Rising and Shining ~ An Atchafalaya Tale

Bidding us adieu at the doorway of Café Des Amis on the Friday before Christmas, Mary Lynn was emphatic. “Remember,” she said, “you’re going to have to rise and shine if you want to get a table for tomorrow’s Zydeco breakfast.”

No innkeeper could be more attentive, more determined than Mary Lynn to help her guests savor their experience in her world, but her words evoked memories even sweeter than the Gâteau de Sirop we enjoyed our first night in Breaux Bridge.  “Rise and shine!” my mother would say, drawing back the morning curtains. “Rise and shine!” my dad would echo, coaxing me into the day, tempting me with the promise of adventure.

Cheerful and comfortable, “rise and shine” became a childhood staple, an assurance that the challenges, trials and delights of the day ahead would be well worth the effort of throwing back the covers. With passing years, the phrase took on added weight, becoming a cautionary reminder that just getting up isn’t enough. It’s not enough to plod into the day, slogging through it as though life itself is a burden and an imposition. Being called to get up is one thing. Being willing to shine is another.

Back at Bayou Teche, our bed-and-breakfast home, another memory began to stir. “Rise and shine” had been a common expression in my childhood home, but it also served as the hallmark signature of a blogger I’ve never met, an Atchafalaya River basin-dweller named Jim Delahoussaye, whose writings during last spring’s floods were straightforward and compelling. As far back as 2005 he was ending each blog entry with the phrase, “Rise and shine”.  I liked it, finding that, and much else about his blog, appealing. Now that we were in his neighborhood, a visit seemed in order.

“You know,” I said to Carolyn, “they have the Zydeco breakfast every Saturday. There’s no reason we couldn’t come back on another weekend…” “Well,” she said, “A big breakfast certainly isn’t at the top of my list after that dinner. Got another idea?” Peering at the map, I considered, finally giving voice to my impulse. “Since we’re heading that direction anyway, I think I’d like to go down to Butte La Rose and find the bridge.” “What bridge?”  “The throwback,” I said. “The weird one. The pontoon bridge that looks like a cross between a Steampunk fantasy and an outlandlish Rube Goldberg project.”

Not blinking an eye, the best traveling companion in the world said, “I’m in. What’ll we do for breakfast?”

Breakfast turned out to be dark, rich coffee and fresh-from-the-oven French bread from T-Sue’s bakery on the Henderson Highway, just east of Breaux Bridge proper. Like bread produced by LeJeune’s in Jeanerette or Poupart’s in Lafayette, it was crusty yet tender, hot and just slightly yeasty, delicious even without butter or jam.  Like a levee road, the loaves were straight and simple, although, as we traveled toward Butte La Rose, it was impossible not to consider the sad consequences for both of too much moisture.

On May 23, 2011, as the Mississippi River crest worked its way southward and backwater flooding had become an immediate concern for the entire Atchafalaya basin, a mandatory evacuation order was posted for Butte LaRose, an off-the-beaten-track community tucked into the basin.  The formal notices were terse: “Back water flooding is beginning to approach some structures in the Butte Larose area. Therefore, the mandatory evacuation order will be reinstated in the Butte Larose area on Tuesday, May 24, 2011 at 12:00 p.m. Entry into the area will be prohibited and [the order] will be strictly enforced…”

The week the decision was made to flood the Atchafalaya basin in order to save Baton Rouge and New Orleans, I wrote:

So. The engineers have calculated, the scientists have pondered, the advisors have advised and the decision-makers have decided. The Bird’s Point levee has been blown apart, the river is being allowed to run free through the Bonnet Carre Spillway and the Morganza Spillway gates are being raised, one by one.
I have no real quarrel with any of this. I’ve followed the decision-making process as best I can, and I understand the rationale. But like so many who claim even the slightest connection to the Atchafalaya, to Cajun country and to the area’s warm, friendly and often downright quirky people, I was immensely saddened to see the waters begin to pour into the Atchafalaya Basin, scattering wildlife and sending its people fleeing to higher ground.
If I’m cheered at all, it’s by the knowledge that a goodly portion of the folks in Louisiana are what my grandfather used to call “britches hitchers”. Faced with a challenge, with adversity or grief, they “hitch up their britches” and get on with it.
Jim Delahoussaye, a resident of Butte La Rose, recently mentioned a friend, a catfisherman who’d pulled a rib trying to run lines that were too tight. “You can’t always fight,” said Jim, reflecting on his friend’s experience. There comes a time when it’s “best to let it go, and start over when this statement by the river has been made.”

In the end, the river’s statement was less than apocalyptic. There was flooding, and there were damaged structures. There was mud to be cleaned away, and creatures of every sort to be returned to their natural habitat. Still, as Delahoussaye wrote on June 2, it could  have been worse.

Some houses got flooded, to be sure, but those are mostly on an elevation not much different from the forest floor. The river bank didn’t flood. At 29 feet it would have gone over the bank for the first time in recorded history, I believe, but not at 23.5 feet. Perhaps some places on the river got flooded in 1973 when the crest was 27 feet, but not many.  Basically… Butte La Rose was not seriously impacted by the high water of 2011.

