Exit Interview

By the time you read this, I’ll be gone.

You’ll have to pardon me, but I’ve always wanted to write that.  And in a small, but possibly over-dramatic gesture, this was supposed to be posted as I drove away.  But, you know, things happen, moving takes up more time and energy than you anticipate, and suddenly it’s almost two weeks later.  You’re in a different city, what is supposed to be your home, you can’t get the zip code or city name right on job applications, keep making weird disgusted faces at the local news (it’s gonna stay like that someday), and you don’t tell anyone because you’re hiding until you’re ready.  And then you just keep hiding because then you get depressed.

But what follows, seems to be the thing to do these days, write her a letter when you leave, a long, prosey, sad goodbye.  It’s because she’s special and deep down, not one of us is 100% positive we’re doing the right thing when, if, we leave.  It’s a little like leaving home (home-home, not adopted home) for the first time.  You know it needs to be done, but there’s still that breaking, no, with her it’s that stretching of the cord that binds you, testing its limits.  New Orleans will always feel like absolute home to me, but it’s time to face the truth.  It’s not mud and swamp water that courses through my veins, but sod and gently rolling hills (at least the politics haven’t changed, guffaw).  I’m a girl of the plains, not born of bayou pirogues but casting off in land-locked lakes.  True, my homeland doesn’t hold as much magic as South Louisiana does (for me), but maybe it’s time I make my own, as soon as this Black Cloud of Leaving passes.  Time to (eventually) find out if living off the land, the land of my birth, is hereditary.  Time to admit I need help, as hard as that might be.  I have a plan, a ten year plan, if I don’t get distracted and my body allows it.  (This morning, it’s running some plays I can’t quite defeat. And thanks for the football love, New Orleans.  I’mma Who Dat ’til I die.)

I will miss her.  God I will miss her.  Eight months before departing and I felt like crying when I thought of leaving, a few days before and it was unreal.  It didn’t hit me until I stood in an empty apartment, about to leave.  Broke down, had to sit in the moving truck until I was sure I wouldn’t run us off the road.  Driving away, a clear image of my soul, my spirit, my whateveryouwannacallit, clawing at 1-10 West, at 1-55 North, trying to get back.  Past the lake, resigned.  (Whatta you gonna do, spirit, swim back?)

So, I will miss her broken streets, her moss-laden oaks, her young earth coating of seashells and river silt, her egrets and pelicans, and wish I could wrap up City Park and take it with me.19_JillEnsley_City Park Magic Tree

2013-12-08 16.11.26citypark_newsunsetI will miss her High Cloud Season, Low Cloud Season.  Every Cloud Season.  Kansas may have big skies, but nowhere I have ever been can hold a candle to Gulf Coast clouds.  Nowhere.  Shut your damn fool mouth.

Fluffy towers that dwarf the sky itself.  If you’re not a member of the Cloud Appreciation Society of NOLA, I highly recommend it.

I will miss Swan River.  There is no other space like it.  Yoga (and so much more) in an old library, with the beautiful mural proudly displayed, and amazing, welcoming people all around.  How perfect is that space.

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I will miss these girls.  So much.  I can’t even say anymore because I will start crying on this keyboard.  And anyway, ladies, it’s not goodbye, just see ya later.johnnysketch1  There will be others I will miss, and I hope you know that, and I’m sorry I didn’t get to say a proper goodbye. Know that I was, and will be thinking of you, but these two ladies, these are mah girls.

nat&jen2

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So, goodbye Nigerian cab corner (Bienville & Royal).  Goodbye Poo(h) Corner (Carrollton & Iberville).  Goodbye Flagstaff Walk (Jeff Davis walkway between Toulouse & Bienville).  Goodbye to nearly constant music in the streets, any street.  A lone trumpet, from somewhere nearby, a lone sousaphone player, marching up down broken sunset seashell & silted concrete.  Goodbye N. Pierce, where I began my tenure, met lifelong friends, and then came back full circle to depart, but never really leave.

and p.s. thanks for bestowing me this weird cat.  maybe I’ll see ya for Carnival next year.

—————————— Which brings us to today….

My brain can’t wrap my heart around it.

Suddenly, gone.  Suddenly, quiet (my god it’s quiet). No neighbors on their porches, no streetcars, no brass bands practicing in the street.  It does hurt.  I’ve never missed a city like you miss a person.  The first full day in my new apartment, listening to ‘OZ and I couldn’t stop crying, and laughing.  I haven’t been able to listen to it since.  What have I done?  What I needed to do, but painful all the same.  Like I told the good, good friend (thank you, Kim!!!) that came down to help me leave, “it’s like ripping a Band-Aid off, OF YOUR HEART”.  Always one for the false joke, the hysterical histrionics.  It’s going to take some time, happened so fast.  And there’s a large chunk of my heart that will forever and ever be covered in Spanish moss and iron lace. There’s so much more I wanted to say, but it’s so much that I can’t quite wrap my arms around it. Maybe it will come in time, maybe this is fine the way it is.

(Two pairs of socks, three blankets, and I cannot get warm.  The cat is none too pleased.)

So, if you’ve made it this far, and you’re in the NE Kansas neck of the woods, come to our small pop-up-ish holiday art sale this Saturday and Sunday (Nov 13 and 14) at 1146 Connecticut (in the renovated church) in Lawrence, KS.  There will be hot cider and pumpkin bread and awt.

