The signs of recovery in spring - Katrina in the aftermath
Category : Home and Family | 1169 views | 2007-05-14 09:00:02
Kathleen Johnson is a long term volunteer who has been working in Mississippi since just after the storm. Currently Kathleen is Director of Katrina Relief an organization she started after arriving in Mississippi - it is under the umbrella of the Waveland Citizens Fund a registered 501 ( c ) 3.
As I grew up in Australia I can remember one thing very clearly - my mother's love of a song, that was actually a poem, written in iambic pentameter, that was played, from time to time, on the radio recited byHelen Hayes.
We had no TV until I was about 16 - so the radio was our form of entertainment. It was not the love of the song that impressed me - it was her passion for the song. My parents, even today, walk hand in hand - they had such a passionate marriage.
I always thought the song was about the "tree" and grew up wondering about that tree and that white flower. I didnt have a picture of the flower, the tree, or even access, in those days, to an encyclopedia. So I sat there and listened to that poem/song and had great visions of that flower and the power that it had. I envisioned the tree to be strong and powerful with cool large leaves that matched those large white flowers.
Now I understand my mother's passion for the song was akin to herpassionate love of my father. But it took many years for me to understand that.
And now, some fifty years later, 20 thousand miles distance hence, here I am where the white Magnolia tree blooms in its natural environment on the coast of Mississippi at ground zero for Katrina - Waveland. And I still love that song. And I now love that tree, its strength, its unbelievable white bloom, and now fully understand its tenacity as it thrives after Katrina tip tapped across its bows and only made it sway to the wind. It did not succumb. It is a survivor - a symbol for me of the work that we, as volunteers, do here in the aftermath of Katrina.
And here in Hancock County it is Spring again - and the white Magnolia is starting to flower. It started last week with one flower here and there - and by next week the trees will be a mass of flowers. I did not see one blooming tree last year - but then the trees and flowers did not bloom last year like they are this year. I can not wait until next week - it will be a true testimony to the power of mother nature to overcome adversity and a true symbol for all of us working here.
The picture above was taken in the "secret garden" around the corner from where the office is. The historic house did not survive - but if you climb beyond the weeds and overgrown shrubs - what you will find a secret garden of Camellias, Azaleas, roses, bulb, and various and sundry plants of all kinds that I fail to recognize excepting the order of things, even after all these years, says they are a visitor and not a native. Now as summer approaches and all the other flowers fade - the secret garden is showing us the power of the Magnolia tree in its midst. I show all my visitors my secret garden if they show an interest in such mundane things as gardening. The volunteer tasks overwhelm us here leading us to forget the simpler things in life - such standing back and enjoying the rebirth in Spring.
White Magnolia Tree
The year when I was twenty-one,
(John that year was twenty-three)
That was the year, that was the spring,
We planted the white magnolia tree.
"This tree," said John, "shall grow with us,
And every year it will bloom anew.
This is our life. This is our love."
And the white magnolia tree grew and grew...
Oh, youth' a thing of fire and ice,
And currents that run hot and white,
And its world is as bright as the sun...
I was twenty-one...
And I wore a plume in my hat.
And we went to the movies and wept over" Stella Dallas",
And John sang "Moonlight and Roses"
(a little off-key, but very nicely really),
And we hurried through our crowded days
With beautiful plans, boundless ambitions, and golden decisions.
There is so much the young heart clamours for,
That it must have, and that it cannot live without,
And it must be all or nothing
For aren't we the masters of creation?
Oh, valiant and untamed were we,
When we planted the white magnolia tree!
And the white magnolia grew and grew,
Holding our love within its core,
And every year it bloomed anew,
And we were twenty-one no more.
No more untamed, no more so free,
Nor so young, nor so wild and aflame were we.
Dearer to us grew other things
Easy sleep, books, a day's quiet holiday,
Good talk beside a fire, the beauty of old faces...
We have known many things since then:
The death of a child and the bitter lesson
That a heart which breaks can mend itself again
(That it can and must be done),
And what loyalty can mean,
And how real a word like courage can become,
And that solitude can be rich and gratifying
And quite different from loneliness...
There is so little the serious heart requires:
Friends, faith, a window open to the world,
Pride in work well done,
And strength to live in a world at war
And still maintain the heart's own private peace...
Dear Heaven, I give thanks to thee
For things I did not know before,
For the wisdom of maturity,
For bread, and a roof, and for one thing more...
Thanks because I still can see
The bloom on the white magnolia tree!
The relief effort, in the aftermath of Katrina, has barely started the rebuilding process. There is a desperate need for volunteers - both skilled and unskilled.
About AuthorKathleen Johnson is a long term volunteer who has been working in Mississippi since just after the storm. Currently Kathleen is Director of Katrina Relief an organization she started after arriving in Mississippi - it is under the umbrella of the Waveland Citizens Fund a registered 501 ( c ) 3. http://www.wavlelandcitizensfund.org or email: firstname.lastname@example.org