On the Arkansas Travelers


Although, this is more in the spirit of a Rock Home Companion, here’s a post from my husband, Seth, for our friend John. Happy Fall. ———–

Autumn Day

On the Arkansas Travelers

John wrote me this week.  He was fondly remembering the Arkansas fall – all those mornings when the maple leaves sway, blushing at the advances of a low-slung mountain mist.  John had spent time last week, good should-be-working time, remembering the goodness of Ozark stone farm houses and adjoining cattle ponds where the Canadian troubadours unfold their wings and spread webbed feet in the winter.  He reminded me of those lichen crusted rock churches, the ones scattered in counties named Madison and Carroll, where sacred vows are exchanged, where real-wine communion breaks unspoken prohibitions, where saints and sinners are offered a way back home.

Ashley and Jonnie were married in that kind of church.  Actually, Ashley and Jonnie were married on the front steps of that kind of church.  It was summer and the little Anglican chapel was without air condition or other modern amenities.  So, we all sat in white foldout chairs on the front lawn, and we leaned forward into their vows in an attempt to unravel promises whispered at an invisible alter.  

Behind us, a bubbling stream muted vows as it ran to wherever it was running.  We fanned ourselves with wedding orders, mostly lawyers and their wives trying to retain some modicum of respectability.  Only once did a lady three rows up indicate that “da-yam it’s hot,” in the middle of the priest’s unity prayer.  But his prayer was difficult to hear as we sat so far away from the limestone steps, and it was so muted by the gurgles of water running to nowhere in particular, and she was a law school transplant from New Jersey.  With all these mitigating factors, we forgave her for profaning the solemnity of the moment.  Cindy actually passed her an extra wedding order so she could stir up twice as much hot air.

Autumn DayAshley and Jonnie moved up to New York.  They took jobs with tall-building law firms, the kind that bear the names of Yankee & Yankee. 

John, that long distance emailer who stretched his legs to find a muse, lives in Colorado now.  They, like much of this state, are transient – Arkansas Travelers, it might be said.  And I think that maybe this country is, too, always looking for a place with less lichen and more air conditioned spaces, always looking to find where the stream empties itself.  But each, in their own subtle way, has let me know that they will always think of this place as home.  It’s where they toilet papered houses in high school, stole kisses of liquor in college, and whispered wedding vows in adulthood.  It’s where they met God in the deer woods, in the duck blinds, and in the stone-chapel revival meetings.  They’ve carpet bagged elsewhere, but knowing they remember the flirtations of an Ozark fall, even the one that is only now unfolding, does my heart well.

 It’s fall in the Ozarks.  I’m looking forward to watching the green heron fish in my stagnant ornamental pond and watching the horses run wild in chilling rain.  The maple off the back porch is already yellowing.  The summer heat has been replaced by the fireplace here in the rock house.  We are settling into the magic of the cedar incense that drifts across the field from the neighbors’ house.  I’m glad to be in the midst of the autumnal Ozarks.  I’m glad my boys will know it.  And as much as I’ve come to marvel at the majesty of grand handiwork in grand miniature mountains, I realize that I’m little more than a carpet bagger myself, always craning my neck to get a glimpse of home.

amberhaines
About me

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23 Comments

mandie
Reply October 13, 2009

Oh my. You both have such a way of telling stories and painting beautiful pictures with your words...you really ought to collaborate and write many, many books for us thirsty people to drink.

brittney
Reply October 13, 2009

I second the book collaboration! My husband and I always speak of writing a book together someday, but he's the one who has the best storytelling skills. I'm just an analytical type.

Anyway, I adore the painted picture of fall. I get to experience a Kentucky fall every year that is just beautiful, but I've always enjoyed entertaining the idea of stealing away and making a vacation out of visiting other people's autumns. Isn't it lovely how autumn seems to be the season in which everyone (especially those who are away from home) tends to reminisce about home and the fond memories that accompany the burning leaves, pumpkin patches, and scents of spice. Beautiful.

Aunt Pam
Reply October 14, 2009

Very beautiful Seth! Thanks Amber for sharing him for a while...
Hugs!

Your Husband
Reply October 14, 2009

Mandie and Brittney,

Collaboration could be fun, but I'm afraid that my wife needs no collaborator. Her words are enough.

Thanks for the thoughts though. Maybe I'll twist her arm a bit.

Pam,

You always were my favorite aunt on Amber's mother's side. See you soon.

Beth Whitlow
Reply October 14, 2009

O.K., I lurk here all the time, but never comment. Your blog is truly a bright spot in my day. I love it for so many reasons: your honest, poetic stories; truth that shines from every carefully chosen word; poetry itself (yay!); and glimpses of my home state. I live in New Orleans now, and ache for the beautiful fall that I'm missing in AR. N.O. is not the most beautiful city, and after 7 years, still doesn't feel like home. Thank you for reminding me that my longing isn't REALLY for leaves, or Arkansas, or past homes, but one more infinitely beautiful than I can every imagine. Blessings, Beth

Beth Whitlow
Reply October 14, 2009

That's ever imagine. Hate typos!

Kelly
Reply October 14, 2009

I have to say, you two almost make me appreciate being a South-transplanted Northerner (I can't call myself a Yankee, b/c my husband is a dyed-in-the-wool Red Sox fan...). I've come to appreciate here, though I wish often for there. There are things I will miss if we leave.

