I witnessed a pretty remarkable sunrise in City Park the morning after I published that last post. I captured some photos over the course of roughly thirty minutes, and was very pleasantly surprised when I scrolled through those photos later.
The way the light and sky changed depending on where I pointed my iPhone, and the varied focal points — it all made me feel like I had covered far greater ground over a much longer time. I look at the photos now and still feel a certain sense of accomplishment, however unwarranted it might be. Hey, I’ll take it where I can get it!
This is my first time sharing these photos, and it’s also all I have for this post. I figure it’s the equivalent of 5,000 words…
I considered titling this post “A Slice of Stay at Home,” but since only one of the pictures is from inside my home, I figured that might be misleading.
Maybe “A Slice of My New Normal” would be more appropriate. I was coming up empty on topics for this week — I haven’t read anything of note since Macbeth, and I’m taking a little break before diving into a new (for me) classic. It will most likely be The Canterbury Tales.
But I digress. In lieu of anything else, I figured I would share some photos from my iphone, captured over the course of a week. Most of them are from New Orleans City Park. I live a block away from City Park, and I’m very grateful for that!
Even pre-pandemic, I was in the park for exercise, maybe three times a week. Now, with no morning commute to contend with, and with the sun rising earlier as we move toward summer, I’m usually able to get out for a sunrise walk most days of the week. A bonus for heading outside that early: it’s very easy to maintain social distance.
I put my favorite photo of the bunch at the top of the post. The rest are in chronological order.
On April 11, 1814, Napoleon Bonaparte abdicated the throne of the French empire, and was sent off to exile. The first time he was exiled, it was to the relatively accessible island of Elba in the Mediterranean. (Those seeking to be done with him would not repeat the mistake — the second and final time he was exiled, it was to the island of Saint Helena in the south Atlantic Ocean. This place is exceedingly remote, even by today’s standards.)
I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time with Napoleon in the past year. I read The Count of Monte Cristo in the middle of 2019, and that book is set in the immediate aftermath of Napoleon’s reign. And Napoleon’s all over War and Peace. I’m 89% of the way through Tolstoy’s epic, and currently in the story, it’s October 1812 and Napoleon is hightailing it out of Russia.
Napoleon’s doings seemed to be the cause of a lot of uncertainty back in the day. I’d never really thought of it that way before, I think because I tend to look back at history as a concrete thing. “This happened, and then this happened because of it, and these were the effects.” But reading War and Peace has put me right back in that time, as only good fiction can. I felt the uncertainty of the characters as Napoleon’s army came into Moscow, and I feel it as the French abandon a burnt-out city and country.
It’s hard not to draw parallels with our current level of uncertainty.
So on Saturday, when I read that it was the 206th anniversary of Napoleon’s abdication, it had a little more impact than if I had not spent the better part of this past 12 months in Napoleon’s world. It was like a reminder of the fact that the French really did leave Russia, and Napoleon was forced from public life, eventually. And, oh yeah, he’s been dead for almost 200 years.
The live oak pictured at the top of this post could have been around 200 years ago. It’s not far from some oaks that are believed to be between 750 and 900 years old. While it may not be too long before we can all say, “this is what happened as a result of our 21st century pandemic, and these were the effects,” that’s little consolation for our immediate anxiety. Thinking of what that tree may have been around for, and seeing it still standing strong, makes it feel like a beacon of hope.
Around this time every year, I usually see the duck couples. Waddling around in pairs, touring the local environs. I’ve always fancied they’re house hunting, or habitat hunting, or something.
Several years ago, I remember a pair walking down the sidewalk in my Mom’s neighborhood. Mom’s been gone more than 5 years now, so maybe this was 7 or 8 years ago? Her house was a good half block of paved street away from the nearest water source, a drainage canal.
This pair took a detour onto her lawn and perused her garden, then continued down the street. Why they chose to waddle, and not fly, I couldn’t tell you. I’m not fluent in duck-speak (though I kinda wish I was). I suppose you get a much better feel for a place when you’re on the ground, rather than many feet above it.
I had a surprisingly emotional reaction when I encountered a duck couple, just a few days ago. Yes, it’s the time of year I’d expect to see them. But so much is extraordinary about these times we find ourselves in, I was touched to happen upon something so ordinary and expected. I guess it’s business as usual for aquatic fowl.
Since I’m accustomed to practicing social distancing with wildlife, it was business as usual for me, too, as I observed the pair for a moment. I hope they find what they’re looking for. And I look forward to seeing more duck couples in the few weeks ahead, and then certainly again next year.
The couple from a few days ago is pictured above. Below are some other photos I captured on that solitary, sunrise walk.
So, a couple of things. First, it’s rapidly becoming clear that New Orleans is a hot zone for the COVID-19 outbreak. While these are strange times all over, it feels extra strange and scary here. It doesn’t take a great leap of logic to assume that this contagion was silently spreading among us as the city celebrated Mardi Gras, just three weeks ago.
Second, I continue to read Tolstoy’s War and Peace. (Why wouldn’t I continue, now that isolation is the order of the day/week/month?) I’m at the spot in the story where Napoleon’s march on Moscow is imminent. This quote struck me in a particular way as I read it:
“As the enemy closed in on Moscow the attitude of the inhabitants to their situation, far from becoming all serious-minded, actually became more frivolous, as always happens with people who can see a terrible danger bearing down on them.”
Now, New Orleans is not Moscow, nor is this viral pandemic Napoleon. But New Orleans is no stranger to either war or epidemic. We had our own war in 1812, the same year Napoleon invaded Russia; and yellow fever was a major scourge to New Orleans for most of the 19th century.
