{ Streets Named After Muses }

September 11, 2014 § 1 Comment

For four mornings in New Orleans, my eyes opened to a sunrise over the Mississippi River. That’s always a good start. I was there for a gathering of environmental journalists, but it was also a fine place to gather my own thoughts and intentions.

Each day began with a long walk. Early on Saturday, sick of the French Quarter’s storefronts and smells, I set out in the opposite direction. Passing under a highway, beyond old churches and homeless shelters, I ended up in a part of the city where the streets are named after muses. That’s another good start.

There’s a great coffee shop there, in this supposedly seedy area that raised eyebrows when I mentioned it to locals. The woman who owns the place said she came to New Orleans to help after the BP oil spill. When I asked if she was still involved in environmental efforts, she shrugged and motioned around. Her place is in the coffee shop now. She’s building roots, giving back. Making me a mocha.

A sweet little dog at Church Alley Coffee in New Orleans.

A sweet little dog at Church Alley Coffee in New Orleans.

I met a few other inspiring business owners that weekend, not to mention the plethora of conference-going freelancers. The ones doing it right are intensely focused, wrapped up in the joy of creation.

And where am I? After a spring of discontent and summer of peaceful happiness, my personal life feels complete. I’m stable again. So I’m once again ready to create art. Or commit acts of journalism. Ideally both. I’m ready to rejoin those creators.

Here’s what else I got from the conference:

  • I met and spent time with some very cool Midwest ladies and gents. Of course, cool people come from everywhere, but there’s this sub-tribal element to bonding over the same landscape and same culture. There’s talk among us of recruiting more journalists from the area and getting together outside of the annual conference. If you know anything about me, you know how exciting this prospect is. And if you’re a Midwest/lower Midwest/Texas/Oklahoma/Arkansas environmental writer, send me a line and I’ll include you in our plans!
  • I also talked to people who run field reporting trips and others who work with youth, and it got me excited again about doing that myself. I’ve planned to design a print publication class for the Missouri Scholars Academy, so it makes perfect sense to narrow it into some sort of nature writing curriculum.
  • Overall, the encouragement was overwhelming. Whether it came from award-winning writers or people in about the same pond as me, I drew a lot of energy from their stories and advice. The takeaway: there’s no single way to do this. Trust yourself.

So that brings us to now, with gray skies and an autumn breeze seeping through my windows. I’m following leads and sending emails and trying to lay down roots in my own way.

Yesterday, back in Jefferson City, I worked out of Three Story Coffee, one of those shops with a conscience. They don’t even have WiFi, which seemed strange at first, but is growing on me. I ran into the president of the local Audubon chapter and eavesdropped on cops learning about espresso blends. It feels right to return to Mid-Missouri, where my muses of nature and culture inspire me every day. And that, my friend, is always a good start.

At Three Story Coffee in Jefferson City.

At Three Story Coffee in Jefferson City.

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