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— As the current year draws to a close and the new one is poised to make its entry, it seems only natural to spend a bit of time reflecting.

In a nutshell, 2009 has been a very good year with many more ups than downs. Losing my dad has been the toughest part for sure, but even with that I feel so grateful for the memories and the life lessons he left behind.

A couple of weeks ago we concluded our state park visits, thus meeting our year-long goal to see all 52 of them. It was a bittersweet moment for me. I was excited that we managed to stick with it all year. But on the other hand, I felt a twinge of sadness when it was over. It has been an enjoyable time, and Earl and I have made some special memories that we will carry with us from now on.

In addition, my knowledge and appreciation for Arkansas, the place I have called home for all of my now officially 50 years, have grown tremendously.

While recently looking through the many, many photo files saved throughout the year, I was reminded of some smaller details of our travels that I had almost forgotten.

For instance, it was a wet morning in June when we visited Crater of Diamonds State Park, making the plowed diamond hunting field a muddy mess. We had been to the park to dig for diamonds in the past, so we were satisfied on this visit to simply watch and learn about the park in other ways. As we read the displays and “peoplewatched,” I was amazed to see the serious equipment visitors were bringing with them to help with their diamond search. It was not uncommon to see some loaded down with picks, shovels, buckets, dirt sifters - which do not work well with mud - and rubber boots, along with bags over their shoulders that contained who knows what … Maybe their lunches?

No wonder we did not find anything when we took our family to hunt for diamonds many years back. We were ill prepared. We possibly had a sand pail and small plastic shovel but that would have been the extent of our excavation tools. It was fine, though, that we did not pack food with us since we all tired of the fruitless diamond search long before lunch time.

During this year’s visit to Crater of Diamonds State Park, my attention was drawn to one woman who showed up with her hands full, but not with the kind of stuff that helps with diamond hunting. With one hand the she pushed a baby stroller loaded with a small shaggy dog. Using the other hand she managed a larger dog on a leash. In addition to all that, she had a rather large backpack swung over her shoulder. The tires of the strollersoon caked with mud making them difficult to roll. At one point the larger dog slipped out of his collar and wandered off forcing the woman to leave “Fluffy” unattended in the stroller while she chased him down. The scene was reminiscent of an “I Love Lucy” episode.

Another memory brought to mind as I browsed our pictures was our attempt at making a homemade fishing pole. On this particular multiple-day trip we visited different parks with lakes and Earl frequently wished out loud that he had brought a pole. One evening we noticed that someone had lost a fishing line, complete with hook and bobber in a tree limb by the water. With time on our hands we used a long crooked stick to bat down the tangled line, then used the same stick to rig up a makeshift fishing pole.

Using lunch meat from the ice chest, the semi-satisfied fisherman tossed out his line, with the bobber at best getting only a few feet from the bank. The bait never got anything more than a nibble but I was able to catch a couple of fun pictures.

Yes, 2009 was a journey that held many memory-making moments. However, the things we are most grateful for are not the things we did or the places we went, but the blessings that surround us right here at home: the grace of God, our jobs and the roof over our heads, the great community in which we live, and the special people in our lives - all those we get to love and especially the ones that love us back.

Opinion, Pages 5 on 12/30/2009

Print Headline: A Walk in the Park 2009 Reflected in Memories and Photographs

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