THE USUAL 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
When Gwen the Beautiful and I first moved to Paradise, ‘way back at the beginning of the century, we had ourselves what our neighbors called “a right fine string of winters.”
Snow. Ice. Wind.
At night the temperature dropped below freezing. During the day it got up to the low forties, but usually with plenty of sun.
The pond froze over.
Snow covered the ground for three or four weeks, give or take.
Enough snow so that I could sit on a piece of metal roofing, push off, and go sledding down the driveway without fear.
Winter wonderland weather is what we had.
Last winter, however, we had only two good snows, and the temperature didn’t get much below 50 till February, and then it went way far down.
This winter the temperature has had its downs as well as its ups, but as someone who spent far too many years in “climes” so warm they might as well have been climateless, I’m still waiting for some snow to arrive.
Still, it was cold enough today for me to feel just energized enough to go for a winter walk in the Cloud Creek Ranch woods.
Emmy the Bold and Decker the Giant Hearted already were outside, so they came along with me as I started down the back hill. As usual, Emmy strutted, while Decker galoomphed.
We picked our way down the trail, and as we left the clearing I was enveloped by the sensation of being in the most primal—and primary—of spaces. As though this forest was the only place there was…even though I could clearly see the outlying world beyond the gray trunks and branches.
I wore boots but still felt as though I were tramping barefoot through the spongy layer of brown leaves that covered the earth so thickly that I couldn’t feel the Ozarks rocks.
“Fairy mulch,” Decker said.
Decker swiped at the ground with his front paws. “The leaves are mulch for the fairies to grow what they need.”
“They aren’t really fairies,” Emmy explained, like the mother she is. “They’re the spirits that are all around. You can feel them, can’t you?”
Of course I could. The woodland animals and—mercifully—the insects were quiet, all holed up, but the forest felt completely alive. I sensed beings all around me.
Felt them dancing in the sharp, fresh air.
Heard their rustling voices.
“Welcome back,” they said.
And, “Where have you been?”
“It was too hot last summer for me to enjoy the woods,” I explained. “Too humid. Too many snakes. And then, when it turned fall, I just forgot. I was caught up in the habit of sitting in the house instead of exploring out here.”
“You missed so much,” the spirits that made up the woods said to me. “You missed the buds and the flowers and the young armadillos. The vines pushing themselves upward toward the sun. You missed the packrats collecting their acorns and the falling leaves. The trees saying good-night as they closed their thousands of eyes for the season.”
The spirits continued. “Now, though, there still is time to explore. Before the snow you want so much makes the footing too difficult and sends you sliding without your metal roof sled.”
The dogs and I reached the Original Settlers’ Cabins. I hadn’t been down to them since last March, and they’d deteriorated considerably. Roofless, the cookhouse looked like an upside down lean-to. The dogs dug around in the debris, looking for something to chase.
I climbed to the bench I’d placed on the rock ridge above the cabins a couple of years ago. Sat down beneath the wind chimes hanging on a branch overhead. “You’re awfully quiet,” I said to them.
A light wind blew from the southeast, and the chimes played. Unable to scare up any fun at the cookhouse, Emmy came over to me. Immediately, Decker rushed past her and—effortlessly—leapt onto my lap. He took my whole head in his giant mouth. Held it there so he could lick my face.
“Don’t waste too much time,” the wind chimes said. “Walk. Explore.”
Decker released my head. As soon as he dropped to the ground, so did I.
To the spirits of the woods.
My sense of comfort—my habit—my pattern—already had made me miss so much. Nothing was going to make me miss the exploration of this day.