Long Days of Travel Brought Me From My Home… November 28, 2009Posted by dianehuhn in Louisiana Wildlife, Photography, Travels.
Tags: Avery Island, azalea, Bird City, cammellia, giant egret, iris, Jungle Gardens, McIlhenny, Shonfa Temple Buddha, snowy egret, Tabasco
After my thoroughly informative and enjoyable trek through the world of Tabasco, it was time to head for the main attraction in my book–Jungle Gardens! I was a bit bummed that the sun had not decided to arrive while I was inside, but hey, it wasn’t raining so I decided I couldn’t complain too much.
So I headed back down the secondary gravel path to the main gravel path and hung a left, pulled in to the visitors center to pay my entrance fee and get my map to this 250-acre garden paradise. And not only did I not just get handed a map, I got a full blow-by-blow description of what awaited me around each bend by the most lovely and informative park attendant you could ask for. When I mentioned that this was my first trip to the island, Nonny grabbed her red pen and started circling and x-ing and drawing arrows to every little “must see” spot complete with reports on the wildlife she’d seen earlier that morning. I haven’t seen that many red marks on a piece of paper since I got the first draft of my senior thesis paper back from Dr. Sipher at SUNY, Cortland. But while I wasn’t too excited about those red marks, I was practically drooling over these.
So armed with my map, I headed for the car and vowed to stop back with my report. I barely made it to the first corner before I had to pull over and grab the camera. I mean, could you ask for a more inviting path?
E.A. McIlhenny, son of the famed Tabasco genius Edmund McIlhenny, was the visionary behind this one of a kind treasure. An ardent naturalist and conservationist, McIlhenny was dismayed that the snowy egret had been driven almost to the brink of extinction by plume hunters supplying the feathered hat industry in the late 1800s. In an effort to save these graceful creatures, he gathered up the remaining seven left on the island, and built them a large cage over a pond. He also once built a cage for some nutria that he imported to the island, but that’s a whole different story that maybe we’ll save for another day.
Anyway, at the beginning of the next migratory season, he destroyed the cages, let them head south, and hoped for their return in the spring. And return they did, with friends in tow.
Now this guy really probably shouldn’t be here at this time of year, but Nonny seems to think he probably lost his mate round these parts and is waiting for her return. Oh, just break my heart why don’t you. But he was good for a bit of comic relief to cheer me up from that sad thought.
Another of my egret friends dropped by for a spell. He was a bit shy at first…
…but soon decided I was just another harmless Yankee with a camera.
You know, these guys are so graceful in profile, but pretty darn hard to take seriously when you meet them face to face.
Geez, I could have hung out in this spot all day, but I’d barely made it a half mile on the four mile path and I was itching to see what was waiting for me around the next bend. Oh man, doesn’t that look like an inviting spot for a picnic on a lazy summer day? Well, as long as no uninvited guests stop by.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, but ah yes, I had to take this one.
And I suspect that road is the one more traveled since it brought me to this.
I mean, are you kidding me? How did this get here?
And what a view.
Ok, must come back on a sunny spring day when the azaleas and the camellias and the irises are in all their glory and the 100,000 birds have returned from their winter vacation to enjoy this amazing Louisiana treasure. I guess we’ll just have to see if I can wait that long, but sure enjoyed a sneak peek. Hmmmm…where to next? So many choices. So little time.
Peacefully I rest
Upon this lagoon’s bank
As pale green bamboo’s
Sway above my throne.
Clouds of blossoms
Soften the sifted light
Falling golden and misty
through the boughs above.
Long days of travel
Brought me from my home,
Yet I have known no hour of calmer rest
My thoughts are like
The swaying bamboos’ crest
waved to and fro
Above the rippling stream
Clear and blue
As from a glorious dream
Back to our Regularly Scheduled Programming November 27, 2009Posted by dianehuhn in Photography, Travels.
Tags: Avery Island, Jack Daniels, Jungle Gardens, Louisiana tourism, McIlhenny, red pepper sauce, salt dome, Tabasco
Hope y’all had a great T-Day. I certainly did. And yes, there was a bottle of Tabasco on the table. And yes, I splashed a good dose of it on my perfectly cooked turkey.
