The tree is just one in a grove of twelve (the Apostles), and it is hard to tell where one tree ends and the next begins, their endless branches twisting and curling in a gorgeous, spooky tangle. I don’t know of a person who can honestly, deeply, profoundly speak to the word When I first arrived around lunchtime, a handsome fellow in a golf cart—Oprah’s head of security—appeared at the gate to take me to the house, and as we bumped along the cobblestones, her enormous neo-Georgian mansion came into view.
We are heading toward her favorite spot, where, under the shade of a spectacular live oak, she often lies on a chaise and reads.(Last year, when her neighbor died, Oprah outbid a developer for another 23 acres.) Oprah bought it in 2001 and began a five-year construction and landscaping project—managed by Greene—that included planting a forest of mature oaks and building a fountain the size of a lake that shoots water to the heavens.“I was calling it Tara II,” says Oprah, “and one day Bob and I were walking around the property and he said, ‘Scarlett O’Hara she had this. I heard a rustling in the kitchen, and suddenly Oprah appeared from around a corner in a bathrobe and slippers.Scarlett was not living like this.’ So he goes, ‘You need a better name. The photo shoot with Annie Leibovitz was running long, and she didn’t like that we had not yet said hello.There are orchids everywhere, stacks of gardening books, and voluminous green wicker sofas and chairs.The first time I interviewed her for this magazine was in 1998, when I spent three summer days hiking in Telluride with Oprah, her best friend and colleague Gayle King, and Bob Greene as Oprah was getting ready for the press rollout for cover shoot, for which she was training and dieting to lose 20 pounds. I’ve been fighting weight all my life, definitely never even thought of myself as an attractive girl.” She laughed.The hikes were brutal; the meals afterward, cooked by her then-chef, Art Smith, spartan. I would never have even thought of it as a possibility . “So why would I be dreaming about Oprah was not yet the wealthiest African-American person in the world, but she was rich as Croesus, arguably the most famous person alive, and at the height of her powers: Everything she touched turned to gold; every book she promoted became a bestseller. ’ I knew nothing about box-office projections or weekend openings.