Chasing Contentment

Thursday, April 27

I spent two days this week in New Orleans and had a lovely time. I thoroughly enjoyed the yummy food and the delightful companionship of my friend, Aleece, and the shopping (she introduced me to LUSH and indulged my desire to go to Scriptura). But underneath the good time, there was an always-present awareness that we were in a city in distress.

Aleece and I visited the city this week with different perspectives. Aleece, her husband, and their daughter lived in New Orleans for several years, moving away almost exactly a year before Katrina changed everything. She saw the city through the eyes of one who loved it tenderly, as family.

I've always been a visitor to New Orleans. Mike and I spent part of our honeymoon there and have always loved returning for weekend visits. There's an energy to the city that hums constantly, and it's a vital place to be. I viewed it as a long distance friend.

New Orleans feels different now. There was fewer people in the Quarter than I've ever seen before. At one point, we were almost the only ones on the street, something I've never seen before.

There were stores and restaurants that were up and running, but right next door, there were places still abandoned... with broken windows still greeting the day. We ate dinner at Muriel's on Jackson Square where everything seemed perfectly normal, people laughing and living and eating (did I mention the yummy food?!). But the people at the table next to us were discussing Katrina's affects, and our waiter said he'd been working on getting his house fixed up. Even in places where first glance says 'normal,' nothing is the way it was before, and everything still speaks of uncertainty.

The majority of the businesses that were open for business had signs in the windows looking for workers. The entire city just felt uneasy, as if the parts that had their sea legs back still didn't trust them.

I drove into New Orleans Tuesday evening in a heavy rainstorm. As I drove across Lake Ponchartrain, I looked at the angry waters, all choppy from the winds and rain, and I thought about how calm the waters were compared to what they must have been like when Katrina pushed through. There must have been great walls of water, consuming everything in their paths.

As we drove on the interstate, I couldn't shake the images of people walking across them, trying to escape the horrors of the city. I was virtually untouched by Katrina, and yet she will always haunt me, if only for the people who hurt still.

Aleece and I ate and shopped and laughed about how it was money well-spent because the city could use all of the dollars we could drop in two days. It was good to be there together, to see it together.

She and I went on a business trip together last spring, and she commented on the different places we are personally now. We are better than we were a year ago when so many things seemed so bad.

I listened to a Toby Keith cd on the way home (until the XM came back into range), and I listened to the song "Forever Hasn't Got Here Yet," a favorite of mine.

Come on baby we're still together
This ain't as good as it's gonna get
I swore I'd love you 'til the end of forever
And forever hasn't got here yet

The lyrics were important to me a year ago because they gave me hope, and they are important to me today because they are a reminder that things can get better.

I wish that for all of us, for the city of New Orleans... that better days are on the horizon, that forever hasn't gotten here yet.

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, April 27, 2006  ]


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