The Ghosts in New Orleans

by Lauren McCabe on January 16, 2013

Everyone in New Orleans feels the humidity. I feels the ghosts.

They are not your traditional ghosts, the clouds of people that drift in bedraggled wreaths to make ruckus in the living world. The ghosts I feel are liquid. Of swamps sucked dry centuries ago to make way for plantations and cottages. The attendant at my parking lot tells me that he remembers when the lakefront was just lake and the ninthward was just swamp, but I remember when his parking lot was just the Mississippi River flooding its banks. I tell him that these visions from hundreds of years ago fill me, now.

When I step out into the streets of New Orleans, I think of lost lands taken by water, Atlantis or or Krakatoa  but reversed, waterways taken by land, the creep of concrete over liquid. This seems prescient of the newest type of disaster: the disappearance of water, forest, dessert. Nature decimated by the unnatural disaster of ourselves.

During a week like this when the air twists from cold to hot, you can see them. They scuff off the water, they circle the air, the envelope the tallest buildings and fill the lowest streets. The ferries stop running, the causeway closes, traffic comes to a halt and when we look out our windows we do not know what is water or ground, river or sky.

This is how they haunt: they remind us that everything is on a journey back to the swamps and rivers and oceans.

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