Each time I return to her, ache and ecstasy etched on my honeycomb heart, she enfolds me in her otherworldly arms, as if to whisper: Welcome back to your soul home-away-from-home, darlin’.  You’re back in the Big Easy, cher.  Laissez les bon temps rouler.  

She swallows me whole, my hard edges melting and my senses electrifying.  She rolls me around in her humid moist mouth, her sticky tongue spitting me back out with a moan and cackle that amplify my alertness and soothe my vigilance.  She is the mighty Both/And: both suffocation and liberation, both provoking and protective, both fragile and tough as shit.  She’s both the push and the pull.  Whole and shredded.  Intact and dismantled.  

My deep rooted and endless love for New Orleans and her fluid boundaries, her unfathomable and inexhaustible complexities, tugs me back relentlessly, thankfully.  Upon my returns to her, as I examine my expectations and lay them aside, she rises up to meet me at the crossroads of contradiction and predicability, where fascination street and civil avenue intersect in an ancient juxtaposition so perfectly suited to this weird and wonderful place.  Just below her surface, her palpable immortal pulse, pounds and pumps, invoking a tactile and spiritual essence that kisses your succulent skin and sends shivers up your goose-bumped spine.  She and I have a magnetic bond, refined and elevated in this lifetime, reincarnated from an initiation a million moons ago, centripetal in nature, finding me hypnotic and absorbed.  I proudly own the fact that she’s shaped my senses and memory, influenced and impacted me in ways I couldn’t possibly shake off if I’d liked or dared to.  And she owns me.  My recollection of her odors, noises, landmarks, tastes, textures, scents, sounds, and sights act on me like an incessant child in a candy store: must.  have.  more.  

In New Orleans you can waltz into a timeworn bookstore, the musty stacks venerable and circuitous, shimmy around a dappled golden hour corner, and find a copy of your favorite book, splayed out on the crusty floor, gleaming dust settling all around you, signed by the author, first edition, waiting for you as if it knew you were on your way to covet it, like the buried Barataria treasure of Jean Lafitte’s pirates, forever more.  

In New Orleans, at Cafe Du Monde, you can hork down a plate of hot beignets, piled hazardously high and engulfed with a normal persons year supply of powdered sugar, in the middle of the night, half naked in public because of the it-don’t-quit heat, sipping on bitter but milky cold chicory coffee, under the green and white awnings, served by uniformed and paper hatted innocents, while you attempt to get your sweet tooth soothed and your buzz under control.  

In New Orleans, where voodoo and esoteric Catholicism are the real deal, you can have your saltwater heart uncrossed, unhinged, and unarmored by the professional and serious slew of clairvoyants, seers, psychics, fortune tellers, mediums, and diviners who call NOLA home, all while hyper cultivating your very own intuition, gut instinct, inklings, notions and hunches, fully realizing you are an oracle talisman inscribed with healing and transformation, because she bends over backwards to avail herself to your eminent growth and expansion.  She just does.  It’s a fact. 

When I can get to her, I go.  One day I will live amongst her grit and grime, curiosity shops and magic cabinets, moonlit bayous, creole tunes, magnolias in june, because I do know what it means to miss New Orleans when that’s where you left your heart.  She is vivid, poor, beautiful, sad, extraordinary, peculiar, rich and real.  She’s full of mystery, history, spirit, ancestors, and soul; I’ll take her any way I can get her.  She inspired me to be a honey drenched maker, wild seeker, close with mother nature, a haunted huntress, a sacred gatherer, a magic forager, an enchanted mystic and a vagabond wanderer.  She opened my eyes wide to my very own brand of feral, ambrosial, strange-ness.  Her genius loci is the mana I crave; she exudes a spirit of place unlike any other.  She is the mirror and the container.  Watch out, you might find yourself there, owning it, held and reflected.  Both/and.  

Details on our upcoming New Orleans retreat are right here. We have FOUR additional twin beds available!! We look forward to sharing this adventure with you!

{This piece was written by Jennette Nielsen and originally published in Mabel magazine.}