Other consequences resulted less from actual flooding than from sustained fear and anxiety.  In his entry of June 7, Delahoussaye says,

We had a near-miss, not a full blown catastrophe, but some people are leaving the community forever because of an emotional response to the threat. One family has been here for 37 years, and they are now looking for a house to buy elsewhere, where the water cannot come.

Driving toward the levee on a quiet road lined with houses of every sort (camps, as they are called), it was hard to imagine anyone leaving Butte La Rose. We remarked especially on the yard signs, as creative and quirky as their owners. Some are humorous, sporting such slogans as Dad’s Pad When Mom’s Mad. Others have a certain elegance (Bayou de Betsy) while still others appear to declare their owners’ intention to live out their days far from the madding crowd, whatever the river may bring.

Finally, as we neared the end of the camp-lined road, the bridge for which we were searching appeared. With the river in full flood, it had been taken apart and secured in order to prevent damage. Now, with the waters receded, it had been reassembled in all its rusted glory, becoming once again a sturdy, dependable and just vaguely humorous link to the outside world.

Creaking across the bridge I’d christened Le Pont Steampunque, we came to the top of the levee. From that vantage point, the world appeared orderly and secure.  Once again banked and slow-moving, the Atchafalaya slouched its way toward the Gulf.  A pair of hunters crossing the old bridge in their truck waved, and turned southward along the levee road that would take them to Catahoula.  Near the edge of the bayou, a man in no particular hurry stopped to speak to the dog trailing him, doling out an absent-minded scratch behind the dog’s ears as a single poule d’eau watched from the water’s edge.

Later, at the convenience store on the Atchafalaya Highway, the couple behind the counter had few customers and time to talk: about the water, about the flood of attention that innundated their town, about the blessedness of ordinary days. Rise and shine, I thought, listening to them. Rise and shine. The river will have its day, but for now it’s enough to rejoice in the river’s fall, delight in the rising sun and let the sweet glow of gratitude shine in your eyes, you who escaped to tell the tale.

But there was no time to linger. It was Christmas eve, with miles to go.

And we still hadn’t gotten to the bonfires…

Comments are welcome. To leave a comment or respond, please click below.
This is the second of three entries about a Christmas-time trip into Louisiana’s Acadiana. Click here for Part One: Over the Bayous and Through the Swamp

69 thoughts on “Rising and Shining ~ An Atchafalaya Tale

  1. No way I can spell atchefalaya correctly but we talked to the park wardens working the New Orleans office and they said: “Go there”.
    I “added to favourites” the guy in Riverlogue a while ago but we never left New Orleans before we had to fly back here..
    Some Day.

    1. Ken,

      You’re closer than many folks, on the spelling. Pronunciation varies considerably, too, but a trip to the area will take care of that.

      It’s really quite amazing – all many people know of the area is (1) the interstate highway bridge across the basin is really long and (2) if there’s an accident on it, you’d better have an extra portion of patience with you.

      Your park wardens were right. Acadiana isn’t New Orleans, and both deserve attention. You’d enjoy it.


  2. Your writing is wonderful. I feel like I’ve been treated to a novella this morning, and learned something in the bargain. This part of the US seems like a world apart, with a unique culture and attitude. Thank you for taking me along on your journey – I was indeed right there with you. Marvellous, truly.

    1. Deborah,

      Trust your feelings on this one – the area I’m writing about is “a world apart, with a unique culture and attitude”. I’m no expert on such things, but I suspect part of the reason is that, like other separate and distinct cultures within the US, the Cajuns have made an intentional effort to preserve their history and traditions. I’m thinking here of the Amish and some of the German/Czech communities in Texas, particularly. Of course there are others, but those are the ones that come to mind.

      The history of the Acadians in Louisiana has been commercialized. In St. Martinsville, home of the Evangeline oak, the Evangeline statue and an Evangeline-heavy museum, you also have the Evangeline Dry Cleaners, Evangeline Stop-and-Shop and Evangeline Mortuary! But scratch the surface – talk to someone, walk along the bayou, explore the cemeteries – and the past comes alive.

      To be more accurate, you become aware of just how true Faulkner’s line is: “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.”


      1. Some years ago my wife and I followed part of the Evangeline Trail, not just because it’s well known but because her name happens to be Evangeline. Most American schools no longer assign Evangeline or anything else by Longfellow, but my wife, growing up in the Philippines when the influence of the American school system from the first half of the 20th century was still very strong there, had had to read the poem in school.

        Yes, the Evangeline Trail has been commercialized, but that commercialization let me have the fun of taking pictures of Evangeline in front of the Evangeline this and the Evangeline that (but not the Evangeline Mortuary!).

        I know of your interest in education, so I’ll add that surprisingly many Americans who see the name Evangeline in writing have trouble pronouncing it. So much for the skill of sounding out a word, as we used to call it.

        I look forward to the rest of your adventure.

