NOLA to NH Observations: Nature

New Hampshire Nature (absolutely click that link!!)

Nature is literally all around you wherever you look. Even in a “city” you can walk to a river that is clean enough to swim in.

Trees

There are so many trees everywhere; naturally occurring, wild trees.

P1100650Amazingly beautiful, unmanicured landscape (and the view from our wedding ceremony location)

Colors

Last year was the first year that I didn’t go home for Thanksgiving or Christmas. I went home for four freezingly miserable days in early January to get my wedding dress- that barely even counts since I stayed inside as much as I could. Anyway, when I went home this summer I was totally blown away by how truly green everything is, and I mean everything. Driving down 93 looking out the window I saw a blur of different shades of green, I couldn’t even see the individual trees because they were all the same color. New Hampshire is filled with beautiful earth tones, brown dirt roads, red front doors, green trees, dark blue waters and bright blue skies. Not even to mention the sunsets, which are so mind-blowingly beautiful. I really missed the natural colors of NH.

P1090578This is what I saw most of my time home.

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No words.

Water

Growing up in the Lakes Region (when I was younger I called it the Great Lakes Region…which it is to all who live there) I can name over 15 fresh and clean bodies of water that are within 20 minutes of me (though I can only name the location two Starbucks and one is an hour and half away). Water: the smell, the sound, the feel, the refreshment, everything. Water is the single thing that I miss the most above all other things about New Hampshire. When I was home the only thing that I wanted to do was sit outside on the dock, next to the water and merely exist. Nothing else mattered other than maximizing the amount of time spent outside near water. Diving into the water on a hot day (75-80 degrees) is the best feeling ever. The initial shock and gradual refreshment and everlasting contentment that comes from the life force of the earth. My relationship to water is beyond words.

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Serene

NH Lakes

The yellow star is about where I live, the lakes and rivers named are the big ones; you can see a whole bunch more.

Heat and Humidity

I realized that NOLA has turned me into a biggity-bitch when it comes to temperature. It was in the 70s almost every day and I wore my sweatpants (which I had to go into town to buy because my linen pants weren’t cutting it) every day. I was so cold the entire time, so cold that I’d often bring a blanket down to the dock, since my goal was to maximize my outdoor time. As far as humidity is concerned there is none. I scoff at ladies who complain about the 8% humidity.

NOLA Nature

Nature, for the most part, is planted and landscaped and maintained by someone. The beautiful live oaks on St. Charles and other streets were placed there to help shade people and keep them cool, engineered nature. This, however, does not magnificence of the trees in New Orleans.

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The tree of life is one of the most magical trees ever.

Color

New Orleans is a lot more colorful than New Hampshire, it’s not that our flowers are any more colorful than theirs, it’s that our houses are. Driving down the streets, especially in the Bywater, seeing a bright tri-colored house is to be expected. Houses are painted bright blue, red, green, purple, yellow, pink, orange, you name it there is a house painted it. Not only the house color but the added color of all the beads, especially after Mardi Gras, beads hang from every conceivable place adding splashes of manufactured color everywhere. Another source of color, as I have mentioned, is the street art.

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Water

Water in NOLA is very interesting. We are surrounded by it: Mississippi River, Lake Pontchartrain, all the canals, spillways and bayous, and of course there is the rain which frequently floods normally dry parts of the city. However, there is no fresh, clean, easily accessible water to swim in. The Mississippi is toxic, like my baby would have three heads toxic. Pontchartrain is supposedly ok to swim in, but I don’t know where and there a bull sharks…no thank you. Water in NOLA isn’t as recreational and relaxing as it is in NH, here it is more functional and destructive. It is an element that we have to deal with rather than coexist with. This relationship breaks my heart almost as much as being forced to swim at a public pool does (I know I have been spoiled when it comes to water, I fully accept that). Also, don’t forget our frequent water boil advisories and that brain eating amoeba from Chalmette…

NOLA lake

The yellow star is about where I live, you can see that we are literally surrounded by water (not marked are the canals).

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We do get the occasional beautiful sunset too.

Heat and Humidity

IT’S EVERYWHERE. I learned a few summers ago that my absolute limit for driving with the windows down was 93 degrees, if it reached 94 degrees my windows were up and ac was blasting; that is until my ac broke…I don’t want to talk about it (#firstworldproblems). But seriously, about two years into living here I realized that my hair is naturally curly, this was a quite a shock after living for 18 years as a straight-haired person. I also know that if it is above 46% humidity there is absolutely no point in straightening my hair.

The point? Both places are beautiful, colorful and vibrant in their own different and unique ways.

NOLA to NH Observations: Life Path

One major difference that I noticed between New Hampshire and New Orleans: the jobs that my friends have. I think that the differences are really interesting and speak volumes about the two cultures.

