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?