guest post by Seth Pratt
Over the week of March 15, calving numbers peak at the ranch. University of Idaho’s spring break is the same time. With my family’s support, rather than going back home, I flew to Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, on an Alternative Service Break. These “ASB” trips send students all across the country to volunteer in communities.
Even now I am not entirely sure why Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, exists. The land there would naturally be under water for six weeks of the year. That water is now held back by the levees that run along the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. Between these levees is an area sometimes referred to as the “bathtub.” When the levees broke during Katrina, this area was under thirty feet of water. Not quite half of the Plaquemines residents have returned since the hurricane; bare foundations of their homes are scattered across the parish. Experiencing the destruction was humbling for a rural Idahoan. At times I could almost see the homes, the running children, and even their haunting laughter.
One day, knowing it was a bold question, I asked Reverend Turner why people have insisted upon living here. He told me their lives are here, in memories, in the land, and in the people. He has seen two demolishing floods in his lifetime, which is few from his perspective. I’ve seen plugged irrigation pipes flood the neighbor’s yard; I felt naïve.
Louisiana was a neat place to see, and impressive to experience. The best part of the trip though, had little to do with the bayou, gators, or seafood. Volunteering requires very little of a person, it strips you of all but very basic necessities. This leaves you free, in mind and spirit. In fact, during my time in Louisiana I felt an indefinable peace.
This essay is less about Louisiana, and more about what life is meant to be. Through giving of my time each day, I felt absolute fulfillment. In giving up possessions, I found myself needing nothing. In listening to others, I heard my own voice.
Now my mind is full of questions: Do we have to live in a certain place to experience happiness? Will these gnat bites go away? Why do we own so much stuff? Why don’t I focus on others every day? Where is the line between my own success and self-sacrifice? Can they go hand-in-hand, or is our definition of success superficial?
Where to start - here. How to start - slowly. When to start - now. What to start with - kindness.
|burned out home prior to demolition by volunteers|
|Driving through Grand Bayou|