Morning meditation: New Orleans is a city that breathes

What is a morning meditation? To help me build a habit of daily writing, I’m publishing a few thoughts here every morning about ideas that interest and inspire me, mostly drawn from ordinary life. I hope you enjoy them.

The first thing I ever remember hearing about New Orleans is that it was “trashy.” After learning I would travel there soon for a conference, I had asked my colleague what the city was like. She shrugged and responded with that one word. I’m currently enjoying my second visit to the city, and my own experience is far more nuanced.

New Orleans is dirty. New Orleans is noisy. New Orleans is oppressively hot. The streets smell ripe in the summer time. Drunks and partiers swarm Bourbon Street bedecked in plastic beads and plastic hurricane cups.

But New Orleans is also elegant. It is old and rundown and beautiful the way ancient books are old and rundown and beautiful. The summer air envelops your skin like heavy silk. An unexpected waft of jasmine as you turn the corner is pure bliss. Throw a stone in any direction, and you’ll find something wonderful to eat. Walk down any street, and live music will greet you eventually.

New Orleans is alive. This city has a heartbeat unlike any other. Pause for a moment, and you can feel the sidewalks pulse beneath your feet. It feels like jazz and strength and pain and death and rebirth and resilience. Above all, resilience.

I was walking through Marigny yesterday, and I had a vision of a city born from a swamp, pastel brick and wrought iron rising up amid cypress trees, Spanish moss and muddy water. We were here long before you, it said. We will be here long after you are gone.