The Reflection Pond
- by Janice Guido
Our little cypress cottage sits on a quiet lane in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi, just three blocks from the Gulf waters. The cottage has been here since the 1880s and it is close enough to the beach to feel the gentle sea breeze floating down the shaded lane.
As I write this, I am sitting in my comfortable deck chair next to my beautiful pond filled with lush elephant ear plants and water lilies. This setting by the pond and my new life here is a huge contrast to what my life was in New Orleans.
Sipping my coffee and watching goldfish dart around the pond plants, I realize that I am happier here at this cottage - by this pond in the Bay - than anywhere else that I have been in years.
The purchase of this sweet cottage and “our plan” helped me to survive the last few years of a hectic thirty-year hotel career. For all of you that have been there - I know that you understand the vast relief and emotions you feel when you are finally done with “ it."
As a resident of New Orleans for many years it was only natural, like many others there, that we found ‘the Bay’ as an escape from the City and the stress of demanding careers.
The Bay area was the only place I found where I could truly detach from the constant stress of my work. I loved to share the Bay area with anyone who would listen. Many times in a pre-meeting coffee breaks with hotel colleagues in Boston or NYC, we compared weekends. It was fun for me to casually mention my boat ride up Rotten Bayou over the weekend, along with the eagle we saw on the ride. They would look at me and ask “where is that place exactly?”
As the lone Mississippian at these meetings over the years, I always loved telling this well-traveled group about the Mississippi coast. I described colorful boat excursions across the Bay and up the pristine Jourdan and Wolf rivers. I shared photos of blue herons, eagles' nests, moss-filled trees, and golden marsh grasses. And for a brief moment, I happily generated a genuine curiosity in them about the deep South and the Mississippi Gulf coast.
After each weekend trip, I would dream about the deep cool waters and the sunlit tall trees and golden marsh grasses. Maybe the feelings those cruises generated in early trips here were especially vivid because I was travelling so often to heavy populated urban areas. The wide-open natural scenery of the coast was such a contrast to the congested city life. Whatever it was - I was hooked. All I could do in between work projects was to think about the next time we could get back to the Coast and which new area we would explore.
In addition to the boat cruises, the trips into downtown Bay St. Louis before the storm - made me fall in love with the Bay from a different viewpoint. North Beach and Main Street were filled with colorful flags waving in the breeze and unique shops run by fun owners and filled with interesting people.
And then there was positive energy and feel-good warmth in the air. This town was special; the locals knew it and so did the visitors. As a weekender looking in, I so wanted to be a part of it all.
So I talked to everyone that I could, from the bartenders at the Dock of the Bay, to the girls in the Kitchen Shop, to Miss Anne at the Antique Shop, to Clayton at my favorite gift shop, to sweet Donna at the frame shop. I am sure I drove them all crazy, but I did buy a lot! It was my way of trying to be a part of it all, even without living here.
Of course, all of these visits eventually led to our first home purchase, in an area off the Jordan River. We would visit our cute raised home any weekend that work allowed and we were proud to finally became official weekenders.
Tolerating our crazy jobs became possible because we all had a goal of one day becoming full-time residents of this beautiful town and the coast.
And then the very unexpected happened: the storm named Katrina changed all of our lives forever. Afterward, our focus shifted from surviving at first to rebuilding the places we loved. It took much longer than any of us ever imagined. There are some, even now, still trying to get their lives back. As I reflect on the journey that finally got me to this place - by this pond on my shaded lane, I count myself fortunate to be sitting here after that hard and unforeseen detour.
Ten years later, I thank God for helping us all to keep both New Orleans and the Bay in the game. Let the others argue whether we're better off now or not, or if we are changing too much or too little. I am just so very grateful that we are all able to BE HERE. I am glad that we are able to exist here again in this very special place by the Bay. I am happy to have the opportunity to enjoy “my fourth quarter” with all the special people I love in this town.
And I am happy to spend each morning and evening right here by my pond - giving thanks for this place and all the people I love - as I sip my coffee or wine and enjoy the gold fish darting through the pond lilies.