Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Balancing Expedition

Most people have seen photographs of the dramatic arch formations that give Utah's Arches National Park ( www.nps.gov/arch )its name. But equally dramatic are the towering spires, pinnacles and balanced rocks, perched atop seemingly inadequate bases. I took this photo of one of the more recognizable formations---simply called "Balanced Rock", on my last visit to the national park. There is a wheel-chair accessible, 0.3 mile, loop trail around the base of Balanced Rock. This allows people in varying degrees of fitness, and physical condition, to participate in the "expedition" to explore this example of "balanced living" in nature.

This photograph shows one of the large arches, that attracts visitors because it is relatively close to the main, paved road that winds through the park. It is easier to appreciate the size and weight of this mass of rock, when one is standing directly under it, like the person shown in the photo. It is a very delicate balance of conditions that keep this arch from falling down, and smashing whatever is beneath it. Some of the conditions that determine the stability of an arch occur over centuries. Other conditions may occur suddenly. For example, in 1991, a slab of rock about 60 feet long, 11 feet wide, and four feet thick, fell from the underside of Landscape Arch. The result was that Landscape Arch now has an even thinner ribbon of rock suspended in the sky.

Every time I have visited Arches National Park, I have been with a group of people who all had the same goal---getting to experience the beauty of this area of the Southwest (our motor coach is shown in this photo). The group became like family---looking out for one another, pointing out particularly scenic vistas or wildlife, directing fellow travelers away from potential hazards, and other things that made the expedition more enjoyable.

I was reminded of this photograph of Balanced Rock at Arches National Park because the title of the 2011 Fall Session of FBC's First Place 4 Health class, is called "Balanced Living". We live in a time when it is increasingly difficult to achieve this elusive state, called "balanced living". There is so much talk in the news about achieving a "balanced budget" for the U.S. economy, and a "balanced budget" in our personal finances, that sometimes the process of "balanced living" to achieve a healthier lifestyle, gets put on the back burner, where we deny there is a problem, and "pretend" that all is well. But that is a false balance. There is a verse in the book of wisdom (Proverbs 11:1) that says "A false balance is abomination to the Lord: but a just weight is his delight." However, just like the weight of the massive arch towering over the person in the photo, the weight of the world often seems to tower over us, as we seek to achieve balance in our life. One of the great things about the First Place 4 Health classes, is the group setting. Just like being part of a group on the Arches National Park expedition made the experience more enjoyable and more successful, being a part of a First Place 4 Health group can make the expedition toward a healthier lifestyle more enjoyable and successful. And just like the expedition to Balance Rock provided for various levels of fitness and conditioning, so the First Place 4 Health classes provide for various levels of fitness and conditioning. If you would like to learn more about this upcoming "Balanced Living Expedition", plan on attending the Orientation/Registration meeting at First Baptist Church, 400 Club Boulevard, on Wednesday, August 31, at 5:45 pm. You can also learn more about the program in general, by clicking on their website, http://www.firstplace4health.com/. For details about the Mountain Home classes, you can email me at triciaturnerfirstplace@yahoo.com . I hope you will join me on this "Balanced Living Expedition"!! Miles of smiles!! Tricia

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Historic Railroad Expedition

Whether you live in the Ozarks, or happen to be a tourist here, there is a wonderful attraction in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, that is well worth a visit. It is the ES &NA Railway---The initials stand for Eureka Springs and North Arkansas Railway. There are lots of historic railways around the U.S., but only a limited number have been able to keep operating year after year, to give their customers a glimpse of a bygone era in travel. I took this photo of my grand kids, Kaitlyn and Jacob, pictured with the Conductor of our train, on a visit we made to the ES & NA location earlier this week. The train engine that the kids are standing on, is one of many locomotives and rail cars that are on display on the grounds of the train depot. The management told us we could explore any of the old equipment that we wanted to, so Kaitlyn and Jacob had climbed up to perform a rendition of a "Do the Locomotion" dance, when the conductor walked by, and agreed to pose for a photograph with the kids. We later found out that this conductor, was a walking, talking encyclopedia of all things relating to trains. He kept us entertained on our trip with a plethora of train facts and history, that I found to be very interesting!