        1. Steve,

          My first foray into Evangeline country came three years ago. I ran into some cypress trees along a stream west of Kerrville that somehow evoked, “This is the forest primeval…” and the next thing I knew I was in St. Martinsville. A year later I was back, hauling along a 5-foot paper doll, but that’s another story…

          You and your wife must have had a great time – and the commercialization’s certainly not all bad. If you’re going to promote a literary heroine as a way of broadening understanding of your culture, you might as well do it up right. And I will say that the museums and exhibits are well done. This year, I hope to go to a festival. I see on February 11 there will be a reception in town for couples who became engaged or married under the Evangeline Oak. Who says romance isn’t alive!?

          I’m surprised, about the pronunciation. I’ve been sitting here trying to figure out how NOT to pronounce it properly – it’s probably just too familiar.

          So happy to see your comment here, at last. We’ll hope for no more system glitches in the New Year!


  3. More alien speak, and as fascinating as before.

    You make this trip come alive for me, your little asides and reminiscences add to the colour and immediacy; this is a world about which I know absolutely nothing; your writing makes me want to come along and explore it with you.

    Our planet is a wonderful place.

    1. friko,

      I love your phrase, “alien speak” – sometimes, that’s exactly what it feels like. When I began sailing and had to understand the Cajun barge captains on the intracoastal waterway, it felt as though they were speaking an entirely different language. Sometimes they were – Cajun French – but even when speaking English, Cajuns sprinkle their conversation with so many French phrases and idioms it can be a challenge!

      “Color” and “immediacy” are hallmarks of their world, so if I’m managing to communicate even a bit of those qualities, I’m happy.

      I wish you could come and explore with me – we’d have quite a time, I’m sure!


  4. Linda,

    Rising, shining, and trusting enough to go with the flow, because what happens is kinder than what we fear. Reveling in what’s along the way. Your blog journeys say it all—and we haven’t even gotten to the bonfires!


    1. Claudia,

      “What happens is kinder than what we fear” – such a great summation, and so, so true.

      For some reason it evokes the feelings I had when I began hanging out around levees – first in Mississippi, then in Louisiana. There’s a certain point where you have to go up and over, and you have no idea what’s on the other side. Still, like the bear who went over the mountain, we go – and the things we see are marvelous!

      Just wait ’til we get to those bonfires – or New York, for that matter!


  5. There was a time in my life when I made yearly trips to N’awlings for work. I hated the I10 monotony of driving in the treetops of the Atchafalaya crossing so much I would turn the drive into a daylong adventure along the bayous of southern Louisiana.

    My Louisiana highway map and I would meander our way from Houston to New Orleans never taking the same route twice. Sometimes I miss the exploration…especially since it was on someone else’s dime.

    1. Gary,

      And isn’t it amazing that the I-10 crossing is all some people know of the Atchafalaya? When we finally got back to Breaux Bridge after seeing the bonfires, Mary Lynn asked which route we’d taken to come home. When I told her “through Morgan City”, she just laughed.

      But that big loop around the basin is marvelous. This time, I made two discoveries – Pierre Part on the east, Fausse Pointe on the west. I suppose I’m going to have to go back.

      Have you ever been to Lake Martin’s rookery with your camera? If you haven’t it would be worth the drive. It’s on my list for the springtime – I’ve been there once, but too early. They say it’s quite an experience when the rookery’s full and the young ones have hatched.


      1. Most of my trips were pre-2000 and pre-photography reintroduction. I really missed the old Hwy 90 when they rebuilt it through the swamps. I can still recall driving along on a narrow two lanes of concrete with water lapping over the shoulder for miles.

        I used to follow the coast on occasion too. Much longer drive but different scenery. I have never been to Lake Martin. I’ll have to try and work it into my agenda.

        I have my fingers crossed for the rain they are promising us…

        1. That water-at-the-edge-of-the-road business certainly adds to the effect. When I was farther south, around Dulac and Bayou Dularge, we went over to Cocodrie – any farther would have required a boat. Crossing east to west, it was marvelous to feel, even in a car, that sense of moving into, rather than through, a landscape.

          Lake Martin’s where I saw my first mama alligator, with her nine babies on a log next to her. It was wonderful!

          I just was looking – “they” are saying 70%-90% chance for tomorrow. Even if you take the standard 50% discount, there might be something there for us!


  6. HA! The Last Dance would be my kind of place/name. And the “To be Continued” sign…brilliant. I love the route you’re taking us to the bonfires, Linda. :)

    1. Ginnie,

      Let’s just say I’ve learned a good bit about how to make things interesting from a certain woman and her friends who make a habit of roaming about…!

      I couldn’t believe that sign when I saw it. But here’s the very best one of all. I’d included it in the post because it’s so hilarious, but it didn’t belong and I had to take it out.

      My personal theory is that it belongs to a perfectly nice person who got fed up with all the media down on his bayou during the flood. Butte La Rose was in the flooding bullseye, but it also was easily accessible for the national media until they instituted the mandatory evacuation.

      I can only imagine there were some aggravations as people tried to protect themselves and their property, all the while having to fend off stupid questions – like, “How do you feel about the possibility of everything you own being under 15 feet of water?”

      OK – media rant off! Glad you enjoyed – next stop, the bonfires!


