This post was originally shared in March of 2013. As the weekend rolls on, it continues to be clear that it's difficult to ignore such a huge, life-changing event, as Hurricane Katrina, the subsequent levee tumble, and the drowning of our City and our lives. Everyone deals differently. The short story below was published in New Orleans by New Orleans. Writing, photography, and collage are my ways of dealing. Et, voila!
Once full-flowered, fragrancy of citrus, delicate pale pink, and dangle dancing in the breeze to the Neville Brothers notes floating into the garden from the Jazz Fest around the corner; I'd grown tall from reaching for the sunshine you feel when you're firmly planted in just this New Orleans soil. I loved New Orleans. New Orleans loved me back. Where else in this wonderful world can you trumpet your loves and individuality to a Louie Armstrong tune?
Today, I'm a ghost who haunts our garden. Flood waters from, broken levees rotted my roots. See those filthy brown lines on my wavy wooden fence. The top one is as high as the water got. That thick, brown, gritty one is where it settled. I sat there for a week.
All that remains of me are tall, white, skeletal stems of fingered branches that still grasp for sunshine, but in futility. You can't be fed when your roots are rotten and you are planted in toxic soil.
So I sit. I wait. I tremble. If a strong wind came along, I would be blown over or away. Even so, every morning she comes. She turns on the hose. She waters my bones. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because it's what she used to do every morning before she went to work. She has no work. Maybe it's because I was part of the pieces that had been cut from the trumpets of her friends, and then rooted and cultivated in our gardens of friendship and flowers. Does she think she can bring everyone back? I don't know. She doesn't know either.
Here she comes. She's turning on the hose. She always starts in the back where the cinder block walls tumbled and fences are gone. She's crying again. Always. I wish I could wrap her in my fragrant flowers and lush green leaves once more to comfort her. But, she's stopped. She's thrown the hose down. The water snakes all around her and over her until she's soaked to the bone. She screams: "I'm watering dead things!", and goes to turn off the water. On her way back, dripping, she comes straight for me. I barely feel her damp touch as her fingertips move me from side to side. It's time. She places both of her hands down around my trunk where I feel nothing, and yanks me and my rotted roots straight out of the toxic soil.
We are quite a sight walking to the debris pile together. Her dangling damp hair, soaked short blue overalls and deeply treaded, steel-toed, Katrina boots; track a very wet trail down the drive. Me, I am so light that she can hold all 25 feet of me upright. I want to ask her to dance. I want to ask her to play the Neville Brothers for us one more time. I want to make her smile.
Even though she has to reach, she lays me gently on top of the debris pile that is as high as the top of her truck. I hear a whisper through her tears that trails: "If I had a gun, I'd..." I worry, even though I know she's strong. I watch her walk back up the drive, dripping. She isn't finished. I'm not the only ghost on Columbus Street. I know that some day this will be behind her. She will be able to let go and move on. That's when she's going to look back and remember. We will be dancing to the Neville Brothers together in our dreams.