Stacey Margaret Jones: Arkansas Is a Natural

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My friend Mary Beth and I take turns annually visiting each other. Because she lives in New York City and I live in Arkansas, we’ve taken to calling these visits Country Mouse-City Mouse visits. This year, City Mouse came to the country.

When we were planning our time together, which always includes lots of activities, running, long walks – one year we even took a pole-dancing class – she asked if there were a place we could go where she could reconnect with nature. Even though her apartment in Harlem isn’t far from Central Park, living in the city wears her down, she said. The concrete, the subway, the elevators, the tall buildings block her natural perspective.

Because of the potential for enervating heat, kind friends invited us to their pools, which I had readily accepted, but Mary Beth was also looking for real-live nature time. So on the Fourth of July, we got up, applied 100+ SPF, packed plenty of water and our little cavalier King Charles spaniel in the car and headed to Pinnacle Mountain.

My husband and I have climbed the mountain several times in the past, with and without dogs, but never with visiting friends. I was able to freshly appreciate the expansive, emerald-green and river-and-sky-blue views through the sweat and dust of the climb as if it were the first time I was making it.

We stopped often to let Betty, our dog, rest in the shade, drink water and pant. (I may have panted, as well…) It was in the 80s and sunny, and once we hit the boulder fields on the way up to the peak, the heat seamed to magnify, so we stopped more frequently. This gave us more chances to admire the view, chat, pet the dog, take pictures and let the natural experience seep into our skin with the heat of the sun and the breeze over the mountain.

When we reached the peak, we scored a bit of shade and sat for 30 or 40 minutes to enjoy our accomplishment and try to seer that view into our minds’ eyes. We traced the meandering lines of the river along the earth below and cooled our tired muscles in the shade and the light wind.

There are many ways in which Arkansas cannot compete with New York City, and I avidly look forward to my Country Mouse journeys to Manhattan the years it is my turn to fly there. But nowhere in the Big Apple can you hike up a mountain like Pinnacle on the Fourth of July and survey a green and blue patch of our nation with other like-minded, like-seeking climbers, soaking up sky, sun and a beautiful perspective of infinite blue and a distant, hopeful horizon.

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