  7. Well, you can imagine the frisson of memory I felt when you mentioned Butte La Rose and the pontoon bridge. I remember “Dad’s Pad When Mom’s Mad,” of course, and so much else you name. I didn’t know that the pontoon bridge was taken apart for safety at the time of last spring’s floods, though thank goodness it was so.

    I do hope your keen observations and lyrical writing will form up into a book. Not only do I want to read it, but I immediately thought how much I would like to share it with our friends in New Orleans and Baton Rouge who introduced us to this magical world. Rise and shine, yes, indeed.

    1. Susan,

      I went back and re-read your entries and smiled – not only at how much I recognized, and how many things I put on the list for “next time”, but also at the marvel of travel. Two people, one area, yet such different experiences and observations.

      For the past year or so, I’ve been paying attention to people who complain of “boredom”. I’m beginning to think a sense of boredom is actually a lack of sensitivity, particularly to the world around us. There’s always something new to see, even in our “same old surroundings”. All we need do is look.

      As for a book – well, who knows? We’re eight days into the year and already I feel two weeks behind. Little by little, I’m clearing a space in my life for writing – perhaps I need a larger space. In the meantime, send your friends a link to what’s going on here. After all, it has the great advantage of being free.

      A brief note about writing – I had a small revelation on the trip about learning to write, and who might serve as a proper guide. Watch for an entry in the medium future about a pirogue builder from Pierre Part – a fellow I learned about at a gas station there. We does our researchin’ where we can. ;-)


  8. Oh, Linda, I really do feel as though I’m right there along with you, discovering new things around every curve. (Although missing that breakfast might have been a tough one for me!) I remember your writing about the floods — seems like years, not months ago. To see this spot now — well, it’s a bit like full circle.

    It is a Sunday morning, the sky is filled with sunlight and I’m back from my walk to the ditch! Rise and Shine!

    1. jeanie,

      Dont’ worry about the breakfast. There’s plenty of good food and good music to be found – sometimes, in surprising places. Once upon a time, I was given a tip for finding good gumbo in Cajun country – look for the house that has the boat under the carport and the car parked on the street!

      Many of us became so immersed in events surrounding the flood – not to mention the ever-present question of whether “this” would be the time the Mississippi captured the Atchafalaya – that going to Butte LaRose felt a little like going home. Doucet’s grocery, the satsumas on the trees, the bridge, the boat ramp – they all were so familiar.

      It’s easy to criticize the internet and some of the foolishness that goes on here, but the truth is it has great potential to make foreign territory accessible, and strangers, friends. Right now, I can “see” your ditch, and Harry the Heron giving you the eye as you walk by.
      What could be better than “knowing” a heron in Michigan? Well, except knowing you, of course!


  9. This is like being right there in the car with you. I smelled coffee and taste fresh baked bread, as I read.

    What a cool bridge!

    Some years back, the local gubmint and transportation department were talking about replacing the old swing bridge between Mt. Pleasant and Sullivan’s Island with a fixed span. Better traffic flow and no more waiting for boats to pass. The island residents would have nothing to do with it. “It just won’t do,” they said. They now have a brand spanking new swing bridge.

    The telling of the flooding makes me want to re-read Twain’s ‘Life on the Mississippi’ again.

    1. Gué,

      I’m no Proust (heaven knows!) and there aren’t any madeleines lying about, but isn’t it true what he says about smell and taste evoking memory?

      “…after the things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.”

      Unfortunately, now I want some of that bread, and there’s nothing like it in this neighborhood – not even at La Madeleine!

      The bridge is wonderful – it’s so clumsy and awkward-looking, you can’t help but feel some affection for it. I’m sure some of that kind of feeling was behind your islanders’ resistance to a cookie-cutter span. Hooray, that they got their swing bridge!

      Our Clear-Creek channel has a wonderful, high bridge now that sailboats can get under. Before that, working backward, there was a swing bridge, a drawbridge and a ferry. There are a couple of photos here. A few years ago, I was talking with an old fellow while getting my car serviced. As it turns out, his grandfather was one of the ferrymen on the channel – he helped take care of the horses. ;-)

      When you get done with Twain, if you haven’t read John M. Barry’s “Rising Tide” about the 1927 Mississippi flood, I highly recommend it. I’ve made my way through it once, but in big gulps. It’s time to go back and give it a closer read now that I have better knowledge of the area.


      1. Ah, the 1927 flood. I’ve either seen a magazine article or, perhaps, a documentary on TV about it.

        I’ll have to check out that book out. Hold on a minute… yep, yep.. Ok, got it jotted down in my little notebook I take to the library with me. If I don’t write these things down, when I get over there, I’m scratching my head and mumbling, “Now, what was that book I wanted to read? What was the title? Dang, I can’t remember the author’s name. John something….”, whilst the other visitors glance nervously at me and start looking around for the security guard..

        1. I can’t tell you how reassuring it is to know there’s someone else in the world carrying around a notebook – and I don’t mean a spiral-bound computer! Some might be more likely to call the guards on you for using an “unknown device”!

  10. I love the way you tell a story, and this is fascinating to me because I’ve never been in this part of the country at all. It is definitely a world of it’s own, and so different than anywhere I’ve been before. I love learning more about it from your travels.

