5:57 AM// Steamboat Natchez

Letters

Sometimes I wish I could take what I’m seeing– the exact curvature of the sky, the faint rippling of the water, the line of light casting shards and shadows– and be able to record it.

Not with a camera or binoculars or a video– but real time.

Exactly through my eyes.

Through the squinting of my pupils.

There are certain moments where I find myself pausing and thinking to myself, “Wow. Wouldn’t it be great if I could remember this moment, right now, for the rest of my life?”

Watching the sun rise over the Mississippi was one of those times.

***

I could use a bunch of cliché-like phrases: “the sun rose in splendor” or “the sun broke over the water” or “the sky transformed from day to night.”

I could try to take out my iPhone and snap some grainy photos, linked together by pixels and light.

I could even try and find an etch-a-sketch and twirl magnetic particles around with the flick of a finger to try and capture, visually, what I was seeing.

But quite honestly, there is no way of capturing the way your body feels after being awake for 26 hours, collapsing on the banks of the river, watching boats glide through the waves, listening to The Beatles, ceasing the chattering with your friends, and having this very-real realization that if there has ever been a moment or a time that could be called “magical” now, here, on the Mississippi, is that time.

***

To preface this, I didn’t grow up with the Mississippi as my anchor.  I didn’t grow up saying “how you doing” or “y’all” or “who dat” or “buku” or  “happy festin’” or “po’boy” or “gumbo” or “jambalaya” or “more hot sauce please” or “hey, throw me somethin’ mistah!”

I didn’t grow up learning to drop my r’s or smile at strangers or dump half a bottle of Crystal on my biscuit and grits. Hell, I thought grits were small rocks that tore-up your knees until about 5 years ago.

I also didn’t grow up thinking I would find a city that feels, that reverberates, with the kind of wild bayou creole magic that leaps and shimmies and glides throughout this city. But somehow New Orleans defies all of the ideas of what I thought a city and a people “should” or “could” be. New Orleans defies any and all kinds of notions because, quite simply, New Orleans is magical. Period.

New Orleans’ magic forces you to believe that “normal” is hearing the tremors of a brass band on a street corner or seeing glittering beads trodden into the ground or sunlight streaming down at all times of the day or strangers becoming friends on a street curb or wind whipping trash down the streets or feeling the way the air streams and swirls, thick with moisture, around your face as the mosquitos swoop in.

New Orleans forces you to believe that you are the truest, most unadulterated version of yourself when you let go of these ideas of what you “should” be and just let the city take you, let it carry you along to see and hear and experience its magic.

***

So if you’re curious about what this looks like or how to find this magic, round up a gaggle of friends, dance until the stars disappear, and wind your way to the edges of the Mississippi.

And there, I promise you, you’ll find the magic of New Orleans.

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