Alright, where were we? Ah yes, our lovely tour guide arrived right on schedule and in we went. We learned that Avery Island sits atop an enormous monolith of one of the three-count ‘em, three-basic ingredients used by Edmund McIlhenny to make his first batch of pepper sauce in 1866. As any good Tabasco-loving fool can tell ya, you’re not going to find anything in that famous little bottle but red pepper, salt and vinegar. Can’t get more pure than that.
So as you might have guessed, that enormous monolith is a massive salt dome. And when I say massive, I mean massive. This thing is taller than Mount Everest my friends, but only about 152 feet of it rises above sea level which accounts for about the only hill I think I’ve driven up during my tour of duty in south Louisiana. The rest of it descends for some eight miles underground. Holy moly! Talk about a journey to the center of the earth.
Alright, so how do you make three simple ingredients so tasty? Well, pick a peck of perfect peppers by paw first. And be sure to use the “la petit baton rouge” (aka “the little red stick” painted the precise color of the perfect pepper) to determine which peck of perfect peppers to pick or the fruits of your labor will be rejected by the designated McIlhenny descendant in charge of the metal cash box.
Next, get you some of that perfect Avery Island salt and toss it on that perfect peck of peppers and start mixing and mashing. Store the mash in a white oak barrel recycled from the Jack Daniels Distillery. But be sure to drill a hole in the top so the thing doesn’t explode and throw some more of that Avery Island salt on top of the lid and watch it harden like cement.
After a quick three years, pop the lid. Dump the mash in to a blending vat. Add some stong, distilled, all natural white vinegar. Stir it for five minutes each hour. Strain off the seeds. And viola, a recipe for success.
Alrighty then. There you have it. Be sure to make a stop at the Country Store after your informative tour for anything and everything Tabasco including a free sample of Tabasco ice cream. And no, I’m sad to say that I did not partake. It was ten in the morning and well, no kind of ice cream sounds appetizing to me at that time of day although I’m sure it’s an interesting experience.
Next stop…Jungle Gardens! AMAZING!!! Stay tuned to read about my adventures with the birds, the bees, the flowers and Buddha. What the what? How did this end up in southern Louisiana?
And Now For Something Completely Different… November 26, 2009Posted by dianehuhn in Family, Friends.
Tags: Family, Fishing, Friends, redfish, thanksgiving
a little Thanksgiving day cheer. So, I have been thoroughly enjoying filling y’all in on my amazing adventures on Avery Island, but Thanksgiving always holds a special place for a bit of introspection and the “Today I’m thankful for’s”. And well, today, as always, I am most assuredly thankful for, but missing, my wonderful and amazing family for their generous support and encouragement. But at the same time so I am most assuredly thankful for new friends that have most graciously made me a part of their wonderful and amazing families. No doubt that I am a truly blessed creature roaming the wetlands of south Louisiana.
And so my friends, I wish you the most amazing day today and everyday, and thank you from deep within for your friendship, love, memories, encouragement, and the countless gifts that you have so freely given to me. I know that my German blood often makes me a little too stingy with the “I love you’s” and all that warm and fuzzy stuff, but please know that I do indeed love and appreciate you. Dig in and enjoy my friends!!! And never forget that tomorrow may be too late to tell those you love that you do and why you do.
And I’ll take my leave now as I have a date with some redfish before my date with some turkey and gravy. Cheers!
As Hot As You Like It November 25, 2009Posted by dianehuhn in Photography, Travels.
Tags: Avery Island, backyard tourist, Captain Todd Casey, Iberia Parish, louisiana, McIlhenny, New Iberia, pepper sauce, redfish, Tabasco
As I saw the sign for LA-329 and headed south, I started to get excited at the prospect of visiting an island and happy that I was not going to be planting marsh grass upon it. Yes, folks, if you haven’t guessed by now, my destination was the famed Avery Island–home of a Louisiana concoction that has graced tables around the world since 1868. Tabasco that is, red gold, Louisiana tea.
