Monday, May 29, 2006

To Pearlington I Go

I'm headed to Pearlington, MS this morning where I'm going work off and on this summer as a volunteer. Pearlington was absolutely wiped out by Katrina. The only business currently open there is a bar that is operating out of a tent. It once had a gas station, a grocery store, a bank, and a post office. All of that is gone now as are most of the houses.

I have to admit I'm pretty nervous about volunarily giving up things like flushing toilets and hot showers to camp out 70 miles away from my home, but the needs are tremendous in Pearlington, and I feel very humbled when I consider how the people there have been living all year.

Still, it's only about 25 miles from Slidell, and I'm not above burning up $3.00 a gallon gas in search of a clean bathroom. :)

Have a good summer, blogland. I'll see you soon. Probably very soon. My heart wants to help my neighbors as much as possible, but my back wants to come home and sleep in its own bed as much as possible.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Yo, Clancy!


Couldn't happen to a better blog.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Summer Reading

What's on your summer reading list?

I've been out of school for a week and a half now. So far I've read all seven of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books, Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, and Walking Across Egypt by Clyde Edgerton. I'm currently reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.

The Ladies Detective Agency books are just a pure delight to read. I can't think of a better way to relax, but you do need plenty of tea and cake on hand to read these books. :)

Housekeeping is incredible. I had read Gilead by the same author previously, and it is equally amazing. There is a sort of deep, philosophical grace to the writing style. If you don't read anything else this summer, my suggestion is to go with Marilynne Robinson.

Walking Across Egypt is just sort of silly. I enjoyed it, and I'd read more of the same. I even related well to many of the details of Southern culture depicted in it, especially those details of Southern Baptist culture. At times, though, the hillbilly slap-stick is just a little overboard for me.

I haven't gotten very far into The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time yet, but I'm already prepared to be impressed. A number of people recommended this book to me, and I fully expect it to live up to its reputation.

On my summer wish list are Bel Canto by Ann Pratchett, Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee, and The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. These are all books I've heard good things about and have just never gotten around to.

I'm also planning to re-read Life of Pi by Yann Martel, Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. These are books I'm going to discuss with a summer reading group.

So what's on your list? Do you have anything good to recommend?

Monday, May 08, 2006

Hurricane Season is A-Coming

The Sun-Herald reports this morning that a major relief organization is pulling out of Waveland for the duration of Hurricane season.

The Morrell Foundation, a Utah-based relief group, has announced plans to pull out by Saturday, leaving a void in the volunteer effort to rebuild this Katrina-torn county.

The Morrell Foundation built a relief village at Buccaneer State Park just after the Aug. 29 storm, and has since housed thousands of out-of-town volunteers here to help haul debris, rebuild homes and just about whatever else was needed. The group also helped repair local spirits through holiday festivals and other gatherings.

According to a press release, the group is leaving the beachfront park because of the looming hurricane season. Weather conditions earlier this month that pushed saltwater over the beachfront road made it "abundantly apparent that our facilities would be unsafe for future volunteers," the release said.

I can't really blame them, but it still makes me sick to think of it. It also underscores the level of anxiety and uncertainty we are facing with the upcoming storm season.

The people who were living in solid houses that got blown away by Katrina are now in FEMA trailers or tents or cars. Places that were once used as shelters either no longer exist or have been banned by the government for use as shelters. And even without another hurricane, there are still whole towns along the Mississippi Gulf Coast where there are few jobs and essentially nowhere to purchase basic necessities. Residents could always drive to Slidell to stock up, I suppose--if they happen to have working vehicles, gasoline, and money.

We're looking at a grim, hot summer with or without the volunteer organizations. The steady presence of volunteers at least brings psychological comfort and the reassurance that things are being done. It brings hope that there is a normal to return to.

To watch a big volunteer group leave...

I'm sure I don't have to explain the psychological effect.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Remember Pearlington

Here is a blog with photos from Pearlington, Mississippi. I've been there several times this year to work as a volunteer. I've seen everything in these photos and more. Pearlington is in Hancock County at the mouth of the Pearl River. It, along with Waveland and Bay St. Louis, was really Ground Zero for Hurricane Katrina. This is where the eye made landfall. Pearlington, however, is several miles inland. The people there did not expect to be affected by the storm surge, yet their houses were completely submerged in water. Many of them did not have flood insurance. I've talked to several people there who lost everything and got almost nothing from the insurance companies. One house I worked on, for example, was about $2000 square feet. The owners are in their 60s and retired. They lost everything, including their grandchild's car and school books that were left behind when they evacuated. They got $8000 from the insurance company. That was for a tree that fell on the roof.

Anyone who stayed in Pearlington during the storm and lived to tell about it is a walking miracle.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


Doctor Daisy has a wonderful post on trauma theory.

I wanted to respond to it earlier, but I wasn't sure what I wanted to say. I still don't know. I want to say something probably for the same reason Dr. D. did. I'm very close to the subject of Katrina and trauma. My head is full of images of TrinaTrauma that I'm only just now starting to realize are not going to go away.

I have nothing smart to say about this.

All I have is the observation that I've now reached a stage where I want to say something.

At first I wanted to simply get out the information about what had happened or was happening. Beyond that I didn't know what I had to say.

I belong to a writing group, and most of the people in the group have said the same thing. They just aren't able to write in a creative way about Katrina yet. They might write in an informative way, but anything else falls into the realm of "nope, nope, not that, not yet."

Even now, I think the main reason I want to say something about the Trina is to abate my fear that people are forgetting. If I could take every single one of you by the hand and lead you through what I've seen and continue to witness in Hancock County, I would do it. If you could see for yourselves, you couldn't forget, and you couldn't not care, and you couldn't fail to want to do something to help.

So I'm going to give myself permission to blog about what it's been like to see absolutely nothing left in places where my memories used to live, what it's been like to watch my 74-year-old parents living in a gutted out house, what it's been like to learn how to use a hammer for the sake of total strangers who lived through the storm by swimming and climbing trees and hauling their grandmothers onto rooftops and their babies and puppies into boats.

Forgive me if I can't explain what it has to do with teaching composition.

Before and After, Green Oaks B&B, Biloxi

From The Sun Herald.