So, here I find myself in D’Iberville, MS. Yesterday I spent traveling down highway 90, pulling over at random streets to check out the neighborhoods. It’s strange here and oddly familiar with the beautiful majestic oaks that have grown twisted from the storms. The gulf is just a few yards away and to the North is the remnants of the devastation that was here a year ago. Slabs and stairs that go no where mark the place of homes of yesterday or B.K. (Before Katrina) as I like to refer to that time. Most everyone you talk to prefaces conversations with “before the storm” or “after the storm”. That is the mark in time similar to a water line left from a storm. In one breathe I’m asking myself “what am I doing here?”, then the next I’m convincing myself with the mantra “this is good.” Whatever. I think it’s really just whatever I see and want it to be. I could stay in Santa Rosa Beach and continue to make a go of it while the real estate market corrects itself or I could attempt to try something new, become a pioneer again, if you will.
That’s where I was 2 weeks ago, D’Iberville, a little town just North of Biloxi, which was also devastated by flood waters from Katrina. When I set out to travel to MS that morning, a grey catbird flew into our sliding glass doors and died on my porch. I immediately thought it was a sign not to go, that danger was ahead. It was suppose to rain that day, it was a long drive and I had planned on camping. Then as I was driving along I had another thought that the bird represented the death of something from which new life springs forth. Anyhow, when I arrived in MS, I headed right to the state park in Gautier (pronounced go + shea, like shea butter) where I was informed that there was no camping because the whole park was now converted into a mini-village of tradespeople. Ditto for all camping & RV parks nearby and the other state park in Waveland was erased from the map. So, I went on to D’Iberville to meet my friends that had just bought an office building there and I camped in the office w/ their dog, Bailey, a beautiful Bernese moutain dog. We spent that day and the day after looking at property, discussing possible building projects, and looking at the master plan for the city of D’Iberville.
I was basically mesmerized by this process of death and renewal and how the city repairs itself and new opportunity is born out of disaster. The people that remain and call this city their home, seem to welcome outsiders and the resources they bring to help restore some sense of normalcy. Certainly, the whole coast is still in flux of what to do and how to proceed and wondering if they even should. When you’re living this close to sea level and this place is the only home you know, it’s not easy to just pick up the pieces and take root elsewhere in a foreign place. The thought that keeps coming to mind is that this could be our (Walton County) reality very soon. We can build stronger and more sustainably but will that even matter? It’s almost like the subject has to be approached as something that’s temporary. Build for survivability yet knowing full well that we don’t have a product that will keep mother nature out completely. The fact is that modern technology has made living year round on the coast a possibility. Prior to air conditioning, screening and hurricane warning systems, living on the gulf coast was typically reserved for people who made their living by the sea. I for one recognize that as our resources begin to dwindle, this environment is not one I would choose to habitate year round in my present structure.