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
As a, for lack of a better term, “retiree,” I often find myself thinking about how I got to where I am today, not in a geographical sense but a philosophical one.
What is my place in the universe? Specifically, why, almost twenty years ago, did I yank myself of Los Angeles and the Hollywood Way and bring myself—after many a detour—here to Paradise?
From my current perspective, the answer is crystal clear. The time came when I no longer could deny that I hated my life.
Because it didn’t feel like my life at all but like a part I was playing.
The part of a Hollywood writer.
With a big house in the hills! Fancy cars! Expensive women!
I was caught up in a culture where having a good parking space at the studio meant more than anything else that ever came to mind.
My idiocy hit me right between the eyes. And one evening in 1991 there I was, making my getaway along I-40.
In the passenger seat beside me lay the Navajo Dog, the homeless red and white creature who’d jumped into my car the year before, on the Navajo Reservation. (A whole ‘nuther story. Remind me to tell it some time.)
In the back seat was a pile of suitcases full of Levi’s, T-shirts, jackets, and way too many pairs of cowboy boots. And in the cargo area behind them were boxes of comic books I’d been collecting since the ’60s and my old Ludwig drum set, the one that’d made me a hero when I played in various high school rock bands.
Nothing else seemed worth taking.
And I wasn’t too sure about most of this stuff either.
I was still unable to be entirely honest with myself, so my left brain told my right brain this was a research trip. That I was “tracking the magic,” as in trying to discover whether the fantasy I’d written about for a big part of my life existed in the real world.
“This is the right thing to do,” the Navajo Dog said. “You won’t regret it.”
And I didn’t.
For three years I traveled with outlaw bikers and motorcycle patrolmen. I slept outside with wild horses and inside with wild cowboys. In the company of beloved elders and medicine men and ministers and priests I flew with soaring eagles and swam with bottom-scraping catfish.
I learned to love doublewide trailers and the bemused open-mindedness of those living in them.
To see beauty everywhere I looked even if it meant having to squint or completely close my eyes.
At night I watched stars dance around each other in the sky.
During the day I talked to buffalo.
My evening meals were rabbits the Navajo Dog chased down.
Most folks would’ve said I had nothing, but when I grasped that nothing, with my hands, my heart, my mind, I discovered it was everything. I discovered that all I surveyed was also surveying me…and that we were a part of each other.
I touched the trees and became them. Felt the millions of living things, large and microscopic, that made their home in those other versions of me. One of my branches touched my human body and became it again…and felt the millions of living things, the bacteria, the mitochondria, that made their home in that original version of me.
And as I did all this, as I searched for the truth of the basic nature of being, I discovered and felt something else.
Not that treacly, “I need you,” Man-and-Woman stuff.
Not that that lusty, “I want you,” Man-and-Woman stuff either.
A whole other kind of love. A universal force that holds everything and everyone together spiritually the way gravity holds us together physically. A connection that made me feel valued and cherished and cared about no matter where I went or who I was—or wasn’t—with.
Now, many years after that thrill of belonging first made me smile, in a whole new place and life, I feel it even more strongly. There I was just a few minutes ago, starting my morning coffee, when I heard myself say, “I love you,” to the Mr. Coffee maker.
And heard it reply.
I was completely caught up in the moment, feeling it with every fiber of my being. Aware of the fact that I was getting ready for the day and that it was a wonderful thing to be doing.
Just as I’m aware of it every morning. And of everything else I do as well.
Ah, how wonderful to be able to write this, as I sip from my steaming mug.
How wonderful to be alive!