New Orleans I’ve got no complaints. Regular calls around the world tell me every day how lucky we are. We have a roof over our heads, so we in fact can shelter-in-place, and that’s not true for hundreds of millions. We have food to eat and children who scold us for not being more careful, stand in line at Costco, pickup at Walmart, and did I mention, scold us for not being more careful. Yes, right I did say that already. So, take none of what I might say is now different as a whine or a grievance. It’s just a statement of fact. A notation of the changes now and perhaps those that are to come.
Since 1975, I’ve traveled almost 50% of my working career. It’s been a different experience canceling trips and airline reservations, rather than making them and running to the airport. Not having been in New Orleans for an entire spring since I was in high school, I had forgotten how truly amazing the weather can be this time of year in this part of the country. The mornings are cool and the days are warm making jeans, flipflops, and long sleeve t-shirts my permanent uniform this season.
As mi companera and I have worked across the kitchen table form each other, computers blazing, we’ve occasionally walked over to the window to see the blooming pink oleander and yellow cassis. Stay-at-home now means she has put bird seed and feeders for hummingbirds and whoever flies by, and, indeed, build it and they do come. We have not only had the usual cardinals and bluejays, but in fact hummingbirds, black capped chickadees, catbirds, and more. Azaleas have bloomed weeks ago and now the firecracker plant is attracting butterflies and, my favorite, the red powder puff is bursting out. The bougainvillea will be blooming soon. Spring roses are out on the fence.
No longer leaving the office to roll to the gym at the end of my work day has meant getting the bikes out of the shed and fixing them for the first time in a decade. In the early evening when we can, my son and I ride along the Mississippi River on the Crescent City Park. We marvel at the size of cruise ships, and sometimes stop and stare at the freighters and barges making the turn at the crescent in this time of high water with the spillways wide open above the city.
Over the last month, I’ve paddled canoes more than I have cumulatively in the last twenty years on one bayou or another. I’ve followed alligators at a distance. Lowered my head as a pair of Canadian geese honked at me as they flew over, and then let me paddle farther down the bayou within feet of them before they rose and showed me their tail feathers. I’ve seen the bass jump two feet out of the water and flushed mallards out of the byways. I’ve brought home to my love water lilies, iris, and a purple thing, I still can’t name.
Not having to go to the office, I walk Lucha at 5am, start working before 6 am and am out and about before the sun sets to do something or other, but I’m not going to lie, I’ve come to enjoy a brief siesta in the early afternoon after I take my lunch break.
For now, I’m maintaining, not complaining. But, I think a lot about the coming weeks as things return to a new normal and what will stay with me and others from what we have learned during this terrible time when we have been lucky enough to be sheltered, fed and employed, and stop smelling the roses, listening to the birds, and watching the fish jump, and join hands again with all of our people in the long process of rebuilding something new and better. It will be hot and humid then, and we’ll feel it.
Wade Rathke is founder and chief organizer of ACORN and ACORN International. You can find Wade’s recent past posts here Chief Organizer Reports. And you can link to his website here Chief Organizer ACORN/ACORN International