Isn’t it rich? Streisand’s voice posed that question on the radio, and that’s all I could think early yesterday morning, winding our way up Hwy 270 from Hot Springs to Fort Smith so we could then hang a left for Colorado, for home. I find that stretch of road always beautiful, but yesterday it was hands down. Isn’t it rich? Yes, Barbara, yes. Rain the day before left the landscape rinsed clean. The world Eden-green. That part of the state is quite patriotic, and American flag after American flag dotted my view. The red, white, blue, and green created a quartet of color that coupled with the Castilleja (Indian paintbrush) standing at attention along the road’s shoulder lit up the whole show. Another name for that flower is prairie-fire. Annie Dillard wrote “the whole world sparks and flames.” Yes, Annie, yes.
That stretch of highway also caters to the tourist, those seeking something anti-interstate. Rock shops are as plentiful as paintbrush, long outdoor tables sagging with stones for sale. One in particular caught my eye – ROCK SHOP AND TUXEDO RENTALS. For the life of me I don’t recall ever seeing that combo before, but there it was plain as day. I love living in a world where you can browse for calcite and cummerbunds in the same spot. Those who live and work along that highway are demonstrably religious, evidenced by the crosses, always seen in threes with the middle cross slightly taller for that was the one upon which Jesus died. I confess such displays can get a bit campy for me, but yesterday’s extravagances left no room for my inner cynic. It felt like driving through a circus, the kind you visited as a child breathless and wide-eyed at the sheer wonder of it all. The sights, the smells, the absolute grandeur. Don’t bother sending in the clowns. They’re already here.
My mind wandered to the great divides that exist in our country right now, and honestly have for years. Some would find that stretch of Arkansas highway representative of all that’s wrong. Some would insist it is all that’s right. Others would feign indifference at the whole, their apathy possibly the thing that finally unravels our Republic. Who knows? But yesterday, smack-dab under the roof of creation’s big tent, it felt small to judge anyone, or anything for that matter. My only response was gratitude, what I pray these days is more and more my usual flair. There is only one Judge, and rumor has it his name is M-E-R-C-Y, and Mercy is his name-o. Yes, mercy, yes.