    “Rise and shine” was something my dad used to say to me when I was little. I loved getting up in the morning even then, so I was always happy to do as he asked :)

    1. Becca,

      Isn’t it amazing, the way a single phrase from childhood can evoke such memories? I don’t hear “rise and shine” used much these days, and wondered if it was falling (or had fallen) out of favor. But, lo! A youtube search produced a song called “Rise and Shine” by The Cardigans. I’ve never heard of the group, but with a million-and-a-half hits they must be popular with someone, and it’s a nice song. I’m glad the phrase is still out there.

      Here’s my hypothesis of the day: the Cajun culture – in fact much of the culture of south Louisiana, Cajun or not – fascinates us because it’s alive in ways that American culture increasingly is not.

      It’s more than spicy food or great music. It’s a world of family bonds, respect for and love of the natural world, a willingness to help neighbors, and so on. Some of my friends turn their noses up at both Louisiana and Texas because they think we’re not “sophisticated”. That may be. But I’ll take “authentic” over “sophisticated” any day. I’ve done sophisticated, and I don’t believe I want to live there any more. ;)


  11. So much French in this area… influence of the Acadians I suppose. It’s interesting to see French signs and locale names in the US. Of course it’s ubiquitous here in Canada, esp. the Maritimes. I understand most of the Acadians were driven out of Canada to settle in the States, although some came back and remained mostly in New Brunswick. Interesting travel log you have here, Linda. And, I’m waiting for the next instalment of your series.

    And on another note, I just tweeted about the “Word of the Year for 2011”: “occupy”, of course. Just thought as a word lover, you might want to know the previous ‘winners’. Here’s the link to the American Dialect Society’s Word of the Year web page.

    1. Arti,

      As you note, the Cajuns began as Acadians. It’s hard to put everything in a post – or even a series of posts – but here’s just a snippet of background that may help others who are reading.

      In the 17th century, French settlers colonized land in the Canadian Maritime provinces. The main area of settlement, Nova Scotia, was known as Acadia. After the English exiled them from their land in an event known as The Great Dispersal, the Acadians were scattered. From 1765 to 1785, over 3,000 of them made their way to Louisiana. Over time, other elements of existing cultures were incorporated, and Cajun culture emerged.

      It’s great fun to wander the streets of a town like Breaux Bridge and see signs in French, or hear people quite naturally refer to “Pont Breaux” in conversation. I didn’t realize until very recently that French is once again being taught in schools, and other, quite intentional efforts to preserve and restore the culture are being made.

      As for that “Word of the Year” – humph. I wonder if it was competing for the honor with the hyphenated “politically-correct”. Probably not. ;-)


  12. Oh, sure, leave us hanging, just as we’re getting to know Butte LaRose and her people (love that bridge!). Yes, you should collect these “parts” when you’ve finished this telling. You are some travel writer, Ms. Linda. I am definitely along for the ride!

    1. ds,

      And I’m right happy to have you along, too! The cooler with the fruit and drinks is… there, you got it. Settle back and enjoy!

      You’ll probably understand this, too. The hardest part of writing this post was making it both a continuation of what’s come before, and a “stand-alone” entry that would be understandable to someone who bumped into it with no context. Always a new challenge!

      Isn’t the bridge great? When I first laid eyes on it, this is what came to mind!


      1. Ha ha! Great song–I can see how the bridge would bring it to mind. And now, for a shameless act of self-promotion, given the performance of Peter, Paul & Mary, you will have to interrupt your travels and stop by the window to read yesterday’s entry. It might give you a chuckle…

        I agree, it is difficult to keep the momentum in sequences. It helps that you are so excited by, involved in, and know so much about your material. You’re engaged, and therefore engaging. And that has made all the difference. ;-)

        1. The familiar advice to “write what you know” can be dangerous, if we’re not willing to keep learning, and depend on more than direct experience. When I started this blog, I hadn’t a clue that research would end up taking as much or more time than writing, or that fact-checking would become as important as editing for spelling and grammar.

          But you’re right about excitement and involvement being keys. It helps to make the process enjoyable for me, too!

  13. ‘It was Christmas eve, with miles to go.’

    I love that sentence. It makes me believe that those hours teetering before the Great Holiday will last forever.

    It’s been too long since I’ve been to Louisiana. I went with a girlfrirend to New Orleans a long time ago – I remember that we took walks through the residential districts, peering into people’s gardens, inspecting their miniature forests, their statuary hiding beind the weeping willows.

    1. aubrey,

      There’s a certain timelessness to good travel, a rhythm that sets in as the miles unwind. Combine that with the time-out-of-time experience of holy-days, and life can be very good, indeed.

      The walled gardens of New Orleans are another kind of lovely – at once mysterious and shy. Clearly, you’re the person to write about them. They’re made to order for lush, luxuriant language.


  14. “Rise and shine!” was a part of my childhood mornings too, along with “Up an’ at ’em!”.

