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Off Duty Writers, Dogs, Children, and Mommas

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Mother's Day Thoughts

Is a writer ever “off duty?” Probably not. We try now and then to quiet the mind, sit back and listen to the sounds of spring. We put cushions on the big old wooden rocker that faces the bayou—and watch the barges and occasional gator floating past. The wind can feel like the touch of a mother, smoothing the hair on a brow furrowed with worry that we really should be writing, about something, about anything. How else can we “make a difference”—a euphemism for establishing a meaningful existence?

It is chilly today on my bayou and the rocking chair is tucked carefully ‘round the corner of the cottage, catching the full warmth of the April sun. A cold front came through and dropped the Southern Louisiana temperature from 90 plus to a very uncomfortable 54 degrees. As the wind smoothes unruly hair in a direction resembling symmetry, the “Mother’s Touch” reminds the writer in me of an all-too-brief-encounter on the ferry the day before.

French Quarter Fest in New Orleans was a huge success for the Crescent City, but too crowded and noisy for someone accustomed to the rural countrysides of Africa, and secluded seashores of the United States. With a frightened young Shitzu puppy, who doubles as a newfound traveling companion in tow, a retreat to the bayou seemed the best choice. The serendipity of a chance encounter on a ferry opened another portal for the muse—and a reminder that stories do not have to be headlines.

Late Sunday afternoon, dog and writer caught the Canal Street ferry for Algiers on the West Bank. New Orleans was running the “big” ferry to accommodate the festival—along a Mississippi River crossing that takes minutes and has been in existence since 1729. The ferry is a pretty spectacular ride. It offers great views of the Mississippi and New Orleans and boat and barge traffic. You can take your car, or not, and the only charge is $1.00 to cars on the way back from the West Bank.

Canedog and his writer/owner settled in to watch the water while the overflow crowd rambled aboard, and the ferry schedule was thrown out the porthole once again for the weekend.

There was a tug on the leash, courtesy of a young boy; perhaps eight or nine. He was cute as can be, with blue jeans that were just little too short, scuffed up black shoes, and black hair to match that fell across the palest blue eyes one can imagine. Those blue eyes were so pale, they seemed translucent and I understood once again what that universal “window to the soul” is all about. I have only seen eyes of that hue once before, and the last time they frightened me.

The boy was bold.

“OK if I pet your dog?”


“Does he know any tricks?”

“Well. Yeah, but he is still a baby and he’s kinda nervous, but you can try. Put your hands in front of him and say ‘give me ten.”’

To prove my point, Canedog rolled over with paws in the air in a gesture of total submission and no intention of performing. The boy tried the “give me ten” thing a couple of times and gave up. He had something else on his mind, and was clearly sizing me up.

“Do you have a son?”

“No but I have a daughter.”

“Does she have a tree house?”

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Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill Magazine, the Huffington (more...)

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