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
Gwen the Beautiful celebrated her fiftieth birthday last summer. She did it in the traditional way.
By not celebrating at all.
Oh, we had a nice dinner out, but that’s not much of a celebration for half a century of life. Which was fine with Gwen.
In the months since, however, it’s been bugging her that she didn’t look her age squarely in the eye, and a few weeks ago she formulated a plan.
“I’m calling the Almighty Women of the Universe together,” she said. “We’re going to get together and do more than just accept our years. We’re going to take pride in who we are.”
The Almighty Women of the Universe is the name of a group of five women who’ve been pals since their twenties. There’s Gwen, and Margie, her best friend, a driven career woman in L.A. And Abby, a happily married schoolteacher from Oklahoma City; Geri, an artist who lives about an hour down our road; and Katya, the earth mother of the group, from Austin, Texas way.
Katya’s the oldest of this particular posse, at fifty-five. Gwen’s fifty years make her the baby. But she’s always been the one the others turn to for support.
The women jumped at this chance to get together, and last weekend they gathered here for three days during which everything ceased to exist for them but each other.
The weather was unseasonably warm, and they camped out in the Cloud Creek clearing, with a couple of side jaunts over to a nearby commercial cavern and another place where a friend of Geri’s has an elephant farm.
This was the women’s show. They invited me to hang around, but I knew I didn’t belong. I stayed as far from them as I could except for one cook-out dinner of stir fry. As a result, I don’t know all that went down, but I can say safely that they strolled through the woods and went down to the creek. And ate a lot of chocolate.
They kept a big bonfire going the whole time, and danced and sang. Geri played the autoharp. Katya and Abby drummed on some of the drums I’ve picked up over the years from places like Taos Pueblo, Mexico, South Africa, and the South Side of Chicago as well.
The last morning they were together, Gwen and Margie made breakfast in the house and brought it back outside. This time, when they invited me to join them it seemed right. The women were in such good spirits that even Belle, our oversensitive, snakebit dog, was calm and friendly with them.
And Emmy and Decker kept trying to get on their laps.
As I sat with these sisters-daughters-mothers I felt warm and proud. I felt their wisdom and tenderness and love. They were comfortable with themselves, and their newfound peace enveloped me, so that I was filled with the sense of being safe and at home. That morning, as I gulped down my eggs and sausages I knew I was sitting with the most beautiful women in the world.
After the other Almighty Women drove off, Gwen and I spent the rest of the day in each other’s arms. In the days since, a new sense of openness and acceptance has pervaded our ranch.
Belle still is being calm, if not downright affable, with strangers. And even the Annex—I swear!—has gotten into the act. The inexplicable aroma of strawberry shortcake I’ve mentioned before has vanished from the premises, and it smells more strongly of stir fry each day.
Yesterday at the Paradise Supermarket I noticed a pretty young woman smiling the smile and walking the walk of the flirt. She did her best to make sure everyone looked. I smiled back at her, but couldn’t bring myself to take part in the rest of the game.
Sure, she’s got a fine figure and a seductive air, but all I could think was, “What? Do you really believe I’d be interested in you? You’re like a little girl, and I’ve got a real woman waiting for me at home. A woman who’s beautiful not only outside but inside as well. A woman who’s deep and knowing and wise.”
And then I thought something else. And came this close to telling her:
“You know, if you play your cards right and learn from all the living you’ll do, you can become something special too…in another twenty-five years.”