(in progress, 2020)
A fantasy, built with lies of omission, created for myself in the void of the usual far-flung travel itinerary. A fantasy created to pass the time once the lockdown of spring turned into the slightly milder lockdown of summer…I began to visit Louisiana’s only inhabited barrier island, desperate for the sea. Pieces of Grand Isle are here as stand-ins for the cities and their seasides that were floating through my mind at the time; in the books I was reading; the places I was previously scheduled to be; the water I hoped to be with some day soon…Ocean Beach at Noriega Street, Kaalawai, Mayagüez, Vịnh Gành Rái, Bonniecord at Clarence Town, Calanque d’En-Vau…
Ignoring what I didn’t like; not looking to paint a complete picture. Selfishly carving out glimpses of my own dreamscape in the searing heat, like the salt water and the wind and the French and Italian pirates and the oil and the engineers and the storms with names that sound like harmless aunts and uncles, have done to these lands for centuries.
I don’t have the words to describe the hell of living through a hurricane season during a pandemic. It didn’t dawn on me at the beginning, even after a rare June tropical storm made landfall just off the island, but as it got deeper into the season I realized the odd nature of wanting to be on the water at this time of layered horror and fear. The irony of looking for peace with the waves that cause such pain and destruction; a city bird’s weak but determined attempt to migrate as far south as possible, seeking coastal citizenship somewhere, anywhere. To try and see the Gulf as pleasure, not aggressor.
You’ve seen hard news coverage of what’s left of the Louisiana coast—our islands, our refugees, our disappearance. These scenes are from the front line, but I hope this view from a dangerous summer shows a different angle…from this island still holding a pack of pirates in its spell—the New Baratarians.
It feels like all those other seasides can wait anyway.