Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans
The Observer's only child turned 13 years old on Thursday of last week. If you've watched this space over the past 10 years or so, you've been witness to a good bit of that boy's growing up, from the tail end of The Diaper Era to young adulthood.
In a fit of remorse and joy over losing a 'tween and gaining a teen the night before Junior's odometer rolled over, The Observer had a rare visit from our fickle muse and wrote one of the sole extant examples of our poetry for him.
POEM FOR SAM ON THE EVE OF HIS 13th BIRTHDAY
I am no poet
But I will write one for you, because you have suffered me:
Lovesick, terrified fool who became your father.
Where is the boy I knew?
Whose cry I wept and blubbered over
Until a nurse took my elbow and ushered me out?
Who I once held cupped in both my hands
All of you in one place for the only time in your life?
Time and bonestretch has replaced you,
Made you taller than me at that age,
Taller, nearly, than my own father ever was
Mist on your cheekbones telling me
The clock is always sweeping toward daylight.
When you remember me someday
Separated by distance and eventually the veil,
Don't recall me in my failures
A thought worse than the grave,
That longer death of having the best of me forgotten.
Instead, remember me as I remember my own father:
In dusk, in firelight, at the darkest ebb of the eclipse
Walking in steep and treacherous places
Surefooted enough that I can remember
Every time I ever saw him stumble
And save himself from gravity.
In an effort to jumpstart our lagging holiday spirit, The Observer decided to take in an area tradition. Last year, our first in the Natural State, we missed the fanciful display in Sherwood Forest. To compensate, we decided that this year we'd do it right, up close and personal. We took a friend and our bikes.
It wasn't quite what we'd expected. Even though The Observer knew it was a driving tour, we didn't anticipate crawling bumper-to-bumper traffic, spilling onto either side of a paved jogging path. In our imagination, we owned the forest. We careened through a glittering tree tunnel, shouting our breathless regard to the Merry Men, and only very occasionally veering aside to let a solitary car pass.
We had to make the best of things. We walked our bikes and, every few dozen feet, tossed them aside to dash through a field of tiny angels or trip over near-invisible suspension wires, leaving larger-than-life elves and beanstalks wavering our wake.
Upon successful completion (marked by Shiva-Santa, a towering, leering apparition that waves phallus-shaped limbs), it was nearly 9 p.m. — time for lights-out. Not wanting to get caught in the dark with Shiva-Santa and the Merry Men, we circled back and started pedaling. We didn't make it far before realizing that the blathering law enforcement officer was indeed blathering at us. You can't go that way, he shouted. So which way should we go? we shouted. The only way is the highway, he shouted. We can't bike the highway. We have no lights and bad tubes, we shouted. Off our bikes and walking again, this time towards the cop, to negotiate our passage. How did we even get in? he thundered. We shrugged. No one had tried to stop us. He absolutely cannot let us go back through the display. What if a car hit us at 0.25 miles an hour? What if we go on the highway and a car hits us at 55 miles an hour, we countered.
That's when he turned his back. Friend and Observer beamed at each other, mounted our bikes and tore through Sherwood Forest, thieves-out-of-Nottingham style. The cars were gone, the lights twinkled and blurred, and we flew down the hill. It was exactly how we had imagined it.