This is not the K blog you’re looking for.

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St. Mary of The Angels school. Upper Ninth Ward. 2007.

 

 

 

 

 

Or maybe it is.  I don’t know.  I’m feel like I need to apologize for even writing this at all, but we all gotta do what we gotta do, right.  And for some of us, that means writing it out of our systems.  I’ve been trying not to post very much K/Federal Flood updates on social media, to not trigger the PTSD of the people I love, but know that I’m thinking of you today, and (quite literally) every day.  There are some things the rest of the country needs to remember though, things the rest of the country gets wrong, forgets, doesn’t understand.  And that’s where I live now, the Rest of The Country.  I won’t detail the errors, omissions, flat-out lies.  I’m even tired of the coverage.  But like the signs said, “Think that you may be wrong”.   At 16, I never thought I’d live there, then, at 30, I never thought I would leave.  I never did, really, not completely.  I didn’t go through it, I am not claiming that sorrow and that strength.  But New Orleans is my true home and it always will be.  You can’t take that from anyone.

So today I will be trying to feed the ever-hungry monarch caterpillars, driving to Eudora to pick up three baby bunnies, then driving to Operation Wildlife to drop them off and do my rehab duty.  At some point, I will make bread pudding.  At some point, I will stand over the Kaw and pour a little whiskey in.  Y’all let me know when you get it.

Today is also the day I drag this horse outta the barn.  Because it’s helped me before and it’s helped others before and it’s a Damn Fine Poem.

“Local Heroes”

Some days the worst that can happen happens.
The sky falls or evil overwhelms or
the world as we have come to know it turns
toward the eventual apocalypse
long predicted in all the holy books—
the end-times of old grudge and grievances
that bring us each to our oblivions.
Still, maybe this is not the end at all,
nor even the beginning of the end.
Rather, one more in a long list of sorrows
to be added to the ones thus far endured,
through what we have come to call our history—
another in that bitter litany
that we will, if we survive it, have survived.
God help us who must live through this, alive
to the terror and open wounds: the heart
torn, shaken faith, the violent, vengeful soul,
the nerve exposed, the broken body so
mingled with its breaking that it’s lost forever.
Lord send us, in our peril, local heroes.
Someone to listen, someone to watch, someone
to search and wait and keep the careful count
of the dead and missing, the dead and gone
but not forgotten. Some days all that can be done
is to salvage one sadness from the mass
of sadnesses, to bear one body home,
to lay the dead out among their people,
organize the flowers and casseroles,
write the obits, meet the mourners at the door,
drive the dark procession down through town,
toll the bell, dig the hole, tend the pyre.
It’s what we do. The daylong news is dire—
full of true believers and politicos,
bold talk of holy war and photo-ops.
But here, brave men and women pick the pieces up.
They serve the living, caring for the dead.
Here the distant battle is waged in homes.
Like politics, all funerals are local.
–Thomas Lynch
Fall, 2005.
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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.

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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.]

Until Spring

Let the countdown begin.  Give me until Spring to sort it out.  Give me more time with her.  One more flat-planed Fall bike ride, one more Autumn in City Park, one more Halloween, one more Superbowl (ya ‘erd).  One more carol in Jackson Square, one more freak snowstorm, if we’re lucky.  One more Carnival, one more season of stress and release and multiple costume preparation, one more roll in red and black.  One more season of avoiding Jazz Fest and contemplating French Quarter Fest.  One A few more levee walks, nights of drinking and dancing, go-cup strolling, porch sitting, more time with friends (ladies, you know who you are).

I’m not done with her yet, but I feel the end coming, can no longer ignore the pull reversed.  I never actually thought it would happen, but there it is.  Reasons, so many reasons.  In the end, family and future, my inability, physically to “go it alone” anymore, my desire to begin to build something lasting.  I see it clearly, just need to make it happen.  I love you, New Orleans, dearly, would still lay down my life for your continued existence, but I know now what the future holds and it’s time, or rather, will be time.  But give me eight months to say goodbye.

It’s true, things are not looking great (financially) right now.  I look for jobs every day, send out countless resumes.  As anyone who reads this might know, it’s not always easy, especially when you voluntarily quit your primary job.  You’re supposed to suck it up, forge ahead and DEAL WITH IT.  But, since leaving, the chest crushing anxiety attacks have ceased.  I no longer deal with that medication, with that issue.  Of course, there is the other issue, the one I don’t really like talking about, but it IS an issue, the gastroparesis (you can look it up, but it won’t tell you everything).  I know no one really understands it, so let me explain just a little.  Imagine you had to eat like a baby.  Imagine you live in an amazing culinary city and you can only eat very little, and only things that are easy to digest (even though, yes, you constantly test the waters to see if you can get away with something delicious. sometimes you pay, sometimes you get by. you just don’t know when a flare-up is coming, especially since a lot of it is tied to your cycle and THIS GIRL hasn’t had a cycle in six months (but that’s a WHOLE other issue)).  When it’s bad (as it’s getting right now), you only eat solid food once a day, when it’s really bad (as I often fear), it’s liquids only.  Oh, and plain water makes you nauseous.  It tends to be worse at night and in the morning, so you have this window of a few hours after you wake up until late afternoon where, if you don’t eat much, you can get some things done.  You feel SO much better when you don’t eat, but you want to eat, you have to eat.  Imagine throwing up almost daily, maybe it’s just dry heaving, but still not pleasant.  And the pain, the pain, when it’s bad is like a wide, tight belt of spikes around your entire mid-section and leaves you immobile, curled around a heating pad.  Now, throw a 9-5 job in there, when your nutrition is out of whack, you’re probably a little dehydrated, and sometimes it’s just hard to concentrate.  And, of course, there’s the depression, because this is NEVER-FUCKING-ENDING and it tends to put a cramp in your social life, and of course, your mental and emotional well-being.  Food is much more than sustenance.

So, I have to make this work, these next eight months.  I have to.  I’m not done yet.  I have to find a way to make art, make it profitable, while working part-time, OR work full-time and maybe, just maybe squeeze in some artwork, when I’m having a good day, when I’m not exhausted, nauseous, in pain, or just blue.

And I hate asking for help, hate divulging my weaknesses and laying all of this out there, but it probably needs to be done.  So, here’s my Etsy store and I do take commissions.   If you wanna see where I’ve sunk all my money and effort for the past two months, come see me at Palmer Park this Saturday (and god-willing, Oct 25th and Nov 29th) from 10am – 4pm.  I’ll be showing under “Holy Crow Studios”, the umbrella for my more whimsical, “accessible” wares.  You can like us on Facebook here.

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