Written on September 1, 2005
Today I was thinking of a book I once read about my hometown, the city of New Orleans. The
setting was the mid-1800's, in the summer months, when the "fevers" beset the city and took the
lives of so many of its citizens. The name of the book escapes me. In fact, I actually remember
very little about it, except one quote, which has come to mind now and then ever since.
One of the principle characters was hosting a party in the midst of a Yellow Fever epidemic. A
friend questioned the host's judgment in partying, while death loomed all around them. "But, mon
ami," the host replied, "is that not the time when a party is most essential?"
I mention this not to emphasize the city's legendary capacity to party, but to note her citizens'
ironic sense of optimism and zest for life.
Very few citizens remain in their city today. I've seen New Orleans referred to as a 'ghost town,' its
people spread across the country in huddled groups of dozens or hundreds or thousands. Yet,
despite all outward signs to the contrary, it's difficult for me to believe that her spirit has
departed. New Orleans has survived wars, fires, fevers and floods. And, seemingly, the more
tragedy the city has absorbed, the more determined its citizens have been to rise from the
ashes.....the muddy waters.....the fevered sickbeds.....to re-group, re-build and re-consecrate
themselves to the celebration of life. And, somehow, the unimaginable horrors, the overwhelming
challenges and the mind-numbing sadness of this catastrophic event not withstanding, I want to
believe.....I need to believe.....that the soul of the city will survive. That it will celebrate life once
again. With the same zest and optimism.
Whisper a prayer for my hometown today, for her sad and scattered people, her helpless and
abandoned animals, her historic neighborhoods and familiar landmarks. Pray for the people who left
and the people who stayed. Pray for the rescue workers.
Pray hard. Pray as if the very soul of a city depended on it. -- Nancy
He will all loss replace,
With added grace,
Lay in the empty hand
No soul is left to drift
Unblessed upon time's sea.
The God who fills immensity
Himself will give,
And make it joy to live...
Though He may take
All else away for love's
Though idols break
And crumble into dust,
Though lips are mute in woe,
The infinite, in love, to fill
The rifted heart...
Complete His perfect will.
-- Author Unknown
For New Orleans after Katrina
Left on the rubble of the compost,
bloomed the perfect blue flower
happy in the day, though
tossed on a dimmer bower
than the garden trellis.
The careless gardener.
He'd dropped it there
to wither with the weeds
he meant to cull instead,
And, probably with regret,
thought it dead.
|With grateful appreciation to Catherine Wilson, who very kindly shared a
beautiful poem she wrote not long after Hurricane Katrina. She said:
"Just days after Katrina devastated that wonderful city, I was walking in the local city
gardens.....and found a morning glory vine that had been thrown with the rest of
summer's detritus onto a large compost heap. It bloomed there amid the carnage. I
wrote the attached poem dedicated to the city that will most assuredly bloom again."