Our first taste of "bookpacking" took place in Grand Isle, situated off the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, and a popular vacation destination. With only two full days in our rental house, we dove into the The Awakening by Kate Chopin. In each place I chose to read: on a rocking chair looking out at the gulf, on the porch swing under the house, and most especially on the hot sand of the beach, Chopin's description's of Grand Isle leapt off the page.
Each day was filled with good food, enticing stories, and wonderful company, but my goodness was it muggy! If there was one description of Grand Isle from The Awakening that I most connect with it would be that of the weather. So hot, so sticky, and so windy. The above quote alone describes the weather for the while of our time on the island. Though she did forget to mention the mosquitoes. The group had multiple conversations about the weather, and remarks about the heat and humidity were not few and far between.
Days 1, 2, and 3 - Awakening in Grand Isle
I have had the pleasure of reading The Awakening twice before this experience. Each time I re-read a book I discover something new. With an established familiarity, I am able to read between the lines, dig deeper into the character’s subconscious, and speculate more about the author’s intentions. This third time reading Chopin’s famous work was no different in that respect. However, I believe I was able to take away even more from this read due to my scenery.
I had a basic view of what Grand Isle, New Orleans, and most major settings looked like, though when we arrived in Grand Isle I discovered that my idea of the place was not quite reality. With this newfound realistic view of Grand Isle, I was able to lessen the gap between myself and the story even more. Sitting on the beach I could see Edna. I have no trouble visualizing a scene in a book, in fact that is my favorite part about reading; when a scene floats off the pages and you can visualize it like a movie in your mind.
With this experience I did not have to visualize Edna on the beach while I sit in a café but I could sit on that very beach. The experience was almost overwhelming. A story is so much different, more exciting, and more relevant when the reader feels as if they are a part of it all. That is what the idea of “bookpacking” has done for me. With each new look at this wonderful text I am able to discover something new and interesting, but reading it in the setting where a large part of the novella takes place granted me not only new insight, but a new experience. A multidimensional experience.
Day 4 - Goodby Grand Isle, hello New Orleans
And so on we went, ready to tackle the next leg of our journey. Driving north on our way to New Orleans, stopping along the way at the Jean Lafitte National Historical Preserve, exploring the bayou in hopes of spotting an alligator. Though unfortunately we had no such luck, we were able to see a few colorful dragonflies and even a lizard. The Spanish moss hanging on the trees added an eerie beauty to the walk which is something that I am not lucky enough to have seen before as a born and raised Midwesterner. in short, my first few days in Louisiana were magical.
Check out my bookpacking playlist for The Awakening on Spotify! For the duration of this course, each playlist will expand as I find new songs fitting of a certain text. Listening to music while I read helps me get into the right state of mind to connect better with the characters in the book. Have a listen here to see if that might work for you:
Bonus: If you want to dive even deeper into our visit, here is a video of the Gas & Grill that was across the street from us: