I had the privilege of visiting Northwest Arkansas this past weekend. I stayed in a cabin with a view overlooking the Arkansas Grand Canyon, floated the Buffalo River, attended a wedding where I didn’t know the bride OR the groom, and I got to visit with my new in-laws. Along the way, I met some really interesting people, including the before mentioned bride and groom, and I saw some incredible sights. I also snagged a recipe for the best potato salad on Earth!
I’m telling you about this because it has all stayed with me. I think sometimes we are so busy with our lives that we just keep moving from thing to thing and life becomes a bit of a blur. We stay in our comfortable worlds where things are predictable and familiar and we forget the benefits of experiencing new things and meeting new people. Sometimes it’s good to take a few steps out of our own lives and see what other people are doing in theirs.
So, I stepped out of my comfort zone last weekend. I stayed in a cabin near Jasper, Arkansas that had a back porch with a tree growing up through the roof. The porch had wooden rocking chairs and that was where we had our morning coffee as we watched the sunrise over the canyon before we left to float the Buffalo.
The Buffalo National River was our country’s first national river and was designated such in 1972. It’s roughly 150 miles long and is one of the only remaining undammed rivers in the lower 48 states. It’s also one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. It’s such a special place that many articles and even a book have been written about it.
We floated for seven miles down the Buffalo. There were six boats, one raft, nine people and one dog in our float group. The water was clear and cold. The scenery was incredible. There were soaring bluffs out of sandstone and limestone, natural waterfalls, dogwood and wild cherry trees in bloom, and turtles on rocks beside the banks. The sun was shining on us and a feeling of peace and serenity like I haven’t felt in a very long time, descended over me. One of my new brothers-in-law gave me a rock to mark my first time on the river…apparently a tradition in his floating group…and I will treasure it always.
The next day was the wedding. The bride and the groom are avid floaters so of course they got married at a river (Richland Creek) and next to a beautiful waterfall (Falling Water Falls). After the ceremony, they, along with the bride’s son, jumped over the waterfall and into the cold water. Talk about taking the plunge! The man who performed the wedding ceremony used the analogy that marriage is like a river. Some parts will be calm and still, while other times there will be rough waters.
But what made the wedding even more special was something the bride and groom and the bride’s son did. They used their wedding day to do something for other people. The bride is a hospice nurse and the theme of the wedding was “Let’s Get Buzzed”. For monetary donations to the American Cancer Society, they said they would shave their heads before the wedding…yes, all three of them! For donations of $500, $2500 and $5000 respectively, the groom, the bride’s son and the bride all agreed to get buzzed before the wedding. Others connected to the wedding joined in and agreed to get buzzed as well to encourage more donations. And people rose to the challenge!
Photos of the bride taken by Caelli Hull of Rogers, Arkansas
I asked the bride why they decided to do this and this is what she said:
“I have had family members with breast cancer as well as skin cancer. Seeing how all those I’ve taken care of in hospice as well as how friends and family have been affected, has made a huge impact on me. It’s a terrible disease and I wish to give my all to help in some way….I always feel as though it’s never enough…but if everyone would give, it would have a huge impact.
We raised $5,530! Hard to explain the impact my patients have had on me and on their loved ones as well. Wish everyone could experience it yet at times my heart hurts for them and it’s hard. My patients give me so much love and it’s so wonderful to give back. Each person makes a difference. ….maybe we can make it contagious and others will follow.”
This past weekend will stay with me for a very long time.