Which brings me to the title of this post. It’s from a prayer, specific to the Archdiocese of New Orleans. I’m pretty fond of this prayer. While I don’t know all the details of its provenance, I assume it was crafted with the intention of stemming the tide of gun violence in our city. Now feels like a good time to share it.
A few notes, regarding some very New-Orleans-Catholic references: Our Lady of Prompt Succor is the Virgin Mary, a long-time patroness for the city. (Prompt succor means “quick aid.”) Mother Henriette DeLille was a woman of color who founded the Sisters of the Holy Family holy order in the 19th century.
Here’s the prayer. May you read it with the faith that we will get to the other side of all these scourges.
“Loving and faithful God, through the years the people of our archdiocese have appreciated the prayers and love of Our Lady of Prompt Succor in times of war, disaster, epidemic and illness. We come to you, Father, with Mary our Mother, and ask you to help us in the battle of today against violence, murder and racism.
We implore you to give us your wisdom that we may build a community founded on the values of Jesus, which gives respect to the life and dignity of all people.
Bless parents that they may form their children in faith. Bless and protect our youth that they may be peacemakers of our time. Give consolation to those who have lost loved ones through violence.
Hear our prayer and give us the perseverance to be a voice for life and human dignity in our community.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Our Lady of Prompt Succor, hasten to help us. Mother Henriette DeLille, pray for us that we may be a holy family.”
Today is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. Yesterday was the end of all the festivities that make up the Mardi Gras season in New Orleans.
I’ve come to realize over the course of many years of adulthood that Lent fits into my lifestyle more easily than Mardi Gras does. Especially my writing lifestyle. When you work full-time, and focus on writing during your “margin” times, I look to the weekends to make progress on my works-in-progress. Or at least think about making progress while I’m doing laundry and other stuff I tend to save for the weekends.
This year, I made a conscious effort not to feel guilty or anxious about the writing I don’t do over Mardi Gras. I had some success; I certainly felt more at ease with the frivolity this year than I have in years past. That writing anxiety is pretty much antithetical to the whole spirit of Mardi Gras, and I would hate to be against the spirit of the season.
Making progress on positive, life-affirming goals — writing and otherwise — is what Lent is for, anyway.
I watched the ‘tit Rəx Mardi Gras parade this past Sunday. I like this parade’s contrarian aspect; while most of Mardi Gras is about doing things in a big way, this parade celebrates small things.
It’s even in the name — “tit” is pronounced “tee” — the shortened form of the French word “petit.” By way of example, former quarterback Bobby Hebert, a.k.a. the “Cajun Cannon,” has a son who’s known around these parts as T-Bob Hebert. So think “T,” or little, in place of junior.
And I always think of a dusty memory from French class, many, many, years ago: I was told that certain French speakers would sing The Beatles song “Let it Be” as “les petites billes” (sounds like lə p’tee bee), which means “the little marbles.”
Anyway, just another example of how the French word for “little” winds up becoming / sounding like “T.”
More contrarian things I like: how the name sounds just like the king of the dinosaurs, T-Rex, yet there’s nothing big about this parade. Also the schwa, or upside-down “e.” It was instituted as part of the name several years after the parade was founded, to circumvent a claimed copyright infringement from a behemoth of a carnival krewe.
As an aside, I spent way too much time trying to figure out how to type a schwa, until I just wound up copying and pasting one. Why do I insist on making things harder than they need to be?
That last question is probably the subject of many blog posts, or perhaps an epic novel. But in the interest of keeping things small, I’ll conclude with a few pictures from the ‘tit Rəx parade.
Saturday was the 10th annual roll of the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus! Chewbacchus is a science fiction-themed Mardi Gras parade; this was my 6th year taking part as a Leijorette. (The Leijorettes dress up as Princess Leia from Star Wars and wear boots — originally conceived as Majorette boots — thus, Leia-jorettes.)
Here are some links to Chewbacchus-related posts from prior years, if you’re curious: 2016, 2017, 2019
For the first time since I began marching in this parade, it concluded in the French Quarter, which was pretty awesome. It was a clear, cool, night, and passing by Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral was quite an impressive sight. (It happened too quickly for me to get a picture.)
I’ll conclude this post with some pictures I did manage to capture…
For the 4+ years I’ve been at this blog, this is the first time Christmas has fallen on a Wednesday. And since Wednesday is my posting day, I thought I would take this opportunity to say “thank you.”
Thank you to everyone who takes the time to read these musings.
Thank you for your generosity with likes and follows.
Thank you for coming back to this space, time and again.
I wish I could tell you that there are big plans ahead; that this blog will finally settle on a theme; that you’ll be amazed at the content you’ll see in 2020. But I can’t tell you that. There are plans, but they are small. The theme will continue to meander. Perhaps you’ll find some upcoming content amazing, but I firmly believe amazement is in the eye of the beholder. So I’m not comfortable making such a blanket statement.
Instead, I’ll just reiterate my gratitude, and wish everyone very happy and peaceful holidays.
For this week’s post, I’ll be light on narrative. Thought I’d share some pictures of a few uniquely-New Orleans holiday things. Not featured: the renowned Celebration in the Oaks in City Park. I won’t make my trip there until next Monday. Though I did post at least one picture last year, if you’re interested: Click here
Most of the pictures here are from “Lights on the Lake,” a boat parade on Lake Pontchartrain. Held this past Saturday, it was my first time attending. It got a bit chilly after the sun went down, but other than that, it was a lovely time.
Captions explain the non-lake pictures. Happy Holidays, everyone!