Todays post will take you back in time to the 1840's, to the French Quarter and the Garden District of New Orleans, Louisiana. I will share a fable I wrote, about a legendary love story during a time of decadence in New Orleans history. While weaving in pictures I photographed in our row-home and hopefully leave you with a deeper appreciation of time worn patinas occurring during their legacy and my fable to contemplate.
Since 2012 there have been countless emails and late night phone conversations with Doré Callaway from Burlap Luxe. Over time we have nurtured a close friendship and I'm fortunate to collect Doré's French inspired art. My latest purchases were of cemetery art and inspired me to write my fable. A fable I started working on during my blogging break and I just completed in the wee hours of this morning. The couple in my story will remain in my heart, writing does that, you create fictional people that linger in your heart. So here goes...
It truly doesn't matter how many years you dwell on Planet Earth, in the end, all that really matters is the living and love you share in your dash that will become your lasting legacy. "The dash" is the infinite dash that divides the year you were born and the year you die on your tombstone or mausoleum plaque. For in the end your life is measured by the love you graced those you leave behind as you will continue to live on in their memories and hearts.
For eternity, laid to rest, side by side in 1853 in a mausoleum of art and symbolism, Trent and Josephine Bernard 1823-1853. Shaded by groves of lush greenery in the Garden district. Lafayette cemetery No. 1, one of New Orleans cemeteries know as the "Cities of the Dead". Built with beautiful architectural 19th century tombs, mausoleums and statuary. Above ground, because New Orleans was built on a swamp and has seen many floods.
Trent and Josephine met when they we both 20 years old in old Antebellum New Orleans. Invited party guests on a star filled evening to a local societies daughter's debutant ball. Serendipity brought our couple together in the month of September 1843. When the cities population was 102,000 and New Orleans grew into the third largest city in the US. During a time of corsets and lace, white linen dresses and seersucker suits. When woman held Parasols and wore wide brimmed straw hats to shade their skin from afternoons brilliant sun-rays, wearing linen that felt cool and helped wick the humidity away.
A time of curtsies and bows, etiquette and proper attire ... the learned southern code all women knew. Formalities and evening gown parties held in grandeur that flowed into the wee hours meeting in decadence and indulgence that tied years together in merriment.
Their first date was at Arnaud's restaurant and over Creole fare they fell passionately in love. Josephine in her summer hat and pearls wearing a white linen dress she designed and sewed herself. Josephine was head strong, full of aspirations, driven and ambitious to become a famous gown designer.
They agreed to meet outside of Arnaud's restaurant as they hadn't seen each other yet in the daylight. Trent handed Josephine a boutique of cream roses with a smile so bright it could of illuminated the sun. Her light brown eyes sparkled with delight and Trent was hopelessly lost in their luminous glimmer with flecks of honey gold. That evening over dinner their passions peaked as their love bloomed in promise and innocence, purity and secrecy just as those cream Vendela roses represented.
Trent was in management, employed with the Mississippi Valley trade commission at the local sawmill. Work depended on the ability of the railroad to ship lumber up north and he handled the negotiations. Debonair and handsome he was born with an adventurous spirit, traits Josephine admired.
They were married in early December, in Vieux Carré (the French Quarter). Quickly learning and embracing the rituals of Antebellum high society. Josephine understood the importance of traditions and designed her elegant wedding dress as her fashion debut. Instantly acceptance and orders of satin and lace, taffeta and silk for gowns became Josephine's promise of successful tomorrow's.
Josephine and Trent soon purchased a beautiful ornate French style mansion on Prytania Street. Shaded by mature flowering Pink Magnolia trees. Cultivating a pristine rose garden full of Southern charm, Josephine grew her beloved Vendela roses. Daily she would design gowns looking out over the rose garden as the morning sunlight dried petals moist from evenings dew.
Their love was immense and their devotion to one another had become legendary in Antebellium high society. Together, life was well lived with a boundless love, but sadly they were unable to bear a child. They became emotionally obsessed with conceiving and living in a time when Voodoo magic was practiced in New Orleans, desperate, they agreed to have an authentic ritual spell preformed. But that was of no avail... Perhaps it was destiny intervening.
And even though their house didn't echo with the sounds of laughter and play from youngsters running underfoot, it didn't mean they didn't surround themselves with children and their activities. Josephine filled her days volunteering her talent during school plays and pageants making costumes. Trent supplied lumber for the plays from the sawmill which he now ran and often helped with building set designs.
When the first Mayor A.D. Crossman helped to emancipate the slaves, Trent took to philanthropic work setting up an endowment with Josephine organizing a charitable foundation. Their generosity spread goodwill as their commitments conveyed tolerance and deep humanity.
In their decade together, not one day was ever spent apart. Late June hearing the faint trickle of a fountain nearby Josephine smelled tar outside. The city was burning tar to supposably purify the air from illness afflicting many. To help rid their house of the smell Josephine cut all her beloved roses and placed them in vases throughout the house. Days later they both developed headaches that they thought was caused by the burning tar, but it was not. Sadly, high fever followed and they were confined to bed and on July 2nd,1853 they died in each other's arms...
When precious moments are emotionally expressed through sharing or prayers, our hearts are lifted in jubilance and the energy released spends eternity resonating love's energy in universal grace.
And even now, through weary eyes from everyday fatigue, that ravishes ones most precious time, standing in the presence of ruins and aged patina through countless seasons of decay, in an instance my appreciation for life was renewed.
In 1853, 7,840 people died in Louisiana from the Yellow Fever epidemic caused by a mosquito borne viral disease. I wrote my fable in memory of the dead in Lafayette cemetery No. 1. A non-segregated, non denominational cemetery built in 1833.
Tours of Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 are one of the most popular tourist attractions in New Orleans. Restorations are occurring to bring back the tombs in ruins and are funded by guided tours. There's a graceful essence and beautiful peacefulness felt in Lafayette cemetery No. 1. Many movies have been filmed there, including Double Jeopardy and Interview with the Vampire. My fable was inspired by the soulful cemetery art created by the very talented Doré Callaway and New Orleans "cities of the dead".
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