Our campsite for our two days in Lafayette was located on the grounds of the Louisiana Association for Retarded Citizens (LARC), a day program and rehab facility where one of Mary's cousins worked and received treatment up until his death in 2009. His father, Mary's first cousin, was on LARC's Board of Directors for quite some time, and his family has played a large part in the life of this very special and tight-knit community. LARC also runs a lovely folklife museum--The Acadian Village---which is a reconstructed Cajun village that brings to life the history of the Cajun people of Louisiana.
Lucky for us, we were able to secure a swamp boat tour on Lake Martin, just six miles from downtown Lafayette, and a funny and kind guide named Norbert led us on a two-hour expedition through the cypress swamps along the age of the lake which teems with birds, snakes, turtles, alligators, and other wildlife. Norbert has been featured on The Today Show, NBC, PBS, and in National Geographic, so we felt like he was the real deal, offering us an expert's view of life in the swamps. He even stopped the boat half-way through the tour and offered us a nip of what he called "moonshine", and which Mary thought tasted like good ol' Jim Beam. Whatever it was, it tasted great on a sunny day while floating on Lake Martin watching the world go by. (It tasted great to Keith, Mary adds!)
Even though there was no promise of seeing alligators at a time of year when most of them are snoozing while waiting for mating season to begin in March, we were very blessed and happy to float right by a 10-foot gator relaxing in the shallow waters!
The lake and its environs are a very special place, and the birds---many species of heron, ibis, cormorant, falcon, osprey, hawk, and others---are simply everywhere, flying gracefully through the air above the water, swooping down as they look for prey, nest on centuries-old cypress trees, and grace the lake with their winged presence.
It is difficult to describe the beauty of the swamp, the cypress trees, the Spanish moss, the wintry bareness of the trees, the birds preparing for mating season, that only hints at the springtime explosion of lush beauty that will inevitably bloom in just a matter of weeks.
We have a multitude of videos and photos to review and process, and with any luck, some of those will be posted here as soon as the strength of our connection allows. For now, this will have to suffice.