Contributed by Tara Howisey
I arrived in New Orleans under a misty-grey sky. The essence of salt water from the nearby gulf twisted around the deep, slow, methodical dank river smell of Big Muddy (the Mississippi). The scent of water was everywhere – an old water smell. The kind that seeped out of a French pirates boots decades ago and is still trickling back to the River.
With the moisture-laden air full of blustery restlessness, I pulled in to a scummy parking lot and prepared to grab donuts with my lover at New Orleans’s prized donut shop – the Cafe Du Monde – where sticky powdered sugar and spicy chicory coffee have been animating the New Orleans waterfront for almost a century and a half.
After eating our donuts, we walked slowly through a colorful street fair – full of leather bags, scarves, beads, gaudy skirts, wooden artifacts, and voodoo mumbo-jumbo all squeezed into a narrow, canopied ally full of expectant booth keepers. The smell of the leather and handmade items deepened as the sun rose and blended it with the body heat of the expressive, and colorfully dressed locals who mingled outside the shops reading papers and hollering at each other.
Across the street from the fair, we wandered into Jackson Square – chock FULL of dark, beautiful pink roses clustered around a virulent statue of a dashing Andrew Jackson. Simple and stately trees surrounded the square acting as an arboreal colonnade – holding space for the raucous tribal dancing of generations of proud Creoles and African Americans.
The mid-morning air lay heavy over the old stone buildings surrounding the square. A hint of fish and creole spices filled my lungs as New Orleans began to prepare for lunch time. We continued to stroll through the gardens.
Deep, rich gardenia, jasmine, and magnolia danced together in a symphony of fragrance as I closed the wrought iron gate of the formal garden. Nestled between the stalwart three-story buildings that had weathered their fair share of hurricanes, the tiny garden crouched quietly, welcoming me in to explore its stone paths, gnarled magnolia trees, and clipped green hedges. The city, the water, the flowers, the HISTORY filled my lungs as I trailed my hands along the brick of the adjacent building and picked at some of vigorous ivy meandering up the side.