The sun was hot, shining, and bright, but the air was surprisingly cool. The humidity had broken before we arrived to New Orleans and I could not have been happier. I am not built for the south, neither is my partner. We belong where the air can get crisp and all four seasons arrive, however, we love exploring new places.
New Orleans did not disappoint.
To be honest, I did not know what to expect. I knew the city was filled with history and where the Creole culture has thrived alongside early American Colonialism, but that was as about as far as I researched. I wanted to experience the city with fresh eyes.
The first thing I noticed as soon as we started walking was the architecture. I could not get over the shudders on all of the doors, the way the buildings are barely built higher than three stories, and the colour. Everything from bright yellow, turquoise, green, oranges, everything you can imagine, painted on building walls were murals and the beautiful wrought iron balconies just begging for you to sip a creole chicory coffee or a Sazerac and watch the city swell with life.
We filled our days with excursions not just in the city but in the state of Louisiana. The only other southern state I've traveled to is Florida but, you definitely do not get the same experience when you are spending you time in Disney World.
For those of you who may not know there is a plantation in Louisiana named Oak Alley. The Big House, as the tour guides liked to refer to the plantation house, is situated on 25 acres of land facing the Mississippi River. It is defined by these gorgeous and massive oak trees. They lined the quarter-mile pathway up to the big house and boy, was that an entrance. When I found out I was going to New Orleans I knew I wanted to see these trees, these massively sprawling oak trees. However, I did run into a conundrum. Could I or should I, find inspiration and beauty in place where an entire population of people were enslaved and reduced to less than human? It was something I did not entirely think about until after I had purchased the tickets. By the time our trip came around I thought, these plantations and the systems that lived inside of them are apart of this country's history and I think at the very least, I owe it to the people who were brought there to learn about it.
The moment I saw these trees and that view I knew it was worth it.
Nature is spectacular.
It has a way of evoking emotion unlike humans, it can be guttural while still being quiet.
Let me tell you, these trees had a lot to say. Their roots overgrown and bumpy, their bark filled with deep crevices, it looked as if their skin has wrinkled from old age. One tree in particular stood out to me. I don't know why, I don't think I'll ever know why, but this tree second in from the left spoke. It has these branches that looked as though they were thrashing, putting up a fight to grow, to be, harsh angles with twists that made me want to become a literal tree-hugger right then and there.
As my gaze was beholden to these trees, the tour guide kept speaking and one thing he said caught my attention.
These oak trees are not original to this alley. They were part of the plantation but after growing for approximately 50-75 years they were transplanted here, to this place, in this configuration.
All I could think was, what a fucking metaphor.
These trees and the slaves that lived among them both understood what it meant to be uprooted, to be a pawn for the ideas of others. No wonder I wanted to hug that tree. I could not imagine nor do I honestly want to know, what this tree knows.
Inspiration does not always have to be beautiful, but it usually finds itself within the raw nature of emotion.
My partner Jacob, felt.
As we walked among these 250 year old oaks we didn't feel the need to document our time with modern day selfies as we felt the burden that this plantation represented.
We did not feel the need to speak above a whisper, the trees spoke for us.
While that plantation tour felt somber in most respects it was unforgettable and humbling to soul.
So, I leave you with this one question:
When was the last time your soul felt humbled?