When I awakened this morning, stretched out, beautifully comfortable under Earl’s gaudy quilt, the best quilt in the world, warm and cozy, for some reason I thought of my last place in River Ridge, the one that was on the upper floor, smack dab against the levee. I thought of the strange, strange things that happened to me in the less than two years I spent there. I remember one evening walking the levee and freezing, as I do, as previously noted, when I am having a revelation, and saying, “something happened here!” Long ago, of immense import, inundating, overwhelming. Research about that stretch of the Mississippi and that particular spot showed that the levee had broken right there in the early 19th century in what was called, “Sauve’s Crevasse.” Nothing could shore up the levee for six weeks, and the flooding was massive and devastating. And although New Orleans was seventeen miles away from what became that spot in River Ridge, the flood waters reached the city and the flooding was even worse than that of Katrina. I had never heard about this before, but as I said, I had that freeze of a revelation.
The whole area along the levee where I lived had been a string a plantations. I learned that when I discovered Sauve’s Crevasse. But there were times at night in the apartment when I got into bed I could African American men chanting something in a language I didn’t recognize. It was soft, almost under the range of hearing and it didn’t frighten me, but i would frequently hear it.
Then there was the night I had turned in but for some reason, kept opening my eyes to state at my opened bedroom door. Several times. I didn’t know why and getting tied, decided to just close my eyes and let it go. I laid with my eyes closed for several seconds ignoring the urge to look and suddenly three knocks sounds on that door. I sat up in bed and rebuked whatever it was in the name of Jesus to go away. It was a bit of a smart ass, don’t you think?
I’ve already told the story of the feu follet and the dog, and a neighbor telling me people had been known to see Union gunboats on the river at night. That never happened to me. But there was also the night I had returned from a Christmas party in the French Quarter,a cold, cold night, my arm with the broken elbow encased in that wire cage, and I was standing beneath my apartment window under the oak tree looking up at the cold clear December night sky, and out of the corner of my eye, standing by the side yard of the building, I saw a glowing figure watching me, as big as a man, and when I wheeled to see exactly what it was, it disappeared into the dark side yard almost shyly, and made no noise. I ran to see what it was but nothing was there.
Since I returned home to Old Metairie, all has been peaceful and relatively quiet aside from the occasional message dreams…but that time in River Ridge was filled with nothing but trouble, an eerie place…and I can still hear that chanting. It was coming from outside where there was a huge overgrown backyard.
Well, it’s today, and there’s the light of Christmas and love. My neighbors across the way must have gone out of town again this Christmas–no lights. They will be back come New Year’s. One thing I miss very much this year is the little palm tree. There’s been a For Sale sign in front of that house for months and this year, the palm tree is their yard doesn’ bear those beautiful lights…the white lights covering the trunk, the green lights covering the fronds. Hope no on in their family died.