Arkansas. Friendly friendly people!!!
I come from Kentucky so I can say that both our states have a undeserved reputation for marrying cousins and low IQ’s. And, while we did see quite a dazzling array of trailer park “neighborhoods” with an amazing lot of CRAP in the yards, what really stood out in Arkansas was the friendliness of the people, the natural beauty of some as-yet unspoiled land, and a very real human interest in health and happiness that could easily be translated into a kind of environmental awareness…
A few days before we arrived, a tornado ripped through a tiny town called Appleton, leaving one man dead and quite a few trailer homes demolished. We stopped and talked to one of the neighbors, who said that he didn’t understand why there are now so many tornadoes in January, and that no one was prepared. It was pretty easy to see the path that the tornado took from the downed trees…we are of course wondering if this might be directly connected to global climate change…
We have found, in every state so far, pockets of healthy activism thriving within a sometimes slower general populace. In Arkansas, we supped with St. James Episcopal Church in Eureka Springs and entertained lively conversations about sustainability amidst terrific chow, the boys ate with the kids at the Arkansas Sustainability Network in Little Rock, and we made friends with some wonderful waiters at a Japanese restaurant (like burgeoning rock star, Johnny Rocket) as well as the fantastically forward-thinking couple, Orlo and Mary Stitt.
We entered Arkansas planning to cover farming/hunting but our last-minute connection couldn’t afford our lack of time. We had also hoped to talk to the people at Wal-Mart Corporation’s HQ in Fayetteville, as Mark had met some at the Al Gore Climate Training Program last spring, and they had seemed more than enthusiastic to share Wal-Mart’s “greenness” with the public. But, even with a few weeks lead time, and several different contacts, no Wal-Mart representative ever agreed to talk with us. 🙁
Everyone in Arkansas told us we would be crazy to miss Eureka Springs so off we went. On the way to Eureka was a stunning little church set back in the woods on a hill called ThornCrown Chapel (designed by architect E. Fay Jones). Not normally open this time of year, the chapel was being visited by a young couple looking for a place to have their wedding, so we were fortunate to be allowed in to have a quick look around. It was pretty beautiful.
We spent enough time in Eureka to enjoy a nice dinner at St James and to listen to wonderfully wise Dale Caldwell. We also had several delicious meals at an eclectic and delicious little eatery called Local Flavor Cafe. Though we didn’t note anything particularly environmental about Eureka itself, the people, like most of the people we encountered in Arkansas, were sweet as pie. And they care. Which is the best place to start. Next stop: better education.