgiving dinner, two men and five women. The table was beautiful -- if I can ever figure out how to make stills from the video I shot, I will post some pictures. The food and drink -- with the exception of water -- were delicious and plentiful. I was grateful. I gave thanks.

Except for A, we were a decidedly "middle-aged" group. One of the hosts had had a stroke the week before The soundtrack for the day was provided by Pandora radio via M's laptop; it was not "middle-aged." It was mostly what I would call "club" music:  music designed for dancing, drinking, drugging and finding a sex partner. None of us danced.

I will be 60 years old in a few weeks. I feel it in my knees. And my neck. And, with particular weather patterns, in my hands. I felt it on Thanksgiving as dance music boomed and I remained seated. And I felt it in the forest, standing with the cypress, deeply grateful for a silent, uncomplicated encounter with another living being.