LAST WORD

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - Events - BY MELINDA GAS­S­AWAY

Per­sonal bias aside, I’ve al­ways con­sid­ered Hot Springs one of the loveli­est places in Arkansas.

I sup­pose that no­tion took hold early in my life when par­ents and grand­par­ents took me on scenic drives around the county, point­ing out var­i­ous spots that had pro­vided them respite and re­lax­ation over the years.

When my mother, fa­ther and I moved from Wood­bine Av­enue to our house in the 900 block of Prospect, I bab­bled on like the giddy pre-teen girl I was about the flow­ers, fruit trees and spa­cious front and back yards that of­fered a plethora of out­door ad­ven­tures. Best of all, the property was bor­dered at the back by a gen­er­ous wooded area that suited my in­nate cu­rios­ity quite well.

Liv­ing there through­out my high school days meant be­ing close to city shops and var­i­ous en­ter­tain­ment venues while get­ting a close-up view of na­ture’s boun­ti­ful gifts and sea­sonal beauty.

My mother, who had quite an artis­tic flair, took up paint­ing in her late 60s and not sur­pris­ingly found an un­end­ing ar­ray of sub­jects that re­flected the di­ver­sity of Hot Springs’ flora — pre­serv­ing them on can­vases for rel­a­tives and friends. She had a keen and dis­cern­ing eye for color and for de­tails and these lo­cal “art sa­faris” gave her great plea­sure.

Af­ter col­lege grad­u­a­tion in 1965, I, like so many of my peers, longed to ex­plore what was be­yond the im­me­di­ate hori­zon. With­out hes­i­ta­tion, I jumped for joy at the chance to work in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, imag­in­ing how thrilling it would be to re­side close to the ocean and to sandy beaches.

It was all very ex­cit­ing for a time but soon, the “bloom was off that rose” and the palm trees paled in com­par­i­son to mighty oaks and pines. On most ev­ery trip home, I man­aged to take soli­tary, slow drives over West Moun­tain, stop­ping to take in the vista of my home city and to marvel anew at how spe­cial it was to con­tem­plate life from this splen­did van­tage point.

My habit of tak­ing a brief, al­beit sen­ti­men­tal, jour­ney to the moun­tain­top hasn’t waned. It’s still the per­fect set­ting in which to sort through things, to be in­spired about a project, or just to re­flect on one’s many bless­ings.

More and more, the phrase, “qual­ity of life,” comes up in con­ver­sa­tions I have about the many as­pects of the Hot Springs com­mu­nity. I have to be­lieve that people re­tire or re­lo­cate here for nu­mer­ous rea­sons, not the least of which is its unique nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment that of­fers a range of recre­ational op­por­tu­ni­ties or just the means of be­ing close to Hot Springs Na­tional Park, to the Oua­chita Na­tional For­est, to Garvan Wood­land Gar­dens, to area lakes, to new and old neigh­bor­hoods that still trea­sure green spa­ces and fill them ac­cord­ing to the win­ter, spring, sum­mer and fall cal­en­dars.

Per­haps no one is more aware of the valu­able re­sources we have right out­side our front doors than re­sort city artist Linda Palmer, who worked with the Arkansas Forestry Com­mis­sion in recre­at­ing vivid por­traits of the state’s cham­pion trees now seen in an AETN doc­u­men­tary funded by sev­eral char­i­ta­ble foun­da­tions. Palmer’s draw­ings are in­deli­ble re­minders of our stew­ard­ship of the fu­ture.

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