Thursday, November 26, 2009

Swamp Lily Lament in Shape of a Box

Swamp Lily Lament in Shape of a Box, Video, Audio Reading, Text <<<< GO HERE NOW!

In December of 2005 as a member of the Preservation Trades Network I visited in a working mode (meaning w/ work boots, hard hat, hands and heart at the ready) both Bay St. Louis, MI and Lower 9th Ward, New Orleans.

In Bay St. Louis we got involved w/ salvage of an 18 c timber frame structure that was discovered in the wreckage. The structure, the oldest in the area, to be re-installed in a public location as a testimony to the endurance of the community. What we saw and heard from the people there was pretty intense.

In Lower 9th Ward we stood near to where the levee broke. It was one of those experiences where you look around and the situation begins to sink in as to what had gone on there... and I broke down and cried. We subsequently became involved in Holy Cross, the very southern end of Lower 9th Ward, the older section that had survived -- on slightly higher ground -- better than the more familiar upper portion. Brad Pitt came later to the upper area and his activities have brought a lot of attention to that place while there is an immense amount of day-to-day activity that the country and news media has for the most part overlooked or forgotten about in the Gulf area recovery that continues.

Holy Cross is a traditional African American community. One of our first activities was to help the local Baptist Church to replace their wooden floor... so that there was a place for what there was left of the neighborhood to gather.

We then went on from there to hold our annual traditional trades conference (timber framers, stone masons, carpenters, slate roofers, plasterers etc.) in 2006 on site in which we worked a great deal with property owners both on fixing their 'shotguns', but also to give them a non-Home Depot sense of the value of their buildings, and a renewed sense of hope. Older and traditional ways of building directly connect into sustainability in a manner that our contemporary building industry actively works against.

We have continued working in Holy Cross with a program of yearly field schools in which students are able to go to Holy Cross and experience hands-on traditional trades work on the restoration of houses in the neighborhood.

But what it all comes down to is that the buildings are a catalyst for an interface with the people that live there, that try to live there, that are fighting to in some way bring their lives back together. This short story from my friend Donna D Vitucci really brings home the human.

Swamp Lily Lament in Shape of a Box, Video, Audio Reading, Text