Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Porch Light at the End of the Tunnel

There was a time in my life when a porch light was just a porch light; but now as I, we, approach a milestone, the six month anniversary of when the world changed forever in my city of New Orleans, a porch light has given me a tiny glimpse.....there is and will be an end to that tunnel.

As so many of you already know, I spent many months after Katrina working to retain my sanity by working in the company of so many others in the largest animal rescue effort to ever have taken place. The work was exhausting and too overwhelming to allow me to think of my future, my hopes, my fears....there was always another animal to save. However, that drastically changed for me just a few nights ago as I set out to do what I do nearly every night, feed yet another lonely animal.

The day was already ending with a bang when I was forced to spend an hour stuck in the elevator, somewhere between the 27th Floor and the 1st Floor of my Poydras Street Law Firm building. Although it was nerve wracking, when I finally "escaped" I set out for Lakewood South, that neighborhood I came to know so well through my eight week effort to rescue Hope/Bella, my beloved German Shepherd who is now loved by a wonderful family in Alabama. You might recall that I had become aware of a solitary cat living on the same street as my shepherd, sharing the feeding station, but never showing more than the glow of his or her eyes.
Although my shepherd is safe in a loving home, this cat remains elusive to my trap and subsequently I have no other choice than to lay out one small portion of food, every night.

Because I was so long in the elevator, by the time I drove up to the food "station" it was late and so very, very dark. You see this neighborhood, as it lies right next to one of the 17th Street Canal breaches, remains uninhabited, without electricity, basically without life. I thank God every day for being able to have taken Hope/Bella out of the darkness nearly two months ago and I am determined to do the same for this cat. But it would not be this night....this night, I would have to pull myself out of the "darkness"

As I got out of my vehicle to walk around the other side, I realized that I had locked my keys inside, along with my cell phone. Remember, this was late at night, in the pitch black, without a person to be found, and finally, after nearly six months of doing this, I broke. I broke down not for the fact that my keys were locked inside the vehicle, I broke because this is what life is now, and I could see no end to it. I broke because this used to be a street filled with families, children, dogs, pool parties, barbecues and iced tea. I broke because this used to be a life, and now, I only could only see those, like myself, left behind, with broken lives, traipsing and trudging, every single day and night, through the desolate wastelands of others' broken dreams. They want so badly to be able to return home, and after six months, I broke because I am here, and I know that this is not home and I broke because I was scared that it never will be again.

The details of how I managed to get out of there that night are not really important....after this long at the rescue effort, I feel almost qualified to train cadets at survival maneuvers. The important detail that night, for me, was that I finally, and with an extremely heavy heart, accepted that my world and the world of any other New Orleanean, here or elsewhere, might never again be "normal" I think that this night was truly one of the saddest of my life, and without a doubt, the saddest I have experienced since that fateful day, August 29, 2005.

I have never considered myself a religious person in the past, although,
I often find myself preempting every statement with the phrase, "I have never before....." so, I am not overly shocked at the experience I had two days after my night of sadness, just yesterday evening, nor am I inclined to find any explanation for it......if there is indeed a God, or a "higher power" I knew it last night more than I have ever known it in any church, synagogue, bible class, prayer session or all my years in Catholic schools. What brought me full circle from my overwhelming despair just two nights before? a light, my light at the end of this long, difficult tunnel, and yes, as the title of this blog suggests, it was in fact, a porch light.

Yesterday evening, as I sat down to check my 12,000 e-mails, I realized that I had not fed my solitary feline in Lakewood South; I am ashamed to admit that I actually toyed with the idea of skipping the run altogether.....he/she would certainly survive without one meal. I couldn't do it, and after contemplating for about three minutes, I trudged off to again enter the darkness. This time, I would continue to repeat "keys and phone" to myself during the eight minute drive, almost to the point of singing my own instructions. No way was I going to go through that again!

I drove the route that I could probably drive with my eyes closed....along the Interstate service road that winds from Lakewood North, around the auto graveyard from vehicles abandoned on the Interstate during the storm, to Lakewood South....but this time, something was different. It took me a second, but I finally realized that I could see the road in front of me, and not because of my high beams.....there were scattered street lights shining the way! Was I dreaming this, did I just need to make this trip so more bearable than the last time I entered this neighborhood that I was experiencing street light mirages much like a parched man envisions an oasis in a desert filled with sand? Was I going crazy, finally?