 [all images copyright Jill Ensley, thank you very much. and if you want to see the photographic progression, check here. I’m hoping to update it soon.]

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Geographical Navel-gazing

Geographical Navel-gazing

The places I have lived can be split into very distinct periods of my life, even in repetition.  Looking back, I have found time marked in periods of five to six, beginning upon my indoctrination into “womanhood”.

0-16.
I had a very idyllic childhood.  Even if I felt like a freak because of my lazy eye, it was never an issue thanks to the absolute love of my family.  My memories of childhood are pure and good, at least until 16, when adulthood beckoned and I was unprepared.  Yet, even though I became indoctrinated into the world of sex and relationships through the high drama that small towns specialize in, Topeka, KS is seen with rose-colored glasses for most of my upbringing.

16-21.
It was during this time, this relationship, that I visited Los Angeles, New York, New Orleans for the first time.  Not knowing how much each would later shape me as a person.  At sixteen, New York had my heart.  It was the goal.  My introduction to Los Angeles was experienced attached/detached, with him, wanting to break free but not ready, under the shadow of dramatic adventures.  New Orleans, much the same, yet the drama turned to eleven.  Punishment for wanting freedom, a delayed deception, hidden only because he knew, oh he knew what it would do.  New York though, New York was mine.  At sixteen, free to walk alone and independent.  I sent him home early and took charge of my experience.  It may be the first time I realized how exhilarating traveling alone can be (my “solo hurrahs”).

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19-24.
To be so young in Los Angeles, and after six months, so free.  I fumbled, I faltered, I expanded and contracted.  Los Angeles, though I could never inhabit again, was crucial to my upbringing, to exploration.  It proved that even good fish can live in shallow water.  It mixed darkness and light at a constant 70 degrees, consistent enough to find truth amongst the backdrops and scenery.  In the end, so many good fish starting swimming away, the frustration of transportation, the consistency itself, meant it was time to leave.  Los Angeles, in hindsight, holds the youthful, experimental part of me.

24-30.
Home again.  A complicated prairie.  The town of my birth never felt like home and I detest many aspects of it with an almost visceral quality.  Education called me back and I found a niche 20 miles over, found friends for life, a very expensive piece of paper.

Life became very easy.

30-36.
I watched a city I love brought to its knees.  Like many, I wanted to help, so I enlisted a friend and we drove to New Orleans in the dead of night to gut houses, a year later, returning to rebuild.  It was like a punch in the face, seeing her like that.  We have a complicated history, Nouvelle Orleans and I.  At  seventeen, she was ground zero of my young emotional pain, though I wouldn’t know it until eighteen.  It was the drawn out deception that hurt more than the actual act, something that, to this day, I try not to think about, a pain I can feel in certain parts of my body still, though a dull, fleeting ache.  Because of that, I had never considered her a viable option for anything long-term.  But it wasn’t her fault, time passes, she needed an ally, and I needed her complications.

New Orleans, New Orleans felt/feels like home.

And here I am, on the precipice of 37, conflicted again.  Because I love this city, I love her unconditionally, yet she tries me.  My city of young pain has turned around and hurt me again.  New Orleans, my heartbreak hotel.  It’s not her fault she’s the scene of the second crime.  Truth be told, it could have happened anywhere.  But it didn’t, and she will forever be tied to those two personal truths.  She can’t help making you feel, opening you up.  It why she’s sought out, why she’s taken advantage of, exploited.  America’s last authentic joy and pain.  It’s not her fault that “authentic” is now a commodity, that the murky waters creep up from the Gulf and the shallow waters from the West.  But I don’t know if I can watch it happen.  Sometimes, sometimes you just love something so much that you have to run away (and I mean this on at least two levels).  Seeing her stripped of her honesty is almost more unsettling than the crime, the land loss, the entire state bending over to take it from oil & gas.  I’m not sure I can watch her Disneyfied, commodified, homogenized for the masses.  I’m not sure I have the strength to stop it.

So here I sit, with the post-trip blues, wondering if I had it right twenty years ago, or twenty years ago, I knew it was right now.  Or I am I just running (wherever you go, there you are).  Constantly running, because standing still means spending too much time in my head, always, always in my head.  Or maybe I’m just simply unhappy with the status quo, the recent emotional upheavals, the boredom, and need a change.

I don’t know.  I know that I had an amazing trip and I know I have amazing friends and family and that’s all I’m really sure of right now.  I know I’ve said a lot and nothing at all, under the guise of vague wordsmithing, because that’s what I do.     2014-06-28 13.10.53 2014-06-27 22.13.39 2014-06-27 20.05.16 2014-06-27 20.07.42 2014-06-27 15.56.22

I know I love your churches literal and figurative, and all of your red doors. 2014-06-24 21.45.06 2014-06-25 18.19.57

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2014-06-26 18.11.41 I know that “Sleep No More” and the entire McKittrick Hotel will never leave me and I just wanna go back and back and back and stay there forever.  I know that even though the couple who owns Hogs & Heifers (NYC/Vegas) was very nice and inquisitive about you, I won’t do that to you, New Orleans.  I still love you too much.2014-06-28 21.30.56 2014-06-28 20.18.39 2014-06-28 16.18.26 I know that it was nice, so very nice, to walk and walk and walk.  I know what it’s like to have a little piece of you hanging around in New York, if only for a little while. 2014-06-28 20.17.58