Mainely at Night

April 11, 2012 § 11 Comments

Sleepless in Waterville, Maine at 10:48 p.m., on the back end of an evening presentation at Colby College, I decided a night drive home was in order. I was feeling over-tired and vulnerable in that way that over-tiredness makes me feel, and I wanted nothing more than to be amongst my family, on this little patch of land I know so well. So I rose from the tousled sheets, grabbed my clothes from the rumpled heap where I’d dropped them an hour before, and sped into the night.

Waterville, Maine to Cabot, Vermont is a four-hour drive, so I tuned into WTOS FM, THE MOUNTAIN OF PURE ROCK!!!! and lost myself in hard rock flashback after hard rock flashback: Ozzy, ZZ Top, Metallica, Rush. Our 16-year old “new” Subaru has only one operating speaker, but damned that wasn’t exactly enough, and I let that little four-inch woofer thump for all she was worth. “I been bad, I been good, Dallas, Texas, Hollywood…. I ain’t asking for much…” Sometimes, there is nothing so fine as belting out the lines to a song you didn’t even know you knew.

For a while, coming out of Farmington, I tucked in behind a speeding Chevy pickup, someone who clearly knew the roads and where the cops hid, and I let him run interference on the empty ribbon of highway as we punched through the midnight air. Too fast, maybe, but then again, I’d argue that all motor vehicle travel is too fast. It’s simply a matter of what we’ve become conditioned to.

In Rumford, under the eerie, almost otherworldly plumes of smoke and steam from the paper mill, I lost my traveling companion, so I dialed it back. There was almost no traffic, save the occasional tractor trailer loaded with saw logs. I could see them coming from what seemed like miles away; the high cab lights like the eyes of a demented beast. Then they passed, a roar of diesel and rush of air, and it was hard not to wince at the speed and mass of it all, and how casually we place ourselves in proximity to such dangers. One slip, one drift… it would not end well. It was nearly 1:30 in the morning, but I felt both exhilarated and relaxed. Jethro Tull came on. “Sun streaking cold, an old man wandering lonely, taking time the only way he knows.” Another one I would never have thought I knew. And word-for-freaking-word.

I love coming home. I’d been gone for barely 36 hours, but it felt like too much. I rarely feel the need to leave home; it’s not that I don’t like seeing the world, or am not curious, or do not enjoy myself when I’m on the road; it’s just that I feel embodied by a sense that my life is here, and nowhere else. When I am gone, which does not happen terribly often, and when it does, not for terribly long, I have a hard time ignoring the feeling that my life is somehow on hold.

This is probably ridiculous, and I acknowledge the possibility that I am simply a stick-in-the-mud, having become complacent in the familiar comfort of my surroundings. Twenty-first century American culture does not generally revere a connection to place; we are bombarded with messaging tell us to get out and go, that much happiness is to be found far beyond the boundaries of our homes and communities. For some, I am sure, this is true.

Still, what strikes me is how infrequently we hear of the value inherent to staying home, to exploring and truly knowing our immediate surroundings. There’s all sorts of reasons for this, I suppose, but I suspect that chief among them is the fact that there’s little money in it. After all, it’s pretty damn hard to sell something to someone whose idea of adventure is exploring the wood lot below their house.

§ 11 Responses to Mainely at Night

  • Jennifer Fisk says:

    I’m with you. Home is the best place to be and I would rather explore my woods than travel anywhere.

  • heidi says:

    I don’t think it is wise to put pictures of your kids naked anywhere. It could come back to bite you. I had someone call Human services on me because my kids looked dirty on my blog and there was a small mess in the background and it became a huge mess and I had to get HSLDA involved because they then attacked our homeschooling. People are quick about what might be percieved as child pornography. I say these things because people can be really cruel out there.

    • Ben Hewitt says:

      Hi Heidi,

      Thanks for your concern. I did change it, although it sort of infuriates me that I felt compelled to censor such an innocent photo, and I’m not entirely sure it’s the right thing to do. I guess it falls in the category of “better safe than sorry.”

      Thanks again

  • Dagny Gromer says:

    Well said, Ben. As a fellow homebody I can’t think of any place I would rather be.

  • Jennifer Fisk says:

    While I’m not sure why you would post pic of your children naked, you shouldn’t be in fear of doing so. What a horrible comentary on our society. Heidi’s story is really an invasion of a family.

  • Dawn says:

    Wonderful post, Ben. I love the last paragraph.particularly – it harks back to something you said a post or two back. In Joel Salatin’s latest book, he comments near the end about how he got all teary heading out for one of his speaking tours, and explained it to his wife as the fact that he just loved the place (his farm) so much. Same sentiment, different way of saying it. And I didn’t see the first picture, just the “basket cases”, which are hilarious!

  • Home, here on our little homestead, is my favorite place to be. I don’t like to leave it long either. I’m rooted here. It’s a good feeling.
    Always enjoy your blog and your writing.

    Love to your family.

  • MHPerry says:

    Your picture reminded me of my own son, many Easters ago, who managed to get his plastic Easter “bucket” stuck on his head. Yet you all pose in yours so willingly! Perhaps we are more willing to explore home years after it’s gone….

  • Aspendance says:

    I love traveling and often feel antsy if I stay in one place too long. But I’m tied to home and farm as well. I guess that’s why I call myself the gypsy farmgirl. I have a deep sense of connection to place, and a deep sense of desire to see another part of the world on a regular basis. Amen to both I say.

  • jsiegel115 says:

    Hooray for the stick-in-the-muds! Hooray for homebodies! I count myself as one of the biggest. When people tsk and say “You own a farm? You can never go on vacation!”, I just smile. No, I can’t. I haven’t found anyone I trust enough to run the place in my absence. But I wouldn’t want to anyway. I love my home and my animals and the rhythm of the place. I hate being away. I am me here, and I am me nowhere else.

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