Photography is such fun around antique train equipment, and the grand kids did not complain a bit about all the pictures I wanted to take of them with the historic "photo props". At one point, we all three had climbed up to the roof of an abandoned rail car, and I imagined filming one of those chase scenes from a movie, where the performers were running along the top of a moving train. (Note to the parents: I was only imagining this---your kids did not REALLY chase each other on top of the rail cars!) Speaking of "filming", nine-year-old Jacob did a great job filming video (on his new camera) of the train engine, as it maneuvered into place to hook up with the passenger car that would carry us on our trip.

One advantage of being atop a parked rail car however, is the added height it gives you for viewing a scene. The top photo of this collage shows a good view of another locomotive, with the train depot in the background. This depot has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places ever since 1979, long before the grand kids were born! It was built in 1912 and an Arkansas Heritage publication lists it, as the one of the state's most elaborate applications of the Italianate style of architecture. The inside of the rail car that we rode in (lower photo) maintains the atmosphere of an antique rail car by having the windows up, and the old-fashioned ceiling fans adding to the breeze, that passengers feel, as they roll down the track. And in keeping with the design feature of rail cars in those days, your seat back would shift the direction it faced, which came in handy, when the engine of the train switched from the north end of the rail car to the south end.

When we arrived to the midway point of our excursion, the train conductor had a great diversion to occupy our time while the engine was unhooked from the north end of the rail car, and moved to the south end of the rail car. The conductor directed us to get out of the train, and gather along side the track. He then proceeded to give instructions on how we could take one of our coins, spit heavily onto the bottom side of it, lay it on the shiny part of the track (not the rusted part of the track, because rust meant that the train wheel did not touch that part of the track), step back several feet from the track, watch the train engine go over it, and then pick it up (after waiting a few moments to let it cool down.) The top right photo shows Kaitlyn and Jacob carefully placing their coins for this "experiment". The lower photo shows what a quarter looks like before, and after, a locomotive has rolled over it. It was a good example of why you sometimes hear folks who are feeling badly, say "I feel like I have been run over by a freight train." It is an expression that the Apostle Paul might have used (if trains had been invented two thousand years ago) when he said "Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked." (2 Corinthians 11:25 - 28) He was telling this story to show how he had come to totally rely on the strength of God to get him through the tough times, not just his own power. Hopefully, we won't have to get "run over by a freight train" to come to the realization that God's grace is enough; God's strength comes into its own, in our weakness. The only thing that needs to be smashed flat, like that quarter in the photo, is my own ego! If you would like to perform this "freight train and smashed coin" experiment for yourself, just log on to www.esnarailway.com, to plan your visit. Besides the sight-seeing only excursions, the ES & NA Railway also offers a dining car experience, as well as an on-site food concession, gift shop, historic depot interior, and clean restrooms. So grab your striped overalls, bandannas, and engineer's cap, for miles of "choo-choo" smiles, on a historic railroad ride! Tricia

Author's Addendum:  For Christmas in 2018, my grandson Jacob (shown in these photos taken in 2011) gave me the gift of a story he had written called "Times With Grandma Tricia".  The words he had printed out for his composition,  moved me to tears, and made me SO THANKFUL to have shared such special experiences with these dear loved ones!  It was very insightful because he wrote about some of the inward thoughts and feelings he was having during our expeditions of several years in the past.  I would encourage readers to keep a journal and photos of "Times of Your Life", because as we age, our memories may get a little "fuzzy around the edges", and it helps to have a few written reminders.  That is a nice thing about this Google blog site---the web version has a search box at the very bottom, and I can just enter a key word like "grandma" or "grandchild", or a specific location,  and all the applicable blog posts will come up, along with the date they were posted.  That gives me "MILES OF SMILES"!!

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Wilson's Creek Battle to be Re-enacted

In case you missed the Civil War Encampment Re-enactment shown in these 4 photographs (held in conjunction with the July 2, 2011, Parrish-Raley Reunion at Diamond City, Arkansas), you will have another opportunity to visit one in the Ozarks! That is because there is a HUGE re-enactment of the Battle of Wilson's Creek, just outside Springfield, Missouri, that is scheduled for August 12 - 14, 2011.

Whereas the Diamond City Re-enactment had two military personnel, and one civilian re-enactor, the upcoming event near Wilson's Creek National Battlefield, will have hundreds more participating. In fact, when the re-enactment of Wilson's Creek battle was staged in 1991, there were 2,000 re-enactors participating, and 30,000 spectators. It is estimated that there will be even more participants this year, since it is the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War.

