A Little Journey to Little Rock
If you don’t look, you won’t find it.
Even if you don’t know what it is you are looking for.
I woke up in Little Rock, Arkansas, on Wednesday of last week, scheduled to do a live television show at nine o’clock that morning. I did not need to be at the studio until 8:30am, but since my brain still thought it was in the Eastern Time Zone, of course, it woke me up at four. I did some writing, answered a few emails, checked the website, but then had a decision to make. I could either sit in my hotel room and watch “Good Morning, America,” or I could drive to the downtown studio and take a walk around the River Market area I had spotted the night before.
With the sun just beginning to appear across the Arkansas River, I followed a gravel path leading into the riverfront park and found myself at the entrance to the largest wooden pergola I could ever remember. Nearly a hundred feet long, the pergola had been built using massive 12″x12″ posts supporting 3″x12″ joists secured with heavy iron brackets. But you had to peer closely just to see them, for the entire pergola was covered with woven wisteria vines that had transformed the wooden framework into a lush, green tunnel.
The wisteria blossoms had long since bloomed and dropped, but I could easily imagine how the pergola must have looked at its peak — like a gigantic Tiffany window decorated with butterflies, dragonflies and hummingbirds.
The pergola created a literal oasis between the downtown glass and steel high-rise office buildings and an old iron lift bridge spanning the Arkansas River. Built in 1884, the Junction Bridge had been locked in its upright position since 2008, when it had been transformed from a railroad bridge into a pedestrian bridge and viewing point.
As I soon discovered, the Little Rock River Market area is rich in history, from the days of fur traders and Indians who crossed the shallows there to the steamboat era when paddle wheelers arrived on a daily basis until they were replaced by the railroad and it eventually by the automobile.
As I looked around, I realized that Little Rock’s riverfront park is a literal Arts & Crafts park. In addition to the wisteria-draped pergola and a post-and-beam pavilion, the designers had crafted a natural amphitheatre by positioning limestone blocks cut from the adjoining bluff in a Stonehenge-like semi-circle. Nestled into a grassy slope, they now provide natural seating for people facing the small stage built on the levee for storytellers, puppeteers, musical groups and speakers.
I was there no more than an hour, sharing the park with a few joggers, but it was enough to remind me that every town, every city we visit has something special waiting for us to find it.
We just have to look a little.
But it’s always worth it to find a gem that makes our day.
Until next Monday,
Have a great week!
Next Week: A Walk With William Faulkner