Aleece Beuhler Langford, Digging Through The Mud
I met Aleece in 2012 when she started visiting my little coffee shop. Soon after Aleece became one of my first baristas and we learned so much together in those first few months. But over time we also became friends. We’re also both from the same area of Bayou Teche. It’s interesting how the legacy of a place stays with you and impacts your life without you really knowing. Over the years I’ve continued to admire her tenacity to find and express her true self regardless of the noise or especially because of the noise. For herself but also as a role model for her two beautiful girls. She is a talented barista, person of service, and storyteller. I’m excited to include her words and photos here.
The smell of my childhood is the smell of muddy water.
BY: Aleece Beuhler Langford
I grew up in Loreauville, Louisiana along the banks of the Bayou Teche. Along with the Teche, the Atchafalaya Basin, Lake Dauterive, Lake Fausse Point, and even the Mississippi Gulf Coast added to my water-marked legs. Whether exploring the drainage canal along our lane, swimming in the mirey bayou on a dare, or tromping barefoot through muddy yards, I have never been afraid of the muck.
Fast forward to 35-year-old me. I was in the thick of all sorts of transitions, and I was utterly and totally lost. I didn’t even want to be my own friend. At a time when I knew few things for certain other than my name and my birthday, I was one hundred percent positive that New Orleans was where I needed to be. I had a life in New Iberia, and this move made no sense to anyone who loved me. They thought I was out of my mind.
Nevertheless, I ran away from home and landed in New Orleans, where I found another muddy playground to tromp about in. All I knew to do was breathe in the muddy scent and walk, and walk, and walk, until something, anything, made sense. My rambles took me to the Mississippi River batture at Jackson Square, the End of the World, the perimeter of Lake Pontchartrain, and even Bayou St. John. I documented these visits to muddy banks via photographs, and the images became a breadcrumb trail I left myself on my journey.
When I’d tell friends I was going on a walk, they’d joke that I was “playing in the mud.” But this was no child’s play. I was working to salvage my life.
Sometimes rediscovering yourself isn’t dramatic like a phoenix rising from the flames.
Sometimes rediscovering yourself is like walking the banks of the Mississippi, squishy mud through your toes, losing your balance, falling again and again, staying filthy, and desperately longing to find the easy steps.
The dirty secret is that the easy steps are often boring and fruitless. That the hard work is often the dirtiest work. That you can drag yourself through muck, but it takes sheer will.
The best thing about mud is it dries up. And washes clean. Eventually.
And then you see yourself anew, again.
You see yourself again.
Aleece Beuhler Langford is a native Louisianian who spends her free time documenting nuance and change in her everyday landscape through what she's come to describe as "sketch photography." Shooting with the tool she always has on hand, Aleece's imagery is composed in split second glances using her phone camera. Her upcoming project will document the Bayou Teche. Keep track of her rambles on Instagram at @aleecel