I have spent a lot of time in the Boston mountains in NW Arkansas which are the oldest mountain range in the United States and the only ones to run east/west instead of north/south. They are the biggest secret beautiful place in the Midwest. The Buffalo River National Park lies in the heart of these mountain ranges and is the jewel in the setting. I first started going down there over two decades ago for the whitewater but soon expanded to mountain biking and hiking, the latter which remains me favorite thing to do still to this day. I have hiked hundreds of miles of trails but one will always remain my favorite and that it the one to Big Bluff.
I always start out at the trailhead just one hundred yards down the road from my parent's cabin. The trail follows a network of old homesteading roads as they wind around farms that left years ago. The fields have grown up in pine trees which is how they can be distinguished from the surrounding native hardwood forests. Eventually the trail comes to a saddle of a mountain where you can go one of two ways, down to a place called Jim's Bluff or down the Goat Trail. The Goat Trail contours around the side of Big Bluff and eventually crosses the face of it about 300 vertical feet above the Buffalo River below. There is probably another 200 vertical feet of the bluff up above the ledge to the top of Big Bluff. The ledge is actually a hollow carved into the side of the bluff many eons of years ago by the river and is six to ten feet across in most places though it does narrow down to two or three feet in a couple spots. About halfway across, there is a deeper hollow with nice rock shelves to sit on and a commanding view of the river both up and downstream. It is hear that is the destination of my hike and where I love to come and forget about life for awhile.
One moonlit evening, I was sitting at this place watching the stars when clouds moved in obscuring most of the light. Soon it started snowing in big wet flakes that captured just enough light to be seen within ten feet of where I was sitting. I would look up and single out one big flake as it appeared out of the darkness, falling, falling until it once again disappeared into the darkness below me falling on down to the river. All sounds were masked with this blanket of snow and absolute silence enveloped me. Very rarely does one sit in absolute silence where you can't hear a single sound but when you do, the silence can be overpowering. I sat on the rock ledge shivering in cold but too caught up in the beauty of the moment to move.
I began to compare my life to that of the snowflake. Had I just appeared out of the darkness only to disappear again in the years to come? If you sum up all my years are they only ten feet in the great bluff of life? Answers weren't coming but I really didn't care because for those ten short feet, the life of the snowflake was beautiful. I hope my life can be just as beautiful to those observing it.