Last night, as I drove into Lakewood South, I broke down in tears, yet again, but these were not the tears of despair I had cried only nights before....these were tears of hope and tears of disbelief and tears of not understanding and tears of realizing that I didn't need any explanation. As the tears ran continously and freely down my face, I could feel every single breath I took, every inhale and every exhale. I never once thought about wiping the tears and so they fell and fell some more and instead I concentrated on the sound of my heartbeat as it beat harder and faster and whooshed through my ears. The tears fell to where they stung my face and I welcomed the burn on my cheeks and the salty taste as they hit my lips......I was, without any effort on my part, taking it all in, every bit of it and welcoming the feeling of that same aloneness I had felt the last time I was there. You see, this time I wasn't alone and this time, I wasn't feeling sorry for my broken life and all those broken dreams scattered throughout Houston, Atlanta, and many more places.....this night, I was overcome with the energy being transmitted, and the energy that I felt in my fingers and toes....the energy of one porch light, shining brighter than any sun I have ever seen, one porch light on the very street where I had spent countless hours during the past six months to help one dog and one cat find a way out of the darkness that came every night.

For the next twenty or so minutes, I just sat and watched that porch light and let me assure you that the picture ranked right up there with all the classics. That light, as I watched it then, and as it is forever ingrained in my mind, is the Pulitzer, the Oscar, the Emmy, Christmas morning and the Lottery, if they were somehow all put into one was the perverbial "jackpot" for me and I hit it when all my chips were down and when I needed it the most. In my old life, my old world, that porch light was a porch light, but, at that moment, last night, after six months in my new city, Chaos, that light was the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. As I watched that porch light, I saw a spectacular sunrise, a romantic sunset, a colorful rainbow, the brightest shooting star, an eclipse to eclipse all others, the Northern Lights, and yes, I think I saw all the planets align, too. Although, I hated to leave so that the cat could eat his dinner, I could because the scene was burned onto my brain.

As I drove the eight minute drive, this time, in twenty minutes so as to relish every stretch of the roadway, I couldn't help thinking about the irony of the two different nights I had in this area, and how both nights had been the cause of so much raw emotion and feelings that were so bottled up in my own head and heart for so long. I am grateful to Entergy more than I can say, for they have worked these past six months to restore electricity throughout the region and I know theirs is a thankless task. But, my awe and amazement and disbelief and so much more will be expressed, alone, in a prayer of thanks, with feelings that are part of my soul, because I know that a much bigger power than Entergy, is what guided me to see, to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I do see that end, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but I see it and if I need to see it again, I know where I can go to find's only a porch light away.

And, in my heart of hearts, my dream of dreams, my hope of hopes, I know that the ones who are not here, the ones who left broken dreams behind, the same broken dreams that I have climbed on, crawled under, walked through, kicked in, and done so, ALWAYS with a sense of shame for having to invade their dreams in the name of rescue....those dreamholders will someday, soon I hope, get to watch that porch light with me and than they can watch their own. It will again be "home" when all the porch lights can shine, but for now, that one lit porch is enough because it shines so brightly and if I look hard enough, I see the end of that tunnel.... on the other side, is my city, New Orleans, and it's built on a foundation of new dreams.

So, this coming week, between February 28th and March 1st, as oddly and very appropriately enough, there will be no 29th during this, the six month anniversary of Katrina, please say a prayer of thanks and hope, for us all in New Orleans, and in the Gulf Coast, and maybe for that one night, you can leave your porch light on, too.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

He hid......does that mean he doesn't exist anymore?

If you are willing to take into consideration the official positions which have been set forth in New Orleans, regarding the animal rescue efforts, the success achieved, and particularly, the need to feed and that it is no longer necessary, than his fate has been sealed......twice. An "official" search conducted on 9/26/05 found "no cats"

If you think you might be inclined to agree that all the animals have already been saved, can you make the call to Renee L. to tell her it's over?