LOUISIANA ON MY MIND —
in the time of the virus
I am thinking of some of my most treasured relationships. People in Louisiana. Friends and family.
Many Louisiana friends are “storm friends”. We came to know one another in the aftermath of Katrina. We’ve seen horrible stuff. We’ve hugged in a street surrounded by wreckage, when everything was gray dust covered, with the smell of salt and mold in our noses. While birds were still away — wherever they’d blown to.
When the world was quiet with loss and death.
I’ve seen my storm friends heartbroken and out of their minds. I treasure them. I trust them.
I have relatives there too — in small and larger places in south Louisiana. We share vital history and a general Cajun mistrust of officialdom. Call it a healthy skepticism about policies and rules. And uniforms. And paperwork. That thread of mistrust goes way way back. Way. Way.
We descend from people repeatedly compelled to flee or forcibly displaced. Presumed ignorant. Language punished. Culture denigrated. We are good at living in the estuaries. Those difficult in-between places that require you to be both/and. Places that demand humor. No one who lives in these places has any sense of entitlement. To anything.
I don’t wonder that amongst my relatives there is mistrust about the virus alarm. Some of my peeps can’t imagine that any constraint could be for their protection. That’s not our history. Our history says rules weren’t written for our benefit. Rules are written to deny freedom, keep us from navigating estuaries we call home. The places we sought refuge.
I don’t blame my relatives for rejecting the narrative. For suspecting motives. For assuming that the rules and the relief aren’t designed for them. I don’t blame them. But I hope this once, they will stay home.
Please. You are precious. You are the last of those who don’t take themselves too seriously, who will feed whomever turns up, who will drop what you’re doing and come help a stranger as if they were family. You, or someone you know, will have a boat, a pickup truck, a chain saw and a fishing pole. And a pot of beans and rice on the stove.
We Cajuns are accused of living too much in the past. Of sanctifying the dead and reliving things that never happened. And laughing through pain and loss. All true.
In the swamps, in the estuaries, memories and stories have always been more certain, more reliable than plans for the future.
In the place called the future, the only guarantee is that the wind and tides will continue to try to wash us all away.
But sha- our spirit is not extinguishable.