Perhaps you will recall the end of August 2005 and what happened in New Orleans. It was all over the news for weeks. But unless you’ve lived through this experience or visited in one of the many volunteer groups or came as a tourist and took the disaster tour, you have no idea what it was really like after the water let into our city by the failed levees was pumped out.
My family had to leave the city in September, 3 days after the storm. We floated and biked out and were rescued by my hero of a brother after tag team phone calls to Chicago, Kentucky and back to Louisiana. We ended up in Austin with in-laws. I returned 10 days later, after making sure our daughter was settled in a new school the day after Labor Day, purchasing a replacement truck for the one the drowned in the driveway and finding a place to stay with family friends so I could get back to work and begin recovering and rediscovering our lives.
We weren’t able to clean the bottom of our house out until October because a second storm caused the National Guard to literally kick in doors and make sure that people were *not* in the city. That would be NO people anywhere in the city.
At the end of 2005 November our lives here in New Orleans were pretty bleak. Everything in our yard was dead except the 2 larger trees and 2 camellia and the rose bushes. Everything had sat in 3 feet of brackish water for 10 days... There was nothing but brown grass, no flowers... no bushes..... nothing alive. Silt had dried to a fine cracked patchwork of crust on the sidewalks and driveways and it crackled the first time it was walked on. It was later either shoveled into what should have been lawns or gardens with a flat head shovel, or swept or hosed away into the drains. We had a mercifully after all that water, very dry November, There was very little chance of rain washing the crust away.
Everywhere in the city you could tell where in the city the water had been by the fact that all the grass and landscaping, while there, were dead brown looking like a drive through sepia photograph of real life. When the debris was hauled away all that was left was dirt. Talk about darkness. Nothing is sadder than a large dead magnolia tree, its large stiff leaves and flower buds brown on the branches.
But our bottom floor was gutted, our top and main living floor was undamaged, we had electricity in the house but no gas to heat it, my daughter’s school was open and the whole family including the dog who had ended up in California and the cat who escaped during our escape and had to be whispered home by my husband, were all back home.
So I planted nasturtium seeds and sweet peas in the bones of the back garden,
Petunias in a pot on the front porch,
Red Clover in our front yard and Rye Grass in my mother-in-law's yard next door…
Mustard, Dill, Coriander, Broccoli, Arugula, Leeks, Carrots, Kohlrabi ... in the vegetable garden.
As I dug in the vegetable garden the dirt looked great. Turns out that standing water is great for fixing nitrogen. And yes we tested the soil and it was fine.
By the spring of 2006 the nasturtiums are a roaming riot of color, yellows, orange, deep russets.
The sweet peas: pink and purple and white.
The mustard is huge! 3 foot long leaves.
The arugula has been great in salads for many weeks and is now going to seed in lovely pale cream flowers.
The carrots are up. The dill and coriander and parsley look great.
The leeks are skinny but growing.
The red clover is starting to bloom. The back yard doesn't look like a yard but a lovely meadow of red and yellow.
Salvia red, white and pink are coming up the yard because it has not been mowed... no lawnmowers, lawnmowers do not swim.... no yard workers for hire either.
Tomato plants have volunteered in one of our patio circle gardens.
Johnny Jump ups have jumped up in the same containers that they shared with now dead kumquats. Wait.... one of the kumquat sticks is starting to leaf.
Now instead of one large lantana we now have (coming up along the periphery of our meadow) 3 lantana plants.
The fig tree is in leaf. The grape is starting to show leaf buds.
Oregano popping up out of the cracks in my patio.
Spring is here and there is life leaping out of the ground.
Out of all that darkness... vibrancy.
Find it in your lives..... Hope. Live.
This is what the Spring Equinox celebration is all about.