Yep, it was my day to be a tourist, although, honestly, I kind of feel like a tourist everyday in Louisiana. And truth be told, I like it that way. I really don’t know what the future holds, or how long I’ll be a resident of this Sportsman Paradise, but I sincerely hope I never lose my sense of wonder and appreciation for the treasures my adopted home so graciously and generously offers up to us around each bend in the bayou and each curve in the river and each fork in the road.
Relieved that the persistent mist had given up on trying to dampen my day, it was still pretty downright gray, so when I saw this sign I decided to hang a left and spend a little time indoors hoping the sun would decide to arrive in the interim.
The first tour of day was about 20 minutes out, so I decided to take a quick stroll around the grounds and got a chuckle out of this piece of artwork. Legend has it that when the reds are a-swarming and a-schooling, they’ll bite on just about anything you throw at ‘em, including jalapeno peppers as Captain Todd Casey demonstrated in an infamous YouTube video that made the rounds to the in-boxes of most Gulf Coast fisherman a while back. Check it out. Some say it’s a hoax, but looks real enough to me and I’ve been on a few of those fishing trips when every cast either nets you a red, loses you a red or snaps your line. Talk about some fun!
Anyway, back to the subject at hand. I learned that Tabasco is the official pepper sauce to royalty and if you’ve ever sampled English fare, it’s not hard to imagine that they probably forego the standard two ounce bottles and opt for gallon jugs with which to stock their pantry.
And check out that crock! Wouldn’t mind having me one of those in the kitchen filled to the brim with that mouth-watering delight, the smell of which was in the air and most assuredly making my mouth water. Hey, is anyone looking? Maybe I could nonchalantly back the car up here and pop the trunk. Darn, how come I didn’t bring the truck?
Alright, let’s avoid temptation and a sure-fire way to land myself in the Iberia Parish Correctional Facility and head inside to learn a bit of history and the culinary genius behind this masterpiece.
As I waited for our guide to arrive, I met a lovely couple from down my way. They had made the trip from Lafourche Parish with two of their young grandchildren in tow to learn, to appreciate, and to savor all that Louisiana has to offer. While the young grand-daughter tried diligently to wrap her arms around an eight foot bottle of McIlhenny’s best which just wasn’t going to happen unless she spontaneously turned in to Stretch Armstrong, the young grandson explored an interactive map designating the some 130 countries to which Tabasco is shipped. I learned that the wife was originally from my beloved home state of Michigan. And I stumbled around for something pleasant to say when she responded to my question of “Oh, really. What part?” “Oh, yeah, Flint. Well, um, Flint is ni.., I mean, Flint, yeah, it’s pret…Really, Flint. No kidding. How long you been in Louisiana?” Hoping she’d say that she’d been here long enough to have escaped the devastation that has besieged the hardworking citizens of the town that General Motors forgot.
And just in time to save me from my mouth, our lovely guide appeared right on schedule. And unfortunately my scheduled blog time has come to an end for this morning. But y’all come back tomorrow so I can continue to share the oh so many treasures of Avery Island with you.
As Sweet As You Like It November 24, 2009Posted by dianehuhn in Ramblings, Travels.
Tags: Assumption Parish, bagasse, Community Coffee, Iberia Parish, St. Mary Parish, sugar, sugar cane
Alrighty, where was I? Ah, yes, 20 ounces of steaming goodness, $4 of jaw tiring jerky, and a full tank of gas. When you live on the bayou, well, let’s just say ya gotta head north if ya wanna head west unless you’re looking to give your vehicle a mighty expensive car wash. So up de bayou I went, hit Houma, and hung a left.
As I traveled through Assumption, St. Mary, and eventually to Iberia Parish, it reminded me of traveling the highways and byways of the midwest past seemingly endless fields of corn. No corn round these parts however, but most definitely mile after mile after mile of sugar cane. From what I understand, sugarcane was first brought to Louisiana by Jesuit priests in the 1750s, is now about a $2 billion industry, and employs some half million folks, many of whom I seemed to pass in the fields as they cut the cane and on the road as they transported it to the boiling houses. Sunday is no day of rest for the cane farmers during harvesting season which we’re pretty much in the middle of right now.
