So you can read my books

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Ever see a hospital on stilts?

You could have yesterday ...

if you had driven with me down what I call "the Last Exit to Eden" :

The Creole Nature Trail.

I don't often drive to the small rural hospital at the end of its winding roads. When I do, I take the opportunity to enjoy the sights and sounds of this last taste of wilderness that civilization affords us.

We've talked about symbolism yesterday. The first stop of my journey was laden with symbolism : the gas station situated at a lonely crossroads, appropriately named "4 Corners."

My half-Lakota mother told me often of the spiritual power in the crossroads spinning off to the four directions, of the personal impact of our individual decisions, and of the crossroads of my birth.

I was born in a hospital built at the hub of a crossroads. As a young child, I listened intently to the story Mother repeatedly told me : that for each child born at the crossroads, an angel and a demon came for possession of the child's soul.

"Mine, too, Mama?"

"Yes, little one. Yours, too."

I remember swallowing hard. "What happened?"

"They fought, fought hard. At first they used fiery swords."


"But each was as fast as the other. Then, they wrestled. But both kept slipping out of each other's holds. Finally, they began to arm wrestle, pitting the strength of their spirits one against the other."

This time I couldn't swallow. "Who won, Mama?"



"They are fighting inside you still."

"Right now?"

"Yes, right now. But soon one will win."


"The one you choose, little one."

"I choose the angel!"

"Not with words, Roland. With actions. With each dark action, the demon grows stronger, the angel weaker. With each hard choice of doing what is right, the angel grows stronger, the demon angrier."

She ruffled the hair on my head lightly. "Choose wisely, son. Choose wisely."

Sometimes in that dark night of the soul we all must face at times, I can feel them struggling still. And then, it is oh, so hard to choose wisely. But I try. I try.

But we began this post by talking about a hospital on stilts. They are more huge concrete pylons than stilts ... yet, that little boy from long ago is still alive inside me.

Hurricane Rita scoured all evidence of Man from Cameron Parish with its gouging fingers of wind, hurled debris, and tidal waves of surging water. So all the structures are now built on stilts of wood or concrete. It is so odd to pass a mobile home, towering some 20 feet in the air ... so tall it takes three tiers of stairs to reach its front door.

Not that there are many structures to be found further along these lonely roads. And down the misty stretch of concrete, there is a long, winding "S" of a curve under towering Cypress tree sentinels that I love to drive. It is beautiful beyond my meager power to describe.

After pulling out on the straightway, I looked for my old friends who seem to know when I am coming : a small herd of wild horses. And I was not disappointed. There they were, alert heads up, tails swishing in expectation.

They happily took up our old game : racing alongside my van ... which I slowed to stretch out our fun. I had a new friend for the second time in my wanderings here : a lone egret sailing gracefully above us as if curious at this odd ritual between part-Lakota and horses.

It actually swooped down in front of my van and around it in an elegant dance of grace and beauty. And as I always do, I rolled down my windows to drink in the sounds of the pounding hooves, the gusting winds, and the haunting cry of distant hunting hawks. But as with all moments of breath-stealing beauty, it was over, the horses pulling off to other games, other interests. I waved a bitter-sweet goodbye to them and drove onto the strangest bridge I have ever driven over.

It sweeps high up, twirls like an "S", then slowly descends to a road with water and isolated islands of vegetation as far as you can see. At its apex, the clouds were dark and brooding as if Estanatlehi, The Turquoise Woman of Lakota myth, was showing me her anger at Man's ugly, oily destruction of her Gulf waters.

As I reached the top, I slowed, taking in the scalp-tingling view of what the world must have appeared before Man, and I seemed to hear The Turquoise Woman murmur in my ear : "Be careful, Little Lakota. Veer not to the left nor to the right. For eight lonely miles there is no shoulder to this tiny road. Break down here, and I will show you all the mercy BP is showing me."

The second largest population of alligators in the U.S. reside here, so it was not unexpected to see one rise up from the waters beside the small road at the foot of the bridge. Our eyes met. Two species regarded each other in a moment brief yet enlongated as strange encounters sometimes are.

Its yellow-flecked slit eyes were cold windows into reptilian memories of times when Man was yet to be and scaled monsters walked the earth as savage kings. But I sped by, and the spell was shattered. The alligator slipped silently beneath the dark waters, searching for easier prey.

I finally made it to the sprawling "hospital on stilts" as the little boy inside me insists on calling it. It was eerie and quiet. I remembered the last time I'd been there.

A mother and her little girl had walked out of the hospital. I waved at the little girl and winked. Catching me by surprise, the girl giggled and ran staight to me, wrapping her tiny arms around my waist in a happy hug. The mother came up to me, shaking her head in wonder.

"It must be that you have such kind eyes," she said.

I smiled at the memory and walked into my hospital on stilts.
And here is the song I listened to over and over again on my blood run along the last exit to Eden :

And in keeping with showing movie trailers for movies that I think might be fun :


  1. Such beautiful imagery, Roland. I really enjoyed this. I would have loved to have been along for the ride.

  2. Christi : I would've enjoyed the company.

  3. You have a way of taking the reader out of this world and placing them...anywhere. We go, willingly, hushed, so as not to disturb you as you spin magic with words to create a reality that exists in the space between heartbeats...we never notice that we've been holding our breath, unmoving, till the story ends and we realize, somewhat sadly, that we're still here, where we started...but the memory of the words, images...we hold those gently, carefully, in our hearts...

  4. It's time for bed and the moon just peeked out, ringed by thin clouds. I clicked over to check your moon phase counter and, as suspected, she's mostly full.

    What a beautiful drive and day. And what a great way to end mine.

    Thanks, Little Lakota.

  5. Words Crafter : You have a beautiful way with words yourself. That my writing takes you away to another world means more than I have the gift to express. So I'll just say "Thanks very much."

    Olivia : I love my moon chart, too. There are miles to go before I get to sleep. Speaking of which ... the phone rang. Another blood run. Back in the saddle again. Roland

  6. That was captivating, a place I saw vividly through your eyes and gorgeous writing. I would love to haunt that trail. Any chance of a photo of the stilt hospital?

  7. Roland--You have such a gift! Your words left me breathless...Lovely!

  8. Great story, great photo, great clips! I would love to see the hospital on stilts. YOu make it sound so surreal.


  9. As always, fascinating. (= I want to see your world, Roland.

  10. What a wonderful way to start my morning. Thank you for your gift.

  11. What a wonderful post and imagery, Roland. Just loved the angel and demon story.

  12. Now THAT's a commute :D Lyrical as always, Roland. ...I imagined heavy-hanging summer air, the perfumed day, the egret wheeling away off into a splash of sunlight...sigh.

  13. Hauntingly beautiful photo and I absolutely loved your mothers story. Superb!