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Following last week’s post, I have received and continue to receive a whole lot of loving and heartfelt emails, comments and messages from so many of you. I can’t tell you how much it means to me that what I say here could mean so much to all of you! Thank you all so, so much for your kindness and support. xoxo

I spent the entire dreary, drizzly day on Friday in my PJs working on building a new website (www.heatherpierson.com – that’s the current version. The new and improved version will be launched soon!). After a nutritious, fruit/rice milk/hemp seed smoothie – as is my daily ritual – I had cold leftover pizza for breakfast. Perhaps not the wisest choice, considering that I didn’t allow myself any time to get out on the pedal bike or the hiking or running trail to work off those carbs — but I have a feeling that my brain has already burned through them all, thinking about what awaits me on Sunday…

In the wee hours of this coming Sunday morning, Shawn and I will be boarding a plane for the city that enraptured me from the moment I first step foot on its cracked and weather-worn streets – New Orleans. We’re heading down yet again, this time to take part in a weeklong jazz workshop for adults, called the New Orleans Trad Jazz Camp. Held at the Bourbon Orleans Hotel (right smack dab in the middle of the French Quarter), we will be sharing this experience with over a hundred other horn players, drummers, vocalists, bassists, pianists, banjoists and guitarists from all over the world eager to absorb as much of this tradition as one week in NOLA will allow. Last year was an absolute dream and this year proves to be just as fantastic! We’ll see some of our friends that we made last year and we’re bound to make new ones.

This trip will be my fifth visit to NOLA in the past three years. Shawn and I were just there in January and I was literally in tears the day that we got in the car to head north.

Can I make a confession?

I’d love to live in New Orleans. Oh, I really would.

I’d always been fascinated with the city, being the birthplace of jazz and a hub for all sorts of beautiful, inscrutable things – art, music, voodoo, the mouth of the Mississippi River, alligators. I remember on several occasions as a young tween making the following announcement to my parents at the dinner table:

“Someday I wanna learn how to play the accordion and move to New Orleans.”

My father would always just smirk a little and give me a sideways glance, and my mother would just shake her head and go on some rant about “how much crime there is down there”.

I pretty much forgot about it for years.

Finally, in 2010 – that glorious year that I wrote about last week – I visited for the first time.

From the moment I stepped outside of the airport and experienced that oppressively heavy humid air, I was hooked.

And the seduction continued – the European architecture, with its wrought iron fences and soft pastel colors; the clack clack clack of the horse-drawn carriages in front of Jackson Square; the thump thump thump th-thump THUMP of “the big four” being pounded out on a second line bass drum; ancient trees standing watch and providing luxurious shade – oak and magnolia and cypress; the slightly spooky above-ground tombs in St. Louis Cemetery; the shrill refrain of a lone trumpet echoing down Royal Street; the chirping of the calliope atop the Steamboat Natchez; the dingy, dusty walls at Preservation Hall; the smell of freshly handmade pralines and of coffee with chicory; strings of brightly colored beads hanging from every tree branch, lamp post and power line; the wild cacophony that is Bourbon Street; the dazzling array of street performers – musicians of all disciplines certainly, but also the young tap dancers and break dancers; bizarre yet beautiful costumes and body paints; contortionists; but most beloved of all, of course, the music that drifts freely from every single open door and window, from every street corner, every park bench, from the lips of those passersby who can’t help but sing along to songs that they don’t even know.

If you’ve never been, do yourself a favor and get there someday, especially if you love music, food and/or art – which, I think, covers just about everybody on the planet. And then when you hear the old lyric ask: “Do you know what it means / to miss New Orleans / and miss it each night and day?” then maybe you’ll be able to answer, like I do: “Yes, I certainly do.”

New Orleans means something very special to me, but maybe not to you. Maybe it isn’t a city that you miss. Is there something that you once had that you could have again and all you need to do is just reach out and take hold of it again? Maybe it’s an idea, a hobby, a friend, a lover, a new path. Whatever it is – don’t wait. Do it now!

Oh, and you know, I never have learned how to play the accordion – not yet anyway – but I did just recently acquire a melodica, which isn’t quite the same thing as an accordion, but it kinda sounds like one…