Editor’s Note: The following guest blog was contributed by Mary Bonney a remarkable, courageous woman who left New Orleans because of the damage from Hurricane Katrina and relocated to Santa Fe, New Mexico. It is a story of water – both destructive and healing – and of what it means to adopt a new home.
“The biggest lesson I learned from losing one home and landing in another, is gentle acceptance of our physical space.”- Mary Bonney
The sounds on the roof woke me up, and as I lay there, bewildered and half asleep trying to figure out just what ‘that noise’ was, I realized – it was rain!
Sweet, soothing rain, the gentle spatter of noise on windows, the deeper swooshing noise of it rushing out of the gutter, and the more distinct pings as drops hit a pipe on the roof.
Desert rain, blessed and necessary water. Water, out of context, in my newly adopted home of Santa Fe and such a profoundly different meaning it had here, than in my old home of New Orleans. From there, from WATER, I fled. Just a few months before, on the day the hurricane hit, hundreds of thousands of people, myself included, whose lives were changed by water.
And here, now, sitting in the dark, tears streaming down my face as I recognize a forgotten sound, and note the difference of emotion it brings to me on this still night, my two year old daughter snuggled up next to me, finally asleep after the evening ritual of tears before bedtime. I am grateful the sounds don’t wake her, and wonder how long it will take for her to get used to our new home, our new life. At two years old, she can hardly articulate the pain and confusion and loss that she feels, that we feel, and the almost unspeakable fear of not knowing exactly how to start over in a new place full of strangers, of brown ground and brown homes – so very different from the bright purples and sky blues and warm oranges of our former neighborhood. So she cries, always, and I carry her with me everywhere, as we navigate new terrain. I find an art therapist for her, since she is too young to speak her thoughts, this gentle woman coaxes color and form out of her psyche, and with that, and time, finally – finally – her tears stop.
There are days, the earlier days, when I took it ’15 minutes at a time’. If I could make it through those minutes, I could breathe and not give up, and perhaps do another 15 more.
Adopting a new life, I guess like adoption of any kind, is about acceptance and appreciation. To be grateful for life, the most humble act of waking up to each new day, is a cornerstone of happiness for most people, and beyond that is what we make of it, I think. Our own personal criteria for ‘success’ is our business and falls under the category of ‘to each their own’ in my book. But the biggest lesson I learned, from losing one home and landing in another, is gentle acceptance of our physical space. That first rain, in Santa Fe, was at once foreign yet familiar; it rained almost daily during many seasons in New Orleans and one of the biggest shocks from moving to Santa Fe was the lack of rain – the DRY. I hated it. I hated the dust and the cracked wood and the dirt. Now I love the landscape, and the amazing desert flowers that seemingly bloom out of air. I was thinking the other day that I haven’t seen my umbrella in months and months, and the immediate thought after that was that in my past life I never went a day without an umbrella in my bag. But the same sky that used to drench our streets every afternoon with downpours instead now offers me immense sunshine and joyous blue skies.
One of my favorite quotes is by Robert Southwell, and it is
Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live; Not where I love, but where I am, I die”
I thought of this often, as I transitioned from one home to another – our journey on Earth is not defined but where we live, but what we hold in our hearts. Our joy, our pain, our essence, is what moves with us, anywhere and with anyone. It is the power of ourselves to adapt, and to adopt – it is the energy of angels, and we have it as well.
Mary was born in Belgium, and ended up in New Orleans via a life path that journeyed through Missouri, California, Texas and New York City. Her 14 years as a gallerist continue in Santa Fe, as does community leadership as past President of Artsmart, the Canyon Road Merchants Association, and currently serving as a Mayor appointed Board Member of the Occupancy Tax Advisory Board for the City of Santa Fe. Her most treasured role is being Lily’s mom.