Sunday, December 9, 2007

em eye ess ess eye ess ess eye pea pea eye

We’re on the road again. (La la laa la la la laaa la la – come on, you know that song.) It’s really nice to be on our own after such tight community living, but it was very hard to leave our new friends, our meaningful work, and the bunk house that has been our home.

Our route took us hundreds of miles due north from New Orleans up the long edge of Mississippi (lots and lots of Mississippi) to Memphis, Tennessee. We first skirted the surprisingly large and varied western shore of Lake Ponchartrain, which surely is actually thirteen lakes banded together in a subterfuge of identity. Unfortunately, we couldn’t verify this, since the lake(s) were almost entirely covered with stagnant impermeable fog. I was previously amazed to learn that, to this day, whole communities of Native Americans and Cajuns live undetected in these marshes
Lake Ponchartrain marshes. Having now seen their extent and density, though, I’m sure that within a mile of the Interstate dozens of people could live without anyone on the outside knowing of their existence.

After more marshes and lots of flat boring stuff, we came to the first hill we had seen since arriving in New Orleans. We hadn’t realized the lack of hills until we saw this one. We greeted it gladly—a mound of earth that was not a levee, and had no other purpose than just being a hill!

Next there was Jackson, which was only interesting in that it prompted us to sing “Jackson.” We couldn’t really remember all the words (hotter than a pepper sprout… go comb your hair… teach ‘em what they don’t know how?), and neither of us sounds like Johnny Cash, but we gave it a full faith effort.

The unscintillating prospects out the car window prompted me to examine the area map in great detail, resulting in my discovery of a tiny notation north of Jackson: “Mississippi Petrified Forest.” Needless to say, this prompted a swift change in our itinerary, and we soon stepped out of the car into a strange, quiet, humid rural valley. The path (guarded at the beginning and end by truly adorable fuzzy kittens) led through wooded “Badlands,” former agricultural lands that had eroded into untellable steep, rocky, winding gullies and banks, in the process uncovering piles of petrified tree trunks. These beautiful tree fossils lie as they fell 36 million years ago, resting amidst the detritus of the modern forest surrounding them. It was often hard to tell at first glance which were wood or stone. And, yes, we made all of the obligatory “Petra-fied” jokes.

A few hundred miles of lovely farmland later, we arrived in Memphis. After a few choruses of “Graceland” and “Walking in Memphis,” we checked into the Pilgrim House hostel. It’s very cozy and chill (and has a cute fuzzy kitten named Soup), and interestingly is run by a Congregational church. In addition to housing the church and this hostel, this building also has a bike organization, a day care center, a performance/dance space, a shelter of some sort, and probably other things too. They do churches big down here.

We treated ourselves to a dinner of delicious veggie food (vegetables! tofu! and hummus! oh my!), which …oh my goodness I am already hungry for more vegetables. I think we mentioned before that New Orleans doesn’t believe in vegetables. I LOVE VEGETABLES! My enthusiasm is unfeigned and currently knows no bounds. I will spare you my odes to the zucchini, though, and go to bed.

P.S. There were cute kittens next to the restaurant too. Piles of them. A surplus of cuteness today.


A'Llyn said...

Fascinating! Love the slideshow. Why no pictures of the kittens?! I demand cuteness!

May have missed them...

Anonymous said...

Dear P & E,
Just wanted you to know that I'm following your journey and thinking of you. Petra, I bought some books for your library and hopefully they arrived OK. One is a book on your list called "I Love My Hair" which I have in my office, and one child in particular demands to read it almost every week.

I love the petra-fied forest pictures - how cool. And now I have "Walking in Memphis" stuck in my head! Were your feet ten feet off of Beale?

Any chance you two will end up on this part of the Left Coast toward the end of this journey? I loved hanging with you in MA this summer and it would be so good to meet up again on the sooner side.


Reed said...

So cool... and as already noted - pictures of cute kittens are always a plus! Safe travels and so much love to hear of your adventures.

lots of love -

Emily said...

I keep leaving you phone messages, and I don't know if you've gotten them! I'm trying to figure out my January. Are we going cross country? Shoot me an e-mail or give me a call (413)320-9171.

I loves you both!