Foundation of Baldwin Lodge – December 19, 2012
I veered away from the boat, but it kept coming, turning with me like I held a magnet. I thought it would hit me until the engine idled and a man leaned out over the side.
“Saw you on tv!” he shouted as we drifted past each other. “Wanted to make sure you knew ’bout the storm comin’ in tonight so it wouldn’t catch you.”
“Tonight?” I said. “I thought it was coming Wednesday.”
He looked confused for a moment.
“It’s Wednesday ain’t it?” he said.
We both counted days and he was right. I thanked him, he nodded, and fired the boat’s engine to life.
“Gonna be a big one,” he said.
A moment later I drifted alone again, close to a railroad bridge that rises out of the horizon of like a mirage because there’s nothing else out here but grass, water, and sky.
People think of the ocean and see powder sand beaches, but that’s only on the edge. Brackish wetlands, grass mazes, and thin tidal rivers dominate the coast. Muddy flats make the world feel open and big. There’s nothing taller than a man beyond the clumps of stunted, lightning-worn trees that mark the high ground.
I stared at my map, wishing I knew anything about where to go, wishing I was faster, wishing I had another day, but a line of clouds had already begun to march in the west, to cut away the blue sky with their sharp edge.
“Gonna be a big one,” I thought, the man’s words echoing in my head.
I paddled through the grass, looking, hoping some muddy bank would convince me it could hold back a storm. Nothing, nothing but mud and grass and darkening skies.
I saw a patch of trees in the distance, a lump of green on the horizon of brown grass, and paddled. They rose slowly, transforming into gnarled branches and burnt, scared trunks along a spot of high ground next to a railroad track and a place marked Baldwin Lodge on my map.
I slid past the trees, looking for a spot to land when I came to a huge slab of cement half-sunk in the bayou and covered with inlaid tiles, the remnants of giant swimming pool. Beyond, the rubble of a foundation marked the corners of a giant lodge. It must have been grand once, it has that feel, now it does nothing but hold my tent in its bones as we both watch the sky turn black and wait for the storm.
Thanks to Bill Capo and the WWL-TV for interviewing me as I walked to Bayou St. John! Here is a link if you want to see it for yourself: Bill Capo Interview