NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.
In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.
Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.
by Larry Brody
The weather was beautiful today. Clear and warm but not too humid – yet. Two of our dogs, Emmy the No Longer A Pit Puppy and Decker, her enormous, mastiff-like son, were out in the woods, so I decided to join them. My wife Gwen the Beautiful and the rest of the dogs were sacked out in the main house, practicing, I do believe, for summer.
Emmy’s the most at-home-in-her-skin creature I know, the perfect dog on every level. Whatever she does, she does well and loves doing it. Today she was scaring up squirrels for Decker to chase. He’s not fast, but he’s got an edge the squirrels never expect: He’s a climber. Watching Decker miraculously flow up from the ground into the five foot high crotch of a tree is a magical sight. Seeing him pick a strong limb and venture out on it as far as he can go is inspirational. Soon I was climbing along after him…and then beyond him, going way too high to be safe.
In the summer, the trees are filled with needs they are quick to make known. All you’ve got to do is listen and you’ll learn your place in the ecosystem. Since we first came to these woods my job has been to strengthen the forest by taking down the dead trees and snapping dead and broken limbs off the others.
I don’t cut anything. If it has to be cut, it’s not ready. Instead, I do a lot of poking. If I prod a branch and it snaps off, then it’s supposed to snap off. If I push a tree and it falls over, then it’s supposed to fall over. If a major limb crashes down on my head and kills me, then I’m supposed to die. (So far so good. I’m still standing, and I’ve got a lifetime’s supply of firewood without ever having to rev up the chainsaw.)
The wind is a pretty good conversationalist itself, mostly creating mysteries for me to solve. Where’s that noise coming from? That scent? Are those hawks or vultures gliding overhead? The earth speaks too, sighing quietly whenever I separate dead roots from their hold on the soil. Often this is accompanied by a small cloud of dust as rotted wood at the base of a trunk dissolves into the air in reverse of the way pixie dust settles on the kids in the Disney version of Peter Pan.
The wind changed, and clouds started to gather. I followed the dogs back home, going through the corral that serves as a kind of airlock between the trees to the south and the clearing around our house. Huck, our proud-cut Appaloosa, who’s been with us since he was a colt, ignored me. He was too busy munching on the grass. Elaine, his mare, came to see me instead.
Elaine’s approach was a big moment. She’s a wild mustang we saved from the block, and has never taken kindly to any humans except Dan the Farrier, who has the gift of horse charming even though he doesn’t care much for most people. Dan suffers through conversation with humans if he must, but gets his true enjoyment out of talking quietly and sincerely to all the horses he meets.
Today, though, Elaine walked right up to me and nosed my hand the way a dog paws to be petted. I scratched her neck and gently rubbed her lips. Used my fingernail to clean out the insides of her ears. Ran my fingers through her dark mane. And she responded by pressing against my hand for more.
I value the gift of Elaine’s friendship because I don’t know how long it will last. And because I know what it means. Horses are the most sensitive creatures on this planet. Approach one when you’re tense and you’ll find yourself with a handful of trouble. But if you’re relaxed enough you and the horse can become one, bonding in a way that brings with it more warmth and comfort than the best blanket money can buy.
So I was at peace with myself and in harmony with a true wild thing today. Whatever else happens before I wake up tomorrow morning (or for that matter, even if I don’t) I can still feel pride because the weather wasn’t the only thing that was beautiful today. So was my life.