NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I lived on Cloud Creek Ranch, our property in the Ozarks about 15 minutes south of Yellville, Arkansas, population roughly 1200.
In many ways, Cloud Creek was paradise. But it was a paradise we had to keep on earning. Here’s another Monday musing about how our adventure, and the lessons we learned.
Live! From Paradise! #2
By Larry Brody
I’ve spent a lot of time in the woods this past week, cutting down saplings and trimming the cedars that surround Cloud Creek Ranch’s Original Settlers’ Cabins. The result is about an acre of wood that used to be vertical but now lies horizontally on the ground, exposing beautiful flat rock steps leading up to a ridge of caves. When I’m done this will be a terrific area to loaf in, and maybe build a tree house. For now, what I’m doing is the perfect way to stop thinking about all the “important” things and relax.
I began this project on a day that felt like Spring. Sunshine, sweet breeze, chirping birds. But for the past couple of days it’s been raining. The rain makes the rock steps slippery, and I did a lot of sliding around today. At first I thought it was going to be a disaster because we’ve got these thorny green vines shooting out of the ground everywhere, and if you’re not careful you can get sliced up pretty well.
I was lucky today. After the first time I fell and got caught in one of those nasties I was able to avoid the others with quick twists and turns. That first time was rough. A young vine, green and supple, snagged my leg, then my arm, and held me tight.
I started swearing and struggling, and the vine held me tight, like a desperate animal. It didn’t hold me because it wanted to but because it needed support. I stopped moving. Knelt where I was, perfectly still. And remembered another time when I’d felt something totally unexpected while in the woods. On that day, about eight years ago, in a clump of trees on what was then our property in California, tenderness had ruled.
Our old place was the kind you don’t expect to see so close to L.A. Acres of woods with fat-bellied old oaks and aromatic pepper trees. On the day in question I was standing under a pepper tree, splitting logs. Suddenly, one of the limbs of the tree waved down to my face, and a lone leaf brushed my lips. I stopped in mid swing. Straightened. Stared. To my dying day I will remember my thought:
She kissed me…
Because that’s what it felt like. A sweet, tender kiss from the gentlest woman who had ever lived. I remember my words as I looked up at the waving leaves. “I love this tree!”
The other day, though, at our new place, I wasn’t being kissed but held, by the living equivalent of razor wire. And I wasn’t exultant but afraid. Of the thorns pushing in deeper. Or, worse, loosening and slashing me to ribbons as they tried to embrace me again.
I thought things over. The tenderness of a tree. The desperation of a vine. Not deliberate choices but expressions of their nature. Softly rustling branches are, by nature, tender. Twining, grasping vines are, by nature, desperate. Tree and vine, revealing themselves. Expressing themselves.
I had welcomed the kiss. What right did I have to reject the embrace?
I looked down at the vine. Forced myself to say, “I love this vine!”
I didn’t, of course. I was outright lying. But when I said the words, the vine relaxed. It quivered and pulled away. The sense of desperation vanished, replaced by gratitude. I cut it the vine short, even with the ground, and I went back to work on the saplings.
Now I’m sitting at my desk. It’s still raining outside. A good old boy neighbor called a little while ago. “Tain’t fit for man nor beast out there,” he said, as though no one had ever said it before. Because he meant it. It was something he had to say. An expression of his nature as a farmer.
I won’t speak for my “beasts,” but I disagreed with him. After years in a drought area I love the rain. I didn’t say a word, though. My neighbor is who he as, as the pepper tree is who she is, and the vine. We don’t have to agree with everyone. We don’t have to love everyone. But a little understanding, and a sweet lie, can go a long way.