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
And now it’s time for a few words about my favorite summertime activity.
For most people I know, weed whacking is just another onerous chore, down there at the bottom of the “Oh Lord, Do I Really Have To Do This?” list with splitting logs, stringing barbwire, and climbing up on the roof to position the TV antenna just so.
But for me, it’s a joy.
I’ve had my weed whacker, a super-powered commercial gardening special, for ten years, and as long as I perform the Mystic Priming Ritual and push the Magic Button ten times before yanking the cord, my SPCG Special starts right up and doesn’t stop till my arms give out or the gas tank is empty.
Ol’ SPCG Special and I have cleared dozens of acres of land, here on The Mountain and elsewhere. We’ve cut through thick—the cacti on the flat land bordering the occasional stream Gwen the Beautiful and I call Cloud Creek—and thin—the little vines where lizards sometimes hide. Together, we’ve carved garden paths and forest trails. Reshaped new hardwood growth.
And we’ve done all of it with a story.
Which is the key to the fun. My friends and neighbors listen to the noise their weed whackers make, and their ears clog and their heads pound. “All that racket!” Brannigan the Contractor once said to me. “Man can’t hear himself think!”
But true as that may be for others, the noise helps me think. It shuts out the rest of the world and leaves me in a land of my own, where the only thing I can hear is my inner voice. The voice that imagines, and creates.
When the SPCG Special and I are out there in the woods we’re never just a man and a machine. Most of the time we’re an intergalactic pioneer and his trusty weapon, roaring across a hostile planet and making the deadly environment safe for human habitation.
I accomplish my mission by taking out all sorts of dangerous monsters, especially the tall, leafy kind that proliferate in this quadrant of space, but although my power is vast I’m not invincible. I never know when one of the smaller natives (also known as thorns, nettles, ticks, and the chiggers that infest the wild blackberry plants) will leap up and crunch through my denim armor and bite me dead.
Sometimes I hear more than the inner voice. When I’m lucky it’s replaced by a voice that can only come from the outside.
The voice of the Wind, of the Universe, of what Freud called “the Great Unknown.”
I hear that voice often, even when I’m not zapping aliens into poke salad, or poke salad into shreds, but it takes on an even more magical aspect while I’m weed whacking. Because then it leads me to even stranger places than imaginary planets.
Places that are beyond yet somehow right here.
One of the most surprising and exciting of these adventures occurred as I zapped some growth around a beautiful rock outcropping. Suddenly a strange song popped into my head.
I’d never heard the ditty-like melody before, nor the name that was the single word in the lyrics. The word that inexplicably danced in my brain:
Over and over, the Universe sang that unknown word to me. As soon as I’d finished baring the beauty of the rock, I hurried back to the house and Googled “Lafcadio.” Found many pages of listings that referred to two names.
One was the name of a short book by the writer, Shel Silverstein: Lafcadio the Lion Who Shot Back.
The other—ah, the other!—was Lafcadio Hearn, an Irish-Greek-American writer I’d never heard of before who had lived and written and taught in Japan in the late 1800s while becoming the first foreigner to gain Japanese citizenship
And who was so much like me that before I read any of the details of his life, I realized that I already knew them. And more. I knew that if his biographers had left any blanks, I’d be able to fill them in.
Just as I’d be able to fill in the blanks about Larry B.
I’ve read much of Lafcadio’s work since then, and encourage others to do the same. Just as I write about my neighbors and the spirits here in Paradise, so Lafcadio wrote about his neighbors and the spirits in his part of Japan.
Who would’ve thought that weed whacking would bring me so close to another version of myself?