When we moved to Louisiana, my husband and I agreed on finding a place to rent in Kenner. Between Reserve, where he worked on the River, and New Orleans, where we planned to spend a lot of time, we found a two story townhouse a few hundred yards from the Lake Pontchartrain levee. As Yankees, crossing multiple canals and passing homes tilted into the soggy soil added to the feeling of being foreigners in a strange land. I rebelled against the weather as I sweated in jeans to hang-up Christmas lights, but reveled in the vegetation, filling our small enclosed patio with what Minnesotans only know as indoor plants.
Our second-floor balcony looked over a neighborhood road and into baseball fields. When we first toured the place, I wasn’t thrilled about having that side of the house illuminated late into the night, or being woken-up early by cars and cheering. But neither fear came to be. Instead, when my husband worked late on 2nd shift or was gone overnight on 3rd, I found solace in the signs of life. Despite being alone in our town-home, I knew someone was out there.
After Katrina, when we finally got back into our place to clear out what remained of our possessions, those fields – like the rest of the neighborhood – were empty. The light polls had been knocked down. Even the birds were gone. There was nothing and no one.
At our previous home, we lived where two roads intersected in a “T”, with our driveway almost perfectly lined up with the end of the street. Through our front windows we could check to see if someone’s car was in the driveway before venturing over, and see the various neighbors come and go. I found comfort in the movement outside our windows as they were signs of life. I also felt fortunate that no one ever missed the turn and ran into out mailbox.
At our new house, as I stand at the kitchen sink on dark winter mornings, I see a stream of cars across the wetlands. There are the early commuters heading to the scattering of factories and offices, then a short time later the traffic of buses and young drivers heading to the high school. I had first thought that I would plant a tree to block the view, but now I count on the red and white lights coming over the hill and taking turns at the traffic light. Yet over Christmas I was thrown back into those days after Katrina. With school and factories closed, the streams of cars dried-up. Those people were all somewhere else, or perhaps they had completely vanished.
Then normal life resumed without the intervention of FEMA and volunteers, and the red and white lights once again flowed in the distance.
There is something about me that requires knowing there there is life out there. There is safety in knowing that as I delve into my own thoughts or work on my t0-do list, there are others living their own journeys – separate and sometimes intersecting with mine. There is comfort knowing that I don’t have to do everything myself, that God has chosen others for different roles – and I can sit here, typing, and thinking, and soon unpack more boxes.