Tuesday, March 27, 2012

heart of NOLA

after shopping at the coop one day i saw a couple of people outside i thought might know a friend of mine who had moved from seattle, named lisa. they did not know her, but we got to talking and i mentioned song circles... wondered if they knew of any. nope. but their friend mathew might. when he came out of the bathroom he greeted me with a warm hug. he told me there was an event that night called candlelight kundalini, after which there is usually musical collaboration. what luck! i was feeling so good with these new friends that i asked if they would like to learn the song i made up, "rainbow warriors". i wrote down the lyrics we sat in a cricle right there in the entryway and sang it! this was the initiation of this song into a new level of being shared. i felt so joyful and gratified! the girl anjalaya took the lyrics so she could share the song with others.

that night i had a wonderful dinner with my hosts, gary and cathy, in which i shared a miso soup and winter squash, and they shared beef filet, scallops, and salad. we held hands at my request and blessed the meal.
after this i headed over to participate in the after-yoga singing. it was a very stormy night, but i got to the place just before the rain started coming down again. the sharing began with me playing mbira. the other two guys there joined in with voices. i then improvised some mbira as we transitioned into a jam. most of the time i played guitar and mathew played mandolin. i shared the raw chocolate heart my sister had give me in austin. it was divine! we stayed up late, ending the evening in conversation, and i decided to stay the night there. my sleep was broken largely due to the storm of rain and lightning through the night.
the next morning i attended meditation at the other studio, which is owned by the same people and is on the other side of the block. these folks offer meditation and yoga by donation. the place drew me, as i felt i could benefit from what they offered. part of my work is to cultivate clarity and strength of spirit so that i can do the other good work i want to on this trip.

saturday i attended a capoeira angola class at the kundalini studio. after the class i went with the other student that was there to lunch. i'd heard that i should try the boiled crawfish, so we bought five pounds of them at a a place on broad st. called Broadview Seafood. we conversed about various urban sustainability topics (he is majoring in urban studies) while eating the spicy, nutritious, locally sourced crawfish from a plastic bag. all the debris i later deposited in a pile of leaves nearby the garden i was helping out at the next day. i hope that some day this compost will be used to grow food.
after lunch i was on my way back to the yoga studio when i came accross an opportunity to help. i'd been thinking as i rode along how the nutrients of so many leaves are going to waste in the streets when they could be applied as mulch. then i noticed one property where they were doing just that! i stopped to check it out and met the owner of the place sandra, who was working outside with two guys. she offered me some water and i offered to help with anything she needed done. i cleaned out the clawfoot tub she has outside as a fountain and helped move her broken television out to the curb. she had purchased a brand new flat screen that she said would also be used to show videos to the kids in her class at the nearby high school. she teaches the kids there once a week about plants. they are going to build a community garden there!

sunday i went to yoga at the kundalini center and then helped out at the garden of this woman who is using a lot a few paces down from there. i had noticed the gate open a few days before when i left the studio and asked if i could help out there. she had beautiful chard and kale in full production and other crops recently planted in raised beds. fruit trees line one fence and a chicken run is in the back corner. that way i helped support tomatoes with twine, prepped a bed for planting, and removed bermuda grass from the edge of a beds. ramona wants to develop the project into more of a farm than a 'community garden'. she believes it will all run more smoothely that way. she shares the produce with the land owner, neighbors, and sells some at farmer's market in the lower ninth ward.

i didn't go to the french quarter, the heart and soul of NOLA, until i'd been there almost a week. this area of the city has such FLAVOR! it is wonderful to me how it is dominated by pedestrians, not by cars (though there are still too many cars). the horse-drawn carriages, narrow streets, and old buildings make it feel like a european city. this is how it was before cars. people seem to really dig it, but it is not seen that the way the majority of us live destroys this kind of dense, culturally rich neighborhood. i'm so glad the french quarter is there as an example.
the first time i just rode my bike through. then i went back the next day to try busking with the mbira. i only made two bucks, ehich may be because i had bad timing and didn't pick the right spots. i still had a pretty good time and many people seemed pleased by the music. one woman from chicago did a whole photo shoot of me. i saw some other folks busking who i would have liked to donate to.
i rode down bourbon street. what a spectacle.
turns out someone is making a film involving the french quarter... funny that i heard about this within the week after visiting there my first time.

on saturday and sunday nights there was vibrant heart and soul being shared at the healing center, where the coop is. at this 'sacred music festival' i sang, danced, and listened to some wonderful music. there was one space offering an open expression space, which was mostly used for silent, improvisational dance. i did a very short butoh-style piece, which was my first time trying this outside of a workshop i did once in seattle. much of the other sharing reminded me of butoh. the small audience sat in on cuchions in a half-circle and gave their loving attention.
i got to see one of the new orleans indians in his bright, beaded, feathery regalia. when i asked him whether he felt tradition was being brought back in this time he said it never left new orleans, and for sure it is alive these days.

monday i made sweet potato pies for brennan's birthday. i tried to catch her at her house but they had gone out to the bar, so i caught up with her there. she was rocking the internet juke box and i watched a game of shuffleboard. there were some nice looking folks outside eating ice cream and i decided to offer them pie. they invited me to come sit by the fire in their back yard when i was done at the bar. i did and it was very nice to connect with these people.
the next day i tried to meet up with one of them at satsuma cafe and ended up running into a friend from orcas island instead! dana was there, and told me she and nicole, who i know from the bullock's permaculture farm, are now living in NOLA since a couple months ago. she had met brennan earlier in the day at the blueberry farm i had helped out on the previous week. the yoga studio the she attends in the one i was going to attend a voice yoga class that night! i was being shown what a small city this is when i hook into the community. to top it off, the next day this guy john who was one of the people at the house with the fire in the back yard, who i was going to meet up with at satsuma but missed, is friends with the voice yoga teacher/jazz singer sara and saw her the morning after i enjoyed the evening song circle at swan river with her. wow.

there is so much more i want to share with you! every day was full of so much wonderful activity that i did not have time to write. much of my time at the house was spent in the kitchen, as usual. i made sauerkraut and bread while here. i also got to build the base for the compost pile here! i used leaves as the carbon material, but gary has access to sawdust, which i told them is one of the best materials to use.
cathy planted tomato and eggplant starts on the sunny side of the house while i was here. these are next to some recently planted citrus trees and perenial herbs.

i saw so many vacant lots going wild with green. a lot of food could be produced in this city if folks got together and worked towards the vision of local resilience and health for all.
i did not know my new orleans experience was going to be so centered around spiritual practice and celebration. this is an important part of the healing!

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