Saturday, April 28, 2012

Fri, Mar 30 and Sat, Mar 31: Back to Colorado

Friday, March 30th:

I was so sad to leave on Friday morning.  I would miss my friends, their relaxed lifestyle, their insights, and their kindness.  That morning, Chris found this brilliant green little tree frog looking guy hanging out just outside their door, and we all poured out to look at him.  The animals in Louisiana are so exotic to me, and I loved seeing this little guy who looked like a rain forest frog to me!  We headed out to breakfast first thing at a yummy little coffee shop/bakery near their home, and it was nice to get a good start to my day as I originally figured I'd just grab something quick on the road.    

At one point during breakfast, Becky and Nora headed off and Chris and I were chatting at the table.  I think one of the things that he and Becky really seem to appreciate about New Orleans is that people seem willing to just be their weird, unique, amazing selves and figure that if anyone has an issue with it, that's their problem. During the course of the conversation, Chris made a comment about embracing my inner freak.  I said something to the effect of, I want to, but at this point in my life she's buried pretty deep.  And Chris commented, with his typical piercing, no b.s. insight, "buried beneath layers of self-help books."  I'm sure I grinned, uncomfortable over so effectively being seen right through, but his comment made the wheels in my head spin in some pretty powerful new ways.

(Remember a few posts ago when I said I'd come back to the idea of being "broken"?  Well, this is the connection. :) )  

I'm not sure that I've ever even read a self-help book, but I think the point that Chris was getting at (or at least, what resonated with me about his comment) is that I'm always seeking ways to "fix" myself, to change the things about myself I don't like, to the detriment of all the things about me that are unique and have value.  This is something I have known about myself for a long time, but to have somebody else point it out to me made me really look at that tendency in a way I never have before.

As the world, Louisiana-style, rolled past me, I drank in my last sights of the state: the highway built up onto posts for crossing over bayous, wild thistles growing alongside the highway, thick forests of bright green trees, flat land whose water-soaked earth I could feel deep with my energetic roots.  I'm not sure how to adequately explain how Louisiana felt to me, even now after thinking about the experience for a month.  In Colorado, I feel like I'm *on* the land.  In Louisiana, I felt like I was *in* the land, energetically, as if the roots of my soul grew and flourished in the watery soil, even in the short amount of time I was there.  And when I left, my roots didn't go away.  They just kind of... retracted as the land became hard again.

In northwestern Louisiana, I stopped in the Shreveport area for dinner and a quick visit to Cypress Black Bayou Park.  I was sad that there were no cypress trees, but there WERE beautiful sweet gum trees.  We had a sweet gum tree on our campus at The University of Hartford, and I used to pass it every day on my way to class.  I always loved the exotic star-shaped leaves, and the spiky little orbs that house the tree's seeds.  I was also able to get a close-up view of the beautiful thistle plants that had lined the highway on my way north: 
Nature is so amazing, an the fact that the veins of the plant were the same purple as the flowers was so pleasing and soothing to me.

When I entered Texas on I-20, I was shocked to see that the highway exits numbered in the mid 600's.  I knew Texas was big, but I've never seen that many exits before!  The state was beautiful, lush, and green in the western part, with lots of trees and streams and wildflowers.
I've always wanted to see blue bonnets!

At one point, I stopped at a gas station and started pulling into a parking spot.  As I was turning into the spot, a group of adults ran in front of me and got into their van, parked in the adjacent spot.  One of the men in the group had this child-like smile on his face as he raced across the short stretch of pavement and practically dived into his seat in the back of the van.  I could feel his merry eyes on me as I unbuckled my seat belt, and our eyes met through our windows as I looked up to open my door.  He had an old, kind face, crossed with strong lines caused by years of smiling, and a head of thick, unruly white hair.  When I returned from the gas station store, I got back into my car, trying to avoid looking into the van and somewhat uncomfortable by the forced intimacy the closeness of our vehicles and the transparency of the windows created.  As I buckled in my seat belt, I could still feel his kind, merry eyes on me... and I figured, screw it.  I turned on my car, looked right up at him, gave him a warm smile and waved.  He waved back and offered me that child-like smile as his eyes twinkled at me through layers of glass.

I hope that when I am older, I can be so merry and warm.  Nah, forget that.  I wish that today I could be that way. :)

The sun set a soft, rich orange that perfectly matched the color of the brilliant orange wildflowers that flooded the land around the highway.  Again, as with the thistle, my eyes found this harmony to be so peaceful.  The moon, Jupiter, and Venus had been playing in the western sky for a while, and that night was no exception.  As I sliced through the edge of that massive state, the three were aligned directly in front of me like beacons guiding me along my journey.

I stopped for the night in Terrell, Texas, and slept deeply.

