Michelle Wallace and Barbara McLaren Bever

Wallace R 1

Michelle Wallace
Paper Dolls- Who Should I Be Today?
Created using Barbara McLaren Bever’s story (below) as inspiration

The Mistress
By Barbara McLaren Bever

Who is this other woman
That he prefers to spend his time with
While here his steak grows cold
And the cabernet goes uncorked.

Who is this other woman
That he takes her calls at midnight
But relays to me by voicemail
His delays and change of plans.

Who is this other women
That he travels round the world with
While I await the occasional holiday
And curl up with my crosswords.

Who is this other woman
That he finds much more enticing
Though I rearrange my schedule
To shower him with affection.

Who is this other woman
That he meets up with on weekends
Yet I find it hard to question
Since he provides a home and hearth.

Perhaps I am the other woman
That settles for snatches of his time
While he is the devoted husband
Married to his job.


Wallace I

Michelle Wallace
Inspiration piece provided to Barbara McLaren Bever

Hope Lives in the Cemetery
By Barbara McLaren Bever

New Orleans conjures up visions of lacy iron balconies and moss-draped oaks, Bourbon Street jazz and Creole cuisine, sugary beignets and sticky pralines, river boat cruises and plantation tours, colorful floats and Mardi Gras beads, and, of course, the heart-breaking devastation of Hurricane Katrina. During my first visit to New Orleans I toured the Ninth Ward and other areas still affected by the breached levees. The remnants of shattered lives initially made me lose hope that the city could fully recover. Yet beyond the city’s tourist trappings, I discovered seeds of hope sprouting in an unexpected place.

A cemetery doesn’t usually conjure up an aura of optimism; especially if a flood, an epidemic, and a fire necessitated its hasty establishment. St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, located just outside the boundaries of the French Quarter, was founded in 1789 after all three of those calamities struck New Orleans. I entered the grounds through a decorative iron gate and was nearly blinded by the sun-bleached tombs, many topped with angels or crosses. The plaster-over-brick crypts resemble haphazard urban sprawl; hence its apt title of “City of the Dead.” Within the deep walls surrounding the cemetery are additional burial vaults; coffins are slipped into these stacked-up chambers like letters in Post Office lobby mailboxes. These little houses and mailbox vaults solved a problem inherent in below-ground burial in a city with a high water table. The system works; coffins and bones did not rise to the surface during the Katrina flooding. The cemetery’s structures only bear the marks of the area’s high water line. For me, these tombs stand as a symbol of the city’s endurance and ingenuity.

This system of burial also is very efficient since the vaults and tombs are reused by each new generation. Being privately-owned, the tombs and vaults are part of a family’s inheritance. When a family member dies, the bones of ancestors get pushed to the back of the vault, pieces of the previous coffin are removed, and the new coffin is placed inside. I actually felt a sense of comfort knowing that the bones of generations of family members get all jumbled together. Family members keep in touch with their historical roots, literally! This burial practice represents the city’s respect for the past and family connections, yet a practicality toward the future.

I strolled further along the crumbling walkway, tufts of grass finding an occasional stronghold in a crack or crevice. The tombs’ inscriptions list the names of former Creoles, French, Americans, Slaves, Immigrants, as well as Catholics, Protestants, and even the celebrated Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau. In fact, Marie Laveau’s tomb is still a place of pilgrimage. I saw evidence of the faithful at the foot of her tomb: a colorful mish-mash of flowers, trinkets, food, coins, and photographs left to petition or thank this powerful Creole priestess. In this cemetery, death and the citizens of New Orleans discriminate against no one—all races, creeds, and income are interred here. This City of the Dead reflects the tolerance and acceptance of the diverse cultures and customs that have blended together to form the unique character of New Orleans, past and present.

If a cemetery can be a guide to the future, I believe the St. Louis Cemetery provides some clues to New Orleans rebirth. The seeds have been sown, and indeed have blossomed throughout the city’s history. These are the seeds of endurance in the face of tragedy, ingenuity and practicality in dealing with the present, respect for family and traditions, and tolerance and acceptance of diversity. May the coming rain help these seeds grow again. The ground is fertile.

Note: All of the art, writing, and music on this site belongs to the person who created it. Copying or republishing anything you see here without express and written permission from the author or artist is strictly prohibited.


One comment

  1. “The Other woman” reflected interestingly with the art work “who should I be today”. Women are called to so many roles in today’s culture, and it is wise to stop occasionally and think about who we are at a given time. Very thought provoking!

    The New Orleans piece about Hope in the Cemetery was a creative perspective on a cemetery, and especially in context of the calamity of the current hurricane. It does give hope that we can find promise in many ways and places and the picture is similar to many in the New Orleans cemeteries. The picture and the story compliment each other very well and evoke the same feelings. Congratulations, a real winner!

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