It’s Been a While!

Hey there! It’s been a while since I’ve checked in with the blogging world. Since spring semester picked up I’ve been juggling acquainting myself with new classes, easing back into the New Orleans lifestyle and social scene, and also trying to maintain a steady flow of writing; sometimes it’s more than I can manage. But in the meanwhile, I want to share some things with you all other than writing.

Photography has always been a humble passion of mine. Only taking an introductory course in digital photography last summer, did I even begin to scratch the surface on what could hopefully be a lifelong pursuit. Instructional and recreational photography in Paris and Europe offered abundant landscapes and architecture to capture, but it only made me more excited to return home with my new appreciation for simple beauty.

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New Orleans and it’s European and French influence make it just as picturesque. Traipsing through the French Quarter and the surrounding neighborhoods with a disposable camera have produced some of the best and memorable photos I’ve ever taken. I want to share a few of those photos with you all so you can bask in the light and charm that is this city.

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Now you just have to pick up a cheap camera and go find things that excite you!

Big Easy Express

Thousands of miles of train track from Oakland to New Orleans covers some of America’s most scenic views, taking one through beautiful sights you’d all but miss on the more efficient plane ride. In 2012, three bands, folk-rock, indie, and bluegrass – Mumford and Sons, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and Old Crow Medicine Show – rented a vintage train in California, creating the musical tour of dreams, playing shows along the way as they took the infamous train journey from Oakland to New Orleans covering four thousand miles.

The Big Easy Express is a cinematic music experience that combines a concert movie with a roadie documentary, bringing you in and behind the action of incredible music being made. The quality of the sound makes you feel as though you’re one of the spectators, tagging along at the train stops, dancing in the vibrant crowd at the shows and having a front row seat to their late-night jam sessions as the train speeds through the backcountry.

Baffled by the fact that such a movie could pay homage to New Orleans and I hadn’t yet seen it, a friend and I rented the movie and watched it two times through, and if you haven’t seen it I implore you to do so.

The three band’s sounds collaborate perfectly; in fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find three bands who so humbly and beautifully respect and enhance each other’s music in such an inspiring setting. There’s a fleeting scene where the Ed Sharp guys are singing “All Wash Out” in between train stops, and you begin to notice the crowd of musicians encircling the band is also strumming along, adding their notes and rhythms to the song.

At the concerts along the way, the bands take turns performing their own songs for crowds jumping with excitement and anticipation, but the finale of the show is worth watching even if you don’t consider yourself a fan of any of the three bands. Mumford and Sons, Old Crow Medicine Show, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, take the stage together to cover Jonny Cash’s “This Train was Bound for Glory” which so perfectly captures the spirit and message behind the “tour of dreams” as the bands refer to it as. The energy on stage when the all of those talented people are together on stage is nothing short of magical – a symphony of country instruments all playing their hearts out.

Often you think of music as being the brainchild of one musician or at best an impressive feat of collective imagination, but sometimes it’s easy to forget how great music can come from anywhere. The closing scene of the film shows the bands sitting in a train car strumming a melody and brainstorming lyrics about the train experience. Seemingly out of nowhere the poignant lyrics come to fruition – “on a train to New Orleans, and all that country in between. Friends you and I, playing for our lives singing sweet dreams forever on a train in the sky.”

After watching the film, all I can say is how much I wish I was in New Orleans in the summer of 2012.

600 Trees Planted for Louisiana’s Coastal Wetlands

Lake Maurepas - Port Manchac Louisiana
Lake Maurepas – Port Manchac Louisiana

A football field has become a colloquial frame of reference for spatial comparisons both silly and serious. Unfortunately, on the serious end of those comparisons – Louisiana has been losing its coastal wetlands at an alarming rate; and estimates produced by the U.S. Geological Survey confirm the loss to be about a football field every hour over the last 30 years.

This semester I’m taking a course on environmental ethics which has played a big role in pointing me towards my major in environmental studies and hopefully, a career focused on environmentalism. This course has an elective service-learning component – a core requirement for all Tulane students, to complete two tiers of community service during their four years in New Orleans. There were multiple, wonderful community partnerships to choose from, but a friend of mine and I were really inspired by the mission of the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana.

The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL) is a nonprofit organization that advocates for Louisiana’s coastal wetlands through science-based community action with their Habitat Restoration program. Wetlands are areas where the water level is at or above the top layer of soil, producing prime environments for diverse ecosystems teeming with wildlife, food, nutrients, and habitats for native species. The loss of Louisiana’s wetlands, which make up approximately 11 percent of the state, threatens more than just the species that live there, but also the prominent fishing industry, oil and gas industries.

There are multiple factors, some occurring naturally and others produced by the strain of densely populated societies, that are causing the accelerated erosion of coastal wetlands in Louisiana.  According to CRCL, Louisiana’s wetlands and barrier shorelines have lost more than 1 million acres of land due to human influences on the environment and natural processes. the three main causes are: reduced sediment flow, caused by freshwater diversion and blockages of the Mississippi river’s natural flow; subsidence, refers to the sinking of land; and continual rising sea levels.

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On this past Saturday, Nov. 4th, CRCL hosted an event in Lake Maurepas as part of their ‘Ten Thousand Trees for Louisiana’ initiative, where 60 volunteers, including my friend and myself, came together to plant 600 trees in a marshy tributary. The wetlands and their barrier islands serve as a line of defense against natural disasters, protecting vulnerable coastal communities from the harm of storms and flooding, an issue very pertinent in Louisiana. The trees planted serve a dual purpose by helping to keep the ecosystem alive while also protecting the environment from further erosion.

CRCL, in addition to the tree planting, hosts other wonderful events ranging from panels and talks on advocacy for the Gulf Coast to hands-on volunteer experiences in restoring parts of the coast. Working with them over the course of this semester has been such a wonderful opportunity to learn more about a serious environmental issue that I had never really heard about before coming to college in New Orleans.

Hopefully, the mission of the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana resonates with you as much as it did with me! If you want to get involved or read more about the organization – click here!