Mere Coincidence or Confluence?

31 03 2019

Today is my anniversary of Day One of walking the Camino de Santiago. It wasn’t very epic. Not that it was bad but it just was. I went to work setting up my new retail space after a gift shop renovation where I am working here on Namtucket. It was a beautiful day and half of me relished the sun while a little but of me registered concern. This warmth means summer is coming. To most that’s a welcome respite from the winter, but this island life is very unique and the height of the season is exhausting. Add the fact that this year I need to find a new Suzy. You see my Camino walking partner came to live with me and my husband post Camino to help with my other endeavor, The Hungry Minnow a snack bar at Children’s Beach and she also helped with our Airbnb rental unit. I don’t know what I’ll do without her. Both of us spoke last night about what it meant that is was the eve of our first day walking…

Our connection is strange in some ways but clearly meant to be. Suzy lives in Morocco and we met after our mutual circumstances had already swirled together cosmically I like to think. She must be a sister from another lifetime I think, because our lives intersected in such an interesting way.

I first went to New Orleans after Katrina to sell wine as a national wine rep. It was my last stop on a multi city tour… Dallas, Houston and then NOLA. I remember how the city seemed to fit me. I had never been one of those people that was interested in going to New Orleans, and I’m not really all that into the south. I hate heat and humidity, and all the foodie talk about the best cuisine down there was still confusing to me as I’d only tasted shoddy attempts at jambalaya or gumbo. It was so strange how upon landing at the airport I was welcomed by the swampy slightly moldy smell and feel of the air, yet something about this place as I walked it’s streets seemed familiar. I keep referencing previous lifetimes, and I don’t know what I really feel about that, but sometimes there are coincidences in life that are too much. Sometimes you’ll see a face and know them I instantly, basically recognizing another soul intimately. If they do exist then I lived in New Orleans lifetimes ago. She welcomed me back. That first trip was so poignant and difficult. I sobbed in the airport heading home after viewing the devastation on a private tour with my taxi driver. More than two hours of him showing me what happened and my heart ached for the city and its people I felt so tuned into.

So I went back, as much as I could, and eventually a plan was hatched to go for Mardi Gras. We were a group of older folks, mostly close friends from San Francisco but also my brother and some local friends were part of our mini “krewe” as well. We planned on walking with the krewe of St. Anne. My dear friend Jane heard I was heading down and has a lot of friends down there part of the Society of St. Anne so she told me I needed to go to the Purple Party, a fete on the Monday before Mardi Gras. We all made plans to bring purple clothing in addition to our Mardi Gras zodiac themed costumes. Another friend, Reby, separately told me I needed to attend the Purple Party as well. Jane also made me promise to visit her artisan hat maker friend Tracy Thomson at her coop during the trip.

I landed after everyone else that Sunday around six breathing in that swampy airport air, happy that my purple peacock feather tail for my party costume had made it on both legs of the flight. I headed into downtown in a taxi not knowing that parade traffic is a big deal. He had to drop me a long way from my hotel and I had to avoid all sorts of debris to get my suitcase around.

I dropped my things and got distracted as a parade was just ending but eventually got into another cab to meet my friends outside of downtown. By the time I got there some had already called it quits as they’d been at a parade, the rest were nicely buzzed. I grabbed a six pack of Anita from the liquor store next door and set in to enjoy some pizza at this BYOB place. Andrew started in on me first.

“So what’s the deal with this purple party?” He promoted.

“Well we just have to wear purple.” I said between bites and gulps as I tried to catch up to their level of exuberance .

“But where is it and when? What are the details?!”

I was getting slightly irritated. I’d been traveling all day and wasn’t even through one beer and frankly I had no clue about the details and now I’d made this stupid purple peacock costume that was probably better than my Mardi Gras costume and how was I even going to wear it if I didn’t know where the party was and I’d told about eight of my friends that we could go to this party and…

And that’s when the woman approached our table.

“I’m sorry but I overheard…” of course they were the only other group in the place and my friend’s voices had been elevated by the Bacchus parade, “but were you talking about the Purple Party? That’s my friend Stuart’s party!” She pointed to a tall man with glasses at their table and he held up his hand and waved.

My face immediately flushed as I addressed her. Now I’d done it. I’d managed to invite an entire group to a party I had not technically been invited to and I’d been caught. She didn’t seem upset with us, but I felt ridiculous.

“Um my friend told me I should go?”

“Really? Who was that?” She asked in a non threatening way.

My brain went blank for a second.

“Well, this girl Reby in San Francisco…” I started to say. It didn’t ring a bell with her and suddenly it struck me. “Oh my God are you Tracy Thomson?! It was Jane who told me too and she said I had to go see you!”

And lo and behold just an hour or so after landing all the information was provided for us. Tracy and Stuart said it was absolutely great if we wanted to join the Purple Party and that was the first of four Purple Parties and Mardi Gras for me. The tight little group embraced me and my friends and even when I’m not near them I feel their connection often.

Fast forward a few years. I was heading to Nashville for a songwriting conference with Darrell Scott who I met back in the day here in Namtucket and once again Jane had a tip for me. “You won’t believe it but Suzy is going to the same conference!” Suzy was part of the circle of New Orleans Purple People. An artisan as well she had never been there on all my visits because she was living in Morocco.

I loved Suzy from the moment we met. Only five days spent together but she has an infectious energy. We, like the rest of those NOLA friends, keep in touch on the book of Faces, but never met again.

I’d been hearing about the Camino for years, but it happened more often and became more urgent. And winter in Nantucket can be rough. I felt like I needed a reset but couldn’t make the connection as to the solution until my bleary eyes squinted at my phone to see Suzy’s post. Something along the lines of, “I’m walking the Camino this spring. Who wants to join me?”

It was like crickets out there but I chimed in.

“Me. I want to go. I’ll do it.”

Last year’s post: