"'We don't know why we are here, and others are not. It's not just that we don't know; we can't know. People go away for reasons that make no sense, and we are left here. All we know is that's how it works; we can't know why. So the question for those of us who are left, is not why, but how-how do you use your time you have left, which you don't know how much it is. How do you want to live that time? Because that is the only thing you have any control over.'" (From City of Refuge by Tom Piazza, page 360-361)
This passage comes near the end of the novel, City of Refuge, and is a story told by a relative of one of the main characters, Craig, with whom he and his family are staying in Chicago after Hurricane Katrina. It is a story the relative, Gus, and his fellow servicemen were told during the Korean War by the chaplain on Thanksgiving Day. Gus has remembered this story all these years and he repeats it at the dinner table on Thanksgiving in 2005.
While Gus and Craig do not share the same political views, Gus recognizes the pain that Craig is experiencing and shares this story at just the right time. And, Craig hears it and is grateful to Gus for the story, for the lesson and for allowing him to see Gus in a new light.
Storytelling is an important aspect of Louisiana culture. Prior to leaving on a recent trip to Louisiana, I read, A Gathering of Old Men by Ernest Gaines, one of the featured speakers at the Louisiana Book Festival. This began my thirst for reading books about or by Louisiana authors. Now reading my third book by Gaines, I am getting a picture of rural Louisiana life in the early part of the 20th century, the relations between blacks and whites and the racism that permeated the culture.
In Breaux Bridge, a small town on Bayou Teche about two hours southwest of New Orleans in "Cajun Country," I stopped in Janell's, a gift store on Bridge Street. The shopkeeper asked me where I was from and what brought me to Louisiana. I told her that my husband Mark was giving a presentation about his book (Cajun and Zydeco Dance Music in Northern California) at the Louisiana Book Festival in Baton Rouge the following day. She told me that her son, Shane Bernard, is also an author and the historian at Avery Island, where Tabasco pepper sauce is made. I told her that we had a couple of his books on the shelf at home. She immediately called Shane and handed the telephone over to me. He and I had a lively short conversation.
I headed back to our lodging, Maison des Amis. "Mark, guess whose mama I just met? Guess who I just talked with on the telephone and who wants to talk with you?"
Soon, Mark was also chatting with Shane from Mrs. Bernard's cell phone. Two days later I sit waiting for Ernest Gaines to speak. A woman strikes up a conversation. It turns out that she also works at Avery Island. I tell her about speaking with Shane just the day before. We both laugh and enjoy this coincidence.
This was only one of several connections that I made during our visit to Louisiana. It was easy to connect with people on this trip. I believe it has to do with the friendliness, the graciousness, the Southern hospitality that is so much a part of the culture.
People enjoy telling their stories (both true and embellished) and learning about yours. And, while history is so much a part of Louisianans' lives, whether it is the history of slavery, the history of their particular Mardi Gras krewe in New Orleans or the more recent Hurricane Katrina, there is also a passion for living in the now. The pain of the past does not stop people from being and enjoying the present. This was the lagniappe* that was given to me on my trip to Louisiana. And for this I am grateful.
All my best,
*lagniappe - unexpected something extra
|Louisiana Photo Album|
This is one of the photos that I took on my recent
trip to Louisiana. It shows a Zulu costume from a Mardi Gras parade. To view additional photos from Louisiana, please visit the
Oak Communications blog.
|Enhancing Creativity |
Please join me at a free brown
bag talk at The Hub where
will lead a discussion on
November 13, 2009
Noon - 1 pm
The Hub at David Brower Center
2150 Allston Way, Suite 400
Berkeley, CA 94704
Please RSVP to email@example.com
|Getting off the Hamster Wheel|
Here is an audio excerpt from a recent talk that I
did on Blog Talk radio, entitled Getting Off of The Hamster Wheel.
Do you know someone who would like to get off
the hamster wheel? Do you know someone who is asking the question, "how do I want
to live the time that is left for me?" If so, see below.
Refer a client to me and as a thank you I will give
you a copy of the book or CD of your choice from the list below.
Perhaps one of the Louisiana
books will strike your fancy.
Ernest Gaines: A
Gathering of Old Men, A Lesson Before Dying, or The Autobiography of Miss Jane
Tom Piazza: City
Jon Kabat-Zinn: Wherever
You Go There You Are
Marci Shimoff: Happy
for No Reason
Joel Martin and the Family Band: L'Ange de la Chapelle
Allen Toussaint: The Bright Mississippi
Let me know the name of the person to whom you have
given my contact information below and if they contact me and we have
a complimentary consultation, I will send you the book of your choice from the