Last Word

At this juncture in my life’s journey, I have come to regard summer as not just one of the four seasons, but a state of mind.

Yes, we can readily see and feel when spring gives way to a steadily warmer clime and the colors around us gradually morph into sea, sand, bronze and golden hues.

But, even more so, we also sense when the days and nights become less structured and far more open to impromptu invitations to enjoy informal get-togethers with friends and neighbors.

There is, I think, an unofficial yet generally well understood leisure guidebook that gives us permission to better balance work and play, to do something different or do nothing at all in our extra share of free moments, to welcome the gentle breezes that help carry the daily doldrums away.

Summertime has its own rhythm, its own cadence and a somewhat slower pulse. Its nature is not quite so frenetic, however, this calendar span between specific is nonetheless filled with activities and interests of one’s own choosing.

My recollection is that a diverse offering of things to see and do here the year ‘round has long been in keeping with the unique Hot Springs’ persona. Historically, the resort community has been a recognized and welcoming mecca for artists, a place of inspiration and quietude for writers, a creative venue for musicians and thespians.

Performances and presentations played out against such picturesque backdrops as are indeed hallmarks of our hometown are especially meaningful during the “lazy hazy, crazy days” about which Nat “King” Cole crooned in a classic summer song that resonates yet today.

No matter our generation, background or the number of summer solstices experienced to date, we all still have in our heads some of the melodies and lyrics of those sad, quirky refrains that tell us about beaches and bayous, parties and partings, surfers and shindigs, loves lost and found.

Regardless of our own particular pop culture preferences, it seems as if each and every summer is accompanied by an instrumental or vocal hit that perfectly captured the moods of those enchanted evenings or the dazzling hot days from June to August.

Consider, then, how the eclectic are the melodious sounds that reverberate throughout the Spa City during this 21st year of the Hot Springs Music Festival — a most celebrated annual event that continues through June 18. And save some more plaudits for the Hot Springs Concert Band that kicked off its popular concert series on Monday, June 13, at Whittington Park. And in another salute to summer fun, the entertainment beat goes on as various artists take to Magic Springs’ Timberwood Amphitheater stage.

For the local and enthusiastic aficionados of musical theater, there will be plenty of pizazz, June 18-19, when The Muses offer a “Broadway Cabaret” at their Cultural Arts Center on Orange Street as part of The Four Seasons in Art and Song 2016.

Music is but one aspect of the summer scene in and about this gem of a city in Central Arkansas. There are classes, exhibits and an abundance of the best in bloom at Garvan Woodland Gardens; there are mountains to climb and golf courses to conquer.

Nearby scenic and recreational lakes beckon to residents and visitors alike; campgrounds and sunny pavilions are ideal for family reunions. If you’re up for adventure, the dinosaurs have returned to Mid-America Science Museum.

When summer arrives anew, we look forward to vacations or “staycations” — traveling near or far or merely transporting ourselves mentally via select seasonal novels perfect for poolside reveries.

Across the country, Rachael Asherman, of Hot Springs, is spending a second summer working at Yellowstone National Park. Recipient of an Oaklawn Foundation scholarship, Asherman is a communications major at the University of Central Arkansas.

Before she left for her sojourn in Wyoming, we met downtown for coffee and talked about our passion for writing and chronicling the world around us. She is full of ideas and optimism.

Her sunny outlook will stand her in good stead when winter comes.

Melinda Gassaway

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