A few weeks ago as I hiked trails around Eureka Springs, I saw Jesus peering over the mountaintop. Literally. The Christ statue welcoming everyone to the Passion Play—the Passion Play that is no more…
This sighting reminded me of the coldest night of my life. Which reminded me of the coldest morning of my life. Five-ish years apart, thirty-six years ago—just like yesterday.
In the mid-1980s, a beautiful warm fall day turned positively polar sitting in a hollow in the Ozark Mountains watching the Passion Play. Numbing gusts of wind blew off the hills and through the crowd. Everyone else brought blankets and sleeping bags to huddle underneath. We had nothing other than street clothes. Why we didn’t leave, I have no idea. It wasn’t the canned lip syncing that held our attention. And we knew how the story ended… Too cold to reason?
I was praying for a down-filled ski coat. Somehow we survived—an Ozark miracle.
Rewind to the winter of 1979.
An overnight snowfall silenced Mississippi County. Before daybreak, as a pink glow began to spread along the horizon, my boyfriend and I hiked across a frozen field toward the duck blind.
I was prepared for cold weather, outfitted head to toe in thermal underwear, layers of clothing and thick coveralls from the Osceola farm implement company. The morning was exciting and exhilarating. I carried a thermos of double hot chocolate. He carried my gun. Romance ablaze in our own quiet snow globe.
Like quicksand, my boot was sucked from my foot, the muddy suction noise alerting all ducks in Northeast Arkansas as to our camouflaged whereabouts.
Not one to complain, I remained unruffled even facing hypothermia.
I prayed to be delivered from such icy hell.
All that hard work, yet I would never graduate from high school…
Instead of succumbing to total doom, my boyfriend, a Bear Grylls-type, quickly removed my wet sock, rubbed my numb foot against his chest and held it inside his flannel shirt and coveralls until the blood flow returned.
True love. At seventeen anyway.
After a few hours, we made our way home—he with his duck limit and I still had all ten little piggies. A successful hunting trip.
Snowbird, Anne Murray
All Heaven and Earth
Flowered white obliterate…
(Hashin, Japanese Haiku)