When New Orleans natives leave home, people say, sooner or later, like homing pigeons, they find their way back. For me it was both sooner and later.
My “sooner” was after a 5 ½ year odyssey through 32 countries which drastically changed my view of the world and of myself. For my homecoming in 1973 the physical landscape of the city hadn’t changed so much. I did see it with different eyes though, briefly, before moving to California, back to New Orleans for two years, then to rural Missouri for twelve, with another big change in perspective.
There’s great value in travel, or rather in journeying, which can enrich us, connect us to the world, and arouse compassion. It can also stimulate appreciation for what we have, at home.
The true value in journeying is exploration and discovery, and though geographical travel can immensely serve those processes, it may not be necessary. We know that wherever we go or don't go, in whatever physical ways our native place or our inner landscape is transformed, home is always that welcoming place we carry within.
To help me commemorate the 50th anniversary of my embarking on a new life, my husband took me to the wharf, or nearly there, from where my Spanish freighter had sailed. Back then, it was an unadorned, working dock. Today, it’s been dressed up for the tourism trade.
We had lunch at the historic Napoleon House in the Vieux Carre, which looks unchanged, as if it’s still waiting for the Emperor himself to arrive from St. Helena.
We visited The Historic New Orleans Collection which houses a great wealth of archival information about the city. With the aid of two kind librarians, I came away with copies of photos of the old wharf/warehouse areas, and the first page of the Times-Picayune of 09/20/1967, as well as its maritime listing of my ship. Instantaneous time-travel.
What I came away with mostly was a reconnection to and appreciation for the “essence” of home.
I wholeheartedly embrace T.S. Eliot’s observation: “We shall never cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive from where we started and know the place for the first time.”