As I was walking along one of the steep trails in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, I saw a young man with two big dogs on leashes coming toward me.
“Are they friendly?” I asked as we got closer.
“Oh, they’re friendly,” the unkempt thirtysomething man said. He sported a scraggly beard, and dark curly hair stuck out from his black stocking cap.
I looked pretty shabby myself in jeans with a hoody pulled tight over my hair.
“They’re friendly,” he repeated, “but they are Eureka dogs.”
I got that.
Towns have personalities and anyone who’s been to Eureka Springs knows the free-spirited makeup of the small town, population 2,074.
Actually, I’ve never been there when only 2,074 people were in town. The place crawls with tourists (including me), with every weekend set aside for something special from bikes and barbeque to crafts and parades. In October, the place creeps with costumed folk who believe Halloween is more than a day. In December, you’ll find Christmas window displays come alive. The folks who call this place home believe in LIVING.
The entire Victorian town is on the National Register of Historic Places, and although half of the over-100-year-old homes can’t be B&Bs, it seems like it to me. Ghosts haunt two hotels. Jim and I honeymooned at one of them, the Crescent Hotel, and 15 years ago on a lark, I called there on our anniversary, which fell on a Saturday, and reserved one of the last rooms available for the night. The place still held its enchantment.
There aren’t many straight streets in town. Most curve and twist because they are going uphill or down. Stairs climb from street to street. The town is known as little Switzerland for a reason.
I was in town the end of October for a week’s residency at The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow. From the outside, the two next-door houses look ordinary, but inside is not commonplace. I was provided a bedroom, bath, writing room, and a little balcony. Since the entire town is built in the Ozark Mountains without many level places, my rooms looked out on trees, and I could touch leaves from the balcony. I was staying in a tree house. A chef cooked dinner for the writers in residence, who met in the evenings in the dining area. Other meals were you-find-it, you-fix-it from a well-stocked refrigerator and pantry. Most days I ate leftovers from the night before.
I was there to write, and write I did. The town exudes creativity. Art and culture and music are found on every corner. I walked (or rather climbed) each day whenever I got stuck on a scene. Walking outside always helped me focus.
Once when returning from a walk, I ran into another writer. She was also a walker, and we talked about the terrain.
“If this place were plunked down in flat land,” I asked, “would it have the same charm?”
We decided the untamed Ozark Mountains developed the vision, the uniqueness, the novelty of the place. The terrain shaped the originality and resourcefulness of the people.
Of course, that isn’t a new theory. Sociologists have written tomes on why desert dwellers are who they are, why jungle inhabitants are who they are, and why mountainfolk are who they are.
Although I live on a gently sloping little acre, my spirit is more of a mountain person. Eureka Springs calls to me, but then so does Mesa Verde, Colorado, where I can feel the ancient ones.
I guess we all have special places. What’s yours?
PS. I’m still marketing Here’s Your Trouble.