Opening session for the last day with our retreat writer-in-residence, Kim Stafford. I write,
What is there left to write?
Everything. All of it. The bits in the cracks. The bits in the light. All of it.
We are doing it together. Learning by being writers together.
There is a reason we bow our heads.
In the quiet, I can tell that there is some silent weeping in the room. I am wiping away tears, too, and I don’t even know what they are about any longer. All of it. Something very strong has happened here, and we all are feeling it.
Jeanne baptizes the bricks of the Gallier House meeting room with a spilled Bloody Mary, a kind of sacrifice. A tiny, angry dog barks away nearby. It is enough.
Kim tells us about something called “The War of Art.” He says, “Seek your muse, but seek your resistance.”
We take lots of photos, and then trickle away in sad, reluctant fragments. Some of us are staying on for one more night, and we are off for some bonus fun in the city after the retreat’s official end. Kelly and Jeff and I rendezvous at Muriel’s for lunch. For dessert, we accept the hostess’s invitation and do the self-guided tour upstairs, talking in whispers the entire time, especially in the famed Séance Room. Like everywhere else in the Quarter, the ghosts are charming and the vibe is lush.
That night we see trumpet player Kermit Ruffins perform at the Blue Nile and have another amazing night on Frenchman Street. I dance my booty off with complete strangers, including an artist Jeff befriended earlier in a record store and who shares my love of Kermit’s “Palm Court Strut.” When the song is over, we hug like old friends.
Day 6: Saturday
8:45 Croissant D’Or. I write,
It’s raining again, and it’s beautiful. I got up early to pack and to have one more New Orleans moment before we needed to get in a cab to make our flight home. In a sleep-deprived fog, I headed out the door and promptly passed up the turn at Ursalines Ave. and found myself at St. Philipp before I realized my mistake. By that time, it was really coming down. I paused under a big balcony and checked the map. A small, patient bulldog and his person waited it out with me, all three of us watching the crystal downpour next to the vine-wrapped balcony ironwork of a lapidary shop, sparkling with pink Christmas lights.
Jeff said last night that we would all have to pay some kind of price for what we were taking from New Orleans. I suppose he might be right, on some level. If anything, my liver and arteries are paying the price. But honestly, I don’t think New Orleans works that way.
On my way to Croissant D’ Or, I’d just been thinking how much I wished I could capture in a photograph–as well as in writing–the beauty of the French Quarter in the rain, but also how impossible that seemed, so ethereal as to be utterly untranslatable into something as mundane as film. But the wrong turn, the downpour, the bulldog, the balcony, and the Christmas lights gave me the perfect opportunity to come fairly close. Once I had my picture, the rain let up, and I went on my way for a perfect coffee and a spot of writing before my flight.
That is how New Orleans works.