Love that Louisiana sugar in my Community Coffee, but I got to say that I was relieved that the wind was carrying those huge white plums of steam from the processing plants away from the highway cause let me tell you that ain’t no sweet smell to the olfactory receptor neurons my friends. But I think that odoriferous assault is only when they’re burning the bagasse which I gather is kind of like all the fibrous stuff left over after the refining process. But I guess it is pretty cool that a lot of the mills can actually use this stuff as biofuel to power their facilities and pump in to the consumer electricity grid. And there seem to be a thousand and one different non-food uses for the stuff from ethanol, to filler for paper production, to production of fibreboard and particle board, to every conceivable type of food container, to a ton of other products I’m sure that I just don’t know about. Geez, guess I need to learn more about this valuable Louisiana staple other than I love me some in my cup of Joe.
Anyway, as I drove along, windshield wipers clearing the seemingly endless layer of mist from my view, I gained a new appreciation for that white gold on my way to a site of another type of white gold and some red gold to boot. Life as a sugarcane farmer, like most agricultural professions, certainly can’t be easy. The sugarcane industry has taken some pretty hard hits from past hurricanes, especially from Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike. From what I understand, many of these farmers have been able to rebound, but unfortunately many have not. Throw in land loss and saltwater intrusion, and it’s not tough to imagine that it’s probably not going to get any easier for them in the near future.
Alright, so as I traveled along with LA-329 in my sights…holy cow, is it really that late already? Man, I haven’t shown you one of the 442 pictures I took yet, but unfortunatley it’s time to go make a buck to feed me and the Blue dog. See y’all tomorrow.
Head West Old Woman, Head West November 23, 2009Posted by dianehuhn in Bayou Life, Coastal Restoration, Ramblings, Travels.
Tags: Coastal Restoration, Community Coffee, LSU football, New Orleans Saints
So yesterday morning I decided to put a few chores on the back burner and head west for a few adventures. I’ve not explored much of the beauties of south-western Loozy, although if you want to get all technical, my intended destination would probably be more appropriately deemed to reside in south-central Louisiana. And while every day really is an adventure when living life in the Louisiana wetlands, I was yearning for some new vistas.
At 6:00 AM, I grabbed my coat and grabbed my hat (it was a tad chilly and drizzily), left my worries at my doorstep, and hoped the sunny side of the street would be at my back. Unfortunately, the sun never did make much of an appearance except for about 30 seconds on my way back east. Guess it just wanted to show those meteorologists who’s boss.
Anyway, I made a quick stop at a local convenience store to get a little more Community Coffee pulsing through my veins. When you get down the bayou, a lot of the convenience stores tend to exhibit a flavor all their own which is decidedly different from the typical, I-could-be-in-anytown-USA, northern Express Mart flavor.
When you patronize one of these spots, you’re almost guaranteed the opportunity to satisfy that grease fix that accompanies fried chicken whether it’s on a stick or served up in the standard red and white checkered cardboard tray. And if chicken doesn’t fit the bill, no worries. Shrimp, oysters, crawfish, catfish, jalapenos and a multitude of other such fare should grace the menu as long as you don’t ask for it lightly sautéed in a nice lemon-pepper butter sauce. Should you desire a little beef or pork, sausage biscuits and boudin should do the trick and the jerky products typically have an entire aisle to themselves. And if you’d like to wash down all that fried goodness with a spot of Jack, no problem, just ask the clerk to grab you a bottle from behind the counter. And if you got a few dollars left in your pocket, you can slip behind the red or green swinging doors and play a few hands of video poker to see if lady luck is on your side.
So as I prepared the perfect cup of joe, the usual gang was there decked out in their LSU caps, well-worn work garb and white shrimp boots. I had arrived too late for the play-by-play recap of yesterday’s Tiger’s game and too early for the predictions for the afternoon’s Saints game, but had arrived just in time for the another favorite subject…
“I heard they’re going to close that canal and put some kind of thing that lets the water flow through.” “You know, what they don’t think about is a back-up plan.” “Yeah, well I heard they was going to put a bunch of rocks out there.” And it basically goes on and on with a whole host of “I’ve heard’s” for quite some time until someone says “You know there’s only one thing that’s going to save us. And that’s if we all just get the #@$! out of here.” Laughter erupts for about seventeen seconds and then the realization hits that such a scenario could be all too true and to dismiss that painful thought as swiftly as it arrives, the conversation quickly moves to the “What they outta do’s”. And it’s too bad more of the folks in charge don’t sit in on some of these conversations, cause these guys know a whole lot about this landscape and how it works and some of those “outta do’s” are pretty dog-gone smart.
