on this fifth anniversary of the landfall of hurricane katrina, i am remembering something that joe and i saw on our extended roadtrip a few months ago.  neither of us had been to new orleans before, so i'm not sure what it looked like "before."  if there is anything beautiful to have come out of that disaster, it would have to be something small, something everyday.  right off the highway, at an exit for the french quarter, was a giant playground built in an old and decrepit part of town next to the exit ramp.  the playground was piecemeal, constructed of random plastic playground equipment, presumably after the flooding of katrina when people obtained what they needed from the abandoned businesses.  it was a jungle of a playground, with ropes and trees and plastic in a jumble a few stories tall.  i wish i played on it or at least took a picture...


dionysus, the greek god of wine and ecstasy, also known as bacchus to the romans, led a wine cult in which the intoxicant was consumed to bring about higher levels of consciousness.  groups of people, drunk and in fits of extreme joy, would travel around the greek countryside, laughing, singing, and playing music.  dionysus represented liberation--from the mind, from the trivialities of life, from a person's oppressed societal status.  the women that participated in the dionysian rites were empowered beyond that which they experienced in everyday greek life.  he was also a blend of masuline and feminine, representing one who transcends those categories.  the freedom and transcendental knowledge that emerged was seen as a threat to society by many greek rulers.  they were unsuccessful in the control of the religion and it spread throughout the greek isles before it declined in the roman era.  the term "bacchanalia" was derived from his roman name, now meaning a sort of drunken revelry, lacking the social and spiritual meanings of the festivities.


there was a rambunctious little boy running around the thrift store, throwing himself into the racks of clothes, falling onto the tile file, while his father sifted through hundreds of shirts.  i noticed the kid because he was irritatingly loud, but i tried to cut him some slack because kids are kids.  i browsed the books, then went to the other side of the large room, far enough to not hear the little boy yelling and throwing things.

i circled back around toward the toy section and there was the hyper child, digging erratically and destructively through the discarded dolls and action figures.  his manner was so careless, but who could blame him?  he was maybe seven years old and still had a lifetime of learning ahead of him.  parents probably expect too much of their children at that age--they have to figure things out on their own.  hopefully, they will. 

next to him was a little girl, about the same age.  she was mousy, a little round thing, with a dull brown pageboy haircut and wire frame glasses.  she was the polar opposite of the boy.  she was not saying a word, just gently looking through the toys, trying to avoid the objects being thrown toward her by the little boy. 

all of this i saw sort of indirectly--i wasn't really paying attention at all, just sort of lazily noticing whatever happened around me. 

then, the little girl picks up a clown doll, something that looks like it was made in the early 80s, with a hard, cloth covered face and a soft doll body dressed in half-white, half-gold lame.  it had no eyes left from years of use.

the little boy saw the doll and yelled, 'ew, that's ugly' and then snatched it from her hand and threw it back at the toy pile.  the quiet, soft-spoken little child, looking at the clown, then said, 'no its not' and lifted it very delicately from the toys.  the boy sort of shrugged and ran off to find his dad. 

it made me smile to see her take up for the doll for some reason.  maybe it was because, when i was her age, i thought that all things had feelings, including dolls.  i would try to spend equal amounts of time with each of my stuffed animals so that they wouldn't get jealous of each other.  i played with every barbie when i visited my friend's house, even if it was for just a minute, so that no toy was neglected.  i didn't want my toys to get dirty or torn because it might hurt or humiliate them.  i never talked about it--i just did it.  i'm not entirely sure that those feelings ever truly disappeared, because i still have a bag of stuffed animals that i can't bring myself to gt rid of, because what would happen to them?  how would that make them feel, to be loved for so long then tossed away when i think i'm too good for them?

i remembered all of these feelings watching this mousy little girl demonstrate empathy and compassion for an eyeless and smudged clown.  what was most amazing to me, however, was when she would up the crank on its back the entire way and played its music the whole way through, standing silently in front of it, until it was done.  then she placed it gently back into the toy bin and walked away.  i lost it.  i ran out to the car and bawled.  i still can't exactly explain the feeling, but it was overwhelming and i think it was good.