Last week, my mother and I took a drive to Clinton, Louisiana, a small town near Baton Rouge, Louisiana. My family owns land there. Most of our acreage is wooded. The family uses it mainly for hunting and occasional family celebrations.
Under the strictest interpretation of our stay-at-home orders in Louisiana, I should not be entering her house. Yet, I have, and I will continue as needed when she needs food and essentials. Likewise, I should not be traveling at all according to our governor, John Bel Edwards. We decided to be rule-breakers.
On Thursday afternoon, I travelled southwest to my mom’s house to pick her up for the journey. She lives alone. During this pandemic she’s become rather isolated. I stayed the afternoon and evening in bayou country with her, getting a few things for her at the local Walgreens.
We arrived in Clinton, Louisiana, around 11:30 on Friday morning. We picked up fried chicken from a local gas station. This gas station in Clinton is especially noted for its fried chicken. Although I was sorely tempted by the fried gizzards and livers on the menu, we chose
breasts, wings, and legs that were fried to a golden-orange crispy perfection. The order came with French fries, white rolls, and a choice of fountain drinks. We also received a small paper sack full of ketchup.
We drove along the highway past downtown Clinton, then turned down a dirt road. At the lodge in the woods, we ate our fried food, both of us sipping Dr. Pepper. The pieces of chicken were enormous. I don’t know who supplies the chickens for the gas station, but these were not young fryers such as one usually gets at Popeye’s. By the time we ended lunch, our paper cartons were filled with bones, suggesting we had consumed a bucket of chicken rather than a couple of combo orders.
After a few minutes of looking around the lodge and outbuildings, we walked toward the pond. The rutted, clay path leads gently downward toward a small body of water that that was dug over a decade ago. As we walked, we were hemmed in by pine, oak and magnolia. Here and there, along the short route, we came upon a clearing or two, where hunters’ stands sit silent and patient, waiting for the fall’s deer season. With that season will come men and boys ready for the game.
The woods were quiet, save for the sound of song birds, heralding the relative mildness of spring in Louisiana. The day’s temperature topped in the low 70s with a stiff breeze. We saw no other animals as we walked, not even a rabbit that often are seen darting across the path amongst the trees. In the past, I’ve seen started deer and fawns, foxes and the occasional rattler. Not today. All was at rest.
When we reached the pond, I heard rather than saw, the existence of life. Amphibians or reptiles betrayed their presence by plopping into the waters as we approached. We saw bubbles and moving currents as the life on the edge of the pond made their way through the water. There are fish in these waters, but we didn’t take the time to cast a line. Instead, we contented ourselves with a fine view of a small pond surrounded by small pines and blossoming blackberry bushes.
I reflected on a few things that brought peace to my heart. I enjoyed the beauty of nature as it turns from winter into spring, new life sprouting forth. The turmoil of a world turned upside down with a viral, invisible enemy cannot stop nature from its yearly rites of passage.
I also reflected on the good news that my sister is completely recovered from a bout of the coronavirus, covid-19. She had, fortunately a mild case. No hospital, no special regimen save for Tylenol for a fever. Her husband, most likely, had an even milder case, but their doctor refused to make an order for his test since he had no fever and suffered just a slight change in health. My sister was given an order for a test for flu and the virus at a drive-up facility in Baton Rouge where they live.
Within a day, the results showed negative for flu. After a week, in which she made great recovery, her case of covid-19 was confirmed. Most peculiarly, though often a sign of the new corona virus, they both lost their sense of smell and taste for a time. She remarked how strange it was, when preparing a roux, during her mild illness, the couple had not the slightest sense of smell. Even when they tasted the completed dish, shrimp etouffée, it yielded no taste for either of them. If you haven’t enjoyed etouffée, then you wouldn’t know how especially fragrant is the dish of seafood and tomatoes, roux and rice
At the lodge in the woods, we had lots of things to be grateful for: the fried chicken, the beauty of nature and the recuperation of my sister and husband. My mom and I decided to leave rather than stay the night. We broke our journey at my house in Abita Springs, then on to her house in bayou country on Saturday.
I hope to adhere to a stricter discipline for writing this week. I don’t plan on any travels this week, as I do my best, within reason, to adhere to orders to stay at home except for essential travel. The trip to the woods was not essential, but it was restorative.