The Arkansas Way

 

arkansas021

Several years back I would spend my time off work relaxing in Arkansas. You see, during a three year stint Rudy was living and working there. Not by choice, rather because of necessity. It was the only job he could find when the economy was suffering. A time when choosing where to work wasn’t an option for him.  So, when Arkansas called he left. And, unbeknown to me, I fell in love with a true wonderland. Arkansas is beautiful. The landscape is breathtaking.

Though Rudy did come home for visits, I looked forward to flying out, hanging out, walking around and embracing the true meaning of relaxation. Instead of spending my week or a complete summer cleaning, organizing, painting, repairing, etc., like I always did (and still do) in California, I’d chill.

My daily routine in Arkansas was so simple, so basic, so enjoyable. After giving Rudy a ride to work in the early morning (I wanted the SUV during the day) I’d plop on the couch and begin writing. I’d spend a few hours spilling my thoughts, constantly editing and rereading until I felt a publishable story was complete. And then I’d walk. I’d take long walks through neighborhoods, walking down paved roads, admiring the architecture and the tall trees. Or, I’d walk the length of a complete hilly golf course. Walking along the golf-cart trail. Which never seemed to be an issue as the course was rarely being used by others – possibly due to either very cold or very hot weather. Not ideal for the players, yet perfect for me. And then, back home, after a shower, Brad would awaken, which meant we’d travel around town finding different scenarios to engage in for the remainder of the afternoon. (Did you know the Mildred B. Cooper Memorial Chapel is in the middle of the forest in Bella Vista? Or how about the Crystal Bridges Museum, a wonderful establishment full of modern art in Bentonville?) We’d explore places like this until it was time to pick up Rudy from work.

Which brings me to today. Day 1 of Spring Break, Orange County, CA. And how I’ve decided to spend the week. I’m taking the time to embrace relaxation. The Arkansas Way. I will not use the days to clean, organize, paint, repair, etc. This week my routine will be as carefree as possible. After enjoying a cup of hot coffee I will begin writing. I know I will spend a few hours honing in on what I feel is a piece of work that is worthy of publishing. And then I will walk. Whether it’s a walk in my neighborhood, the heights behind our house, or a stroll along the shoreline down south. My mood will guide me. Then I will attend to enjoyable extrusions, whether heading to the store to purchase ingredients for my baking experiments, cruising through a bookstore (just because I love the environment), or any other place that tickles my fancy. I will end my days with conversations with Rudy and, if I’m hungry, eat the food he prepares. Followed by a comfortable bed and a good read.

Adventures within Adventures are What Memories are Made of.

Nine years ago Rudy took a job offer in Honduras, Central America. He had been working there for several months when the Winter holidays arrived. It was December. The kids and I were beginning our school break so, rather than having Rudy come home to us in California, we decided to venture into his native land and explore the country where he spent his youth.

One place Rudy really wanted us to see was Roatan, one of the Islas de la Bahia, so we jumped aboard a charter boat off the mainland, anticipating an exciting trip that’d take us across the sea.

All I could think was,

Easy. Breezy. Beautiful. Honduras.

Unfortunately,

The. Boat. Trip. Was. Awful.

For me, anyway!

I mean seriously, there I was, hardly ever sick, can handle pretty much anything… vomiting. It was so embarrassing! And I was so obvious, sitting in the front of the boat stumbling to the rear every 10 minutes, to the same bathroom, over and over, during the entire excursion.

Rudy and the kids?  Oh, they were fine! …Okay, well, maybe Roberto had an issue as well. But he did a better job of holding himself together than I did.

Two and a half, three hours later, we stepped onto a wooden dock. I was feeling a bit shaken, but the solid ground helped ease my vertigo.

Our rental car was waiting for us curbside. We were off to our destination (for the next four days). The resort was an almost untouched paradise. Almost, because it was under construction. Once we got past stacks of plant-less planters, still needed painting stucco, and an empty not finished by any means manmade pool this is what we saw:

After we tossed our packed things onto the huge beds, checked out the supersized bathtub, opened and closed every single kitchen cupboard (stocked full of useful items), and turned on, then off, the big screen TV, we ran Outside. Our toes clinched the warm, finely-grained sand as we ran to the water’s edge, where we then frolicked in three versions of blue water. The Caribbean Sea was splashing into a private alcove, a place of complete serenity. Pure bliss!

We spent those several days enjoying the uninhabited land, on the far side of the island. Seriously, it felt as if we were the only ones there. It was so quiet, like it belonged to us.

Easy. Breezy. Beautiful. Roatan.

As days always do, ours came to an end.

On the winding road back towards the wooden dock, to our departing boat, we made a quick stop for some Dramamine. You know, the anti-motion sickness pill. No way, no how was I going to let the extreme rocking of the boat ruin my trip back to the mainland. So, I popped a few pills, as did the kids. Rudy had no need for them.

The drug did the trick. We all felt energetic and content, happy even. The boat was bouncing up and down, sailing along. I took it in stride, observing what I missed on the ride out. I watched Brad as he stood outside the door, stood with some tall guys and just seemed to enjoy the water’s spray as it licked his face. His exhilarated expression told a story of its own. Liz and Roberto were playfully being sarcastic with each other, laughing.

At the same time, people were screaming every time the boat lifted its nose into the air. The kids and I laughed. We thought it was actually pretty fun. It seemed, to us non-Spanish-speaking foreigners, everyone was having fun on the amusement park kind of ride.

Suddenly, it started raining outside, lightly at first, then progressively harder. I began to notice the faces of the people, at least those nearby enough to observe. Their pained looks said they weren’t screaming for the fun-of-it, they were scared. I looked out the door, towards Brad. The ocean was getting out of control. Rudy grabbed him by the shirt sleeve, quickly yanking him inside.

We were no longer laughing, or joking. We were quiet. Rudy began listening to the people, to their panicked concerns. “It’s bad.” he said. They only thing we could do was watch the people’s expressions and wait for Rudy to explain what was happening. I stayed calm, hoping it would help calm Liz, Roberto, and Brad.

All of a sudden someone piped, “Land!” We breathed a sigh of relief but quickly realized… it was definitely land but not the mainland. The boat, for safety reasons, had returned to the island, to Roatan.

We, again, stepped onto the wooden dock.

The  weather worsened. It was windy. It was rainy. It was stormy. It was loud. We had to stay in a bug-filled room for the night. Needless to say, none of us slept. Rudy found a local guy to drive us to the airport way before the sun rose, where we had to sit and wait out the storm before boarding a 12-15 seater plane. A plane that was old, small and loud. Water dripped from the ceiling. I found myself smirking at the entire situation. Part of me thought the whole adventure had been kind of cool, in a extreme way, while the reasonable part of me wondered if that was the day of our demise. It sure felt like it could have been. But, that was a thought I kept to myself.

Late into the afternoon, our wobbly old plane safely landed. We had made it back to La Cieba, the small town where our boat should have docked. And where the kids and I hugged and kissed Rudy goodbye before returning home to sunny California.

A boy.

brad at newport 2012

A boy.
Stood.
Looking out to sea.
Wondering.
If.
He’d ever go back in.
Into the water.

He wants to.
But.
He’s scared.
Because.
When he was younger.
The ocean tried to swallow him up.
When he was just playing.
Splashing in the waves.

That boy.
Was pulled under.
Tossed around.
Until finally.
He was spit back out.
By the teasing sea.

Since then.
The boy will not even allow.
The foaming waves.
To lap his toes.
Not at all.

Not yet.