Wednesday, May 18, 2011

N'awlins is full of hope

driving into the city
We left N'awlins 10 years ago before the birth of my first child. New Orleans at the time, didn't seem to embrace transplants (or at least me) and felt like a foreign country all unto itself.  Living there provided one of my most profound life lessons: surrender.
Everything was so strange and unconventional and yet steeped in generation after generation of traditions and the past. The streets draped by oak trees and shot gun houses varied from unsafe and to something out of the life styles of the rich and famous. I recall even the air in certain parts of the city (not just the French Quarter) smelled like stale beer and humidity which seemed to seep into my skin unwillingly. We lived Uptown near Tulane University in a small 2 bedroom home and could look over our fence and watch beads fly as Mardi Gras parades passed on Claiborne Avenue.
There were things I loved: our first home with a front porch swing and beautiful hard wood floors. Lazy breakfasts reading the Sunday Times Picayune at the local Bluebird Cafe, savoring sweet blueberry pancakes and fresh squeezed orange juice. Mouth watering white chocolate bread pudding from Commander's Palace. The Vinyard music where the band played unconventional instruments for a church: the sax, violin and bongo drums; and even sang and danced barefoot on a small stage.
And then there were the things I despised: Feeling isolated and like I never quite fit in to any part of the  community. The string of "careers" that offered tough teachings. My first job out of college was in outside sales, selling decorative lighting (I counted and sold light bulbs across 4 states), retail sales (a high end Magazine street boutique and the first job I've ever been fired from for being too pushy with my selling technique), Tulane University bookstore assistant manager and clothing buyer (a great learning curve for me but finally had to quit when 12 hour days/6 days a week took their toll), and finally, customer service and marketing assistant for an audio visual company.
Throughout this time, I continued to teach group fitness or aerobics, as it was called in the 90's. I didn't start my yoga journey until after I left NOLA. I can only imagine how different my experience might have been had I embraced or been exposed to the practice while I was there. Today there are studios dotted all across the city.
This past weekend, took me back in time as I traveled there for the first time since 2000 and since Katrina wiped out the city over 3 years ago. My impression was vastly different as the city buzzed with life and was still eerily deserted in many areas. And yet, a renewed feeling of hope prevailed. I met the major's sister at a local coffee shop, and she declared that the New Orleanians that are living there now are the ones who want to be there. With the hurricane, everyone, everyone was forced to leave. The city was empty. To come back meant you would want to live in a city that is in desparate need of restoration and healing and at the same time, at the mercy of a God who could wipe it out with another hurricane.
After a full day of partner workshops and volunteering at an amazing community center brought about through a vision to bring unity and healing to the city by Sean Johnson and the Wild Lotus Yoga Studio, my friend, Cindi and I met a curious photographer from North Carolina who published a book "Passionate People Places New Orleans". His vision was to weave a photographic day in the life of people who adore their city. I think his vignette of the city mirrors the conclusion I finally came to toward the end of my 5 years living in New Orleans: when I finally surrendered to the unknown, and released the perceived control I thought I had, I found freedom.
Approaching life with the spirit of offering opens us up to a world of possibility and most certainly hope.

cindi, stephen & mel exploring local art



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