No matter where you’ve been or where you go, everyone is living their best life or trying their best. That “living” comes in all shades, forms and energy levels and is most likely a reflection of their surroundings, past and present. This past week, spent in Louisiana, we experienced an uncommon kindness and warmth not only from the people we met and spent time with, but also general interactions were infused with y’all be careful and y’all have fun, or come on, we have plenty, have some more, or you gotta try this, mmm good. All in this unfamiliar land / bayou laced with gators, (good eatin) frogs, countless beautiful birds and water everywhere.
We started our week at Fountainebleau State Park on the northern edge of Lake Ponchartrain, Mandeville, Louisiana, across from New Orleans. We decided to take a late-afternoon swamp tour the first day there and it did not disappoint. Via the boat and our great guide, Matt, we got up close and personal with a gator, a hungry (thinner version) racoon, many water snakes, birds and amazing plant life; in two weeks this bayou will be abloom with lavender irises and bright yellow water lilies. We had taken an Uber there, as it was about 15 miles away from the campground, but could not get an Uber or Lyft back, so of course, without a second thought, the manager gives us a ride back to the campground despite it being in the opposite direction of where he’s headed.
We are 3 nights at this Fontainebleau campground and I’m able to get a lot of work done before we move onto a harvest host for 2 nights so we can experience New Orleans. We are staying at Dixie Beer that changed overnight to Faubourg Brewery, a small jewel in an otherwise industrial area outside of New Orleans. They have (what we consider) really good beer and we are there for St. Patrick’s day! We meet another couple who have been living this nomad lifestyle for about 6 years, however they winter in their Belize condo. We spend the next day with our new friends Glenn and Paula, walking around the French Quarter, have an authentic lunch of gumbo, etouffee, red beans and rice and Jambalya. We thought that was pretty good, UNTIL we had the real thing at Lake Fausee Point State Park in St. Martinville, Louisiana.
This campground was a random selection of a destination as we were heading West. What a pleasant surprise, especially after taking the scenic route and the last 14 miles was a gravel road (paved roads were for those coming the “normal” route). At Lake Fausse we were met with such kindness as we check in and we’re told about the band and gumbo planned for the next day, Saturday. We have a site right on the river with a little dock; our campsite, like the last one at Fontainebleau, is surrounded by swampiness – need to watch your step. On Saturday we start our day with a canoe paddle on the river (rent for $7/hr); we feel safe as we know from our previous swamp tour that alligators like the heat; its cool and cloudy so we are not afraid. The Gumbo is being cooked and the band is warming up. After the paddle we have some gumbo, cooked in a 250 gallon caldron and stirred with a shovel-like spoon. We are educated in the proper way to serve ourselves: Take a large bowl, take a helping of potato salad and a helping of rice, step up to the caldron where they ladle a rich brown Gumbo over your starches. We bring beer as we observe no rules for concealment. We eat our gumbo while watching the zydeco band playing in the outdoor river pavilion. We feel blessed and grateful to have happened upon such a manifestation of love, generosity and togetherness. Couples are dancing, parents are dancing with children and the food is absolutely delicious while surrounded by nature on the river’s edge. We get up and dance too, giving our northern roots away as the zydeco rhythm has a bit of syncopation we’re not used to and the waltz we had to review the 1,2,3 step. What a great afternoon of life being fully lived. Our campsite neighbors were wonderful too, generously sharing their stories about family, food and their lives.
This stop-over has renewed and re-enforced our faith and trust in our maker and in our journey. We trust that we will experience and learn from every encounter we have by being open and present, without an agenda or a belief that things have to be a way, cause they don’t. Our faith is strengthened as we feel the love and generosity from people we just meet and connect with over what we have in common rather than by our differences.
As we say goodbye and wish safe travels to our campsite neighbors, they share with us how they found a pit of gators on their paddle, just beyond where we had been (on that cloudy day). We are blessed NOT to have found that pit.
We sign off counting our blessings, feeling more love and in love and eating healthy after all the rich food we had so we can do it again with all the leftovers/food given to us before our departure. Louisiana is indeed rich in so many things beyond the bayou, water and gators. Despite the differences we may “see” visually, our experiences solidify our belief that there is a stronger bond amongst us that goes beyond politics or belief systems and is weaved though us all by our creator.
Living our best life in love,
Sean and Kelly