April 3, 2013 § 5 Comments


This morning I was up and out early, and it was as fine a beginning to a mid-January day as I’ve ever seen in April. The temperature hovered around 20, the wind gusted from an indeterminate direction that seemed to be every direction at once, and the half foot of snow that visited the day before had been freshened by another yet another inch or two. Above, the remnants of a perfect half moon, ringed by a haphazard collection of  clouds radiating that particular pink-orange color of the rising sun. They were the most graceful clouds I’ve seen in a while, and I’ve seen my share.

For a moment, I considered being pissed about the weather. I mean, really, what wasn’t there to hate? Cold, wind, snow, the animals’ water bowls iced over and necessitating intervention, more firewood to be brought in and fed into the insatiable maw of the wood stove, the boys beset by some virus and moaning plaintively from the couch for one damn thing or another. And all this after last weekend’s halcyon glory, with its high, beating sun, the freckles emerging on our faces after a winter of remission, the mud sucking at every one of the thousands of steps we took to and from our little backyard sugarin’ rig. Ah. A long-held breath exhaled.

So, yeah, I admit I tried to be upset, if only because it felt like the proper response to the situation at hand. But the truth is, I just didn’t have the heart for it. I’m not sure exactly how to say it, but somehow it just felt easier to enjoy my rounds: First the cows and sheep, then to the solar panels to sweep them clear of snow, then the chickens, and finally the pigs, so thoroughly untroubled and snuggled into their little white-trash-truck-cap housing they didn’t even rouse at the slosh of milk being poured into their trough.

As I walked my rounds, I thought about a conversation I’d had the evening before, with a journalist interviewing me in regards to SAVED. And I thought of how I’d struggled to explain how it could be that the primary character in the book, who lives on $6,000 per year, was one of the wealthiest people I’ve ever met. It was almost as if the common language the journalist and I spoke didn’t contain the words necessary to properly express myself. Or perhaps it’s not the words that are lacking, but our collective associations to those words.

And then I thought about how I often hear from people that they would like to have a little farm of their own, would love to do at least some of what we do here but, if they’re to be entirely candid, it seems sort of, well, difficult. Sweaty. Dirty. Thirsty. Sore. Hungry. Cold. Hot. Your life defined by chores and toil, no packing the car and heading to the shore for the weekend, no jumping on a jet plane and flying south come winter. And I thought about how again I always find myself grasping for the right words to explain that yes, they are right. It is all true. But it’s all false, too.

Our friend Erik isn’t poor; he’s rich. And even more confounding, Erik is rich at least in part because he’s poor, because he’s consciously chosen a path that compels him to cultivate relationships with the people and the world around him. He has to: That’s what it takes to survive on $6k per year.

Our life isn’t hard; it’s easy. And even more confounding, our life is easy because it’s hard, because all the things that seem like hard work are actually the things that, for us, making getting up early to greet each day a meaningful experience. And I’ll be darned if waking up to that feeling isn’t the easiest thing in the whole, wide world.







§ 5 Responses to Confounding

  • tokyobling says:

    One day too, I hope to take this step. Until then, I will keep reading and dreaming. Keep it up Ben!

  • Susan says:


  • dbelson says:

    Your words today are reminding me of one of my favorite quotes.

    “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”

    – Rabindranath Tagore

  • Karla says:

    I too felt betrayed by the snow and wind until a woodpecker swooped down to get another peck at the suet. For the birds it’s just another day. Another GLORIOUS day to be alive.

    Happy spring, Ben and family!

  • I think you’re describing freedom – something that is never easily gained but very easily surrendered particularly for false securities like every day comforts most people take for granted. My husband and I get comments all the time about how much work we put into our farm but then the same person will look perplexed and say, “But you never seem to need to escape. In fact, people often travel to places like your farm for a vacation.” We just nod and say, “Yes, that is true.” The terms “simple” and “easy” are often treated as interchangeable but they are not when you are talking about a life close to the Earth. But the “easy life” most people refer to sounds like invisible shackles (or not so invisible if you’re paying attention) to me. I’d much rather be free to make choices and even to make my own mistakes and I imagine your friend, Erik values freedom as well. Thank you for beuing so generous with these wonderful posts. Can’t wait till “Saved” comes out!

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