Monday, March 18, 2019


65 and sunny. All weekend. It doesn't get any better than that for a road trip to Hot Springs, Arkansas for my best friend's birthday, and of course The World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade!

Dawn, Krista, Angie & me
This was my third road trip of the year in my quest to visit more of the wonderful things around me. I made that promise to myself back in January. It was definitely the most ambitious trip so far.

Friday night, my friend Dawn and I packed up the car and hit the road. Hot Springs is about three hours from home, and as I learned, a super easy drive to get there, especially when you have a partner in crime to sing House of Pain with! It was St. Paddy's weekend, after all!

My biggest goal for the weekend was to go hiking in Hot Springs National Park. After a delicious breakfast at The Pancake Shop with what might be the world's best freshly squeezed orange juice, Dawn was off to a spa appointment, and my camera and I hit the trail.

The Arlington Hotel sits right across the street from a steaming hot spring and the entrance to the park.

Beyond this hot spring, the rest of the park is up. I mean literally. Up. So up I went.

There were stairs on what's called the Tufa Terrace Trail before you really get into dirt trails and towering trees. But once you hit the dirt, it's another world and I found what I crave so much. Peace, quiet, chirping birds, the occasional passing hiker with a friendly smile. It's still a little early for the trees to be full, the ground lush, but I can see it coming.

Walks like these help me clear my head. My mind sifts through all the clutter, discards it, and suddenly I'm light on my feet. I can hear my breathing again, feel my heart beating in my chest. Things that bring me stress don't seem as important. I start to identify birds by their song. On this day, robins chattered and a pair of house finches whistled a sweet and repetitive tune. Mockingbirds did their thing.

Before I knew it the Mountain Tower was in sight. At that point I made a new deal with myself. My legs were starting to feel the burn of this uphill climb, and I knew a second hike was in the cards for Sunday, so I skipped the tower in favor of another day when the trees were greener. Yes, I will be back here at least one more time this year!

I am really proud of myself. Five months ago, this hike would have been too much. Too far, too strenuous. Too much UP! But this past Saturday, I was THERE for it! I was thrilled to be outside in the crisp late winter air, smelling the damp dirt, feeling the steam from the hot springs, and pushing myself higher purely for the sake of enjoyment. And I could do it. And I could have kept going.

Of all the things they bottle and sell in Hot Springs, I wish I could package up that feeling for anyone who doesn't know.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The Tree That Fell In The Woods

I wonder if you can tell what's happening in this picture.

Several storms rolled through Memphis last Saturday with high wind, heavy rain, thunder and lightning. I'm assuming this beautiful old tree was no match for the fury that swept through Overton Park.

But it's not the felling of the tree that gets me, though I always find it sad when a tree that has stood for decades meets its demise. It's the confusion of how this tree wound up where it is today. The point of fracture does not seemingly make sense. It left many park walkers like myself pondering, trying to reconcile the distance between the remains of this mighty sentinel and its splintered stump.

The guess is that the tree succumbed to its fate, toppled in one direction where it met the stone wall, then rolled and teetered into position.

Maybe. This literally was the tree that fell in the woods.

It's a cheap and easy metaphor to compare the once stately tree to life. The story writes itself: we weather so many storms. We sway with the winds of change, bend when we have to, and reach for the sky as we grown. Until the day comes when we are broken and left wondering, how did we get from here to there?

How do we take a hit, absorb a blow, get knocked down and tumble so far from where we started?

The hope is that we get a soft landing and learn valuable lessons.

I'm certainly nowhere near where I though I would be. But after a few sucker punches, life put me right where I need to be. And I never know if Memphis is the final stop on my road map, but I would be okay if it is.

I think that's true for all of us. We put down roots where we land, and with any luck we grow tall and strong. And if a storm comes along and brings us to our knees, we should be so lucky to have an entire forest of loved ones to stand watch, provide shelter and protect us.