Tag Archives: green



1plot \`plat\ n.  1 :  a small area of ground  2 :  a ground plan (as of an area)  3 :  the main story (as of a book or movie)  4 :  a secret scheme : INTRIGUE


I have been going by the house for years now, every time I am home for a visit. It was just a shell of where we lived but I felt compelled to visit every time I was back in New Orleans in the years following Katrina. A few months ago, my mom sent me an email to tell me that the house had been razed. It’s just river sand now, she wrote. She said she picked up three pieces of brick (one for her, one for my dad, one for me), a small piece of wood, a small piece of latticework—the traces that were left behind. She said she wanted to lie in the sand and make a sand angel, to place her body on the earth itself, but a truck drove up so she just pretended.

I knew, then, what to expect when I went by 3324 Vincennes Place, and yet, I was surprised all the same. I was taken aback by the shock of green grass usurping the plot. I had expected river sand, but since my mom visited, there had been time for old seeds to sprout up. To fill this hole, this gap, this absent space.

I thought: how odd to witness so clearly an absent place that is so full, this place that occupies so much space in my in my memory. The lot looks enormous without our house on it (hadn’t my mom mentioned that in her email as well?). Just one small block of green. It was hard to imagine all those rooms, all that our house contained.

I pulled out my journal and tore out a perforated page. On it I wrote: THIS WAS HOME. This (space). Was (past tense of “to be,” as in is no longer). Home (a place where families are born, where dreams are dreamed, where mornings break and evenings are put to bed). I took pictures of the sign resting in the grass in front of the plot. I took portraits of myself with my arm extended, holding the sign. I walked around the perimeter and traced the word HOME with my finger in the river sand. Then I took a stray stick and signed my name in the corner of the plot before tucking the stick in the back pocket of my jeans. Three trees stood as sentries at the back of the land and then there was just the span of grass and sand and the neighboring fences on either side.



The sidewalk had 3324 spray-painted in orange, over a version painted in white. This now marks the address since there is no longer a house to mark the space. Addresses are random numbers and letters we assign to places to make them ours, to make them home, to tell people where to find us. While I was sitting in the car across from the plot where our house was, a mail carrier, mail in one hand and a bag crossing her body, walked by the empty lot on her route.

I scanned my body. I felt tears behind the lids of my eyes—held, not held back. There was a sort of soft gnawing in my belly. I didn’t feel sad really but rather vaguely numbed out.

This was a place I had been saying goodbye to for years. A place I came to visit as one does a deceased family member in a cemetery, over and over again. Our home died to us and now the traces of it, save a long thin piece of wood with blue paint that I found and took, are gone as well.

And although this moment felt like it should be the natural point of closure, the final goodbye, I couldn’t imagine stopping my visits: even if there was a new house there, even if there was a new family in it. In the movie version of my life, we might end here as the protagonist bids farewell to her childhood memories and her childhood home and steps off into her very bright future. Maybe there would even be a flash-forward to her home-to-be, complete with husband in the doorframe and children eating breakfast at the kitchen table. So why do I feel its not over for me and this land?

It’s not a compulsion, this desire to visit. It’s more like coming to sit in silence with an old friend. There’s a kind of peace that comes from being there—from remembering what was and seeing what is real now. I can sit with all the fond memories and the painful loss of this place. It feels real. It feels authentic—this mix of beauty and joy with grief and sorrow. This house taught me how to live life and bear it all: how to grow, how to be nurtured and to nurture, how to love and also how to unexpectedly and without warning, let it all go. To say goodbye. To unhand expectations of what the space you rest your life in looks like.



I feel I owe this land so much—the place I was born into, where I took my first steps and read and wrote my first words, where I learned how to embrace and be enclosed in the arms of somebody who loved me. I learned to cry, to mourn and to go on, still and always, with the movement of life. I learned about the richness that lies in details—in the shape of a sill, in nicks, slants, the flaws we perceive as such or the ones we find charming. I learned how to observe and how to write those observations down.

It occurred to me as I sat across the street from my childhood home that while I thought I had been coming back to grieve and let go, I was also coming back to honor and pay tribute to the home that held the space for me to become who I am, to the sacred spot where my mom, dad and I became a family. I realized I have continued to come back, all these months, all these years later, because I am so deeply grateful.




