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Location: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

Leonard Earl Johnson (photo credit Frank Parsley) covered Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (2005), and the 2010 British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico for ConsumerAffairs.com. He is a contributor to Gambit Weekly, New Orleans Magazine, SCAT, Baton Rouge Advocate, Advocate Magazine, The Times-Picayune, Country Roads Magazine, Palm Springs Newswire and the anthologies: FRENCH QUARTER FICTION (Light of New Orleans Publishing), LOUISIANA IN WORDS (Pelican Publishing), LIFE IN THE WAKE (NOLAfuges.com), and more. Johnson is a former Merchant Seaman, and columnist at Les Amis de Marigny, New Orleans; and African-American Village. Attended Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, and Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship at Piney Point, Maryland. Winner of the Press Club of New Orleans Award for Excellence, 1991, and given the Key to The City and a Certificate of Appreciation from the New Orleans City Council for a Gambit Weekly story on murder in the French Quarter.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Sequestering Forty Days of Lent / 2013 March

LEJ being glittered by maidens, Mardi Gras New Orleans
Photocredit: Anson Trahan

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Yours Truly in a Swamp
Monthly column 
Leonard Earl Johnson

2013 March

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Meanwhile Back In America
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"Hi ho, hi ho. 
It's off The Cliff we go.
No brains, no thoughts,
 just the guns we wrought. 
Hi ho, hi ho, hi ho..." 
~ L. A. Norma

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Sequestering Forty Days of Lent

by Leonard Earl Johnson

2013 March 


On Ash Wednesday all over Louisiana, Carnival lifted its colorful cloak and revealed Lent's ashen smudge. 

LEJ before the ashes                    Photocredit: Anson Trahan

At Saint Louis Cathedral, business suits stood cheek-by-jowl with crimson capes and smeared-lipstick ladies awaiting priests dressed in the Vestments of Sorrow smearing the Sign of The Cross on their foreheads, with thumbs dipped in the ashes of last year's Palm Sunday palms. Outside on Jackson Square and up and down the whole Sliver on the River we call New Orleans 'high ground' rain washed our sins away. 

I have doubts about many theological things, but none whatsoever about Ash Wednesday. It celebrates our journey from ashes to ashes. In a return directed by Canon Law over forty-days of stony passage we call Lent, a time, like Sequestration, of man-made deprivation. The handy work of theologians and politicians. 

Lent is a joyless anticipation of Spring, the most joyful, loving Godlike thing there is.  Yet, by Canon Law Lent -- not Easter -- is the longest holiday in Christendom!? If you need reason to be suspicious of religious powers -- all religions -- consider that fact

Spring, under the name of Easter, comes at the end of these forty days of Lenten fasting. So saith Pope Gregory's Calendar. By which we measure all this. And not too accurately, we might note. What with the Moon and all those Stars moving around faster than the dogmatic eye can see.

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Easter brings the end of Lent's suffering, and the budding of trees, children's hands filled with fluffy little chicks, bunnies, rolling around with Easter eggs on the White House lawn!

Lenten fasting repairs Winter's damage and Carnival's excess, and prepares us for Spring's rebirth. Like the jazzed-man and the bean-sprout say,"Blow the roof off the sucker ..."

The live oaks outside our dormer windows are a soft young green. Live oaks don't dump their leaves till Spring's new buds arrive (as students of JFK's murder know). Then, they change from old dark green to young soft green almost overnight. 

Today, soft-green rules Big Swamp City, and all the feeder rivers, bayous and swamps beyond.  We old horned alligators lie on the banks in whatever sun we can find dreaming of Carnivals past, Easter baskets and Spring. 

Begone Lent and Sequestration, man made hair-shirts! 

"Get thee behind me, Satan," Matthew 16:23, "You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."

L. A. Norma lifted the window a bit higher to give her cigarette smoke greater egress, and asked, "Did you see that man on Mardi Gras day, in the headdress and mantle of an Egyptian Pharaoh and a sign around his neck reading, 'WILL RULE FOR FOOD'?  

"I saw him again, on Ash Wednesday. He was with a Cleopatra who took off her snake armband and held it to her breast. Delicately exposed, of course. We were at the Communion Rail, and I was close enough to see them mouth, 'Asp Wednesday,' to each other. I would not swear to this, but I think the Priest smiled.

Copyright, 2013, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved
(A version of this story first appeared in 2004)

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