Friends in New Orleans

Jobs

All of my friends in New Orleans are not where they want to be forever. Most of my friends are finishing school or working in restaurants, or education, or volunteering full-time. These things are all great life experiences, but they are not careers (check that, they can be careers, but not for these people). I’ve decided my friends down here are all in this weird “figuring my shit out transition/ experimental phase” of their lives because the things that they want to do are ethereal, and weird, and not concrete. There is no path well-traveled to their (really our, I’m in this category too) end goals…if we even know what those are. None of us want careers in a field that society needs. Because of that there isn’t a steady market for these open-ended, often self-created roles we desire. We have to find them, or make them ourselves, which is hard when you still have cereal for dinner 3 nights a week. This isn’t to say that we won’t get where we want to be, because I believe that we all will. We will just get there on our time, at our own pace, by our own rules and there will probably be a lot of stressful nights and odd jobs along the way (Camp Bow Wow, shot girl-ing, hostess-ing, etc.) and lots of free labor, I mean volunteering (One Million Bones, Water Symposium). But that is how you, in New Orleans, you figure out where you fit in society.

Being in New Orleans also allows for this kind of life style. First of all the cost of living is cheap and the cost entertainment even cheaper. But more than that there is a free-spirited-float-along-try-it-out-figure-it-out-eventually mentality here. It’s ok to work three jobs and still be scraping by, most people are. It’s ok to be working in a job that is totally different from your dream, most people are. Most people are also working on the side toward their dream. Or they wake up one day and say “fuck being an electrician I want to be an artist.” (True story. I was walking around the Frenchman Art Market last night and a guy told us about how he was an electrician and really unhappy and decided to quit, use his copper wiring to make sculptures.) New Orleans seems to be a place where you can have the most outlandish dreams and people don’t look at you crazy, they tell you to go for it. This where my illogical, adventurous side feels at home.

Living Arrangements

Speaking of homes, almost of my friends in NOLA live with at least two other people they are not married to, dating, or related to. For example, my house (second floor of a house) has three bedrooms and has five people living in it. Basically I’m back in college living in the Commune House with my friends. The fridge will always be chaos, the dishwasher will always be full and there will always be a beer can somewhere. And this probably sounds terrible to a lot of mid-twenty-somethings who are well on their way to becoming totally independent while leading normal adult lives that includes personal space. Not down here. We’re all a bunch of un-pragmatic dreamers in loads of debt who refuse to acknowledge it, living together, working at mediocre jobs that require us to use half of our brain power, who will one day, eventually, get our shit together and be amazing. But until then it’s odd jobs, communal living and food stamps for us.

New Hampshire

Jobs

Now take everything that I just explained and picture the exact opposite. I am amazed by how much friends back home have their shit figured out. Three of my friends from home are working in careers that society needs, one is a Physician’s Assistant and one is a Forensic Interviewer, and one is a teacher; all are concrete jobs, with concrete and applicable skills (unlike Anthropology…or Philosophy…or Latin American Studies…[I have a degree in social skills…cool.]) and a consistent job market (at least as consistent as can be in this economy). Cole’s friends also all have logical jobs: technology sales, plumber, teachers, construction workers.  There is no debating society’s need for teachers, just like construction, plumbers, electricians and doctors, people will always need them. Another thing is that these jobs are all full-time and salaried (or commission, which is also way better than hourly). Finally, our friends are working in their dream careers; they have followed the path to their end destination. Amazing. The pragmatic New England side of me yearns for this stability.

Living Arrangements

Speaking of stability, our friends, for the most part, live on their own with their significant others. Most of our friends actually own their homes, not rent, not half a home, but bought the whole home. These are the places where they probably won’t live forever; but these homes might see their owners carried over the threshold after marriage, these homes might see the birth of their owner’s first child, perhaps even that child’s first steps. These are homes with personal space, and backyards and fences and driveways and fewer people living in them than the number of bedrooms. Buying these homes is just another step towards being a real life adult with real life responsibilities.

Me

You may be wondering, well Emily, how does this all play out for you? Raised with that New England work ethic and pragmatism, thrust into the suspended state of realism and diversion that is New Orleans. (If you’re not wondering this then you should probably skip this part). Well ye who wonders, it is not easy catering to my two contrasting yet equally important desires. I am torn between the logical, NH part of me that says “get a job that makes sense and will pay the bills” and the free-spirited, NOLA part of me that says “to hell with it! I’m going to start a non-profit and barely make ends-meet while I also dabble in writing a book”. Maybe these two sides of me are the reason I decided to stay in NOLA. Maybe I need this extra time to figure my shit out; because I know that I would not be happy owning a house, being tied down to one town, being locked into one job right now. Don’t get me wrong that kind of stability would be nice, but I need to get my yaya’s out before I can truly become a happy real person. So until then it’s communal living and grandiose plans and side projects for me.

The point? New Hampshire and New Orleans breed different types of people with different types of dreams, goals and aspirations; maybe it’s what’s in the water. Personally it’s a constant struggle trying to balance the two sides of me, but ultimately I think that is what will make my life interesting.