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jad·ed (jā-dəd),  adj. [pp. of jade, v.I],  1. Tired; worn-out; wearied.  2. Dulled or satiated, as from overuse.

The interesting thing about language is how just one letter can create a seismic-size shift in meaning. For example, jaded is a word that means disillusioned, worn down, made dull, apathetic or cynical. One form of the word “jade” is also a verb signifying these sentiments. But the noun version of jade is of course, a gem, a green natural stone that in Chinese culture is revered for the qualities it signifies.

When I think of certain aspects of my life lately, I think of the grooves that form in wood after wheels have run over the same patch over and over again. My creative life feels as if it has stalled. I have moved to a new house and although it is beginning to feel like home, there is more I want to do to personalize my space and make it my own. After some difficult experiences over the past few months, including the break-ins I wrote about here on the blog, I don’t feel like I have the energy or inventiveness to jump the track.

So, I reordered a Feng Shui book I owned years ago in the hopes of at least manifesting what I want in my life in my personal space. Maybe by being intentional about the qi (pronounced chee) in my house, I thought, I would find some insights into what to work on now. Feng Shui literally translates to “wind-water”. Feng Shui, for those unfamiliar, is an ancient Chinese practice in aesthetics that is based in the idea that the energy in your home can be enhanced by the ordering of your home and the placement of the items within it. With intention, you can enhance areas of your life. Your space is divided into baguas, or zones. There are nine baguas: prosperity, fame & reputation, relationships & love, family, health, creativity & children, skills & knowledge, career, and helpful people & travel.

Jade Plant, photo by Matt Baume

For each, there are associated colors, elements and shapes that can be used to enhance the area. By enhancing the qi in your space, you enhance the qi in your life.

I think there is something to this stirring of energy. It makes logical sense to me that the way in which our home is structured would affect our internal structures. I think most readily of clutter. When clutter infests our homes, it also takes up space in our lives. Instead of taking the time needed to do some clearing, we live with the knowledge that there are bills to be paid, paintings to be hung, dishes to be attended to. And those items and the knowledge of them takes up psychic space that could be better used focusing on more important matters. If we neglect the spaces we live in, that neglect can wear us out.

The first year I lived in San Francisco, my room was painted a fluorescent green color. This green was a compromise with the prior resident, who agreed to paint over his one royal blue accent wall with this green. “I was envisioning the colors of the earth when I painted,” he told me. “Uh huh,” I responded. It was hideous.

I intended to paint over it immediately, but little did I know that I was entering one of the most difficult periods in my life. I had a hard time functioning much less considering things like decorating or qi (maybe I should have). So through that difficult time, the fluorescence remained. When I was starting to come out of it and began to reconsider how to organize my space to restore balance and wellbeing in my life, I finally went to the hardware store down the street and bought some paint.

I don’t remember the chip name, but I picked a sagey, jade-toned green. Green has always been one of my favorite colors. I remembered that it was said to be a calming color, fitting for a bedroom. I just needed a shade that suited me.

Chinese Jade

In Chinese culture, jade symbolizes beauty, nobility, perfection, constancy, power, and immortality. There is a Chinese saying that states: “God has a value; jade is invaluable.”  Stones have been found in the country that date back to 5,000 B.C. Whomever wears jade is believed to be protected from misfortune (Could it be said that in wearing jade, this person is “jaded”?)

Chinese Jade

I wonder what attracts me to this shade of green. The color is pleasant to me. It reminds me of Louisiana, of the color of leaves when lit by the sun.

I know for sure that it wasn’t repainting my walls that made me reconnect with important parts of myself that had been neglected. I do know that when it was time to paint, I felt a sense of urgency about it. I went from waiting a year to take care of it to feeling like I needed to paint immediately. So, I bought the paint and brushes, moved all my furniture to the center of the room, draped the floor and the furniture with dropcloths, and began to cover the walls with a new color.

When I was done, my arms were covered in specks of jade that would take a week to finally come off. I found them funny, these stubborn bits of paint. While I tried my best to scrub them off, I also took a kind of pleasure in the testament to small changes I was making in my life.

I know for sure that painting my walls didn’t change my life. But I also know for sure paying attention to my environment was a step in taking care of myself and my needs. I was paying attention to all the spaces I lived and moved and breathed in, the spaces without and within.

My room in the Western Addition, San Francisco


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