February 14, 2012 § 4 Comments

On our land there are certain spots where, time and again, I am afforded a view that encompasses so much of what I have come to love about it. Down past the blueberries, a little knoll from which I can see the house and barn and greenhouse, the largest of our three gardens, and the sweep of meadow before it. Or along the bottom edge of the new pasture, looking up the hill, the cows backlit by early morning sun.

There is no logic to the power these views hold over me; they are merely certain angles of the same elements I can see from hundreds of vantage points. Grass. Trees. Animals. Home. There is no logic, but then, I do not ask for or expect it. I accept the gift of these views much as I accept the love of my family, the gift of my animal’s milk and meat, the bounty of the fields and forest that surround me.

I wrote that some time ago; every once in awhile, something I’ve written will randomly pop back into my head, like remembering a dream I hadn’t known I’d had. Such was the case with this short passage, which made me think about how much I appreciate the different views across our property and how comforted I am by them. I’m not sure if it’s simple familiarity, or if it’s the specific elements that are so soothing. Probably it’s some of each.

From my desk, situated in a narrow doghouse dormer directly above the largest of our greenhouses and overlooking the pasture: The sledding and skiing hill, the snow packed hard and cut with tracks. Fast, I know, because yesterday I was showing off for the boys on my skis and bit it hard. The roof the greenhouse, symmetrical bows sheathed in plastic. They remind me of rib bones beneath skin. The bottom row of the blueberries, or half of it, at least. The others obscured by a spruce.

From the kitchen sink, where I stand so often, splashing water over the day’s dishes. “Use some soap, would you?” Penny always says, but I don’t know. Doesn’t really seem necessary, if you ask me. But anyways: The cows, gathered around their hay. Chewing, always chewing. The solar panels, tilted toward the sun, doing their thing with electrons. I don’t really understand it, but later, I’ll run the chop saw and be glad for it just the same. The windmill, spinning too lazily to contribute much, but I like the look of it. It’s spare and skeletal, function over form.

From the pond, my newly favorite view, perhaps because it’s still a surprise (less than a year ago, there was no pond). Looking up through our small sugarbush, pig house to the right. Again the cows, but this time from below. Still chewing, and smaller for the distance. The sledding hill, and from here, the whole of it, including a fresh Ben-sized divot on the downside of the jump. The end of the big greenhouse, but this time from the side. From this angle it doesn’t remind me of anything except that in four or five weeks, we’ll be picking early salads. That will be very nice; fresh greens have been scant of late.

Lately, as I’ve been working on a book about the value of money and our relationship to it, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we lack a common language that might better enable us to express the value of something so personal and subjective as a view. Sometimes I think this is a bad thing, because it inevitably leads us to translate everything into the relatively objective and collective metric of money. This of course is an entirely inadequate and inappropriate method for assigning value to our surroundings and our relationship to them. (So says I)

But there are also times I think it’s good thing, because if we lack a common language, we might individually stretch to find the words that feel right to each of us. And maybe that’s exactly the way it should be.


§ 4 Responses to Views

  • Ben Helgeson says:

    Hi Ben,

    I’ve noticed a few of your posts connect to the book you’re working on. I’m intrigued by your idea of exploring money and crafting a book.

    Here are some concepts that I’ve been interested in. They may or may not relate to your book or research, but oh well:

    CURRENCY as a metaphor….current. flow. value. directionality. quantity. power. origin. destination. I could go on, but either you get the point and could run with it, or I’d just be rambling.

    PERSONAL FINANCE: Earning. Spending. Saving. Giving. Who influences the emphasis we place on these uses of currency? Why?

    Also, if you haven’t listened to Dave Ramsey ( on the radio, you may want to check that out, along with a few of his books. In general he despises debt and the industry built upon debt. His motto, “Live like no one else, so later you can live like no one else” is awesome. Ironically, the more I’ve simplified my life the more I’ve enjoyed the simplification. (which, actually, is what led me to your books, etc.)

    An easy to see parallel exists between INDUSTRIAL FOOD and INDUSTRIAL CURRENCY. (exploitation. corruption. government. dishonesty. disconnection. consumption. military. power. control. debt. disease. death. )

    Anyway, keep up the good living and good writing. My dream is to leave the INDUSTRIAL EDUCATION system in which I work, buy some land, and live simply.


  • Jean says:

    The things I value most in life … aren’t things at all. ;-) Good post! ~Jean

  • Sharon says:

    Regarding money…

    I’m a firm believer that sometimes when your life changes in an instant, there’s a reason for it.

    Several years ago I was to the point where I was really accomplishing what I wanted in my career. I worked long hours focusing on successfully striving to complete work goals and was more than pleased with the dollars that came along with it. My life was geared toward increasing my bank account and moving to the next level in my career. The future looked fabulous. The days passed by quickly. There was no time to notice a sunset, the changing of the seasons, or anything else in my life. I was just too busy and my work was everything to me.

    Suddenly the recession arrived, as well as severe financial problems for my employer. On a day I was anticipating a great scheduled meeting with my boss I received a pink slip. They could no longer afford me.

    I came home in shock, grateful my husband was working and we had never been the type of people to overspend, we wouldn’t have a home in jeapordy. When the shock subsided I felt lonely. I didn’t have friends I had a “network”. Many of which I never heard from again. My family was used to my inability to participate in family events & conversations and it took awhile for them to get used to including me again. I woke up to see my neglected house didn’t please me and I needed to go back to cooking instead of takeout and restaurants. My identity was wrapped up in my career and I felt lost.

    It took me two years and coming in 2nd place for jobs 11 times in a very competitive field before I returned to the workplace and I’m a much different person than the one who received the pink slip. I could say it was a terrible frustrating experience but I can’t. It wasn’t easy but I learned that if you focus on money it’s easy to end up with nothing. If you focus on your life you have everything. My relationship with money has changed from trying to collect as much as possible with fear of not having enough or just the general power of having money. It doesn’t make you happy, it’s just a way to pay the bills and oddly, I seem to be saving more now since my wants have considerably changed and I see what I have as enough. I also noticed that when I really needed cash, it had an odd way of appearing. More than once.

    We eat much better, I enjoy the company of good friends and family, I see and value my surroundings, have a better path for my life and in the end, have a job I enjoy much better than what I left. Now my husband is the one with the new pink slip. He worked for a manufacturer of building products trying to hang on (and you know how well the housing industry is doing…) I could be sad, angry or frustrated, but I see him starting a path towards the realization of what he really wants and needs too.

    I have enjoyed your books very much and love your writing style. Keep it up!


  • […] can’t forget Ben Hewitt, the Vermont farmer who posts about living off the land and off the […]

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