It’s easy to forget how privileged we are in the United States and especially in southern Louisiana. Unless you enjoy living off the grid and that is your privilege as well, then you don’t have to travel past your nearest indoor faucet for water.  You can have a back yard garden for vegetables and herbs and raise your own livestock for meat if you so choose. My parents lived in the marshes of lower Bayou Lafourche. They grew vegetables and fruit trees, fished, trawled and trapped for most of their food. The grocery store was 20 miles away and there they bought dairy, spices, seasonings, hardware, clothing and cleaning supplies. Of course, they had modern conveniences like cars, a television, washer and dryer and even a dishwasher. They once talked about getting some chickens but realized that the wildlife and insects would make life for chickens intolerable and they wouldn’t know what to do with them if a hurricane came.  My life in Lafayette isn’t so rustic but I enjoy the abundance of good food, good friends and great entertainment. Acadiana is rich in cultural diversity and the arts.  Now, just because I have an almost idyllic life here doesn’t mean I can’t see the suffering of others. It is true that we have room to grow and become better at many social issues. The disparagement between the poor and the wealthy is our most pressing challenge, in my opinion. Education, health care, job opportunities paying a living wage could be available for every citizen. When my parents went to the two-room school in Cut Off, Louisiana in the 30’s they studied the three R’s, reading, writing and arithmetic. My father went all the way to the eighth grade, my mother only to the fourth. While that schooling was free, they couldn’t continue with a formal education because they were both needed to help provide for their large families. Even if we find a way to equalize salaries and benefits, and fix the tax code, we would still be faced with a drug addiction epidemic and a mental health crisis. In the 30’s and 40’s drug cartels weren’t yet invading our cadie. Mental illness was part of  the social challenges then. Never spoken about, the mentally ill were sent to live in sanatariums. We’ve come a long way in the treatment of mental illness but the stigma still lingers that alienates the sufferers from society. Because this illness is misunderstood and misrepresented, we have a long way to go to provide proper mental healthcare. When I contemplate the beauty and abundance of my homeland and country, I see infinite potentiality. We will conquer these challenges if we contribute to collective, collaborative, and creative solutions. The personal challenge is to be grateful for life in all its juicy fecundity and apply all my features (that never were bugs) my life skills can offer. I practice by listing all that I am thankful for and remembering all the opportunities I have been given to thrive. I begin with my grandparents.

…an excerpt from “Cutting the Clouds”

First and Always

Thank you maternal grandmother for birthing the daughter who would become my precious mother, who at the time of her birth carried the egg that was the potential of me.

Thank you paternal grandmother for birthing the son who would donate his sperm to the cause making that potential a reality and for contributing to the loving father he became.

Thank you mother for my life, for nurturing me and challenging me to be more than I thought I could be. Thank you father for the lessons of humility and self worth. Thank you both for my sister and for her beauty and brilliance that helped me to shine in my own way and for my brother whose gentle wisdom taught me the importance of kindness. Thank you for the sister I never knew who taught me about the power to heal. By her life and by her death, I learned perseverance. Thank you sister for my beautiful niece, today a friend and scholar, who gifted us all with the next generation: that brilliantly clear, redheaded baby boy. Thank you family for all the times you challenged and encouraged me. Thank you ancestors, unknown and uncounted. The wisdom you came to in your lifetimes is surely part of my soul’s journey now.

Thank you, all you angels, both human and otherwise, who scolded me when I needed scolding, who taught me when I needed teaching, who lifted me up when I needed to be held, who nudged me along toward greater integrity.

Thank you my husband, heart of my heart, for your loving that surpasses understanding. Thank you my two sons for your continuing love and support and for crediting me on occasion for gifting you with life and lessons that you cherish. Thank you for the daughters I never had by choosing such exquisite wives.

Thank you Jade and James for generously sharing with me the newest addition to the community of heroines, awakening in me my Garden of Eden. While you are not children of my womb, you are without a doubt children of my heart.

Thank you friends who walk beside me helping me to contain so much love. I trust you know who you are.

Thanks to all of you who have allowed me to be a part of your healing and for those who sought me as their mentor. I have been honored and blessed by your trust in me.

Thank you Great and Wondrous Spirit for gifting me with so much love and support. Your gentleness is awe-inspiring and sometimes overwhelming.

© 2017 Bessie Adams Senette


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Bessie Senette

Bessie Senette is the author of Cutting the Clouds: a Bayou Mystic’s Poems, Musings, and Imaginings – an autobiographical collection of poems and essays about the life and culture of her bayou upbringing and the spirituality that informs her traditional healing gifts. Her current work-in-progress is Louisiana Pines: Homeland Poems and Vignettes; a chapbook that poetically explores her beloved home state.

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