But, time was a-wasting. So, armed with twenty ounces of goodness, $4 of jerky and a full tank of gas, it was time to head up the bayou…but, unfortunately it’s now time to hit the pavement. To be continued…
If Birds Could Talk: The Great Egret November 21, 2009Posted by dianehuhn in Louisiana Wildlife, Photography.
Tags: ardea alba, egrets, great egret, south louisiana birds
Back by popular demand. Well, maybe not by demand. And I’m not exactly sure how popular the first two installments in this series were, but I enjoy these so just humor me, alright? Alight.
Back off buddy! That’s my crab.
Ok, ok, you can have it. Holy crap, how did this happen?
Ahhh! Come on. Leave me alone, would ya? I said you could have it.
Rahhhhh! I’m a Ningagret baby!
Dude! This guy has some serious issues.
Whew! I think I lost him. I’ll just go over to the other side of the canal if that will make you happy.
Oh my gosh! Are you kidding me? Fine. I’ll just hang with my friends the pelicans.
What the what? Come on people, can’t we all just get along?
Please don’t bite me. Please don’t bit me. Really, I’m just passing through to somewhere more peaceful. Please don’t bit me.
Ahhhh….that’s more like it. Wide open sky. Smell that beautiful marsh air. Now that’s what I’m talking bout, baby.
Lord have mercy! Am I on fire? Seriously, this is just not my day.
Night Heron Blues November 20, 2009Posted by dianehuhn in Louisiana Wildlife, Photography.
Tags: herons, night heron, nyctanassa violacea, south louisiana birds, yellow-crowned night-heron
So a couple of yellow-crowned night-herons (nyctanassa violacea) have been chilling lately in one of my favorite spots out in the marsh. As you know, I really do dig those big birds of south Louisiana. I guess, however, that I’d classify the night heron as more of a medium bird in stature when compared to some of my other larger friends like the pelican or the great blue heron or the great egret or a whole host of other more typical winged creatures down the bayou this time of year. But it’s smaller size certainly doesn’t diminish my fascination with it.
Some locals refer to this magificant bird as gros-bec (pronounced as grow-beck) which basically translates as “big beak” due to it’s shorter, thicker and very powerful bill.
As you might have guessed from it’s name, the night heron is pretty much a nocturnal hunter which makes it a little tougher to photograph. They also seem to be a more rare to see than other herons such as the great blue or the little blue. During my travels, I guess I’d say I see night herons as often as I see green herons, which, well, isn’t super often. So it’s a bit of a treat for me to great up close and personal with these guys.
But, like I said, they tend to feed early in the morning and later in the evening when the light for snapping a great shot is a bit more of a challenge. And I also find myself tending to lower my camera when they’re around to just sort of drink them in with all of their surroundings.
The night heron tends to feed on crustaceans, mollusks, frogs and insects. They usually wait in ambush mode at the water’s edge or stalk their prey when it’s dinner time. And when they’re ready to attack, attack they do.
Their favorite bayou delight is the crawfish, but hey, it isn’t crawfish season so I guess a little crab is a mighty tasty alternative.
And they definitely don’t seem to play around with their food too long.
This guy seemed to swallow his meal whole in twenty seconds flat.
And as the sun began to set quickly as it seems to do down the bayou at this time of year, it was time to bid adieu to my medium-sized bird friend and hope for another chance encounter sometime soon. I just really like this bird. He’s just got this Joe-cool, rebel without a cause look and feel to him…kind of the James Dean of south Louisiana birds…like if he were a person, you’d see him riding down some lonesome highway on a vintage Indian with the wind in his yellow crowned feathers.