Saturday, March 31st:

When I woke up, I french braided my hair to the side again, which apparently is my new favorite style. I felt like an Acadian cowgirl as I hopped back into my car - not quite a horse, but as close as most of us get these days. :)

The morning was cooler than I would have liked (Louisiana spoiled me!), and a thick fog hung over the sky. I was a little scared as I wondered if it would rain and if there would be tornadoes, since I was in the heart of the most likely place they would occur at this time of the year.  Since there was nothing I could do about the weather, I contented myself with the knowledge that I'd keep my eyes open and try not to drive into a tornado if I saw one.

The land was greener than I expected for a long while into Texas, and there were still lots of trees even northwest of Dallas, though they were shorter and scrubbier than those in the east of the state.  Somewhere around the town of Bellevue, Texas, the trees really disappeared, and I began seeing the Texas that was always what I imagined when I thought of the state.  I was surprised, though, by how deep red the soil is.

Just outside of Memphis, Texas, the land turned beautiful and strange and amazing.  All around me, the earth was nothing but deep rusty red fields and unexpected buttes piercing the otherwise flat horizon.  Once I passed Memphis, the land began to resemble what I remember of New Mexico, with yucca and grayish green ground cover clinging to the dry soil.

This picture was taken just northwest of Amarilo, Texas.  (I always thought it was "Armadillo" and was really excited to maybe see more armadillos...).  Louisiana must have been reeeeally flat, because the reason I stopped here was what I felt like were breathtaking hills rolling off into the horizon.  Now that I look at the picture with Colorado eyes, it looks so flat! :)

Almost as soon as I crossed the border into New Mexico, I began seeing the strange sights of what was formerly a volcanically active land: blown out old cones of volcanoes were eroded into soft, strange hills that randomly dotted the flat silvery-yellow landscape, and there were random piles and fields of dark smooth volcano rocks all around me.

What a massive contrast this is to Louisiana:
It is amazing to me how different things can become in only a day's worth of driving.

As I traveled along Route 87, I began to realize that it looked extremely familiar.  It struck me that I was very close to Capulin Volcano National Monument, a sight that I attempted to visit almost a year earlier.  I sometimes visualize my travels as giant loops.  Some are left hanging for a while, but many are connected to new loops that I form as time passes.  I seem to be closing a lot of loops out here lately, and this trip was no exception.  As I passed Capulin Volcano, I felt a sense of recognition and satisfaction that I was somewhere I had already been.  There is something amazing about having so much of the country feel familiar to me at this point in my life.  It's a feeling, in a way, that there are many, many places that feel like home.

I returned to the interstate and wound up I-25 into Colorado, where I was greeted by this:
Yup, that sure looks like Colorado to me. :)

The sunset was a thin, watery, ethereal silver that spilled loosely over the mountains and the sky like watercolors bleeding across saturated paper.  It was strange that it made me think of water since my energetic "roots" were once again unable to sink themselves into this hard, dry land.  I liked it, though, and its contrast to the sticky-warm sunsets of the south, each beautiful in their own way.

There are so many more things that I want to see in the south, and so many small things that I didn't write about: seeing the Cities of the Dead from the highway, getting bitten by a fire ant at the park (which I wanted to happen so I could just get it over with and feel what it felt like), getting pooped on by a bird at the park (which I felt would happen from a flash of intuitive thought in Colorado)....  Another thing that my friends have expressed they appreciate about New Orleans is that they are able to manifest things pretty easily there. I'm wondering if I am too, but only as I'm writing this, because my intuition about the bird poop came true, as did my fleeting thought that I'd like to be bitten by a fire ant just to get it over with.

I think that New Orleans could teach me a lot of things, and did even in my brief time there.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Thurs, Mar 29, 2012: City Park, New Orleans

On Thursday morning, we headed over to City Park to participate in a playgroup for Nora.  It was about time we did something for her, as we'd spent the past couple of days running all over the state to do what I wanted to do. :)

Becky was kind enough to drive my car around for most of the time that I visited, so I was really able to take in the city.  We passed a bunch of these "Hollywood Trucks" trucks, and Becky commented that perhaps they were filming a movie.  Apparently there is a TV show filmed in New Orleans, but she said when they film the show, they usually don't have so many trucks.  We passed a house whose windows were covered in thick black fabric, with bunches of trucks parked along the street in front of it.  How cool is that?!
When we arrived at City Park, this was my first impression:
I was like "...What?  Palm trees grow here?"  I had no idea!

