From the Country to the City of New Orleans

French Quarter for Mardi Gras

I’ve now been living on the road since the end of December, 2014. In two months’ time, I’ve lived in four different places – which isn’t a lot of places, but the diversity of the places has been quite interesting. I began to notice a pattern in the moving between these places that has been with me my whole adult life. The only difference now is that the pattern seems to be speeding up – what used to take place from four to 10 years, is now happening in four weeks to less than a week.

The pattern began when I graduated from high school in my little hometown of Onset on Cape Cod, and headed to college in Boston. For 17 years, I had lived in one home for my entire childhood. I had no idea that once I started moving that I would be moving for the rest of my life.

The pattern began to become evident after I moved a couple of times. It seemed that I would move from the city to the country, and then back again to the city, and so on. The country places weren’t always rustic country, but they were a lot quieter, and the cities were definitely busy hubs of activities with more people than my little hometown.
The funny thing is that I felt an attraction to both – the city and the country. I could see the gifts of the city – the culture, the diversity of people and experiences, and the opportunities for learning; as well as the gifts of the country – the peacefulness, the proximity to nature, and the spaciousness that was hard to come by in the city. I often wondered if I could find a place that captured all of those attributes that I enjoyed in the city and the country.

In these two months, I left my little hometown of Onset on Cape Cod once again, and headed south to Florida for my first stop on this journey around the country. The RV Park was medium-size as far as parks go, and the city was a smaller city. It felt peaceful there, and yet, it was close to activities, but not as busy as some of the other cities on the east coast of Florida.

Next, I headed south for a week’s stay near Fort Lauderdale. Here was the city – an abundance of restaurants, stores, beaches, and people, who were escaping the winter weather from Canada to the Northeast, and from the Midwest, and everywhere in between. As I drove around the palm-lined streets with one strip mall after another, I felt like I was back in the San Francisco Bay area, living in San Jose, the biggest, spread-out city that I had ever lived in. For a week, it was fun, and stimulating, and certainly entertaining.

After my week in the city, I was back on the road once again, heading northwest for a stay at an RV park up near the Florida panhandle. As I got closer to the park, the busy cities began to disappear, and fields started to show up with horses, cows, and goats. I couldn’t believe it – I was back in the country once again. The RV Park felt like it was in an old, southern woods with ancient oaks, dripping with gray moss. Swamps outlined the borders of the park with their vine-wrapped trees, and long-legged herons, fishing for their dinner. I felt like I had slipped into the Deep South.

The residents at the park were from different places around this country and Canada. They were open and friendly just the way I remembered from other country homes in Westport, MA and Grass Valley, CA. I had to smile since I had no preconceived notion what the park would be like. But along with the country-setting, there were also challenges – my cell phone didn’t work at the RV Park, the internet was sketchy, and the nearest movie theatre was 45 minutes away. Cafes were also hard to come by, and the only coffee shop that I found, happened to be a Dunkin Donuts in a Walmart. After a week’s stay, it was time to move on again.

This time, I left the state of Florida behind which felt a little like leaving my home state. I had been there for a month and a half, and now, it was time to cross state lines. With a confirmed reservation, and a famous destination in mind, I crossed a couple of state lines, from Florida to Alabama, and from Mississippi to Louisiana to arrive just in time for “the biggest party ever,” the Mardi Gras of New Orleans.

Staying outside the city of New Orleans, I am still calling this a city experience. After just over a week of being here, I am still processing everything I have seen and experienced. Even though I have seen New Orleans in movies, and read about the Mardi Gras festivities, nothing prepared me for the reality of the event. I have been to parades in towns, celebrating holidays from Fourth of July to Christmas, from Veterans Day to the Harvest Moon; but I don’t think I had experienced a parade until now.

I thought Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA) was a couple of parades. I had no idea that the season of merriment began on January 6th which is Twelfth night and the feast of Epiphany, and lasted all the way to Fat Tuesday, which is always held on the day before Ash Wednesday.

I had no idea that the Mardi Gras of NOLA included over 50 parades in a three-parish (county) area with over 1,000 floats, 600 marching bands, 3,800 total parade units, and over 125 Carnival balls (thrown by each Krewe, the private clubs, that organize and sponsor the parades.)

I had no idea that some of the Krewes dedicated the parades to different gods and goddesses in Roman, Greek and Egyptian mythology. When I opened up the Mardi Gras schedule and saw the list of parades, I knew I had to see the parades for Selene, the Goddess of the Moon, which took place in the evening; and Iris, the Goddess of the Rainbow, whose parade took place near high noon.

I cannot begin to capture the magic of these parades. To attend my first Mardi Gras parade at night with the image of the goddess Selene, leading the way, was surreal. This parade was held in the city of Slidell in the suburbs of New Orleans where I have been staying. Families lined the parade route with their cars, chairs, barbecue grills, and even a burning log. They had marked their spaces early in the day, and at night, they stood by the parade route adorned in masks and costumes of all kinds.