What’s in a Number? November 17, 2009Posted by dianehuhn in Bayou Life, Louisiana Wildlife, Photography, Ramblings.
So in my last post, I basically let the entire world know (well, maybe not the entire world, maybe more like 5 people) that I just turned 40. And the other night the Momster called to wish me a happy birthday and was like, “I read on that Blue Dog thing (ok, Mom, it’s called a blog) that you are lamenting your age.” And well, that’s not really it at all. It’s really more like, “What? Are we sure about this math? Hold on a sec. 2009 minus 1969 equals…wait, let me try this with a calculator. Ok, then. 2-0-0-9 minus 1-9-6-9. Hmmm…that’s weird. I guess it does equal 40. Or maybe this is just some kind of new fangled math. Yes, yes, that must be it.”
And again, don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m upset about this or something. I mean, I’m not having a mid-life crisis or anything. It’s just kind of weird, you know? Like…ok, hmmm…strange how that time thing works isn’t it? I mean, when I was a youngster, I pretty much figured I’d never make it past 30 so I think I kind of had my mid-life crisis at 15. And I’m sure the Momster will attest to that. Why I thought I wouldn’t make it past thirty is a tad fuzzy now, but I remember hanging out with my high school friends (who are now 40 or quickly approaching it which totally does not seem right either) trying to get someone to buy us alcohol (ok, Mom, just pretend you didn’t read that) and talking about Y-2-K although no one called it that at the time. It was just like, “oh my gosh, how weird is it going to be on December 31, 1999? Hey, we should all make a pact to get together for that New Year’s in New York City or something. That would be rad! We’ll party like it’s 1999!”
But honestly, I don’t remember exactly where I was or what I did on that New Year’s Eve, but I do remember getting up on January 1, 2000 and being glad that my alarm clock still worked and the TV stations were still on the air and my computer booted up just fine and there wasn’t some kind of “The Day After” landscape out my window. Not that I thought that was going to happen, but hey, no one knew for sure right?
Anyway, I guess I don’t have any new wisdom to share or insights in to the meaning of it all. I’m just thinking it’s time to enjoy another beautiful south Louisiana day and share a few pics of mullet flying through the air in all their majesty. What do you think? Isn’t that what it’s really about? Just enjoying where you are and who you’re with (but don’t take for granted that they’re going to be there tomorrow) and giving yourself a little challenge to be a better person than the day before? Not sure, but it works for me.
So…I’ve challenged myself to learn a little bit about the behavior of the mullet (from the family mugilidae). And let’s just say that they are a strange kind of bird in the world of south Louisiana fish. They seem to be best known for their jumping behavior although, honestly, nobody seems to have any definitive answers as to why they jump so much. Some say they jump to avoid predators. Others to say it’s to get rid of parasites. Who knows? But what I do know is that they jump a lot and they jump quickly and it’s not so easy to catch them in mid-jump with a camera. Most of the time, try as you might, you end up with something like this…
But with a little practice, you start to learn that mullet are kind of predictable. They typically jump about 3-4 times in a row. But if they flutter a little on that first jump, they probably won’t jump again right away. But if they fly out of the water on that first jump, you can sort of figure out where to aim the camera for the second, third, and if you’re lucky, fourth jumps. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to grab a good shot. Most of time you (well, me) get something like this…
Oh geez, I think that’s a fish. What is that? So, you just sit and wait and tune in your ears and eyes and try your luck again. Jump, click. Damn. Jump, click. Damn. Ok, well at least you can tell it’s a fish that time. Ooh, cool, he’s upside down.
Alright, let’s try again. And again. And again. Yes, definitely got him that time. Well, maybe not. But better.
Ok, come on guys. I’m getting tired and now the mosquitos are descending. Give me a break will ya? Alright, a little better. But could you jump a little straighter next time?
Ok, one more time and I’m outta here. Where is that bug spray?
Alright, my little flying fish friends, that’s gonna have to do it for today. We’ll try this again some other time. If I don’t get out of here soon, I’m going to be one giant mosquito bite. Oh, that’s a beautiful south Louisiana sunset. Click. Ahhh…thank’s buddy.