Cindy
Reply October 14, 2009

I did pass that extra wedding order...? And was surprised the blurb of profanity hadn't actually broached my own lippy banks.

Seth, lovely words for a lovely fall. A quirky joy to read something so unlawreviewlikeesque from you.

Arkansas: Not all heavy books, dust and mites.

Cindy
Reply October 14, 2009

I think I meant breach not broach.

Your Husband
Reply October 14, 2009

Cindy, sometimes, some of my memories might be creatively enhanced. The sentiments, for the most part, remain the same. That was surely a good wedding though. Perhaps *one* of the prettiest I ever attended. Either that, or the one at Thorncrown.

Cindy
Reply October 14, 2009

Yes, yes...see, I was just thinking back. You're right I did pass that wedding order. Seth, your memory is as keen as the day I heard you respond to Professor Guzman's query with: manslaughter: heat of passion.

Cindy
Reply October 14, 2009

BTW, I really liked this. Really, it's beautiful writing.

    Amber
    Reply October 14, 2009

    Ahhh. Now this, people, is just like old times.

Your Husband
Reply October 14, 2009

Cindy,

My favorite days in class were those where we discussed "heat of passion provocation." The inner baptist in me squeemed a bit as we talked about justified slayings and whatnot. That was an odd chapter in our lives. You, me, Craig, Jonnie, and the like, all struggling to ignore autumn (and spring for that matter); all struggling to "think alternatively."

Some days I miss T.S. Eliot and 3 button cardigan sweaters. Some days I miss silver-white hair against a good cuban tan. I never, ever, miss a discussion about Katko and spring guns, though. There are things the law just can't make sexy.

Ambers regulars, I am sorry that Cindy and I have pulled a minor hijack. Talk to me, though. I'll respond to you too!

Thanks again, Amber, for letting me write here.

Your Husband
Reply October 14, 2009

And please excuse my lack of possessive punctuation.

To Think Is To Create
Reply October 14, 2009

And here I was just about to say, man - where is all the possessive punctuation?

I love good story telling, and was throughly engaged with all of this (including the memories that spilled into the comments...). We are moving to the South (I've decided to always capitalize it, just because) and I can't be more intrigued or passionately curious about what that will mean for us, we Midwestern travelers. Every time I am at our new home, it feels as though I've finally returned to my real home. Not a new place to me, despite a completely new culture, but my home here in this lifetime that was waiting for me to discover I was meant to be there, while I wait for my eternal home.

Your storytelling also brings out my rambling side...apparently. :)

Your Husband
Reply October 14, 2009

Dear Thinker,

Welcome home. Cindy (above) has a good post about Florida today If'n you're hanker'n for a bit more southern-scapes. I'm glad you've graced us, down here, though sometimes I think of Fayetteville as nearly Mid-Western. There aren't enough Magnolias and it pretty hard to come by Sweettea, though I found a good batch in Springdale at the little pink diner. Anyway, I'm not too sure and would ask for John Blase's (dirtyshame.blogspit.com) thoughts on the subject if he ever comes
poking around these comments.

nic
Reply October 14, 2009

Well, da-yam. I do believe you made me cry. All this home and looking to find where the stream empties... it's too much for me right now. Nice work, man.

That last sentence of yours: gold.

You two. I miss you two.

John
Reply October 14, 2009

You're a fair scribe, Mr. Seth. Fair indeed. The Aspens were brilliant here for a week and then came a killing frost; they've all dropped their skirts of gold and we're bracing for winter. As for Magnolias and sweet tea, yes they are hallmarks of the South, as are inner-baptists...

You kids be sweet now. Sumus quod sumus.

Your Husband
Reply October 15, 2009

Nic,

I thought of you when I wrote this, too. In the 4 years and 10 minutes you lived in our state, we adopted you and still claim you. Wandering to Portland, and Austin/Ft. Worth/Houston/Texville doesn't change that. Sometimes I think that the grand illusion is that the stream empties somewhere this side of eternity. I am starting to think it might not.

John,

I've only had a few run ins with the aspens, but never when they were dolled up and looked like head of a bright yellow crayon. I've seen the pictures. In fact, my father just returned from northern New Mexico where he fished for brown trout is some river named after some Spaniard. The Aspens were glorious. It's part of what makes me think that God might have a soft spot in his heart for those of you scratching out cornbread in the Mile High State.

Nil Sine Numine.

Cindy
Reply October 15, 2009

Seth, you're clearly a better man than me to miss silver-white hair on a cuban tan. You're also a man. Me, not so much. (The tan wasn't so "good" actually...)

Beth Whitlow
Reply October 15, 2009

By the way, Seth, I waxed poetic about Amber, but you did a wonderful job on this post. Sorry for not giving proper credit. : )

To Think Is To Create
Reply October 20, 2009

Seth, I'm laughing at Fayetteville being "nearly Mid-western", because a Realtor in Charleston asked my dad if he had ever lived in the South -- dad replied yes, he had. The Realtor asked whereabouts, and my dad told her "Little Rock".

The Realtor incredulously replied "ARKANSAS???" and then made it clear she didn't consider it the South.

Funny, my AR relatives all sound pretty southern to me. ;-)

-Thinker (I like it)

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