"hi patti ann,
i was cross eyed even before i got your little joke. the past couple of days have been hard. i know i probably sound like i'm always on top of things, but in reality i have to fight in my mind to stay there. it's just not easy here in the big city sometimes, although living here can be quite rewarding if you truly work hard. just when i think i'm at the end of my trials, another problem presents itself and laughs at me. life is unbelievable, i'm sure i don't have to explain that to you. my experiences here have taught me to keep looking for the positive light in all things, and to remain focused on it. if we look the other way, for sure there will be no way out of the darkness. i hope you're battling hard and accepting all your challenges as they present themselves. you can be a leader in the community if you want to, leading by example. remember the patti fest? i've never in my life seen so many people so alive in one place at the same time. inside of you lies a great gift. the spirit of the land. please keep digging, for me and for everybody. i promise i'm here for you. i'm making the most out of my opportunities, working my hands to the bone and uncovering many new talents. give grande pointe some love for me. i miss her. the secret is safe with me. fight.
It took me 17 years to revisit these letters. I knew they made grand gestures and that crazy things were happening in the world around me. I knew the letters were defiant and had to be. What do you say when your people are hurting and you've heard the secrets of the land and buildings are falling around you? You beat on the drum and sing the silence.
Once at an antiques fair in Round Top, Texas, a clairvoyant man selling rugs looked at me with an astonished look on his face. He told me I was in my ninth life and that I can choose to come back if I wanted to. This reminded me of "the dream". Once as a child while breaking a fever, I had a haunting dream in pitch black darkness with a quiet like nothing on earth. There was a sound of water sloshing around and complete darkness with a speck of light. It scared the hell out of me and I didn't want to go to sleep for a long time. Recently I had the thought that I could have been remembering being in the womb. I am the Elephanthead after all and I just can't bring myself to rule this conclusion out. I also can't rule out the nine lives.
What do we know anyway of the passages of time? We have been taught by the same men over and over and over for their gain. History (his story), Religion (another story) have been used to control the masses for thousands of years. It's appalling when you take the time to look back on the actions of mankind. And when I say look back, I mean 10's of thousands of years to get to this point.
When I look back on Grand Point life in the old days, resilience keeps coming to mind. The extreme heat, and a summer harvest with very little profit. Flour sacs became dresses and nothing was ever wasted. From a young age, I always wondered where that resilience came from. Death, hard work and sacrifice were a constant presence but there was always the joie de vivre. (Joy of Life)
When I sat with "Sky King" that day in Ms. Gladys' kitchen and he told me the long tales of the past, the dots started to connect. There was a great secret that had been passed down from generation to generation but in the 1990's it was becoming a folk tale and no one was taking the old days seriously and the wise old predictions were coming true.
It turns out that Perique tobacco wasn't the only thing the Acadians learned from the Choctaws upon arriving in St. James Parish. The natives had been here for many years and befriended the arriving Acadians and exchanged customs much like they did in New France. There was nothing more resilient in the country than the native who lived for 10,000 years during the Ice Age along the Bering Land Bridge before finding a passage to the America's. 10,000 years during the Ice Age made the Louisiana heat a lot less extreme I'm sure.
On that day in the kitchen "Sky King" had my mind soaring and he began to fill in the blanks for me and the great silence of the Grand Point man began to make sense. I say great silence, because men in "the back of the point" are notoriously quiet. When I was a school boy I almost dreaded my dad picking me up from school because of his silence. But "Sky King's" story unfolded. He made me promise not tell anyone unless I wanted them to start thinking I was crazy.
He told me the Choctaw chief sat down with one of the early settlers named Pierre and shared some principles. Principles that would help the new settlers develop their own private culture that could endure and avoid mans unavoidable traps.
"Man will be blinded by his riches. His world view will become small and he will think that he is much bigger in the universe than he is. He'll forget the thousands of years that proceeded him and remain ignorant to the thousands more approaching. Man is a grain of sand. Empires build up and then they fall. For a thousand years. And a thousand more. Man will lose perspective. We have come to live off the land and to nurture and remain close to the great spirit. To save the spirit of the land. To dedicate our efforts to the greater good. Work is a blessing."
"To dedicate our efforts to the greater good" hit home with Pierre and the early settlers who had settled on the Mississippi River. These teachings were saved in a wooden box and would endure up until The Great Flood of 1927. When the waters dispersed into the Blind River, there was a point that formed just off of the Mississippi River. The point would soon be called "Grand Point" and settled by its new founders and the secret of "Perique Culture" would endure and soon thrive now that they could distance themselves from the big plantations and the changing customs of the time. The tales of the natives were becoming true but it would be a hard thing to resist the desire for the riches that were happening right there on the river road and it was a horror show.
"Sky King" had said enough. It was about as much as I could digest for a 20 year old. He said there was more. In that wooden box there was a message carved on a "cop cop". (wooden mallet used for hanging tobacco) "It is better to have less thunder in the mouth and more lightning in the hand".
I know the great silence. I sing it. The secret. Patti Ann did too. I was a howling wolf back in Brooklyn writing letters to her and she was a lion climbing to the mountain top. She was conquering her long rows of tobacco. Tonight I'm howling at the harvest moon. It's hard living among the confused with not many to look up to. I wish there were a chief. Hail to thee.
They are not dead who live in the hearts they leave behind.