Bookpacking through the Grand Isle

The voice of the sea speaks to the soul. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace.
— Kate Chopin, The Awakening

Louisiana Waters

My feet don’t crunch on the sand,
its exterior like soft caramel skin,
smooth as the uncrashing waves.

Winged shadows float along the land, 
brisk but elegant, feathered outlines
etching birdsong into my soundscape.

An unworried bird with mechanical legs
scurries across the sand, fleeting feet
familiar with the warmth of the grains.

I reach the firmer terrain, wetness
darkening it. The water looks less calm
the closer I walk towards it, more alive.

I don’t walk into the waves as much as
they charge towards me, smoothing out
before caressing my too-white feet,

welcoming me, beckoning me to bathe
in its body, to embark on a voyage
to the barricade of rocks just beyond.

The rocks, arrayed in overlapping piles,
break the waves, forcing eruptions, but act
as companions rather than interveners—

the drummers in this band, the creators
of the bang and the clang, accentuating
the lyrics and the water’s raspy voice.

I look down at my feet and find them
vanished beneath the blue liquid blanket
covering me halfway up my calf.

Clouds of sand swim like fish around me
as I engulf more of myself into the body,
wading, wandering, waiting, wondering.

I see dolphin fins splintering the waves, 
weaving through their wavering world, 
splashing away the white of my mind,

wiping at every inch of the canvas inside,
throwing me into a different kind of
wilderness, witnessed through the eyes.

More of me has disappeared beneath the
surface and I think of how I can’t even
see how deep the water’s beginning is.

Even the pile of rocks, who sit still
for years, day and night, wouldn’t know
how far your presence flows.

How deep do you go?

Immediately upon stepping outside the New Orleans airport and driving our way through Southern Louisiana in our huge “minivan,” I felt captivated by the landscape. It was completely different for me, especially as a California native who hasn’t traveled much. The green was everywhere and I felt compelled to stare endlessly through my window, taking pictures which gave absolutely no justice to the landscape (many came out looking like just blurry blobs of green).

The water was also everywhere. I noticed that the trees did not stand tall among grass or expanses of dirt, but rather seemed to emerge from the water flooded around their roots. This amazed me!

As we entered Grand Isle, I also found it hard to tear my eyes away from the view. We had passed over the water at a beautiful hour, just as the sun began to descend and paint itself on the surface of the water. There was more to see as we drove closer to our home for the next three days: many houses built high upon tall wooden stilts, but each one unique in the name plastered on it (my favorite name was “Claw Enforcement”).

We arrived at our own place along the beach, “Sol Et Terre.” It was also stilted with a beautiful brown wooden exterior. Looking around indoors was even more of a pleasure: the bedrooms big enough to fit up to three people; the board games and books stacked along the shelves; the main living area with the comfy couches, the TV, and the rocking chairs facing the beach. It was so foreign to me, an absolute luxury, a calming home.

Although I loved reading next to the huge windows facing the beach and laughing with everyone else around the big table, one of my favorite parts of being on Grand Isle was venturing into the sea during the few trips to the beach.

We had been reading The Awakening by Kate Chopin and one of my favorite parts of the book was the description of Edna’s growing kinship with the water after she learns to swim. Heading out to the same body of water that she had relished in was an almost surreal experience. And I, not a frequent beach-goer, felt alive in the water. It was a feeling I didn’t feel often, but it became familiar to me through the love for being in water that I had always possessed. I don’t think I’ve ever felt unhappy in a sea, an ocean, even a pool. This was no different.

I had traveled out to sea both by myself and with others, completely different experiences. When I walked out to the water with others, jumping waves and getting submerged in the salty world beneath the surface, the experience felt like more of a mindless bliss. Lots of smiling, heart racing, throwing myself into the water like a child.

By myself, however, I was able to remain calm and pensive and allow the water, the sand, the rocks to influence my thoughts. It was during my time wandering alone on the beach that I came up with most of the lines for the poem above. I don’t know if I’ve ever really written about nature. I laughed at myself because it’s so different from the material I typically write and I feel like Romantic nature poets were the guys that everyone despised reading because their poetry was too happy and too “flowery.” Yet, I couldn’t help but feel Romantic when on the beach alone. It really is a poetic place.