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My Bayou

New Orleans through the Eyes of a Lover

Constance Adler

Publication Year: 2012

A vividly described and intensely personal memoir, My Bayou charts a personal and spiritual transformation along the fabled banks of Bayou Saint John in New Orleans. When Constance Adler moved to New Orleans, she began what would become a lasting love affair with the city, and especially the bayou, a living entity and the beating heart of local culture. Rites of passage, celebrations, mysterious accidents, and magic all took place on its banks, leading Adler to a vibrant awareness of a divine intelligence animating the world. That faith is tested in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, when Adler’s conviction that the sadness that surrounds her can only be leavened by the optimistic act of having a child comes into devastating conflict with her husband’s position on parenthood.

Published by: Michigan State University Press


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pp. vii-viii

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What the Pelicans Saw

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pp. 1-6

There is a muddy trickle of water that runs through my neighborhood where I walk every day. It’s called Bayou Saint John, named for John the Baptist. Fitting that such a twisty, curious waterway should be named for that eccentric cousin of Christ. ...

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Slip into Grace

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pp. 7-15

Everything happens on the bayou. Love, sex, Vodou, marriage, birth, baptism, death, and daring rescues. If you spend enough time walking there, you will witness all manner of dramas, both high and low. Then, every so often something completely startling comes hurtling onto the scene. For instance, from time to time we find a car upended in the bayou. ...

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Dream State

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pp. 17-28

A popular conversation opener in New Orleans is to ask, “So how did you end up moving here, anyway?” Just about everybody has a romantic tale to tell, usually involving an affair with a dark-eyed stranger who then disappeared with a few bars of haunting music. ...

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I Am Saved, Again

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pp. 29-35

One June morning, I was walking home from the informal play date I take Lance to in the park next door to Cabrini High School. It was the beginning of the steamy season. Everything was swollen and green. The surface of the bayou barely moved. The air was thick with the distant promise of a thunderstorm. For this little while, the bayou was bright and hot. ...

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A Dog’s Life

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pp. 37-55

The bayou is a natural altar for ritual and ceremony, a magnet that draws people to its edge to conduct their spiritual transactions. Or anything that requires a special concentration of energy. On my daily walk I once stumbled across a man, wrapped in saffron robes, who sat at the edge of the water with his legs folded beneath him in lotus position and his hands resting lightly on his knees. ...

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Then Comes Marriage

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pp. 57-65

Sean and I began our courting and mating rituals in the vicinity of Bayou Saint John. At the time, Sean lived on one side of the bayou and I lived on the other. We often walked along the water in the evening after dinner. It was a sweet time. Seemed like everyone was in love. ...

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A Brief Interlude with History, Science, Wildlife, Mythology, and Civil Engineering

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pp. 67-71

Rumors confirmed! A large alligator was apprehended on the banks of Bayou Saint John. There was a photo in the newspaper. That settled it. Lance would never swim in this bayou. Ever again. Not as long as there was breath in my body. ...

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Adrift on the Invisible

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pp. 73-86

Some would argue that Bayou Saint John belongs to Marie Laveau, the once and future “Voodoo Queen of New Orleans.” Legend has it that her spirit inhabited these watery banks not only during her reign but also long after. She made the invisible visible. She plucked prophecy from the rain clouds and summoned truth from the slimy bottom of the bayou. ...

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Kick Him in the Balls

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pp. 87-95

Nearly a year later, on the occasion of another pagan holiday, Easter Sunday, I was walking home from that other orgiastic flesh-eating rite of group hypnosis—morning mass at Our Lady of the Rosary. I occasionally go to mass at this church because it’s pretty and it’s in my neighborhood. ...

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Words that Float

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pp. 97-102

The making of the story and the story itself intertwine so that I can’t always tell one from the other. When I began writing my meditation on death-by-water during the winter of early 2005, I didn’t consciously anticipate that Hurricane Katrina would come in late summer and drown over a thousand people. ...

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Innocence Comes to a Close

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pp. 103-113

For many of us, the story of Hurricane Katrina is decorated with a string of cheap motels. My version began in the laundry room of a Motel 6 along the interstate in Austin, Texas. That’s where we went when we left Bayou Saint John behind in New Orleans to escape the storm. ...

