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What a Day!

November 30, 2012

Arkansas – Monday, November 26

I started off the day with a bit of a plan (which is more than I usually have!) and then some unexpected things got added in, and it was a very full, wonderful day.

I already knew I would be making my way back to Rogers today, because I wanted to make a contribution to the Northwest Arkansas Women’s Shelter there, and the drop-off location wasn’t open yesterday, and isn’t open on Tuesdays, so today was the day. But first I wanted to head back to Eureka Springs, which is a fascinating town clinging to the side if a mountain. Tula and I had walked around there a bit before dinner last night, but I wanted to go back in daylight. The town of Eureka Springs was established in the mid-1800s because of the supposed medicinal qualities of its spring water. Many people claimed to be cured of a variety of ailments by soaking in the waters and bath houses were built, and then hotels, and it became a very popular destination. Because it’s on the side of a mountain, the streets are very narrow, and one of the main streets is about 20 feet lower than the other one, even though they’re practically right next to each other. There’s lots of stairs to get around. I wasn’t sure what decade I was in last night – the buildings are old with a turn-of-the-century feel; but then there were also a couple people sitting out on balconies with guitars singing ’60s music and burning incense. There’s a lot of fun little shops and an artsy feel in town. Anyway, Tula and I walked about 3 miles all over town and followed the sidewalk all the way out to the turnoff to get to (the historic part. Then at the other side if town there was a simple little chapel (appropriately named The Little Chapel) and I noticed a couple people waiting to go in, and I briefly wondered what was going on at the church first thing in the morning. When I passed by it again on the way back, there were more people outside the church, and then I saw the food pantry signs, and realized they were people waiting for the food pantry to open up. Seeing the line of hungry people tugged at my heartstrings, so once we had made our way back to the car, I left Tula in it and went to see about making a donation to the chapel’s food pantry. By now there were quite a few people inside waiting for their food, and I spoke with one of the volunteers to see if there was anything they could use. She said they really needed oatmeal, cereal and and tuna. So I went shopping and got a bunch of regular oatmeal, instant oatmeal, cold cereal, and tuna. There were still people in line when I returned – they clearly help a lot of local families.

Then I got on the road to head back to Rogers. I had come to Eureka Springs on a very curvy, hilly road, and thought I’d take a different way back, along a road that looked like it might not be as curvy. But, in the Ozarks, everything is hilly and curvy, and the words I see most often on the caution signs are “crooked and steep” roads ahead. And they are! I drove out of town for a ways, and all of a sudden I saw I sign that pointed out the turnoff for Thorncrown Chapel. I pulled off the road into the driveway at the last minute – I had passed signs for a number of mountain chapels in the last couple of days, but something made me want to see this one. Wow. What a totally unexpected, beautiful surprise in the middle of the woods on the side of a mountain – a glass and wood chapel that visitors can go in to take a break, and pause to reflect. There was a lady greeting people as they came on, and she handed me a paper which explained some of the history of the chapel. It was built “to give wayfarers a place to relax in an inspiring way.” Perfect for me! With all the windows, the chapel brought the big outdoors inside, and it was very peaceful and serene and moving. I just sat there for a while. By the time I was ready to leave, the other visitors were gone, so the lady who had initially greeted me asked me what I was doing in the area. I explained a little about my journey, and it turned out she was the wife of the founder of the church, and she had a very interesting story to tell. More than 30 years ago, she and her husband had bought this beautiful, hilly property for a very reasonable price because it was on the “wrong” side of town – all the current building and developing was going on at the other side of Eureka Springs. They got their house built, and had kind of a long steep driveway, which was pretty wide down by the road. Travelers started pulling off the road at the end of their driveway to stop for a few minutes to admire the view. Some even began to have picnics there (it IS a pretty view, but picnicking in someone’s driveway?!?), and not everyone would clean everything up so garbage began to be a nuisance for them, and she told me people even started digging up some of the plants to take home, figuring the owners could simply replace them! It became too much, and her husband decided he needed to install a gate of some sort to keep people out of the driveway and away from their home. But, he had an inspiration as he was thinking about the gate – he began to think if people really want to stop there to admire the view and have a little quiet time, maybe he could build a chapel at the back of their property, to give travelers a place to stop. He found an architect, raised some money and began building the chapel. People thought he was a “nut” for building something like this, on his own property no less, but he persevered even when funds ran low, and eventually the chapel was finished. But now that the travelers actually had a place to go, not many people stopped by at first. But then a television crew came to film a special about the church, and that changed everything. The beautiful, unusual architecture has won numerous architecture awards, and recently the American Institute of Architecture placed the chapel fourth on its list of top buildings of the 20th century. And 30 years later, countless people have visited from all over the world. And I almost drove right by it! It was a very special stop, and I couldn’t NOT make a donation for the chapel, even though I had already made one donation for the day, and was headed to another. By now another long-time volunteer had shown up yo take over greeting duties, and both ladies were interested I what I was doing, and they gave me a CD with the instrumental music that was playing during my visit, along with a couple nice photos of the chapel. This chapel does not have a congregation – it’s for travelers and wayfarers (I like that word!) passing through, and sometimes there might be 2-3 people for Sunday services, ans sometimes there’s standing room only. It’s amazing to stop and think of all the people who have passed through the chapel in the woods, which is pretty far off the beaten path. And I was happy to join their ranks!

I finally continued on and came to Pea Ridge National Military Park, which I did know about since I had read up on the national parks in Arkansas. Tula and I got out and did about 3 miles of walking in the misty gray day. I would have done more, but if I didn’t get back to town to shop for the Women’s Shelter, I would lose that opportunity.

The Northwest Arkansas Women’s Shelter had a couple of wish lists on their website – an “immediate needs” list, and an “ongoing needs” list. I tried to shop mostly for things on the immediate list, and got stuff like laundry detergent, some fleecy PJs in kid sizes, soup, mac and cheese, etc. Then I took it to the drop-off place, which was a thrift store, and the proceeds from that also go to the Women’s Shelter. The ladies were very nice, the shelter must be a wonderful source of comfort for women and their kids who need to get away from abusive situations.

And then there was still time to head to Bentonville to finish up the last couple miles of walking. My cousin had told me about trails by a museum called the Glass Bridges, and I found those and started walking, but then it started to rain and it was mostly dark anyway. I headed back to the van, and the rain let up long enough so I could walk around the lit-up town square of Bentonville. It was one of the big old-fashioned town squares anchored by the courthouse, and all the shops on all 4 sides of the square were decorated and lit brightly, and lots of people were shopping, and all the trees in the square had hundreds of lights on them, and one side of the square had an old five and dime store and a soda fountain, and the whole atmosphere just seemed old-fashioned and magical and Christmasy. I felt like a little kid bedazzled by my first Christmas! It was a wonderful way to end an amazing day.

I’m currently having a LOT of trouble with photos – theyre taking forever to upload and I don’t know how to fix it – any suggestions? I don’t know why things changed…I don’t even know what will upload with this post

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