As the floats filed down the route interspersed with marching bands, and dance troupes, the energy of the parade escalated. From one float to another, the beads and gifts seemed to multiply. An older couple adopted my husband, Jim, and I when they heard it was our first Mardi Gras. Every time, the beads began to fly, they would catch them, and place them ceremoniously over our heads. I left the parade that night, weighed down with an assortment of colored beads. There were the favored bead colors of purple (justice), green (faith), and gold (power), intermingled with the special beads of the parade – the silver beads of Selene, necklaces of grapes, and strings of imitation pearls.

It was Friday, the 13th day, a favored day for any goddess. At that parade, I became enchanted with the customs of the Mardi Gras. The next day, I woke up early to head for New Orleans – my first trip into the city for my first day parade on Valentine’s Day, honoring Iris, the Goddess of the Rainbow.

For years, I’ve had a special relationship with Iris. I named my business after Iris, the Goddess of the Rainbow, and felt a special connection with the myth of Iris as a messenger of the gods. I couldn’t believe that I was going to see a parade in her honor.

As I joined the throng of people in the heart of New Orleans, I could feel the excitement of the Mardi Gras. The city was waking up as the parade goers multiplied, decked out in costumes that I have only seen at Halloween parties, or special masked balls. Every other person wore some colorful outfit, displaying their individuality and their desire to be part of the party. People wore hats, rainbow-colored tutus, and masks of all kinds, strolling down the city streets or riding on their bikes. I was in awe. I had never seen anything like this in a public event.

The Iris parade topped all my expectations as one float after another showed up. They were celebrating all the different kinds of parties that you can image – at least 36 of them, from a Garden Party to a Beach Party, from a Bridal Shower to a Baby Shower, and on and on, they rolled by on the city streets. These two-tier floats were covered in decorations for their theme and carried women on the floats, dressed up and bestowing beads and gifts on the crowds. The parade goers would extend their arms, and beads, cups, coins, and other special gifts would rain down upon them.

After several floats went by, I left to explore more of the city, visiting the quaint French Quarter, and the infamous Bourbon Street – all entertaining in their own way. Later in the week, I came back for yet another visit, only to find people still celebrating Mardi Gras in the city of New Orleans.

I was struck by the contrasts of the city. On that Saturday after Ash Wednesday, I walked into the St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square as the church bells finished ringing in Vespers at 5 o’clock. The huge church was filled with people, listening to their Lenten service. Not being Catholic, I didn’t stay long, but stepped outside to find the church surrounded by music and mayhem. The difference between the two settings struck me with its duality – the church with its message of fasting, and the streets still alive with merriment and feasting.

The city of New Orleans is very much a city of dualities, and yet, they all seem to co-exist – the ancient traditions with the new customs. Mardi Gras was certainly an experience not to be missed, and yet, I don’t feel a need to repeat the experience. How could another Mardi Gras top my first experience with this holiday extravaganza? For me, it’s onto the next stop on my journey, wondering if it will be a city, or a country experience. Either way, it’s not about the destination, but all about the journey of living on the road. Let the good times roll.

By Donna Fisher-Jackson, M.A. © 2015

Donna Fisher-Jackson, M.A., CHT is a Certified Hypnotherapist, Western Astrologer and Author who counsels clients through her business of Iris Holistic Counseling Services on the road at http://www.DonnaFisherJackson.com. She has published the self-help book, The Healing Path of the Romantic: Type Four of the Enneagram Personality Type System and a novel, Clara & Irving: A Love Story of Past Lives, based on the true story of a Romantic. Both books are available in a print and Kindle edition on Amazon.com. ♥

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About Donna Fisher-Jackson

Donna Fisher-Jackson, MA, CHT has been traveling around the United States and Canada in her tiny home - a 39 foot Fifth Wheel Bighorn RV since 2014. Her new book, "Living the RV Lifestyle: Practical Advice and Personal Tales from Life on the Road" is now available on Amazon. She continues to do her counseling work on the road. For seventeen years, she lived in Northern California where she pursued studies in Western Astrology, Holistic Counseling, Hypnotherapy and Past-Life Regression. Donna completed certification in Astrological Counseling with the Astrology Institute West in the San Francisco Bay area. During her time in the Bay area, she also graduated with an M.A. in Counseling Psychology specializing in Holistic Studies from John F. Kennedy University in Northern California. Her counseling business, Iris Holistic Counseling Services, began in 1999. In her counseling work, she shares the insights of Hypnotherapy, the Enneagram, Dreamwork, Western Astrology and the Mythic Tarot. She specializes in life transitions, relationship issues, mid-life, career/vocation and life purpose.
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