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
Christmas was lonely for me this year. Here I was, in Paradise, on the ranch with the dogs and the cats and the horses and the chickens. And there Gwen the Beautiful was, in San Francisco, with Youngest Daughter Amber. Last year Amber came here to be with us. This year she had too much to do at school. And I had so much to do that I couldn’t leave.
So off went Gwen without me, and we both learned a very important lesson. “Merry Christmas” just doesn’t cut it over the phone.
Some men I know can’t wait for their wives to go off on a trip. That’s when these boys come alive. But when I’m alone I shut down. It’s as though I’m on “pause,” waiting for the “on” button to be pushed. I mean, why knock myself out being me when the person I most want to impress with myself isn’t around?
Luckily, the love of my life made it safely back home before New Year’s, and I was able to come back to life for 2006. I picked her up at the airport last Thursday, and by mid-afternoon we were in the door, where we found a holiday gift waiting.
A magical one, of course. Would Paradise give us any other kind?
What happened was that when Gwen and I entered the house we found ourselves greeted by the most perfect of Christmas tree smells. A green, crackly scent, sharp and tangy.
Gwen smiled. Went to the Christmas tree alongside the stairs. Sniffed at it. Smiled again. She touched the tree and shook her head. Turned to me.
“How’d you do it?” she said.
“This is the same tree we put up before I left, isn’t it?” said Gwen. “The artificial one we decided to use because there wasn’t any point in going through the hassle of a real tree when I wasn’t going to be here?”
“Sure,” I said. “That’s the Wal-Mart special. Why?”
Another Gwen smile. “That’s my question. Why the scent? What I don’t like about artificial trees is that no matter how real they look you know they’re fake because you don’t get the smell of pine. Except we’re getting that smell right now, right here. I love it, and I’m thrilled. So c’mon, sweetie, tell me – how’d you do this?”
I thought about it. Realized that the pine aroma hadn’t been there while Gwen was gone. Hadn’t been there when I’d left to pick her up in the morning. Had no reason to be there then. Or now. I sure hadn’t done anything to bring it about. No room freshener. No scented spray.
“Seems to me like the house missed you as much as I did,” I said. “Everything around here missed you. You’re being given a gift. It’s time to give thanks and enjoy.”
Gwen laughed. She turned her head up toward the ceiling, where we always hear the various ghosts I’ve written about before.
“Thanks,” she said, meaning it. “I’m definitely enjoying.”
We waited until New Year’s Eve to exchange Christmas gifts, turning back the clock a full week.
I did all my shopping online this year, and everything arrived wrapped and ready. One of the gifts, however, turned out to be as unexpected as the scent of the tree.
When Gwen opened a small box that was supposed to contain a silver necklace I saw immediately that it was the wrong one. Instead of a pendant, attached to the chain was a small, graceful, sweetly tinkling silver bell.
About five years ago Gwen and I had talked about getting her something very much like this, but we’d never found the right one. Now it was here, unbidden. But not unwanted, nor unloved.
“You got me the bell!” Gwen said.
“Um…well, something did,” was all I could say.
“Bells help the universe keep track of our spirits,” said Gwen. “They announce our souls.” She wrapped her arms around me, and we kissed…to the tinkling of the little bell.
As I write this I can still smell the pine and hear the silver bell. And all I can think is:
Gwen the Beautiful is home. All’s right with the universe. I know because it’s telling me.
Happy New Year, y’all! May this one be the absolute best. (And the next ones be better still.)