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Flight from the Bayou

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pp. 115-124

A few years ago, six months into my relationship with Sean, a tropical storm headed toward New Orleans. It looked as though it might turn into a hurricane by the time it reached us. Naturally I assumed that when I shared this information with Sean, he and I would leave town to avoid being in the path of a dangerous weather system. ...

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Honored Guests

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pp. 125-134

About a hundred miles later, as we crawled along I-10 West, past the prairies around Lafayette, I checked in with my friend Michele. She had tried to follow us west, but by the time she got onto the interstate, traffic was at a standstill. ...

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Awash in Grief

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pp. 135-141

In the unspoken negotiation that occurs in all relationships, Sean and I established, somewhere along the line between our first meeting in the yoga studio to our evacuation from Katrina on I-10 West, that on long car trips he would do the driving and I’d be in charge of reading maps. I’d spell him on the driving when he got tired...

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Struggle for the Shore

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pp. 143-150

We lived in this limbo for ten days and met other displaced New Orleanians in the coffee shops. Austin continued its regular comings and goings around us, while we felt like a separate species, torn from our normal lives and dropped in this place that, although pleasant, was not home. So when we saw folks from New Orleans...

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My Conversation with Death

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pp. 151-175

When November came again, more than a year after Katrina, the pelicans showed up too. It was their time to visit us here in Bayou Saint John. I was relieved to see them. Each year it seems as if they might not come again. When they do, it feels like grace. In truth, the pelicans’ arrival represents a turn in the wheel that draws us into the darkest phase of the year. ...

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Katrina Litter

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pp. 177-189

During our exile from New Orleans, we drove from city to city, yoga studio to yoga studio, where our hosts welcomed us refugees with warmth and generosity. They gave us places to sleep, meals, and a lot of unsolicited advice. ...

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Finding the Pulse

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pp. 191-201

When it came time for Sean to get in his car and drive to California, I did something I don’t normally do. I broke a promise. Sean had made me agree that I would not stay in New Orleans by myself, that I would leave for Tennessee as soon as he left for California. Instead, I stayed behind on my own for a while. ...

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Give Us This Day

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pp. 203-209

A morning came that I woke to a chill in the air. Just like that. One minute I was camping without difficulty in my own house, and the next, November had brought a change to New Orleans that would make it uncomfortable to stay without power, heat, or hot water. ...

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Getting to the Point

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pp. 211-217

A year after Katrina, in August 2006, Sean and I went to visit my parents at the Jersey shore, a welcome break from New Orleans. We had a carefree week of beach frolic and body surfing in the ocean. Yet, I experienced a cognitive dissonance. It happened whenever I traveled somewhere outside of New Orleans. ...

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Season of Miracles

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pp. 219-240

On New Year’s Eve 2006, I spent most of the evening sitting on our front porch, smoking cigarettes. I do this on the porch because, as we all know, smoking is a disgusting habit, and it stinks up the house. I smoke on just one day a year, December 31st. ...

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Epilogue: The Other Shoe

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pp. 241-249

I married the Yoga King of New Orleans. And I am here to tell you he steps into his drawstring pants one leg at a time, just like any other man. He wasn’t the Yoga King when I met him. He was more of a duke or lesser lord. I helped Sean ascend to the heights of majesty he enjoys today, but I was never the Yoga Queen. ...

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pp. 251

I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Patricia Lee Lewis—poet, teacher, literary midwife—who held a manuscript workshop in her living room where My Bayou came into existence. Her love and intelligence have nourished this book and made it live. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9781609173111
E-ISBN-10: 1609173112
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611860320
Print-ISBN-10: 1611860326

Page Count: 260
Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Adler, Constance -- Marriage.
  • Self-actualization (Psychology) -- Case studies.
  • Hurricane Katrina, 2005 -- Social aspects -- Louisiana -- New Orleans.
  • Saint John, Bayou (Orleans County, La.) -- Social life and customs.
  • New Orleans (La.) -- Social life and customs.
  • Saint John, Bayou (Orleans County, La.) -- Biography.
  • Adler, Constance.
  • New Orleans (La.) -- Biography.
  • New York (N.Y.) -- Biography.
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