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.