One of the small disappointments in my life is that I’m not the kind of person who gets nicknames, at least not the kind that are said to my face. For a short time, a few people called me “KimTwin,” a reference to an outboard motor. I was 20 and would have preferred a nickname that you would give to Anais Nin, mysterious and bohemian.
Although I am not a nickname kind of person, I’ve been called many things during my travels. Each gave me a little insight about another culture, and provided a small thrill. Here are the ones I remember.
I left Clarksdale lacking the enthusiasm I’d felt traveling through the Southwest and the Ozarks. Driving south toward Jackson, the expanse of farmland was like my mood — flat. I’m getting less exercise and eating for entertainment. My mind keeps returning to issues of race and justice. I’m not sure whether all of this is a little bit of road trip burn-out or just feeling lonely, but it’s happened before and I know it will pass. So I focus on ignoring it. There were still places I wanted to see, free from the fog of my transient feelings.
When I say “rural Louisiana,” I know what y’all are thinking out there in California. But it’s not like that equally everywhere or with everyone here. Just as there are swamps and republicans in the Bay Area, there are Unitarians and three varieties of kale here.
Painting by my favorite Louisiana artist, Clementine Hunter. 1886-1988.
In the past six months, I have been operating at about 30% capacity. Yes, I have tried volunteering and writing and baking. I hike a lot and keep in touch with friends and family. I remind myself how good my life is, but my feelings ignore my thoughts. At this time of my life, I need new places and people and ideas. I need instability.
Painting by my big sister and second mom, Sallie Latch
On this Mother’s Day, I am going to begin with a story that makes me cranky but I will end with one that makes me happy. So, as Rachel would say, stay with us.
A couple of nights ago, a reporter on national news (it was Lawrence O’Donnell) told the story of a young friend who left her job to help care for her disabled father. The reporter suggested the nobility of this young woman’s sacrifice and the tender irony of a 25 year-old sleeping in “her childhood bed.” The story concluded with the young woman’s observation that, during this period of “new worries,” her neighbors “swing well away” to give her father’s wheelchair more room than usual on their daily walks. The reporter suggested the neighbors’ gesture was evidence of American “love” and “solidarity.”
I am in rural Louisiana this week to get some inspiration for the finishing touches on my novel. I have gotten some inspiration alright, but not the kind I was expecting. Truth is truly stranger than fiction, but if I tell you why, somebody might have to kill me. Joking. But it occurs to me.
Mural painted by school students in New Iberia, Louisiana.
Last Friday, in a small town in rural Louisiana, the state’s 16th Judicial District Court rescheduled a preliminary hearing to address procedural matters in a lawsuit described in nine double-spaced pages.
Ho hum, not usually the beginning of a great story, right?
Sometimes in my travels, I learn a little more about a place than meets the eye. The small town of New Iberia is one of those places. It is one of Louisiana’s oldest and most historic. Straddling both sides of the beloved Bayou Teche, it is the center of the state’s sugar cane production. Locals are friendly and affectionately call their town “Da Berry.” Visitors come to tour the elegant plantation house called Shadows on the Teche, New Iberia’s charming downtown, and the jungle garden on Avery Island.