by Patrick Mages
“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
~ Henry David Thoreau
Imagine the vision it took to look at a dry valley west of Little Rock, surrounded by tree lined ridges, and see a lake. All it took was building a berm on the east end of the valley and allowing a stream and rain run-off to eventually create a small lake.
For those of us fortunate to live in this marvelous slice of nature, we see more than a lake. When you walk the roads around the lake, the shoreline, the berm or visit the beach you see a rare neighborhood populated by people who also had a vision when they chose to make a home here.
The Valley, as it’s known by most, is exceedingly quiet and peaceful, yet very close to a thriving metro area. You could describe it as your Walden Pond, yet observe it is only about eight minutes to Barnes & Noble. The pleasure of Thoreau’s retreat, yet within reach of the literature of the world. And almost every modern convenience.
French soldiers, dispatched from New Orleans to map the Arkansas River in the early 17th Century arrived at what is now Little Rock. They were unimpressed with rock formations on the south side of the river and dismissed them as “petite roche.” The name remains thanks to Napoleon’s troops. Spring Valley Manor is indeed within the city limits of the largest city in Arkansas. We have that spend-thrift President, the incredibly talented Thomas Jefferson, to thank for buying the land from New Orleans to Canada for mere cents on the acre. It wouldn’t be Arkansas or the United States of America if Jefferson had not had the vision to buy the land from the French.
“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.”
~ Frank Lloyd Wright
Spring Valley is a nature cornucopia. Bird life is incomparable. Hummingbirds love The Valley as do flocks of Canadian geese and a great heron or two. Some residents have a love-hate relationship with the geese. Animal life is bountiful. Actually, sometimes too bountiful. Some residents report being over-run with raccoons. The little bandits love the fish in water gardens and some tender blossoms. Deer populate the woods and wild turkeys fly over the winding road that brings you into The Valley. Frogs, turtles, possums and a coyote or two also live with us. As do black squirrels, gray squirrels, luna moths, tree frogs and purple and green lizards (anoles). The forests that surround the lake and home sites are composed of majestic pines and every kind of hard wood. The Valley has a canopy of oxygen giving trees that become new green in the spring and warm colors in the fall. For inspiration one must merely look outside. It’s a bit like living in an arboretum.
“Trees are the earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heavens.”
It’s quiet here. As close as we are to 200,000 people, Spring Valley is quiet. One can walk the narrow roads, the trails or stand on the lakeshore and only hear the sound you make. Save for the occasional chainsaw, lawn mower or power tool, it’s quiet. Power boats on the lake must be small and are confined to the weekend. There are lots of canoes, kayaks and a few mini-pontoon boats with noiseless electric trolling motors. But it is not a busy lake. It’s quiet. Often serene.
“My wish is to stay always like this, living quietly in a corner of nature.”
~ Claude Monet
The social life in Spring Valley is what you make it, but there’s no pressure. Events? Yes! Kids are front and center on Halloween. There is a party at the beach. Volunteers gather at the beach in December to fill thousands of white paper sacks with new sand and small candles. They become luminaria and line the lake and the roads around the lake for one touching and beautiful pre-Christmas night. We have our own licensed fireworks expert, Randy Spence. On the 4th of July, America’s birthday, residents are treated to more than 30 minutes of extraordinary bursts of sound and color in the sky over the lake. It’s a display of “rockets’ red glare” that bests most big American cities. And it all happens from a neighbor’s backyard.
There are actually three lakes in The Valley. Lake One to the west is a big shallow pond which, in high rain, pours water into Lake Number Two, the largest of the three. Below the berm of Lake Two, on the eastern end, is Lake Three. There is a great little neighborhood tucked away behind the berm. There is a spillway which allows water from Lake Two to run off into Lake Three. And yes, there are fish, and frogs and turtles and a snake or two.
It’s a picture. A beautiful picture. A wonderful slice of nature and humanity, which is when why people discover Spring Valley, they put down roots and stay. The longer you live in The Valley the more you realize there are wonderful neighbors here who look out for one another and wave as they pass by.
No doubt, everyone who lives here has a dream and is content to live that dream in this quiet corner of the state’s capitol city. We are free to imagine life as we wish it.
Said one resident, “The lake is my Walden Pond. Quiet and peaceful. Also, vibrant and vital. A very special place.”
“This world is but a canvas to our imagination.”
~ Henry David Thoreau
Patrick and his wife, Jane, have lived in Spring Valley Manor since 2007, and both are avid photographers. Patrick is a consultant, author and speaker. For almost 20 years, Patrick climbed mountains around the world, and ultimately wrote about his Kilimanjaro expedition where he, “takes the reader up the mountain with me.” You can climb Kili, the tallest mountain on the African Continent………all 19,000 plus feet, and never leave the comfort of your armchair. “