I do a lot of driving. My hometown isn’t far enough to take a plane, but close enough for the expectation of regular visits. So I drive a lot.
I drove our resident, Jacob, to Jean Lafitte’s Nature Preserve recently. We both had never been. I felt ashamed of this having lived in New Orleans for five years. Both of us had heard about it from others. Jacob heard that it wasn’t worth it. I had heard that it was. But, still, I was skeptical. Being from Louisiana, I take the swamp for granted. As this heavy, very recognizable thing. My mistake is thinking recognition translates into knowing.
We arrive at Jean Laffite’s. “Parking lot closes at 5pm,” read a sign. We begin the first trail and it takes us some time. Jacob is filming the swamp and I am photographing Jacob. The raised wooden path is about three and a half feet wide. I’m wearing the wrong shoes. Sandals with a little wedge. We are alone mostly and we chat about the scene. Still, I’m photographing Jacob filming the swamp.
We finish that trail and Jacob wants to continue on to another one. We won’t make it back in time for closing if we both go so I walk back the way we came to get the car while he continues on.
I trip a little on the trail and take off my shoes for the walk back. Being barefoot feels electric like I’m really close to what holds me in this space but always never touching. I become increasingly aware of the atmosphere around me. Everything feels very familiar, shapes and colors I grew up with. But now they are enveloping and I realize just how unfamiliar they are. There is another feeling heavy in my awareness. I’m afraid of water. No, that isn’t it. It’s the thing that formed the fear. It’s the swamp. And I find myself immersed.
So what am I afraid of? The unknowable?