The square

_MG_2352.JPGThe Columbine High School shooting happened when I was 8 years old. I heard somehow that 12 students and one teacher were killed and remember immediately going to my bunk bed and crying for a while. The event was such a horrifying shock for the country that years later we watched a documentary about it in history class during my freshman year of high school. It’s not the same now. The country has experienced several mass shootings in schools and other places during the past few years with more victims than Columbine, sometimes several times more.

One of those shootings killed 17 people at a Parkland, Florida, high school last month. Several of the school’s surviving students have since become a political force, pushing Florida to tighten some laws for purchasing guns and calling for marches around the country and beyond. Hundreds of thousands of people took part in them yesterday, including several hundred in a couple parts of northwest Arkansas.

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_MG_2332.JPGMy coworker Ashton Eley reports in today’s paper that more than 400 people gathered for the demonstration in Bentonville’s square, where I took these photos. (And if you want to see more photos, our photographers have a gallery of great stuff.)

Teachers, students, parents, grandparents and others together demanded such policies as providing more complete mental health services in schools, supporting research into gun violence, banning assault-style rifle sales and confiscating guns from domestic abusers (which has some conservative support and happens in several states). Volunteers helped people register to vote, and teenagers coming of voting age swore they would soon wield their votes for the gun-control cause.

Police and sheriff’s deputies meanwhile paced around the square and watched from the surrounding buildings. A few counter-protesters came out, too, including black-clad members of a white nationalist group started by an Arkansas neo-Nazi. Other counter-protesters, including a group in blue called the Freedom Crew, vehemently distanced themselves from such racism and said they were there simply in support of the Second Amendment. Folks on this side of the debate generally see tightening gun laws as burdening a constitutional right or a dangerous limit to personal liberties.

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_MG_2505.JPGThe debate’s an old one, but it does seem different after the Parkland shooting. I’ve seen veterans and doctors speak out about the unique devastation assault-style rifles can inflict on a human body, which I don’t remember before. Others rightly point out complications: School shootings are still rare, and most firearm deaths in this country happen because people turn their firearms on themselves. Many of the youngest among us say they won’t just go to their rooms to cry, that their voices will be part of the debate. We’ll see what happens next.

Dan

Dance on the breeze

_MG_2077.JPGEach year the sky over a rural corner of southwest Washington County fills with fabric birds and dragons and octopuses, anywhere from a few inches in size to a few dozen feet. Hundreds of them have been taking to the air over the unincorporated Canehill community for 17 years. Thank goodness I happened to be reading about Canehill’s history for work a couple weeks ago, because I might have never heard about its kite festival otherwise.

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_MG_2114.JPGApparently there’s a whole world of kite festivals I never knew about. The folks with the unusual black kite above (called a canard, or “duck” in French) told me Eureka Springs has its own in a few weeks that typically draws a crowd of serious kite enthusiasts. T.A. Sampson owns Springfield Ranch in Canehill and said she started her own festival just for fun, because she’s had a good life. She was quick to credit a dozen volunteers for making it all happen.

Saturday was breezy and beautiful, almost perfect for flying. Kites rose and fell en masse as the wind waxed and waned, occasionally diving to the ground with an alarming flutter of nylon. Such a dense gathering of kites meant some snagged each other’s strings as if fighting over patches of air. Trailing streamers gave many of them the look of sea creatures swimming against the current. I loved it.

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_MG_2188.JPGFor anyone wanting to head out next year, it costs a buck or two per person, a few more for a kite if you need it.

Thanks for looking!

Dan

Tanyard Creek

_MG_2069.JPGOn Sunday we emerged from the deluge: six straight days of showers and storms that dropped as many inches of rain, more than double the typical February. It caused flood warnings and left the ground a squishy muck. It also meant, of course, some good waterfalls. I took the chance to introduce myself to Tanyard Creek, a strong waterway known for its falls that flows through Bella Vista just off Interstate 49 near the Missouri border. A nature trail runs up and down the Tanyard valley. The woods are dense and Bella Vista is diffuse and quiet enough that I could almost forget I was right in the middle of town.

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_MG_1891.JPGAs with the rain, we seem to be emerging from winter itself as well. Spider silk drooped over the trail, weighed down by dew. The forest seemed more alive, with crimson flashes of cardinals, a heron, a quick glimpse of a bald eagle flying overhead. Excitable daffodils already poked out of the fallen leaves. I’ve been hearing frogs again around my apartment.

Still, the nights below freezing show winter’s not quite done. The cold night before my hike filled parts of the Tanyard valley with thick fog that shrouded the falls at one end of the trail, which are this park’s centerpiece. I might’ve waited for the fog to burn off, but I sort of liked the mystery of it. I’ll come back when everything’s green.

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_MG_2014.JPGThanks for looking.