The Coffee Table

194

An Eyeful of Ozarks

Countless people have come and gone throughout my life, but somehow I have managed to hang onto one I met in the sixth grade. And she came to visit. All the way from Michigan. I hadn’t seen her in more than twenty years.

Billie had never been to Arkansas before. She found it beautiful, and wished she’d had a chauffeur on the drive down, so she could just soak up the scenery.

Because my dear friend was so taken with her surroundings, I began to appreciate the view anew. While looking through her eyes, I remembered my first breathtaking sight of the Ozarks. We had mountains in New Mexico. Awesome views (in the more staid sense of the word “awesome”). But Arkansas was green and lush. Broccoli hills. With sightings of water—that precious substance Southwesterners were searching for.

Billie and I spent a  day touring Eureka Springs. And I watched my Michigander pal taking pictures of all the things I took pictures of on my first trip here. It was wonderful to see it for the first time—again.

She sat in my dining room, with the door to the balcony open, reveling in the sights and sounds of the fowl that frequent the feeders at the Old People’s Diner. I forget to be amazed by red-bellied woodpeckers, the way I once was. She got excited every time one perched. 

Just sitting on my back porch together made me remember what my husband and I first saw—the endless possibilities of our acres. We didn’t worry about ticks or taxes, chiggers or chores. We just appreciated the raw beauty of this place and were grateful to have found it. But I had forgotten. I’ve been worried about getting the pasture brush hogged and the gardens weeded.

I remember such magical feelings when my husband and I moved to  New Mexico (well, after the initial six-month period of culture shock): The stark red mesas to the north, the green mountains of the Cibola National Forest to the south. Native traditions to which I’d never before been exposed. But all that faded into the grind of a 10-hour a day job, and daily interstate driving just to shop and cart children to extracurricular events.

The first time I went to New Orleans—I fell head over heels for the music, the food, the absolutely free spirit of the city. Not to mention the historic architecture, the street cars, and the Mississippi River view. But soon I had classes to get to and a paycheck to earn. I became another New Orleanian complaining about the Super Bowl crowd plugging up the otherwise efficient public transportation.

Billie continually commented on the friendliness of people in the Ozarks. Almost without exception, they conversed as if she were an old friend. I re-remembered that, too. When my husband and I first arrived, we were welcomed into various Ozark music communities without question. There was no sense of competition—just folks who loved to play and sing with other folks. And if you happen to be out on our dusty county road, whether on foot or in a vehicle, you can’t pass by a neighbor without stopping to chat.  

After my husband’s death, I promised myself I wouldn’t make any drastic changes until he’d been gone for at least a year. No moving. No selling of acres. Just sit. And be sure. And thanks to a pair of Michigan eyes, the thought of remaining here until death does its part unto me is—again— taking hold.