Every day is an adventure for me and my wonderful friend---Cubby Bear—who I often call “Big Dog.” Cubby and I have been together for more than eleven
years and---we know each other well.
Christmas Day, 2021, proved to be an excellent morning for our daily walk/hike. We had seven or eight different trails
to choose from for our daily adventure yet-- that day--something inside kept-urging me to take our “favorite” trail—the one we hadn’t traveled in more than six weeks.
The trails we enjoy are almost-all located in the Desoto Lake Area, about ten miles from our house so-- I usually drive to the Lake’s Spillway Dam-- park the car then--- we start from there.
When I pulled into the parking lot closest to our favorite hiking trail, I wasn’t surprised that we were the only car around. For just a second or two--the “little girl” in me felt
emotional and--a little sad. Thankfully, the feeling soon passed, as I began my daily checklist of --- cell phone, Cubby’s dog leash, car keys, sunglasses, concealed weapon, windows closed, so- the car was ready for lockdown. Where-ever I
go, security is an absolutely-must for me.
The sun was shining, the temperature was in the sixties, and Cubby and I were ready to “greet” Christmas
day. Cubby usually walks a few-feet-ahead BUT--every few minutes-- he looks over his shoulder to check on me.
For some reason, since early-morning,
I’d thought of nothing but China. Perhaps I was remembering all the Christmases I’d spent in Beijing. Just-maybe I was thinking about my Artist friend and his family-- who contact me often about returning to China. I love and respect the
Chinese people for endless reasons but, most of all, for how they, consistently-treated me with kindness, caring, and--love...when I traveled their Wall and when I taught English to their children. Perhaps my thoughts were in China because, recently,
I've been thinking about returning to China to spend--- the rest of my life.
When Cubby and I reached the top of the trail’s small hill, I stopped
to examine a heart-shaped rock lying on the path in front of me. As always, Cubby stopped too. Suddenly, I noted a change in his posture. His eyes stopped staring at me and instead-- began focusing his attention directly- over my left shoulder.
Turning to follow his gaze—I realized there were three people, climbing the same trail, and headed in our direction. For more than four years, Cubby and I have traveled this trail—our favorite---and today was the first time
I moved-quickly to attach Cubby’s leash, then walked the two of us to a small area- away from the designated path.
As the threesome reached the top of the small hill, I greeted them and quickly-explained-- how Cubby was friendly and gentle and---certainly no one to fear. Because Cubby is a large dog with long hair, his size-- alone can intimidate strangers,
especially those who are afraid of big dogs.
I soon learned the couple and their son were first-time visitors to Hot Springs Village and were “checking out”
the Lakes, Golf Courses, and the Hiking Trails. I listened attentively as they explained how they had driven to Arkansas—from Chicago to spend Christmas in a place where they knew no one. More than anything, I wanted them to answer a very-personal
question and---it was important how I worded that question: “Have you lived in Chicago--all your lives?”
The woman was the first to answer:
“We are originally from China and---soon after we married---we applied to live in America and--that was twenty years ago.” She introduced their son and added that he was a college student, studying Engineering.
I quickly-shared a few “tidbits” about my strong connection with China and the couple seemed genuinely- surprised. Try to imagine being Chinese and-- while hiking a wilderness trail in the state
of Arkansas—you “bump” into a woman who'd traveled The Great Wall of China and--also-lived and worked in China.
Cubby and I encouraged
our three new friends to continue their hike while we waited behind to hunt for rocks. When they were well-out of sight---I returned to the car with Cubby. I felt completely overwhelmed with our recent encounter. As you know, nothing in my life
is a coincidence. I’ve never heard of any Chinese-- ever living in Hot Springs Village or even visiting The Village. In fact, I haven’t cross-paths with any Chinese since 2008---when I left Virginia and moved back to Arkansas.
Timing is everything. Just one moment in time--- made all
the difference in whether our “paths” would cross or not cross-- that Christmas Morning. Was this God’s way of answering the big question I ask him-- every day-- about whether or not I should return to China?!?!?