The muscular black BMW M5 was pulled off onto the grass on the side of the road. I could see the setting sun reflecting off its symmetric obsidian curves. I spotted it as I was traveling up Rainbow Road on my way home. A few meters away from the six digit Teutonic piece of industrial art I saw a women. She was dressed in business attire and was walking toward the barb wire fence by the side of the road.
I was concerned. Was there a problem? An accident? A flat tire? I slowed my car.
As I passed I got a closer look at what was going on. I saw her kneel down by the fence. I saw her smiling broadly as she put her hands through the fence to pet the miniature pony on the other side.
For me this captures so much of the spirit of Northwest Arkansas. People move here from all over the globe. They bring with them their aspirations, their worries, and their hopes. They also bring with them their obsession with stuff…and many start to engage in their gradual divorce from it.
Once you are here, you tend to become aware that stuff is really not that important. In fact, you start to realize that stuff really gets in the way of enjoying your life. You start to realize that it is a distraction and the real way to enjoy life is experiencing it. And there really is so much to experience here.
This evening my wife, our kids, and some close friends and some other complete strangers sat around at Peddlers pub. We do this often. We play Scrabble and Jenga with our kids and we drink beer and eat unhealthy cheese fries and pizza. We know many of the folks at Bike Rack Brewing Company and many of the servers at Peddler’s Pub. They are, by and large, good people and you feel comfortable in the hodgepodge social nest that you make here. Tonight we got to enjoy an amazing duo as pedestrians stopped and watched and the sun set as marshmellow clouds loitered in the sky. Truly beautiful.
When we were infants what we principally wanted was the attention of our parents and others. We wanted to belong and have social engagement. We are, of course, social animals. Early on we become polluted with the promise of what “things” can provide. It is a drug that we get addicted to. The next car, the next house, the next this, the next that. It doesn’t stop. It’s a drug.
In NWA, you get a chance to get grounded again if you so choose. You rediscover what you knew as an infant. It is not about “stuff”, it is about experiences. It is about the people around you. The lake, the trees, the river, the long bike ride or the walk in the woods. It is about being with people you love. It is about learning and exploring the unknown. This is the stuff that makes life worth living.
That young women stepping out of her BMW to pet that pony captures that essence perfectly. This is the transformation that many choose when they get here. She perhaps took her first step on that journey.
It’s nice to have nice things, but their reward is temporary and fleeting. You may or may not remember that fancy car in your twilight years. You will always remember the time you pulled your car off to the side of a rural road in Arkansas, knelt down, and spent some time with a pony. I expect she will be driving a used Subaru soon.
So remember to take some time to pull off on your own road and check out your own ponies. You will likely find it is time well spent.