Sunday, March 18, 2012

Day Trip for the Soul

I'm going to stray off the beaten path for a day, and reflect on some of the amazing sights I saw in one day during my vacation.

We stayed in the state of Missouri*, visiting a popular tourist destination, doing only a couple of touristy things. Our last day was designated "Nature Day"--by me-- so that we could just enjoy the weather and the sights. We drove wherever our Subaru wanted to take us. So first, we headed west out of Branson to stop at one of our favorite places, Roaring River State Park in Eagle Rock.

Trout fishing season had recently begun, and the river shores were lined with fly fishermen, from young children to the experienced anglers, with camo and tall black rubber boots. We glanced in the rainbow trout pools at the hatchery, then hiked Deer Leap trail, which ends in an overlook over the entire hatchery. A family was flying kites off the overlook, and the ice-cold pool beneath was the most beautiful blue-green. Spring was peeking through at every turn, from the purple redbuds to the yellow forsythias, to the white flowering dogwoods, the violets and daffodils.

Back on the ground, we ate a picnic lunch, watched butterflies, and then sat on the rocks by the river. I have a heart-shaped rock collection at home, so I looked for some to add to that. The kids skipped rocks, and I dipped my toes into the frigid clear water. The sky was blue with puffy clouds, the sun warm, and the breeze refreshing. I could have stayed there all day.

The tree that begged to be climbed.
From there, we traversed north. The road was hilly, and winding, through dense trees, then opening to gorgeous green valleys. Cream-colored and fuzzy brown cows grazed contentedly, some sitting in little ponds. It was breathtaking. Then we passed through some tiny towns that just made my jaw drop.

Nestled in the woods, I saw trailer after trailer, surrounded by uncountable junked cars and piles of trash and tires. Bright-colored kids' plastic playthings next to laundry lines, next to untamed brush. It was obviously the place for people who want to live, undisturbed by society. For many, there is probably no other choice, given the rampant poverty. It brought to mind a movie my husband and I watched last year, Winter's Bone. This was actually a book first, written by Daniel Woodrell, and I have to admit I have not yet read it. The movie is about a teenage girl (played by Jennifer Lawrence, who stars in The Hunger Games) who goes in search of her drug-dealing absent father, in order to save her family's farm. It was actually filmed in Taney County, Missouri, where popular Branson is actually located. The homes used are real; some of the actors were actual people just living in these parts. The film is very hard to watch at times because 1) they are extremely poor 2) Ree has to take care of her brother and sister because her mother is so checked out mentally 3) she has to fight against her entire crazy, meth-using extended family to find out anything about her father  and 4) there is violence used against this 17-year-old girl that is not pretty to witness. The thing is, you get the sense that this is all reality. Of course, the story itself is fiction, but I got the eerie sense I was looking in on a world where the action was currently taking place. It is that real. And not hard to believe, since Missouri has the highest seizure of meth labs in the country.

The spring starts in the rock at the top of this cliff.

I felt like if I had stepped out of my car and walked up to any of those secluded homes with the "no trespassing" signs and animals roaming around, I would have seen some of the characters from this story.

More to come in my next post! Our journey was not yet over.

*For those not familiar with Missouri, we are right in the middle of the U.S. The part of Missouri we visited was down in the southwest, close to the border of the state of Arkansas.

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