    Though it appears that staple of Vacation Bible School (the one with the “floody floody”) has succumbed to the forces of secularization:

    1. Al,

      What a treat that video is – thanks! I had to go searching for the full text of the childrens’ lyrics, and in the process discovered what may be the source for another phrase I commonly use: “hunky-dory”. Train a child up, and all that.

      Now I have a taste for graham-cracker and chocolate frosting sandwiches, with a chaser of grape Kool-aid. ;-)


  15. A great read, as usual, Linda.

    My first thought here are of your breakfast, which has reminded me of travels in Australia and New Zealand, and the excellent breakfasts, etc, that I’ve had in some atmospheric bakeries with seating arrangements.

    My second though is of the rivers and flooding. As a city dweller in Sydney for so many years in areas that never saw any rain buildup in the streets, it all seems so unreal for me. Our situation here in Santiago is the same — except for the earthquake threat, of course. Makes you think of the difficulties of others.

    And finally, thanks for your lastest comment on my blog post. You see what I see in it as far as the composition’s concerned, and that’s exactly why I posted it.

    1. Andrew,

      I do love breakfasts and brunches – probably because carbohydrates are so dear to my heart and all of the cinnamon rolls, croissants, brioche, French toast, French bread and English muffins are wonderful sources! All combine well with coffee, and they all help to make new environments feel a bit like home – what could be better?

      One of the ironies of the Atchafalaya flooding and the good luck of Butte La Rose is that the same terrible drought which is causing us such concern also served as a mitigating factor for the flood. As the water made its way through the Atchafalaya Basin, much of it was absorbed, as though by a giant sponge. Amazing.

      One of the reasons I love your photos is that there’s always something unusual in them, an interesting little “hook”. Easy enough to say, “Oh! Such a pretty sunset!”. That second look can be rewarding.


  16. “Now, with the waters receded, it had been reassembled in all its rusted glory, becoming once again a sturdy, dependable and just vaguely humorous link to the outside world.” Thank you for showing us such bridges. It makes me think of Van Gogh’s many bridges. How fortunate we are to have his paintings, and how fortunate we are to have you to share the one(s) you have visited.

    Your blogs make me think that blogging has to be, if it hasn’t already been, recognized as a literary genre. Thank you for taking us along on your journey. Although it took place over Christmas…it hardly seems like a brief excursion for ALL you noticed, observed and recorded.
    Just as I remember reading “Evangeline” in my 7th grade Literature text, I see your entry as the unit dedicated to “blogs.”

    1. georgette,

      I do love bridges. Pure heaven would be a trip down the Mississippi, criscrossing the river on every single bridge. If I could throw in railroad bridges, that would be even better!

      Your remark about blogging as a literary genre thrills me. When I began this little endeavor, I had a hunch – a belief, a conviction – that blog platforms could be used for “real” writing. As time’s gone on and I’ve begun to learn a little about writing, I’ve become even more convinced that a new genre is emerging, with quite specific characteristics. There are so many people doing so many wonderful things – the variety is exhilarating.

      The first six months I was here, I was given two kinds of advice. Some said the way to succeed in blogging was to post every day, never exceed 500 words, and depend heavily on “blogthings”, quizzes, memes, graphics and so on. Others said to be taken seriously, a blogger never should post anything but text – no graphics, no youtubes, no links. Eventually, I said fiddlesticks to them both, and went my own way. After six months the blog finally received fifty page hits in one day, and that thrilled me, too. The rest has been gravy. ;)

      Isn’t it amazing the way time gets stretched, in the telling of the tale? These two posts cover about 24 hours’ worth of activity in real time. Even to me, writing it, it feels like a real journey!


  17. To travel spontaneously is a source of joy, whether it be to Cajun Country or across the breadth of our lives. And after considering your words for a few days now, I appreciate how this series of posts invites us to direct our gaze toward both.

    From my perch in the backseat of Princess, I get to experience Cajun Country through your eyes and those of what must be the best traveling companion in the world. And then there’s that mysterious sense this piece evokes of traveling through time — back to your ‘rise and shine’ beginnings — then on to the present roadway that opens and widens before our eyes as the miles tick tock away — until. Until we encounter a sign that points us to the future: A place named, “To Be Continued.”

    Oh, I like those words ‘to be continued’ — they give me time to consider where I’ve been and what’s coming next while I catch my breath. And as I work toward a closing, I wonder how the essence of life would differ if I lived each day more in a ‘to be continued’ way — rather than rushing and pushing myself to get everything on my list done by when I said I’d do it.

    I like riding in your back seat.


    1. Reading Janell’s comment made me think about those words at the end of each of these posts…”To Be Continued.”

      They are not just a promise that there is more story to tell…They are also an internal affirmation that there is more story to live.

      Now I am looking for my very own “To Be Continued.”


    2. Janell,

      I never thought I had much in common with Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters, but their bus came to mind when I read your comment. I took a look at some old photos, and discovered an amusing detail – the license plate on the front of the current bus says “Furthr”. Maybe I’ll get vanity plates for Princess that say “2BCNTUD”.

      As I mentioned to Aubrey, above, there is a sense of timelessness about real travel. Of course there are destinations, schedules, limitations of every sort, but somehow those realities can be transformed by curiosity, openness and receptivity. Whether we’re in a museum or on a mudflat, those qualities (and maybe a little courage!) can allow travel to become a transformational experience.

