Ten Years of b.rox

Sweetgum Buds 2

Ten years ago today I started writing here at b.rox. I didn’t give much thought to the content of that first post, in terms of setting the tone for the future. I just wrote about what was on my mind at the moment.

I’m fascinated by cycles, including the cycle of seasons.

In retrospect, however, I must say that seems uncannily prescient, foreshadowing a theme which has become so much more prominent in my thoughts, my writing, my practice, my life. Also, the emergence of spring buds as subject is a fine metaphor for beginning a new project.

I don’t really write much here anymore. A chart of the life-cycle of this blog would show a peak around 2006-2007, with some vigor continuing until the autumnal equinox of 2012, followed by a year of intentional silence. (Though I didn’t note it explicitly, that first post was very much about the vernal equinox.) These days mark a sort of senescence, I suppose, as I mostly post links to writings published elsewhere.

One of my primary impulses to write here was the same impulse that motivates my private journal writing: to mark the days as they pass and keep track of the interesting stuff that happens in my life. That. combined with the urge to share. But that act of sharing publicly has ultimately come to feel more like a limiting factor. These days I’m back to writing in my private journals more intensively than ever.

My friend David Bryan has suggested that the writings on this site might make an interesting book, which would include the flooding of the city in 2005 and the process of recovery, from a very personal angle, with the birth of my daughter as a natural ending point for the story. I appreciate this idea, thought I think a better arc might focus on our house, from our purchase in 2002, through the flooding and reconstruction, ending with the sale in 2009. I even have a title in mind: The Wizard of North Salcedo. I often felt like a wizard as I fixed kids bikes on the sidewalk in front of our house.

It’s funny to note that The Wild Hunt began one day later. What a different trajectory that site has taken.

And as a final note, I’m not sure I ever mentioned it, but the tree pictured in that first post did not survive the flood. We cut it down in November of 2005.

Sweetgum Stump

Even the stump is gone now, but we’re still here, and so is this site, even if it’s looking more like a stump itself these days. Thanks for reading, y’all.

Tree Blessing

Nov. 16, 2013: I officiated a civic tree-blessing ceremony on the bayou. We had a real-live fire dancer and Big Chief David Montana led us in singing “Indian Red.” Still can’t believe this really happened. It seems remarkable that someone like me, without any relevant credential, would be invited to do something like this. Many thanks to Jared Zeller et al for pulling this together. And thanks to Michael Homan for taking these photos.
Continue reading Tree Blessing


It wasn’t until after Labor Day that I passed by the bayou and saw what Isaac had done to my favorite tree.


This is the tree where my daughter got her name back in 2008. Throughout the 2010-2011 school year I stopped at this tree almost daily for a moment of contemplation. This tree survived a lightning strike last year. But I’m afraid Isaac may have dealt the death blow.

When I saw the damage, I was devastated. I embraced the tree and my tears flowed freely.

In the forest such a tree might continue to live for many years, but this tree is in an urban area, on public land, and highly visible. Some time in the last week, the tree was trimmed back and all the dead matter removed. Half the tree is gone now. The trunk remains and one major branch, giving it a lopsided, severely asymmetrical profile.

Will the humans allow it to live? I guess that’s the question. So I called Troy at the Orleans Levee District. He said their policy is not to cut down such a large oak, as long as there is life in it, without special authorization. I contacted his boss to say I want to help in whatever way I can, either to save the tree or to plant a new tree it if this one must be removed.

Wounded Tree

The wounded tree that stands at the end of Bayou St. John is even more wounded now.


What happened here? Bark is scattered all around the base of the tree. The biggest shards are immediately evident, but smaller pieces make a complete circle.

For as long as I can remember, the side of this tree that faces the bayou has looked as if a big section was sheared off many years ago, but it seemed to thrive nonetheless. Now, it looks like whatever happened so many years ago has happened again, but I’ll be damned if I can figure what it is. Lightning would be my first suspect, except I’d have thought lightning would char the wood. I don’t see any evidence of carbonization. So then I thought maybe a truck hit it. Trucks don’t normally drive there, but Bayou Boogalooo did take place recently. However, the damage doesn’t seem consistent with that either. The sheared part goes straight into the ground. I don’t think a truck would strike so low.

It makes me very sad to see this. I like trees in general but this one is very special to me and my family. This is where my daughter got her name. I try to stop by there whenever my routine allows and spend a quiet moment. I often do a brief Wind Horse meditation I learned at the Contemplative Academy last year. Sometimes I just look at the tree and admire its beauty and enjoy its shade.

I saw the damage Friday. It must have happened recently. I called Parks & Parkways. I called Parkway Partners. I exchanged messages with the guy who runs the Dying Oaks blog. I’m not sure what more I can or should do.

Amazingly, just as I’m typing the above words, my phone rings. It’s a guy named Troy from the New Orleans Levee Board — calling back about the tree. I didn’t know the Levee Board was responsible for the bayou. Anyhow he is planning to take a look this afternoon and make a determination on the overall health of the tree. Parks & Parkways must have passed my contact information on to him.

I hope this tree is around with us for a long time.

Better Safe

I woke around dawn to the sound of heavy downpouring rain. After it kept up for a while, I reluctantly dragged myself out of bed, put on a pair of boxers, some sandals, and a baseball hat, and ran out to move the car up to the driveway. Xy tried to tell me it wasn’t necessary, but I’ve learned my lesson from last time. Of course, when I got back into bed, the rain seemed to taper off significantly, but hey — better safe than sorry, right?

Three or four hours later, when I went out the front door on my way to work, I discovered a huge tree limb had broken off the neighbor’s tree, a live oak, and landed in the street. This was no mere twig. It was massive enough to do serious damage. And it was in the exact spot where our car had been.

Stinging Season

bug of the day Photo by Jenn Forman Orth

Yesterday my daughter and I were sitting on the front steps playing the “game of hiding.” That’s where she grabs on to my back and I pretend I can’t find her. Then she reveals herself, and great hilarity ensues.

Only our game was interrupted when she howled in pain and pointed to her knee. Welts were rising on her tender flesh, but I couldn’t find the culprit anywhere.

A few hours later, I took off my shirt, and there was a tiny buckmoth caterpillar. The season is definitely upon us. This is the girl’s second sting in as many weeks. I signed up to have our tree sprayed by Parkway Partners at the beginning of the month, but they won’t get to us until next week.

Buckmoths thrive on live oak trees, and we have such a tree right in front of our house. They line the street, and I think they’re beautiful. My mother-in-law was of a different opinion. There’s no accounting for aesthetic differences. After the rain of pollen and the advent of the stinging caterpillars and the way their roots break up the sidewalk, I have to admit these trees have a dark side. But in some twisted way that makes them even more appealing.

At least this sting wasn’t followed by a fall like last year.

Technology Explosion

There are low-hanging tree branches on the Jeff Davis bike path. As MaPó said, it can be “cruel to the tall and the swift.” I scraped my head on them last summer, one week before Katrina. Now they are worse than ever. City crews have cut the grass but not trimmed the branches.

Yesterday they got me again. As I rode home, I ducked under the branches, and one caught my backpack and ripped a compartment open at the seams. Technology went flying everywhere: a USB drive, a MiniDV tape, my Crackberry. Nothing was damaged, except the backpack itself, a gift from my parents. Guess I need to get a new one.