This is what I was excited to see, though.  The live oaks, draped in spanish moss:
There was so much wildlife out and about in the park, which was so surprising to me as it was still pretty much winter in Colorado.  If you look closely, you can see turtles lounging on the palm tree trunk that is sitting just on top of the water.
And... more palm trees...!
I think this is what is meant by the expression "get your ducks in a row". :)
We wandered off toward the playground, and I took a little detour to check out the trees.  They were so beautiful, with the sun filtering in through the fresh new leaves and hanging moss.
I looked up and was captivated by the tree lace that stood out dark against the bright sky.
The shapes of the trees were just amazing.
This old tree couldn't even hold itself up anymore!
Spanish moss is SO COOL!
I was able to take a picture of cypress needles.  Remember how I said they look like redwoods? :)
There were ducks everywhere!
There is a little area of the park that is just a grove of these massive old live oaks.  We relaxed there for a while, sitting in the shade and enjoying the trees.
In the center of the pond lay two huge white swans on top of their nest.
And apparently this is what is meant by the expression, "get your turtles in a row"... :)
The swans:
The live oaks:
There was this neat little railroad track running through the tree grove, and Becky said that they used to (or still do?) have a kid train that rain through the park.  See Becky's friend standing to the right of the tree?  Now you can see how enormous they are.
Looking... up....
More ducks!
We headed over to Becky's friend's house after the park so Nora could play with her friends.  Her house was so inviting and peaceful, and it had such a neat little house personality.  While we were outside, this awesome brilliant green lizard skittered its way across the side of her house, and I shrieked with excitement and probably said something amazing, like "OMG you have lizards?!"

Later that afternoon, we stopped by the French Market to pick up Chris and head to dinner with one of their friends.  The French Market was not what I expected - it was better!
Looking down the street from in front of the French Market:
I liked this fun little bike shop.  There was also an antique store inside, and we poked around, looking at neat old stuff, and I was freaked by a giant mounted deer head that Chris' friend sicced on me from over the top of a dresser. :)
During dinner, Chris' friend indulged me in a tarot reading, which turned out to be one of the best, most useful psychic experiences I've ever had.  I wrote down the specifics of the message that he shared, but the overall gist of it is that I will get what I want, soon enough, with hard work and reasonable expectations.  I like the sound of that, because both of those things are things I can do, and do well. :)

Did you know there used to be an active mint in New Orleans?  I didn't!
Thus marked the end of my last day in New Orleans.  I headed to bed, my head full of thoughts, my brain full of linking and thinking a lot.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Weds, Mar 28, 2012: Pass Christian, Mississippi

When I first started investigating New Orleans and nearby places, I was shocked to learn that Pensacola, Florida is only about 4 hours East of the city.  I really, really wanted to go there, until I realized that the trip would occupy the entirety of my 4 day long visit.  I wasn't willing to sacrifice that much time away from my friends, so Becky suggested that we visit a much closer beach in Pass Christian, Mississippi.

There were huge homes lining the street where we parked, and it was so cool to see structures that reflected my idea of Southern architecture.
The beach was almost completely deserted.
Becky suggested that perhaps the locals don't consider it warm enough out to go to the beach.  This was so strange to me... it was like 85 out and the water was the perfect temperature.

I was fascinated by this little gazebo/dock structure.  There were all sorts of random wooden supports that looked like they used to hold something interesting.  Now, they just stand like sentinels in the water, beacons for the sea birds.
The beach was so pretty!
There were several men were doing this sport... I have no idea what it would be called haha!  They weren't attached to any sort of vehicle, but were skiing on the ocean pulled by the wind filling these giant sail things.
One of the men zoomed down our way, and it was awesome to watch him skating over the water, propelled only by the wind.
I left Becky and Nora for a bit and wandered down toward the dock structure.
It was so peaceful.  The Gulf of Mexico was not at all what I expected (as seems to be the theme of this trip! :) ).  The water was almost stained brown, like tea.  Becky suggested that perhaps it's a combination of silt from all the rivers that empty here, in addition to the tannic acid from the cypress trees.  I think she's probably right, as the water had that same tea brown color as we observed in the swamps.
The waves here were different than I expected, too, especially in that they existed!  I guess I always imagined the Gulf to be more like a giant lake, but the waves flowed freely and relaxed, just like at beaches on the open ocean.  I thought it would be more like Lake Erie, where the waves are shallow and frantic and never rest.  Here, though, they took their time and gently tickled the shore, lapping at my feet with only a hint of tugging me into the ocean's depths.

There were birds perched all over the wooden structures left in the water.
And... I saw pelicans!  They were brown pelicans, which I guess are more common, but I don't think I've ever seen one in the wild before so it was awesome to watch them spread their powerful wings and land on the slender wooden posts.
You may notice that these pictures are smaller than normal.  That's because... I forgot my camera. :(  I was so sad!  My phone takes decent pictures, though!

There seemed to be a lot of oyster shells around and not much else.  They were beautiful, ranging from purple to golden to silvery to orange, and their iridescence played rainbows across their surfaces in the sun.

Becky's hat was folded into a pirate hat shape by the playful wind, which dragged the two men doing whatever that wind sail sport is behind her.
Day after day, the South surprised me with its gentleness and beauty.  I had no idea I would love this area of the world so much!

That evening, we all took a drive through the Garden District and Bayou St. John in New Orleans.  I was able to soak in even more of the character of this unique little city.  It has this air to me of enchantment and mystery, as if it's playfully hiding endless little secrets that it's willing to share with seekers.  There is a depth to it that really hooked me in.