Monday, December 28, 2009

one for fox, one for crow

Portrait of August: sometime in the Spring of 2007
Violet, La.

August had come through Katrina decently, with the help of Georgiana's car. Georgiana is the woman he lives with, down on Guerra Drive.

Decently is a strange word to use of course. But I mean it in the sense that the travels, which they could never have afforded to undertake without the largesse of strangers and and the money supplied by FEMA, was an eye opener to him. Many times I heard him talk about just how nice the people in Beaumont, Texas were. I think it taught him firsthand the lesson that he was aching to learn -- that hospitality and generosity abound in certain places in this country. According to August, just not in St. Bernard.

August's penchant is for the countryside ... and solitude. It's not for his home town of New Orleans, cities, people. And I get it. St. Bernard, for all its stuckness, is where you'll still find traces of the old Louisiana -- the independent fisherman, trapper and rough builder. Everyone joked that St. Bernardians were a good group to get wholloped like they did, cause they're "handy."

Anyway, St. B. It's flat as a pancake, but as you head South towards the Gulf, and the Parish dead ends at a place called "End of the World" right at the Gulf of Mexico, you'll see nothing but an emerald expanse of marshland, crisscrossed by bayous and canals. Egrets in droves, something that looks like a cross between a duck and a heron, and those wonderfully droopy beaked ibis.

Boys head out on pirogues (old wooden rowboats) on weekends to fish in these water-roads. Alligators course through them. Deer, coon, rabbit on the banks provide ready food, (and these were welcome to the refugees of Katrina who'd dared to come home.) I was startled very early one morning, to see a man skinning a coon in the middle of the road. Alligator meat is a delicacy served up at weekend barbecues.

So August loves the southern end of St. Bernard. I don't know what he means by the "Fish Pond," but that's where he heads on most days he can't find a day job and I'm sure it's somewhere on a bayou down in that green nothingness.

Three years after "the storm," the brick house he and Georgiana lived in on Guerra Drive had been rebuilt and their FEMA trailer towed away. The government had left the cinderblocks that had supported the trailers behind and August found the perfect use for them. He took groups of four or eight into the backyard and arranged them into small enclosures. He'd drive down to some farmers he knew and collect horse manure and fold it into the tiny plots and inside each one he planted seedlings -- and occasionaly seed right into the "serl." His okra, tomatoes, mellaton (a Louisianan fruit I've still never tasted) broccoli, cauliflower, mustard greens grew up under his care tasty and almost always abundantly and strong. He spent lots of time with them, even, he told me, singing to them. He quotes me an Indian saying and I take every opportunity to repeat it. "One for Fox, One for Crow, One to Rot, one to Grow" (an Indian saying) Seemed like he's figured out all you need to know to get an organic garden going.

So August has been chosen to be the Master Gardener of the garden that we're starting. He wants nothing to do with the planning of the garden -- how we actually get it going, and more on that roller coaster of a trip in a later post, or how we raise the money for it -- or nuthin' and there's some resentment about that. He doesn't want to go to seminars or workshops. I nearly killed him when he opted to not go hear Will Allen --master (Afr.-Amer) urban farmer up in Minneapolis -- speak about composting when he came to the Lower 9th for a fundraiser. The Lower 9th, August! It's not the hated Arabi! No, I didn't actually say that. But that's who he is. One of those "I want to be alone" types. Somehow ya gotta respect it.

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