Dec. 26, 2021

AN UPSIDE DOWN HEART--PERFECT FOR A COMPLICATED LIFE.

Every day is an adventure for me and my wonderful friend---Cubby Bear—who I often call “Big Dog.”  Cubby and I have been together for more than eleven years and---we know each other well.

Christmas Day, 2021, proved to be an excellent morning for our daily walk/hike.  We have seven or eight different trails we can choose for our daily adventure but, something inside kept-urging me to choose our “favorite” trail--the one we hadn’t traveled in almost a month.

The trails we enjoy are almost-all located close to Desoto Lake …about six miles from our house…so we most-always drive to the Lake’s Spillway area-- park the car-- and start from there.

When I pulled into the spot nearest our favorite hiking trail, I wasn’t surprised to see we were the only car—anywhere around. For just a second or two, the “little girl” in me felt emotional--a little sad.  Thankfully, the feeling soon passed, as I began the daily checklist of insuring I had my cell phone, Cubby’s dog leash, the car windows were up---making it time to close the car doors and---lock it all.   Security is an absolutely-must for me---now, more than ever!

The sun was shining, the temperature was in the sixties, and Cubby and I were ready to “greet” the day.  Cubby always leads the way, walking several feet ahead BUT--he looks over his shoulder every few minutes to check on me. 

Since waking up early that morning--I’d been thinking about China. Perhaps I was remembering a few Christmases I’d spent in Beijing; and maybe I was thinking about my Chinese Artist friend and his family who "stay in touch" and want me to visit them; or just-maybe my thoughts were in China because I’ve been seriously-considering my permanent return to China.    I will never forget how well I was treated by the Chinese People. They treated me with love and kindness--like I was part of their "family." 

When Cubby and I reached the top of the trail’s hill, I stopped to examine a small rock--heart-shaped--lying directly on the path in front of me. As usual, Cubby stopped to wait for me. Then--- I noted his posture change as his eyes moved away from me and--- he assumed his on-alert/on-guard position. Turning to follow his gaze—I saw three people-- two males and a female-- climbing the hill----in our direction.

In the four years Cubby and I have traveled this remote trail--our favorite---these were the first people we had ever encountered. 

I moved-quickly to attach Cubby’s leash and to then walk the two of us a couple of yards away from the path.  As the threesome reached the top of the hill, I greeted them by announcing that Cubby was friendly and---they had nothing to fear.  After all, Cubby weighs 120 pounds and may appear threatening to strangers---especially those who are frightened by large dogs!

I soon learned the couple and their son were first-time visitors to Hot Springs Village and were “checking out” the Lakes, Golf Courses, and the Hiking Trails. I listened attentively as they explained about driving to Arkansas—from Chicago—to spend Christmas—in an area they'd never been.  But---sensing a strong connection-- I needed to ask them a very-personal question.  “Have you lived in Chicago…all your life?”

The woman was the first to answer:  “We are from China and---shortly after we married---we applied to live in America and---that was twenty years ago.”  Their son, carrying a nice-sized camera, was apparently a serious young student...very-interested in Engineering.

I shared a few “tidbits” about my history with China and the couple seemed genuinely- surprised.  Just imagine being Chinese and meeting someone-- while hiking a wilderness trail in Arkansas—who had traveled The Great Wall and also-worked/lived in China. 

Cubby and I encouraged them to continue their hike while we searched for a few more rocks. When they were well-out of sight---I urged Cubby to return to the car with me.  I felt completely-overwhelmed.

I’ve never heard of any Chinese living or visiting in Hot Springs Village.  In fact, I have not cross-paths with even one Chinese since 2008---when I left Alexandria, Virginia and the Washington DC area--- and moved back to Arkansas.

Timing is everything.  Just one minute made all the difference in whether or not our “paths” crossed with others---on that memorable Christmas Morning.  Was this God’s way of answering the big question I continue to ask him---day after day?!?!?

IS IT TIME to return to China where--- after my death ---my ashes will be scattered on top of my beloved--- Great Wall?

Stay Close,

Sally