My daughter Jennifer and her family have recently moved to New Orleans. When my daughters were small we traveled down to New Orleans from Jackson, MS, occasionally. We would stroll around Jackson Square and Jennifer always said she wanted to sell paintings like the other artists who hung their wares on the iron fence across from Cafe du Monde. Her entire life she’s wanted to be with the tarot card readers, the fortune tellers and the street musicians.
Jennifer and her husband have yearned for years to move to the Crescent City. Now they live in the inner-city in an old second-floor walkup with a claw-foot bathtub and window air conditioning units just a stone’s throw from the Maple Street Bookstore. He’s a chef. She’s always been an artist. But somehow since the move her work has gotten better, and she’s moved toward a more independent lifestyle. They have four children, so life has always been a little chaotic and I’ve wondered how she manages to find time to paint and write while caring for a pre-schooler and an infant. I know. You just do it. Now she’s part of a New Orleans Art Collective and is selling her artwork in the French Quarter. And working on illustrations for her first children’s book.
When my husband and I moved to Memphis four years ago (and yes, time has moved too fast), I took a self-imposed sabbatical of sorts to get to know my new hometown. I visited Elmwood, the Memphis Botanic Garden, The Brooks, Civil Rights Museum, Stax, Soulsville, and dozens of other sites, and of course the riverfront. I’ve watched many sunsets from Mud Island. And I cannot count our visits to Shelby Farms, probably dozens and dozens. Each one of these visits has inspired me in many ways. I began to paint for the first time in my life. I’ve written more, created more, in this new place.
What struck me most about Memphis is its diversity. I read letters to the editor in the newspaper from residents who complain about Memphis, then the next day there are letters of praise. It’s never consistent one way or the other, and there seems to be no consensus. The feeling residents have about their hometown of Memphis is a deeply personal thing.
What I’ve noticed about geographic moves is that generally, if a person is relatively content, then they are content everywhere. If they are unhappy, they’ll be unhappy where ever they go. If the person is hostile and lives in fear, then they will be hostile and fearful everywhere. We must have passion about what we do in life, and I believe it is within that that we find meaning. If we have no meaning in our lives we will not have much happiness and contentment. There is no person, place, job or thing that will give us permanent joy. Find meaning, and you’ll find your joy. Life is like that.
Jennifer’s book, Hot Moon, is now published, and available on Amazon.com.