As you walk, look out at the Mississippi River. You might see the ferry going back and forth to Algiers point. If you look at the city from the other bank, New Orleans is a mirage. Its lights spill in a reflection that scatters and forms itself again, revealing the city's ephemeral nature. From here, the river's changing nature is apparent. It doesn't always appear to flow in one direction; it dances and swirls, swishes up and back, or sometimes seems to meander with no direction at all. We live in an arc of her winding spine, in the crook of her curves, beside her open mouth. She is the reason the city is crescent. Here you see boats from Panama, France, Morocco, drift past like huge, impossible buildings.
On my birthday one year, I walked her banks. The city was beside me like a friend, and I saw a man catch a fairytale catfish almost as long as me, a testament to the hidden mystery of her depths. She connects us to the rest of the country and carries what drifts down to the sea, reminds us of its vastness, and that we are mostly made of water, too.
So many afternoons—on a warm, sunny winter afternoon, or a summer day hot as a tongue—I have come to watch her eddy and flow, to let my worries or sadness flow out and into her to be swallowed. The Yoruban words to a prayer for Oshun, the spirit of the river, often stream through my head: Iya Mile Odo. My mother's house is the river. When my aunt died, when my friend died, when I need to purge my ragged heart, it is here I come to sit and watch her, constant and constantly changing. And in gratitude, it was here I once came to bring oranges and blooms, to light little boats of fire and watch them drift out and away toward the Gulf, the world.
Carry on walking straight.