Friday, July 11, 2008

A Tale of Two Bridges



Eeks, egad, it's eerie how fast time flies, whether or not I'm having fun. I've neglected my blog for over a month due to workplace pressures and homeplace exhaustion. For weeks I was super-busy--barely checking e-mail, much less blogging. I hope I still have a few readers patiently waiting.

I started the post below a couple of months ago and never finished it, which turned out to be a good thing because I now have another experience to carry out the theme.

A few weeks ago I left my home in Metairie, a New Orleans suburb, to drive to the little town of LaPlace. LaPlace is about 15 miles away via a 12-mile-long bridge on I-10 that crosses the marshes at the edge of Lake Pontchartrain and goes over the Bonne Carre Spillway. The spillway is a man-made diversion, created some 70 years ago to keep the mighty Mississippi River from flooding New Orleans in times of high water. When opened, the spillway diverts huge amounts of river water into Lake Pontchartrain. This year was one of the rare occasions when the spillway was opened, due to the river's extremely high water level.

It was early morning and the weather was foggy, but visibility was okay. As my car approached the spillway, however, I could see a wall of dense fog rising over the spillway waters. It was eerie. The fog was so thick I could not see even two feet in front of my car. As I drove into it, I remembered some '50s-era SF movie in which the protagonist went through just such a Wall of Fog and came out...CHANGED. (Cue Twilight Zone music.) My wall-of-fog lasted the whole way across the spillway, which is several miles.

My left brain knew a confluence of air temperatures and moisture from the spillway waters had combined to produce the wall of fog. Yet my right brain ignored logic and my reptile brain took over: chills ran down my spine and I could feel the hairs on my arms and back of my neck lifting. Am I going to turn into a giant insect or something? I wondered. If only I'd had a camera with me; I'm not likely to see something like that again. (And it would have looked really cool posted on my blog.)

In another eerie bridge experience, a couple of weeks ago I was returning home from the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Bridge is 24 miles long and runs from Mandeville on the north shore to Metairie on the south shore. Dusk had fallen as I approached the southern end of the bridge. Suddenly my car was surrounded by hundreds of small dark birds swirling around, over and under the bridge. It was bedtime for the purple martins. These birds make this area one of their stops in their spring migration. They live in huge flocks and while in this area they nest on the underpinnings of the Causeway bridge. They spend their days flying around hunting insects--fortunately for us humans, the martins love mosquitoes--and every evening at sunset they return to their nesting area. It's quite a sight to see them flying in from all over the New Orleans area in great flocks, wheeling and diving in unison, swooping and fluttering. Driving through their midst, I felt as if I were in Hitchcock's The Birds. They didn't crash into my car, however, and their swoops and dives seemed joyous, not malignant. Of course, nightfall is prime time for mosquitoes, so no doubt the birds' apparent joy was simply at having a plethora of prey rather than sheer joy of flying. Still, it was a cool experience.

So, metaphorically speaking, I've lived through two horror movies--but I haven't morphed into a giant insect or developed superpowers, nor been attacked by crazed birds.

I did get some ideas for stories. A writer's brain uses every experience, after all.

The photo shows one end of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Bridge.

8 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

Great experiences. You haven't see the Pelicans sailing along the bridge yet? They fly right along the edge of the bridge and sometimes over into the car lanes. It can be kind of freaky.

I love a good fog. We have some nice ones here in Abita. I wish we'd have them when I was off work, though, since I love to walk in the fog.

Steve Malley said...

Driving over that bridge, I used to imagine that it just kept going. Forever.

Steve Malley said...

Oh, glad you're alive, by the way. ;-)

Shauna Roberts said...

Eerie experiences. I loved New Orleans fog; it felt as if one could slip between centuries or places during those times.

nola said...

I love that you saw something exciting in these two events! And very glad you shared them with us.

Rae Ann Parker said...

What a beautiful description of the purple martins. I'm glad you came out on the other side of the fog okay, and with new stories to tell.

Sphinx Ink said...

Charles, I don't drive the Causeway regularly, but I have noticed a few pelicans in recent months. Quite an improvement over past years when the brown pelicans were still endangered. It's wonderful to see them.

Steve, it's so cool that you used to live here; you can really understand whereof I speak. And thanks for the welcome back.

Shauna, I admit I too like foggy mornings, although too often the practical side of my brain takes over and worries about the danger of driving to work on mist-shrouded highways. Still, fog is cool.

Nola, thanks for commenting and sharing in my enjoyment of the moments.

Rae Ann, thanks for the compliment. One of the greatest tools we writers have is our ability to notice details that other people miss. And, of course, to write them down!

cs harris said...

Ah, but are you REALLY the same?