December 12, 2012 § 7 Comments


The dearth of snow has meant we’ve been able to keep the cows down in the logging cut for longer than we’d anticipated, and this is a good thing, because the longer they’re down there, the more shit they spread, and the more shit they spread, the happier I am. Yes, it is true: A shitting cow makes me happy, and five shitting cows makes me even happier. What can I say? I’m a man of simple pleasures.

But to be honest, it’s not just the manure; it’s the walk. Every morning, ’round about 6:30 or so, I walk the quarter-mile down to the logging cut to feed out. A quarter-mile: It’s nothing, really. It takes maybe two minutes; three if I stop to feed the chickens on the way. Four, if after I feed the chickens I stand in the little hollow at the foot of our pasture and tilt my head toward the slowly rising sun. Five, if I stay there for a minute longer than I should. So yeah, it’s a short walk, but damned if this little morning stroll isn’t something I look forward to every freakin’ morning. There are some mornings I actually put it off, simply because I like to tease out the anticipation of it. Just the anticipation is comforting. It’s like a little, smooth stone I carry in my pocket, one that feels as if it were made to be touched. (I don’t actually carry a little, smooth stone in my pocket. But I think I might start)

It seems to me that Americans have trouble living a place-based life. That is, we don’t take the time (or are even inclined) to simply appreciate the places we live. Maybe that’s because some of us don’t really like the places we live; as a society, we do seem to have done our level best to uglify the natural landscape. But another part of this, I’m sure (and as I think I’ve mentioned before) is that there’s not much financial profit to be realized from having us experience this appreciation. Generally speaking, it doesn’t cost anything to appreciate a place, and the more we appreciate it, the more we tend to stay in it. The more we stay in it, the less we move. Ergo, the less money we spend.

Movement is what costs, and movement is what brings us into contact with all of contemporary America’s well-honed marketing pitches. Sometimes, that movement is physical, although it increasingly seems to be virtual. But whatever the case, it is movement we are told to celebrate, and it is movement we are told equates to freedom, as if somehow the quotidian day-in, day-out particulars of our lives can never be stimulating enough to provide the richness of experience we perceive as freedom. Because, really, isn’t that what we’re talking about? Not true freedom, but change. Stimulation. Different.

This is what I think: There is more than enough change, stimulation, and difference in our daily lives, if only we take a moment to notice it. I walk down to feed the cows, and one day the ground is frozen hard, the pattern of the tractor tires showing as raised bars of soil in my path. The next morning, it has rained, and the bars have slumped and I slip on the hill and almost fall. I look up, and the sun is rising. Or it’s cloudy, and it isn’t. It is snowing. It is raining. Windy. Calm. I listen: Chickadee. Chicken. The boys’ voices, drifting through the woods.

All of it right here. And all of it free. Freedom.

§ 7 Responses to Freedom

  • Jeannie says:

    Great post as usual. I couldn’t imagine starting my day without a long walk with my dogs. Like you, it’s a rhythm in my heart.

  • jonnie says:

    I know exactly how you feel, and I feel the same way. I try to observe when I’m out and about. So many people just don’t see what’s in front of them sometimes.

  • Jenn says:

    I just wanted to tell you that I appreciate your writing and life philosophies so very much. Each day I make it my goal to break up with the conventional just a little bit more. Expanding the garden each year, learning a new homestead skill, making it from scratch, and unplugging from this merry-go-round of consumerist hell. Once you’re in this 9-5 circle of doom, it’s hard to just quit cold turkey (boy would I love to). I will soon walk out into my little slice of planet and soak up the sounds, smells, and tastes of that kind of freedom. Keep on keepin on! Thanks Ben!

  • Ben says:

    Check out Wendell Berry’s recent lecture, “It All Turns On Affection.”
    His reference to “boomers” and “stickers” will speak to sentiment that drove this entry.

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