About Me

My photo
I am a mother, a teacher, and a nature lover. I grew up on a mountain we called Owls' Knob in the Ozarks of Arkansas. The first seven years of my life were spent living in a log cabin, far from a store or streetlight, without electricity or running water and after twenty years of travel, I returned to the abondoned homestead. Now I live on a hill by a small lake and work at a public garden. These are stories about nature written from a women deeply influenced by place.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

In All that Changes, Little Stays the Same

My sister and I went to Owls' Knob last weekend. It was a cold but sunny day. We had to keep our bodies moving as to not get chilled. We walked around the mountain reminiscing and telling stories.

First we walked around the pond. "How small it all looks now," she remarked. "These rocks use to be so big and that tree was huge." We both chuckle at how perspective changes everything.
"We use to spend all summer swimming in this pond," my sister remembers.
"Yeah and now it is all green and gross in the summer. That lily you see there, it takes over and covers the whole thing. You can't swim in it anymore."
"That sucks."
"So much has changed!"

Near the pond sat an old dodge  truck that had once been used to haul firewood but now didn't run. Hidden in the doorframe we found a nest of sleeping ladybugs. "They are lady birds in England," my sister informed me.
Inside the glove compartment we discovered a rat's nest. In summertime I don't dare to explore the broken down truck because it is swarming with wasps. I look in the wheel well, under the camper shell, and in the bumper to find that wasps are nesting in every nook and cranny of the truck. Nature was moving in and taking over. Every empty place or small shelter is a home.

Next we walked to the edge of the mountain, to a place we called The Point. Owls' knob is bordered on three sides by sheer cliffs that dive into tributary creeks of the Buffalo river. We stop on a rocky ledge that jolts out over the cliff face. Soft mosses and lichens cover the rock completely. I remind my sister of how our mother made a rule, "No shoes on The Point," she would say. She said our shoes would damage and kill the moss and lichen so only bare feet were allowed to walk out on this rock. The rocks, the mountains, the view, and the comforter of moss lies still and preserved, just as we remember it. I suppose some things don't change, at least not quickly enough for us to perceive it.

At the edge of the mountain we can see all the way to the buffalo river. Below us we can make out the rippling water in the creek, but we can not reach it.
"How did we use to get down there," my sister asks, remembering summer days playing the in creek as children.
"There are only three ways," I explain. "Each way is difficult and a long hike. We don't have enough daylight to make it down there today."

Noticing the low lying sun we hike onward. We hike to the other side of the mountain and investigate my father's crumbling kingdom. My father owns the 15 acres that my parents had first settled on. My parents had build a magnificently odd house, using found materials, florescent light covers, and a natural hole in the earth. It was part cave, part green house. After it burnt to the ground when I was two, they moved to the other side of the hill and built the log cabin that still stands today. My sister never lived in the old house and only remembers the barn beside it.
The barn was also a studio, animals lived below and my mother practiced Tai Chi or my father did art in the room above. It was built on living trees and completed with lofty dreams, nothing like a typical barn really.  When my parents divorced, they got rid of the goats and my father moved into the studio above.
We walk among abandoned cars to get to the barn, each one containing a time capsule of childhood memories--tape cassettes, sunglasses, kids meal toys--all preserved in the dusty tomb. Outside the cars, everything is returning to the earth. Moss covers what is moist, leaves blanket what is left on the ground, and rain rots or rusts everything else. As we sifted through the rubble of the barn, we both remember visiting our father there. We recalled  the rickety staircase, now nearly turned to dirt, and the stoop we stood on to poop in a bucket, now nothing but a few rotten boards. A rain barrel was our washtub, a wood stove kept us warm, and kerosene lamps gave us light. Yes, it was a unique childhood.

We wandered onward, counting all the abandoned vehicles on the property. For an environmentalist, my father has certainly left a large environmental impact on the mountain. He is very good at keeping his trash out of the landfill, but instead he has filled his own land with trash.
Among the Styrofoam, rotting 2X4s, and forgotten relics, we find treasures like an old still, an ice box, a three wheeler, and beautiful classic cars.

My sister and I walked through the winter woods together until dusk. "Our childhood is like something from a story book," she mused.
It is stranger than fiction," I agree.
Perhaps we will one day write it all down. Until then we will just strive to keep these memories alive while the world around our childhood home morphs and changes.


  1. Nature quickly reclaims wooden objects but leaves behind those made of metal or glass. We have plenty of old stoves, refrigerators and bits and pieces of automobiles to prove it. I really wish previous owners had left their relics more accessible instead of shoving them off in the creek.