      “…time to consider where I’ve been and what’s coming next…” Action, and reflection – the best kind of learning, and a whole lot of fun!


      1. I’m retracing my steps to offer a ‘footnote.’

        I encountered many words in last night’s reading that run parallel and and therefore widen my initial comment to this piece — here are a few excerpts from Robert McKee’s “Story”, a book I’m reading for a short morning class that will soon begin….

        (1) “A storyteller is a life poet, an artist who transforms day-to-day living, inner life and outer life, dream and actuality in to a poem whose rhyme scheme is events rather than words — …a metaphor that says: Life is like this!”

        (2) “The writers of portraiture and spectacle, indeed all writers, must come to understand the relationship of story to life: Story is metaphor of life.”

        By the time I’d read the first chapter, I realized how McKee’s words describe you and your writing. Have you read this book?


        1. I’ve neither read the book nor heard of Mr. McKee. I did run my eye over his wiki, and noticed (with approval) that he’s willing to apply his story/narrative concept to nonfiction, too. Makes sense, given what you’ve quoted above.

          As these things happen, I was commenting at friko’s blog recently about some of the same issues – using these two travel posts as examples of my point. I made mention there of Zinsser, too – rather than quote, I’ll just point you to the comment on her blog – you’ll have to scroll just a bit. And I think you’ll enjoy the NPR interview with Zinsser I linked. Stimulating stuff, for sure!

          If you didn’t notice my comment to ds, above, that’s relevant, too. How we turn life into story is a whole different issue – there, we move into issues of craft. Until I started trying to fit three sequential posts together to tell one tale, I didn’t fully appreciate Nathaniel Hawthorne’s take on things: “Easy reading is damned hard writing”.

          I hope your class was great, and I wouldn’t mind hearing more.


  18. This was such an enjoyable read.

    My mother used to say, “Rise and shine, Lucy.” Sometimes it was, “Rise and shine, Susie.” I never knew why she called me Lucy or Susie, but I guess you could say they were her pet names for me.

    H used to go into our son’s room every morning and pull him out by his feet saying, “Rise and shine. It’s time for school.” They loved it. I’ll never forget the last morning he ever did that. It was the day we took him to college.

    So glad you had such a wonderful time.

    1. Bella,

      Weren’t our mothers great? And I love that H did that – especially when your son was a “big boy” ready to go off to college. I’ll bet he always will remember that – just like we remember. Pet names, little daily gestures – those are traditions, too. Sometimes, they’re more durable than the “big” traditions that get so weighed down with this and that.

      It was a fine trip, for sure. Sometimes we just need to saddle up and hit the trail – not for the destination so much, but for the sense of movement. If we get to see a good sunset along the way, so much the better.


  19. Reading this in the middle of a rather dreary pittsburgh winter day was like taking a mini-vacation – I forwarded it to Sam to tell him THIS, THIS is what we are doing when we return to LA – not staying at the marriott again! Thanks so much – I think Lafayette owes you some money for your travel writing.

    1. Courtney,

      Oh, gosh – I’m so glad you enjoyed it. And you know what lies just around the bend – Evangeline country! That won’t be a part of this series, but it’s lurking, lurking.Wouldn’t it be great to have a photo of your Evangeline under the Evangeline Oak?

      As it turns out, we could have driven straight to Baton Rouge, stayed at a hotel there, and been taken by bus to the levee, where we would get on a boat with a couple hundred other people and see the bonfires. Hmmmm…. Let’s see…. I think we made the right decision!

      Glad I could brighten up your afternoon a bit!


    1. Juliet,

      “Pont Steampunque” isn’t as graceful or ancient as so many of your bridges, but it makes me laugh – a great quality. And it functions perfectly well, so there you are.

      Eventually I’ll be writing about the history of the bridges at Breaux Bridge – there have been several, and one or two are as interesting as this charmer!

      I hope your new year is unfolding nicely – I spotted a pair of northern shrike today and wondered how your birding is going. I’ll have to come see.


    1. philosophermouse,

      Different for sure, in many ways. But also very much the same as the world I grew up in – open, friendly, receptive. Filled with nice people. Nice is sorely underrated in my opinion, and a good dose of “nice” is reason enough to travel there!


  20. I’ll bet it isn’t even possible to get a bad meal in Louisiana. I think it’s a law or something. “Serve bad food and die.” It really does have a distinct culture. More than one. Maybe that’s true of any place once you settle in and listen to people awhile. Some cultural outposts, though, are more fun to visit than others. You’re making a real good case for the bayou.

    1. Gerry,

      Oh, you can get a bad meal in Louisiana, all right – but it will be the same bad meal you’d get at any of those franchises in any state in the country. Otherwise? Those people can cook. A good roux still counts in some circles.

      I do believe the settling in and listening can make a difference, anywhere. Still, in some places you have to work a little to hear something interesting. In Cajun country, the biggest problem can be sorting through the cacophony of voices!


