I prayed my way to
a confluence of PRIDE and Confederate flags.
Harleys and art galleries.
Two kinds of vulture and all you can eat catfish.
I found my way to a crochet festival, alien conference, and a Jesus parade featuring not one but three sons of God including the beer-gut, let’s-party Jesus.
I danced with a mob of glorious people in Basin Park and clapped inside the Pine Mountain Jamboree. I dodged one narcissist and a few good men threatened by strong women.
After lunch at Mud Street Cafe, I hauled my body up an unforgiving hill, stopped for breath, and registered to vote. In the parking lot of a charming Italian restaurant, I donated jewelry from my crumbly first marriage to the campaign for a nondiscrimination ordinance.
Local residents include ticks, magnolias, and miles of vines – a mess of oak, pine, walnut, hickory, and ash. Some folks need valerian or AMSR, but give me the weighty breath of thunder, and sleep swallows me whole. If you sit still long enough, bamboo sprouts between your toes. Someone practices a flute from across our holler. Around the corner is a haunted limestone hotel, a place where you can stand inside a dank morgue or let your body be massaged by spa professionals down the hall. An art colony houses lonesome bachelors not far from the occasional Sunday Disco Drag Brunch.
You’ll see skinks wiggling across sidewalks, showing off their sparkly blue tails. You can never wear too much makeup in this town. Deer amble along scuffed yellow lines. People talk about bobcats, though I’ve never driven to those hollers. I wonder if they are near the billboards begging us to repent, warning the end is near. Does God stalk like a wild animal?
As of 12:04 p.m. on June 29, 2017, we have 37 annual parades and counting.
One close friend is convinced our vultures are actually angels.
We’ve got bars you can smoke in and rainbow waterfall steps you can climb up.
A well fed and beloved bunny spits change and receipts at you.
Prayer introduced me to an artist who paints chimpanzees on Christ of the Ozarks, giving some pretty to that stubby statue. I wish a teenager would throw a bandana on his head, so he could be what God intended – the concrete incarnation of Willie Nelson.
I prayed my way to dry rub barbecue and honeymoons every night of the year – the one woman who got locked out of her bungalow after midnight, her newly beloved, glasses-in-the-commode drunk. Thank goodness she wasn’t naked, her head-to-foot Hello Kitty jumper kept her warm as she tearfully shuffled along White Street at 3 a.m. “Somebody please help me,” she muttered, and from a distance, us locals must question if this big-headed, fuzzy creature is for real or an apparition. The veil is thin. Maybe it’s the occasional E. coli entering our healing waters. Maybe it’s the Osage and the ancestral sweet revenge for desecrating their oasis. Still, we love our little town.
Inside this hilly snow globe Victorian village, I blow kisses to four different men on my drive home from the Berryville Walmart. Last summer, I saw six people of color. The pharmacy refuses to sell Sudafed without a prescription, though this mandate offers no pressure to lock our doors. We live at the confluence of hurt and poverty. Some people make their home in caves. It’s complicated, I say, in response to my relationship with northwest Arkansas. We live at the confluence of resilience and imagination. If I had been born with a business mind, I’d open a lingerie shop called The Vicar’s Wife.
I prayed my way to a town buried under emerald water lined with scrubby junipers fingering limestone bluffs. We swim and bubbles tickle our bodies, signaling the scuba divers exploring an amphitheater below. My little nephew howls and leaps out of the water and into his big sister’s arms. “A fish bit my nipple,” he shrieks. Just the other day I saw a 45-pound striper bass mounted on a wall.
I found my way to fearless art makers, musicians, and dreamers unafraid to tell their stories. To a kid who makes me laugh until I pee. To people who deliver homemade noodles when you’re struck by a summer cold, people who hang artisanal bread on your screen door, people who talk to God and the archangels freely.
If Flannery O’Connor and Tom Robbins got pregnant, they would give birth to Eureka Springs – this town of 2100. 2100 misfits. 2100 souls I’ll miss and cry over when it’s time to leave.