Bloom Where You’re Planted

Note: This entry was written originally in January, 2009.

I went to Minnesota for a condensed weekend visit earlier this fall. I was a reluctant participant at work the day after my return, full of homesick yearnings for the gloriously efficient and chilly North Country. “Bloom where you’re planted,” said the owner of the motorcycle shop, so cheerfully that I wanted to crush her. People that are from New Orleans never leave, adding further insult to injury. How could she understand the madness of this place, having never left? She had no comprehension of my pain!  I knew she would die before she would live somewhere else.  Outrage. I pouted all day, depressed by the heat and dysfunction, and I think she was genuinely confused.

Now I have just returned from three weeks in Minnesota, a place formerly referred to (by me) as home. I could smell Louisiana the minute we crossed the border in our car, speeding over the dark murky fingers of swamp. It has a scent difficult to describe. Polluted, sweet. Humid, and full of delicious notes. It looked familiar to me now. The darkness of highway floating over brackish water, the ridiculousness of other drivers weaving around us at ninety miles an hour. The planets appeared to be back in order, as the cat howled through the car windows to the alligators below us.

Home is where the heart is? No, I argue that in the twenty-first century, for many of us, home becomes where our stuff is. Our books and sweaters, our photo albums and coffe mugs. Our bakeries and shoe repair places, dry cleaners and farmers' markets (if we're lucky).  Our daily rhythms create home around us, and in 2008, I followed my stuff back to the bayou. I was thrilled the other night when we pulled up in front of our apartment and walked in. It smelled musty and wonderful, in the ancient wooden house way. The covers of my paperback books had curled up from the humidity. I enjoyed the 60-degree weather in December. I re-discovered t-shirts and shoes that didn’t make the trip North (due to their lack of heat-retaining properties). I was home, and already distracted by thoughts of shrimp and grits.

My memories of life before Louisiana are fuzzy. Eliminating Louisiana at this point would mean eliminating special people and favorite foods. It would mean erasing almost three years of experiences with my husband. I’m gearing up for crawfish, Mardi Gras, and JazzFest. Who am I? Who cares. I feel great. While it remains mysterious exactly what I will be doing in 2009, it is no longer a mystery where I will be doing whatever it is.

One of my close friends is preparing to leave Louisiana, and I know she will locate home where she is headed, just as I know that she will always love her home here. She envies my 504 area code, just as I twitch with distraction thinking about her coming adventures. I know that she will bloom overseas, just as I try to in New Orleans.