In case some of you missed it–April 20th was the one-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion. This time last year, reporters and journalists sought me out for interviews about how the oil spill affected my business and my family.
Through those interviews, I’d like to think I made connections with people who really cared and were doing more than just “their job”.
Prior to the anniversary, the phone was ringing for follow-up interviews wanting to know how we are doing one year later.
I haven’t talked much about how we’re doing one year later. Acting like a victim is diametrically opposed to being tenacious. The two just don’t go well together. So, I probably won’t talk about that here. Rather, I’d like to just see where this post takes us.
One of the anniversary interviews I agreed to do was for WRKF, the NPR radio station in Baton Rouge. Tegan Wendland, the “All Things Considered” host had heard the Story Corps piece and wanted to followup on that.
Tegan, a newcomer to south Louisiana, had to wind her way down to Chauvin, LA the day of the Folk Art Festival and the Blessing of the Fleet to find me. Then, with a band playing, and boat motors humming, she was further challenged to find a quiet spot for us to do the interview.
One of my friends called to tell me he heard my voice on the radio on his lunch break on the anniversary of the explosion. I missed it both times it aired.
Thankfully, Tegan was kind enough to send me the link, and the resulting interview can be heard here.
Another one of those journalists that I had the pleasure of meeting last spring and who contacted me for a followup is Stephanie Fontenoy, a soft-spoken Belgian/French writer living in New York. She has the most charming French accent and such a gentle soul.
And then there is another link in this chain–Lori Mould, about to graduate Genesee Community College in Batavia, NY. Even though Lori had already been down for a wetland tour, venturing out from the recovery work she and her college mates were doing in New Orleans, she was down again working on a video about the hardships of the oil spill on the local people.
With video camera in tow last spring, I took her to meet another one of my neighbors–a commercial shrimper. I felt then, and I still feel, that these commercial fishermen have way more to lose than I do.
Now, here’s the one-year later story on these two amazing women. They both wrote me about coming down for a visit, staying at Camp Dularge and going out on my boat. And get this, they both asked to come on the same dates.
So, you know what I did? I asked them if they would like to share the camp and the boat ride, and they agreed! When things line up like this, I know it is not coincidental. There is a very good reason these ladies, both in communications, need to meet. AND they both live in the state of New York. Interesting. Very, very interesting.
Lastly, there is Rowan Jacobsen, a prolific author, who impressed me beyond belief with his writing accomplishments at his young age. I could only dream of writing one book, much less actually writing and publishing one a year for five or six years as he has done.
For some reason, I was able to spend more time last spring with Rowan than the rest of the journalists. I showed him the dead cypress–killed by saltwater intrusion. I showed him the Houma Navigation Canal, our version of the New Orleans “MR GO” and explained how it was the beginning of the end for all the wetlands it touched. We talked about so many things.
Last May, all the while I was chatting with him, I thought he was gathering information for an article he was writing for a magazine, which he was. Even though he lightly mentioned that he might have to write a book about the oil spill, it did not occur to me that a copy of that very book would be sitting in my mail box LESS THAN a year after we met.
I don’t know how he did it, but a copy of his new book was waiting in the mailbox on the one-year anniversary of the oil spill.
I started reading the book last night and wanted to finish it; but at Page 119, my eyes gave up the ghost, and I crashed.
Actually, I had forgotten just how much I had shared with him or how much of the information was of interest to him as relating to the oil spill until last night while reading the book.
So, here it is. He first mentions his visit with me in Chapter 2, “The Last Hunter-Gatherers in America“. And up to where I left off last night, he refers to his visit with me several times, and I’m amazed at how much he retained of what I told him. He must have taken way more notes than I realized. Or maybe there was a recorder on the table during lunch at Schmoopy’s? I don’t recall.
Regardless of how he retained the information, he has (so far) kept the things I said in context. It’s obvious he did his homework to confirm the things I taught him and to give background about and expound on those things. I’m not that easy to impress, and so far he has done a pretty good job of impressing me.
It’s a first. And to be very open and honest with you, I feel like I have arrived now that I’ve seen my name in a book. A book. A hardcover, professionally written and published B O O K. Did you hear me people? I’M IN A BOOK!!!
Of course, I wish the setting had not been related to possibly the worst man-made disaster (barring the canal breeches and flooding in New Orleans, post Katrina) in the south, but his book reaches back to our beginnings and why we matter, and our dismal future if America doesn’t pay attention.
Jacobsen’s book is reminiscent of Mike Tidwell’s book, Bayou Farewell, wherein the author traveled down here to do a piece about shrimpers for a magazine and ended up coming back again and again gathering materials for his book. That book became well known for putting faces on the wetland loss here, mainly shrimpers.
Jacobsen does the same thing in his book, but this time, I know at least one of the people mentioned in a book about the Gulf Coast. Even though he doesn’t always quote me directly, I hear my words coming through his. His book presents the real dichotomy that is our life here in the wetlands that continue to be maimed in pursuit of local oil and gas and the symbiosis that exists between her residents and her attackers.
I haven’t called him to thank him yet, but I will do so when I finish the book. Of course, that is all I want to do today is finish the book.
My head will be in the clouds all day, so if you need me, let the phone ring a REALLY long time! It’s a long way down from where I’m at!
Bayou Woman (with a grin)
(I wonder if Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings is smiling, too? Thank you, Marjorie.)
PS Thank you to all the journalists who care enough to come back and just hang out with us bayou folk down here.
Epilogue: I finished the book this afternoon. Rowan Jacobsen is a genius writer. He picked up and went way beyond where Mike Tidwell left off. There are some hard truths in Jacobsen’s book, but truths they are, nonetheless. He might not win any popularity contests, but his book is one I can wholly recommend you read if you have any interest at all in our lives down here. GET IT NOW!