I came home late last night and moved straight from the office and car to the couch, where I started writing my next-to-last paper for my last class. After 2 AM, when I finally curled up in bed to sleep, I dreamed about the book I was reading, Craig Colten's historical geography of New Orleans - An Unnatural City: Wresting New Orleans from Nature. I dreamed myself back into the city that shaped my childhood and teenage years, that fed my passions of food, music, and drink through my 20s, and that makes me ache with nostalgia for my almost-home. My spiritual home.
I have been so dreadfully, depressingly, bone and marrow tired, that I don't know that I can find the words to describe it. It's the kind of tired borne of repeated disappointment, of being beaten down and bloodied by those you once thought were friends, the tired of rejection by strangers, and the tired that lies at the bottom of being emptied out of your creativity over and over and over again.
I graduated in May. Walked, that is. The degree will be conferred in a few weeks, after I complete my last class - Environmental History of the American South - a directed reading with some of the most wonderful books I've ever laid hands on. Colten's wasn't necessarily in that category, but it was a good time. Next up is David Brinkley's work on Katrina, which makes me a little nervous. Memories and all that.
Adding to the nerves are the six job applications I still have out and the one I'm about to put in. I have an interview at a sustainable business incubator in the Midwest next Friday, and I'm a little anxious about how I might look, all free-spirited and creativeish and writery, to "The Man" in economic development. But I'll study and go up and do my best, hoping like hell it'll come through. I really think I have something good to offer them - a passion for community and responsible businesses and local food, along with a slightly different way of looking at sustainable development that seems to jive with their dedication to historical restoration and authenticity.
Suffice it to say that a couple of weeks ago, when I got an email from the wonderful and beloved Lorinda Pike, it made my day. Hell - it made my week and a few more days. Then this morning, when I realized I'd forgotten to check the mail last night, I got The Package from Home.
It's funny sometimes how things just seem to happen when you need them to. As a proud and happy skeptical non-believer, I believe in the power of community and friendships and human interaction and relationships, and this morning, it was like I got a hug from Lorinda Pike across the highways and state lines and hours of driving. A desperately needed hug that echoed not just the things I miss about home and my mild anxiety related to being even farther away from the water and beauty there, but the things that make me strong, too.
Elvis was "my" beloved Kemps Ridley that we had at the aquarium where I worked in Biloxi. He was a juvenile, about 2 feet long from tip to tail, and a low-key little guy who rarely got excited by the kids who got excited by him. I spent many, many hours walking around with a damp Elvis propped against my chest, talking through his anatomy, his diet, and his life cycle. We played Turtle Hurdles, a game that taught that life cycle and the dangers of oceanic pollution to the sea turtles who graced our Gulf. We all presume that Elvis was killed when Katrina destroyed the J.L. Scott Aquarium, or with BP's disaster in the Gulf, but he's lived on in my memories just as bright-eyed as he was when I was a teen.
Through the years, I've had a lot of stuffed sea turtles and model turtles. They've all been named Elvis. What I've never had is a beautiful adornment like the one Lorinda Pike sent.
I asked Lorinda Pike to make me a couple of pieces with stones I provided - stones that had some sentimental meaning to me, as I'd bought them both in Berlin while I was there in 2002. I never in a million years imagined two pieces as lovely as what she came up with:
I sat in my car and teared up, then laughed. And I haven't stopped smiling since I put all three of them on. Next Friday, I'll be sitting in a board room interviewing, and I'll probably feel alone and nervous and under the gun. But I'll have on some of the most beautiful talismans of friendship, strength, and calm ever designed by the hand of woman. For that, Lorinda Pike, my Mississippi Sister, I thank and love you a million times over.