  21. I love the language of the south, of this area. The language is so tied to the land: Atchafalya, Delahoussaye (meaning from the….and will no dobut be a geographical reference as are so many Fr/Cajun names), Butte La Rose, Poupart…and on and on. It makes the writing sing, it draws the reader to exactly what must be the subject, in this case the rich land and what has happened to it…..this one is lyrical and depthful and I sincerely look forward to the next entry.

    See? and I’m not even gonna mention that here’s the beginning of your book.

    Happy New Year, Linda!

    1. oh,

      Yes, re: the ties between language and land. But that’s true anywhere. I was astonished while traveling in Kansas, Iowa and Minnesota last fall to discover how many of the names of places and towns I’d grown up with are rooted in the various tribal languages. Some are obvious – the Kiowa, the Sioux. Others, not so much. And it’s certainly true in places like Louisiana, too, where I never, ever considered the role of Native Americans in their culture until the past couple of years. For me, Houma was a town, not a tribe. Thus does the learning go on…

      Next entry’s in process & with luck will be up by the time you read this. As for the rest – what is this “book” of which you speak? ;)


      1. Ah, yes, places are named according to what they are, but only the French focus on it to the extent that the sounds nearly represent what they physically are. And their last names are (often, very) rooted in the geography. OK, except Houssaye which is related to fashion, actually.

        Mmmm…I know names reflect jobs and characteristics, but the French have it so deep in their culture and the lyricism of French and Cajun are so beautiful with the areas to which they refer…I should work on articulating this. It’s a “feeling” more than a fact, I guess, but it sounds so good and conjures such images in this entry. (yup, I am mad for the French language and culture and extensions (such as Cajun) thereof!)

        1. You intrigued me with that fashion reference. I went a-searching for “de la Houssaye” and ended up laughing. One name, two sorts of references – fashion, yes (including some 18th century), but also Atchafalaya swamp tour guides. Just wonderful.

          I can’t help but wonder what the French think of Cajun French. I certainly learned the difference between Parisian French and the language spoken in the countryside quickly enough! I could get along fairly well in places like Chartres and the small villages, but Paris? I was too young and insecure to plow straight on through. ;)
          From what I’m told, there are significant distinctions between Creole and Cajun, too – which probably are expressed in the language.

          I’m telling you – get yourself back down to NOLA and we’ll do Cajun country from there. I still have visions of a meetup down at Bayou Woman’s place in Dularge!


  22. Dear Linda,

    Your stories never fail to entertain me as well as educate me. And put a smile on my face.

    “Rise & Shine” I still use that term all the time.


    1. Patti,

      Smiles are good – they’re better than good. And it makes me smile to see how many people not only remember the phrase “rise and shine”, but still use it. At the very least, that means we’ll have another generation of kids with some pretty good memories.
      Maybe they’ll even like getting up in the morning!

      Glad you stopped by – I hope you’re feeling better!


  23. I get as much pleasure out of reading the comments and your replies, as I do out of your original entry.

    Wonderfully written, as usual, Linda … but I want to know about the bonfires! It is as frustrating as being offered a delicious slice of chocolate cake, but provided with the ingredients and being told you have to wait until it is cooked!

    When I read what Delahoussaye said about the family who had been in the area for 37 years, and were now looking for a house to buy elsewhere, “where the water cannot come”, I thought of all the families I saw interviewed in July 2007 when the floods hit the UK.

    It had been raining for most of June and July, but the heaviest rain began on July 20th, the day I retired from teaching. More than a quarter of this small island was under water by the end of the month and tens of thousands were made homeless by the rising waters – many to remain so for nearly a year. The comment heard the most from the victims, was a tearful, “I want to move away, to higher ground, where the water cannot come”!

    Finally, I am so glad I am not the only one who writes things down when I want to remember – it must be a generation thing – although I do know Gué is younger than you and I.

    1. Sandi,

      Your story about the terrible flooding of 2007, and Jim’s recounting of one family’s response, reminds me of a true sailing story. I knew the fellow for several years before his death.

      He lived in Marseilles, and made, as he put it, “five and a half trips across the Atlantic” on his boat. Of course it’s that half-trip that’s of interest. His last crossing, his boat began to sink. Eventually, he attracted the attention of a freighter which came by for a look. When the captain leaned over the railing, French Charlie was on top of his boat’s coach roof, ankle deep in water. The captain called down, “What do you need?” Charlie yelled back, “UP THERE!”

      He was as eager as the rest of us to be where the water couldn’t come.

      I’m turning more and more often to notes, too. But I need to use only one notebook, and remember where I put it. A houseful of scribbled notes on the backs of envelopes doesn’t help, much.

      Be of good cheer – the oven’s heating and we’re about done beating the batter!


    1. The Hook,

      Thanks! I’m no photographer in any real sense, but I do enjoy capturing and finding images that help to illustrate each post’s text.
      Glad you enjoyed them.


    1. J.Boudreaux,

      I’m really sorry I’m not going to be able to take your advice and get over to Cajun country for Mardi Gras. Maybe next year.

      In the meantime, I have some wonderful memories from this trip, and lots and lots on my “have to see, have to do” list for next time!


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