In this photo, the re-enactor is demonstrating to observers, the type of firearms that were used during the Civil War period. The Wilson's Creek event will have both a Confederate camp of soldiers, and a Union camp of soldiers. At designated times, there will be replays of the battle scenes, including the firing of cannons. Hopefully, modern-day students of history can be reminded of the terrible consequences of brother fighting against brother, and the United States of America will never again experience the type of human carnage that occurred during that sad part of our history. When spectators view the hundreds of lifeless-looking bodies strewn out on the field after the mock battle is concluded, they will better understand the words of Jesus in Matthew 12:25 (NLT) that says "Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart."

These re-enactors (left to right: Gene Waters, Retired Judge Roger Logan, and Kevin Middleton) wore the attire that might be seen on soldiers and civilians of the 1861 - 1865 time period. Likewise, the Wilson's Creek Re-enactment weekend includes a fashion show of period costumes, plus they will stage a wedding, as it might have occurred and looked during the Civil War. In addition, there will be history exhibits and vendors selling authentic Civil War goods. Of course, there will also be some modern concessions, that will include souvenirs, food, and beverage vendors. Although a fee is charged to be a spectator at the Wilson's Creek Re-enactment, all the proceeds go to benefit the Wilson's Creek National Battlefield Foundation, and will also cover your admission into the museum operated by the National Park Service. To find out more, log onto www.WilsonsCreek150.com and plan to take advantage of this opportunity. Bring the kids, too! In the words of the ancient philosopher, Cicero----"To not know what happened before you were born, is to remain forever a child." So get out there and have miles of blue and gray smiles! Tricia

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Laumeier Sculpture Park Expedition

Although I have driven by the sign on Interstate 44 near St. Louis dozens of times, it wasn't until my most recent trip to that lovely city, that I took the exit that leads to Laumeier Sculpture Park. I am really glad that I did, because it is a lovely place of 105 acres to explore and discover new vistas. The complex showcases the outdoor collection of over 72 sculptures, available to the public year round. Many of the sculptures are in wide-open spaces, like the one shown in this photo. Such locations provide a wonderful way for families or individuals to get outside and enjoy the outdoors. In fact , the stated mission of the Laumeier Sculpture Park, is to initiate a lifelong process of cultural awareness, enrich lives, and encourage creative thinking by actively engaging people in experiences of sculpture and nature, simultaneously. Plus, it had two things I especially liked: It is free of charge AND, you can take photos of the outdoor sculptures, as long as your photos are not for commercial purposes. I am sensitive to the photography issue, because one time I was scolded by a security guard in an outdoor sculpture garden in San Francisco, for taking a photograph of a Henry Moore sculpture on display. It seemed ridiculous to me, but I put away my camera for the San Francisco experience, so as not to be a troublemaker.

Besides the wide open spaces that Laumeier contains, it also has many wooded acres; there is a nature trail through the woods, that contains various types of sculptures along the trail. Two of these unusual sculptures are shown in this photo collage. I didn't get to walk the entire trail, as parts had been flooded out from heavy rains the previous night. Since Laumeier partners with the St. Louis County Parks in maintaining its grounds, work had already started to get the trails back in shape for visitors.

The upper left photo of this collage shows the original Laumeier house, made of cut stone. It now serves as the office, gift shop, rest rooms and art gallery that showcases various special exhibits they host. The exhibit that was on display when I was there were paintings showing how humans interact with their domesticated pets. This went along with a promotion currently going on called "Dog Days of Summer". The event includes a monthly "Yappy Hour" that included refreshments (for both dogs and humans), and a NEW, artist-created trail designed to be experienced from the dogs' perspective. And of course, there are dispensers throughout the park of the plastic sacks a dog owner needs to pick up any little "souvenirs" their dogs leave on the lovely grounds. Also, located on the grounds are picnic tables, park benches, and explanations of each piece of sculpture that one is looking at. Likewise, maps are available in the museum shop.

When I saw this sculpture of a giant eye peeking above the hillside, my mind immediately started humming the old gospel song that says "His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me." (That verse is based on Matthew 6:26 "Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" ) I think it is very comforting to know that no matter what is going on in your life, you can be sure that the "Eye of God" is looking at you, and wanting the best for you. To plan your visit to the Laumeier Sculpture Park, log on to www.laumeier.org and for more FANTASTIC (and many free) things to do in that same area, visit www.explorestlouis.com . Miles of smiles!! Tricia

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