Two winters ago Fred and I schemed and theorized the perfect place to move. No disrespect to Michigan or its inhabitants but we needed a change of scenery during those cold, gray winter months (moments every Michigander knows all too well). We researched places with the purest water and air and came up with Arkansas. Arkansas has many natural springs, also it is one of the lesser developed states in America. Upon more research, we concluded that the Ozark Mountains and Lake Ouachita would be the perfect place to live for natural beauty and employment fulfillment. We even went so far as to research apartment costs and average living expenses.
That dream obliviously vanished after realizing that establishing ourselves in the main stream sense of job, bills, and furniture just isn’t our style –not our path.
How ironic. We ended up right there, after all.
We left our Ozark Mountain WWOOF family and took the scenic byway to Mt. Ida, which is on the Ouachita Lake. Mt. Ida is also the quartz crystal capital of the world (Fred’s dream come true –that kid sure does love his rocks and crystals).
We arrived at our host farm at nightfall and were taken over by culture shock. We go from rustic off grid true farm living (bugs, dirt, kids –the whole shebang) to a spotless, fluffy pillow, take-your-shoes-off-at-the-door, yuppyville home! Within the span of three hours! We introduced ourselves to the husband-farmer and his wife. Fred and I were still riding a high from the last farm we were on, so we were excited and determined to get to know these people and have an enjoyable week. However, the feeling was not mutual…to say the least. They were the quietest most awkward, cold people I have ever in my life encountered! Past WWOOFers themselves, the couple traveled throughout Hawaii, New Zealand, and Florida. How interesting, right?! Wrong.
To illustrate, here is a sample conversation with these people, say, at dinner time:
Fred: “Wow! I can’t believe you’ve been to New Zealand! What is it like? How are the people? I bet it is beautiful out there!”
Husband-Farmer: “Yea, it was pretty cool.”
Me: “What kind of stuff did you do on the island? Did you see the sights? What kind of activities did you guys do?”
Wife: “Different stuff…it was really nice, we really enjoyed it”
Can you see how a week of these painful conversations could start wearing on your positivity? After a few days we gave up trying to become friends. It seemed that the longer we were there the more distant and cold they became. I have never eaten an entire meal in complete silence before! Sure, every once in a while one of us would think of something to say but soon thereafter the conversation would dissipate.
The work was good, though. The farmer had a steady job he worked during the day and the wife never left the house so Fred and I worked all day just us two (good thing we have gardening experience). And let me tell you, we kicked that gardens ass! We cleaned out all the weeds and dead plants, rebuilt the soil and got their entire garlic planting (which was insanely big –garlic is there money maker) ready for winter. Fred and I are a great team, and he really knows a lot, far beyond his years when it comes to farming. The one day the farmer-husband worked with us in the garden he was actually asking Fred for guidance and taking orders.
We only worked five hours a day so we had plenty of time to explore Lake Ouachita. The lake is deep, clear blue and cold. We loved it! We both immediately felt a connection due to Lake Michigan and we found a large river that runs into the lake. It had large boulders in the middle that you could get to by taking off your pants and hoping from rock to rock in waist deep water. With borrowed garage sale fishing poles (that didn’t work) and spent the majority of our time off trying to catch a fish from the cleanest water in America.
Okay, be warned, the wounds are still pretty fresh here… We could SEE huge fish swimming around the boulders but none of them ever gave us more than a nibble! We even bought worms after the first day (concluding that fish don’t like apple slices or carrot pieces –go figure). But the worms were not effective! So we reasoned it must be our defective poles to blame for our misfortune. We went old school. Let out a whole bunch of line from the fishing poles and made it real simple: lots of line, a hook with a (big, juicy, tasty, wiggling) worm, sinker, and bobber. Cast out, held, and reeled in with just our hands.
Not even that worked! So then we blamed the time of day we were fishing; just before dark. Okay no big deal, we can get up at 4am to catch you, Fish. Tic tock, tick tock, tick tock…
In the end we both caught a fish. Fred’s catch of the trip was about 4 inchs, and mine I want to say was about 3 inchs. Pretty anti climatic fishing trip but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. We sat on those boulders and by that lake for hours decompressing, centering, and chatting. We learned we both want to peruse fishing and what an absolutely beautiful state Arkansas is…Cognitatively and emotionally we were also in a beautiful state.
I took the hour long drive up to Hot Springs where the farmers market was (Fred stayed back to read) for a little day trip. It was uneventful besides getting to stick my feet into naturally hot as hell water. It blew my mind! Here, I’m standing in water that is bubbling up from deep within the earth. Very grounding and humbling; Mother Nature has some great power that is not to be screwed with.
The best part of the whole adventure that was Mt. Ida came on the last day of our stay with the awkward couple. Farmer-Husband, Fred, and I went crystal digging! The drive up weavey, windy mountain roads made me dizzy but man, was it worth it! The spot where we “mined” the crystal wasn’t technically open to the public –or anyone for that matter. But our host assured us it was “cool” (cool was his favorite word, used in any situation, to answer any question, or give any explanation). The mine was a giant hill of rubble with large boulders scattered across and a sizely rock wall at the top. We had pales and a few chiseling tools to work with. You can just bend down at the sight of something shiny that reflects the sun and pick up an amazing crystal. Most were very small but that was okay. Our plan was to make them into necklaces that we could use to trade at the Rainbow Gathering in a couple weeks. Both Fred and I ventured to the top and chiseled crystal formations out of solid rock.
We quickly learned that if you see a shimmer or shine follow it! Don’t look away because if you do you will never find it again. The amazing thing was that every now and then we would pick up a crystal from the rubble and immediately think of a particular person. Those, we plan to send to the matching friends and family.
*Fascinating Tid-Bit* If you rub two crystals together and you happen to be in a dark room they glow blue! Now that’s some crazy cool energy at work.
We bought some special acid-powder that cleans the rust off crystals and left early the next day, again taking the scenic byway to our next location, Texas. Arkansas had some amazing people and some really cold people, but overall gorgeous landscape. All we could really say as we rode away from mountains and lake was “thanks for the experience…it’s been a growth sprit.” And even through all the silent meals with the host couple and the fish that wouldn’t bite despite our best efforts, we can realize that it’s all part of the process. This, also accompanied by the humbling and exciting sensation that we are not entirely in control of our situations –that we are truly on an adventure (sometimes misadventure). Jerry said it best, “what a long strange trip it’s been” and will continue to be.
But then, we just looked forward. Forward –more accurately- being south, Texas.