Shooting Mullet November 14, 2009Posted by dianehuhn in Bayou Life, Coastal Restoration, Friends, Ramblings.
Tags: Coastal Restoration, Cocodrie, cypress swamp, Fishing, land loss, louisiana wetlands, Louisiana Wildlife, Mauvis Bois
So yesterday held the last few hours of my 30s and I decided to kick off work a little early and try my luck at shooting photographs of mullet. And no, not the bad hairstyle variety, but the flying fish variety. It seemed like a challenge and I love a good challenge. I found a nice spot out in the marsh and a relaxing pile of dirt from which to sit upon. And I typically try not to get all philosophical as my birthday approaches, but my mind started to wander a tad.
I’ve been “down de bayou” for a little over a year now. I originally planned on being here for only a year to hopefully help a few people and figure out what it is that I want to be when I grow up. And now I’m forty. How the hell did that happen? And am I supposed to be grown up by now? Cause I don’t feel anymore grown up today than I did yesterday, or a year ago, or five years ago, or let’s just be honest, twenty years ago.
So anyway, let’s just say that I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about that “what the heck do I want to be when I grow up” stuff lately. I’ve certainly had a great ride thus far and generally speaking I really enjoy where I am. I’ve got a pretty cool job that certainly beats the heck out of sitting in a gray cubicle every day. If I want to get all officialized…my designated job title is Environmental Outreach Volunteer Coordinator. Geez…doesn’t that sound important? And well, it is pretty darn important when I think about it.
Has it been easy getting to this point? Yes and no. Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love my job and I one hundred percent absolutely, positively, unequivocally LOVE where I live. But has the last year, two months and change been easy? Well, in a nutshell, no.
You see, I’ve moved to a place that I absolutely adore, but it’s also a place that doesn’t necessarily adore me. I’m an outsider. Always have been and probably always will be. I’m pretty sure I could live here 30 years and still be called a Yankee. Again, don’t get me wrong. I have found some truly amazing people here that I can most certainly call friends, but when it comes to finding some real, “hey I need to sit in a boat, drop a line, have a beer and chat about life” buddies, well that’s been a different story. And yes, I do know myself well enough to admit that I’m not necessarily the easiest person to get to know.
But while bayou folks are extremely friendly, let’s just say that they’re a wee bit quirky. Actually, if I get my psychology hat on, they tend to exhibit a fair amount of paranoia. And probably for good reason. They’ve been promised a whole lot of stuff by a whole lot of people and been let down a whole lot of times. But that doesn’t mean I’m saying that they’re not good people and willing to help a girl out when she needs it. I mean I know if I’m in a jam, there are a bunch of folks that I can call to get me out of it, but just finding someone I can really let it all hang out with has been a challenge. So maybe in one sense the last year and change has been easy, but has it been lonely? Yes, at the end of the day, it has been lonely.
I was talking to a man the other day that I feel I can call friend. He’s a pretty important guy in my book and is a man that I have the utmost respect for. He’s got a whole lot riding on his shoulders. His job entails a great deal of travel and meetings and securing funding and basically all the stuff that I don’t miss about my previous life. I said “Geez, it must be hard to travel all over and sit in all those meetings when you’d probably rather be on a ridge planting marsh grass or paddling around a bayou looking for some fish.” He said “Yes, but I do it so my staff can do what they do best.”
And I thought about the last year and change and started to wonder if that’s kind of what my role is. I may never be truly accepted here, but can I work hard to make a difference in people’s lives and the lives of their children and grandchildren and great grandchildren? Well, I certainly hope so. Do I need them to understand that and give me a pat on the back? Well, it’d be nice, but at the end of the day, no.
From the depths of my soul, what I really want is to just see this place still exist in forty years. I probably won’t be here since I’ve not been all that kind to my body during the previous forty years, but I want someone who loves this place the way I do to be able to sit with a camera on the same bank I sat on last night and try to take pictures of mullet flying through the air and watch ospreys and egrets and herons fly overhead and hear owls hooting in the distance and time how long the diving ducks stay under water looking for something eat.
