donkey o.d. too

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Friday, October 07, 2005

Everything's on Loan by John Biguenet

NYTimes Guest Columnist
Oct. 5, 2005

We didn’t know that we were both mulling the same feelings, but my wife and I admitted to each other a few nights ago that we don’t want to go back to the way we used to live before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. Not that our lives were unfulfilling; in fact, Marsha and I found our work deeply satisfying, and our marriage and family life couldn’t have been any happier. But the hurricane, in turning our world upside down, has awakened in us a realization that might have slumbered undisturbed for the rest of our lives.

Like others, we were always quick to acknowledge that nothing lasts. We knew things that pleased us would crack and shatter, stray and disappear. Pleasant routines would grow tiresome. Friendships would sometimes fray. And we’re old enough to have lost people whom we loved; we thought we had grasped the lesson of that grief.

So when our house filled with muddy water, we dismissed as simply stuff, and nothing more, the books we lost, the paintings, the recipes, the sofa we had saved to buy, the old vinyl records collected years ago, the comfortable coats in the hall closet, the furniture we’d chosen piece by piece, the tablecloth Marsha’s grandmother had crocheted us as a wedding gift. It wasn’t easy. Each time another thing we’d lost to the flood occurred to us, we’d flinch inside. But with nearly a thousand New Orleanians dead after the storm, how could we justify much sorrow over mere stuff?

It wasn’t the loss, then, so much as the lesson the loss emphatically taught that made us ask whether we’d simply reconstruct, if we could, the life we used to have before the storm, or whether we’d change, in fundamental ways, the kind of life we’d lead from this point on. If it turned out that our house had to come down after sitting for weeks in four or five feet of water, would we rebuild where it stood in our quiet neighborhood or move into another part of town, perhaps the French Quarter? And if that could change, then why not reconsider the habits of our lives — the round of jobs and tasks, films and favorite restaurants — that filled our weeks? I suppose it comes down to a fairly simple decision: should we rebuild the life we had or start from scratch.

The one thing of which we are sure is that we want to return to New Orleans. We want to help our schools reopen, help our city rebuild. Beyond that, though, it’s all a question mark.

We know now, in a way we couldn’t have known without losing so many of the things we owned, that possession is an illusion. Everything’s on loan. As for security, we know just a few hours of rain and wind can leave your life in shambles. It will be harder from now on to take things for granted because we know that even a city — imagine, a whole city — can be extinguished in a single summer morning. So we have changed. I don’t think I will ever close a door behind me again without wondering, Last time?

We used to live as if our lives drifted on a river that rolled on forever, but now we’ve heard the falls ahead. To us, the roar sounds louder than it did just a few weeks ago. Perhaps that’s why we think it’s finally time to swim against the current.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please continue to post articles by this guy.

10:52 PM  
Blogger dorsano said...

These posts are wonderful Jen.

12:10 AM  

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