Do I think that can happen? Well, I sure hope so, but honestly, if things continue the way they are right now, in forty years the bank I sat on last night will probably be under 14 feet of water and the herons and the ospreys and the egrets and the owls and diving ducks won’t have any place to land and maybe saltwater sport fisherman will venture this far down to try their luck, but who the heck knows if there will actually be any fish to catch because maybe this spot will just be part of a big giant dead zone.
Does this make me beyond sad? You bet it does. Do I feel like packing my bags and heading someplace else at times? You bet I do. Do I really want to do that? Hell no!
So what is it that I really want to do? I want to stay where I am and fight to restore and protect the place that I have grown to love for the people I have come to care deeply for. And if you really want to know the truth, what I really want is to get the President, the head honcho of the Army Corps of Engineers, the head of the EPA, and the few handful of other people that really and truly have the power at their finger tips to change things to go fishing with me in Cocodrie. I want them to hook a big ole bull red or two or three or twelve. I want my good buddy Kevin to cook them a delicious Jambalaya. I want my good buddy Wendy to take them up to the Mauvais Bois to teach them about bayou culture and see the wonders of a cypress swamp. I want them to sit on the deck of a camp, kick back with a few cold ones and watch the ospreys and the egrets and the herons and the owls and the diving ducks and all manner of spectacular wildlife and watch a sunset of orange and red and yellow and purple and blue. I want them to see for their own eyes what I love so dearly. Because, in my heart, I believe that if they could experience for a day what I experience every day, there wouldn’t be any question about the national importance of saving the community I call home (even if the people around here don’t think it’s my home). In fact, if we could make that happen, I feel like I could almost guarantee that we could get our priorities straight and saving this place would become job #1 for the United States instead of sending brave men and women off to their deaths half way around the world in the name of democracy.
I mean, how is it that my community is allowed to slip acre by acre in to the Gulf of Mexico every single day and almost no one in Washington, DC seems to give a damn? I mean, really, how is that possible? Do they just not know? How could they not know? Do they just not care? How could they not care? Do they just think we’re not that important? HOW COULD THEY POSSIBLY BELIEVE THIS? How is it possible that they sit idly by while an entire way of life is being sent to its death in their own backyard?
I mean, come on people. I can spout the figures. My communities, my beloved bayou people, supply 30 percent of the domestic oil and natural gas for the rest of this nation. My communities, my beloved bayou people, supply 30 percent of the domestic seafood on your plates. My communities, my beloved bayou people, operate 10 of the 14 major seaports that serve this nation and the world beyond. My communities, my beloved bayou people, work hard every single day to make this nation what it is. They are dedicated to this country. Why is it that their country is NOT dedicated to them?
I just don’t understand. Could someone out there please explain it to me? Am I just wasting my time? Am I sacrificing that well paying corporate job waiting out in middle America for me to try to save a place that the US government has simply written off? Am I just a fool to think that my friends’ children and grandchildren and great grandchildren can live in and toil in and care for this place that I so love? Yes, I do understand that it’s a “complicated” issue. But is it really? Is it really so complicated that we can’t get those handful of people who said they wanted to be in charge of our well being to sit down and figure it out if we just put our minds to it?
I mean really, Mr. President, sit in the marsh with me, cast a line with me, meet the people I call friends, and tell me to my face that this place and this way of life is not worth saving. Because every day that we as Americans sit by and do not make saving this American treasure a national priority is a day that we pound another nail in the coffin on a place and a people and a culture that is of vital importance to the health and prosperity of the place that I used to be proud to call the United States of America. Please make me proud once again. Please renew my faith. Please give me the audacity to hope for change and a better tomorrow. Please tell me that yes we can save my home so that future generations can call it home.
So I just realized my intention when I started this post was really just to share a few photographs of mullet flying through the air in all their majesty…but maybe we’ll just have to save that for another day my friends cause it’s my birthday and I’m grabbing my new fishing pole to see if I can rustle up some fish for dinner and hope that I don’t accidentally get shot by the folks trying to rustle up some duck for dinner. Thank you to all of my friends and buddies who make restoration and protection a priority in their lives and work tirelessly to make it a priority in the lives of others.