Today Is Now

August 28, 2013 § 12 Comments


In full candor, I spent much of yesterday in a sour mood. I had my reasons: The boys were being as the boys can occasionally be, which is to say, insufferable ingrates devoid of one iota of appreciation for the freedom and blessings that define their lives. There is nothing that irks me more than a couple of self-pitying farm kids on a gripe kick: We never get to hunt alone (well, duh: You’re 8 and 11). You don’t let us shoot the 12 gauge alone (well, duh: You’re 8 and 11). You’re always telling us to pick stuff up (well, duh: You leave your shit – most of which is sharp and metal, smelly and dead, or otherwise disgusting –  EVERYWHERE). I don’t really think it’s a child’s obligation to inhabit of state of conscious gratitude. At 41, I ain’t even close to that place, myself, and maybe I don’t even want to get there, if only because it occurs to me that it might actually be sort of exhausting to be grateful all the time. That said, I have little patience for the grousing of two boys who enjoy the tremendous degree of autonomy and parental trust Fin and Rye do.

And then there was my back, which decided to go on strike just when I was beginning to think I might be indomitable. It’s been a summer full of good, honest, physical labor – lifting and pulling and digging and whatnot – and my body has always responded well to this regimen. But at some point over the past week or so, I must have crossed some invisible line in the sand of my physical capacities, and I became domitable again. It’s much better today, but yesterday, as I shuffled my way to and fro, the echoes of my sons’ perceived injustices ringing in my ears, it felt as if the world were a heavy place that had decided, for the time being at least, to rest its weary bones across the fragile bed of my shoulders.

It is fortunate indeed that I awakened this morning with a sense of renewal, both physical and emotional, for the next few weeks are crunch time on our small holding. There is much to be done, more than I wish to take the time to write about now, and the days are ever-shorter: Each evening, dark chases me indoors a few minutes earlier than it did the evening before. Which helps explain why last night I was in bed by 8:30, preparing to sleep a sleep of such depth and duration that coming back into consciousness felt like digging my way out of a dark hole. I awoke feeling refreshed and limber, and when the boys trudged their tousled way downstairs and out the front door to release their bladders at the base of the fruit trees as instructed, I could tell they were in a better place. Not exactly grateful, but no longer bitter. No longer persecuted and bereft. “Can we shoot the .22 today, Papa,” Fin asked, and I although I was tempted to withhold the privilege after the previous day’s impudence, I said yes, and it was the right thing to say.

Because yesterday was yesterday. And today is now.


§ 12 Responses to Today Is Now

  • Kent says:

    Ben, your honest and humorously narrated “ups and downs” are a delight to savor. To make progress one needs to look forward as you are doing: yesterday was yesterday, and today is now! (The photo depicting Bessie as a bed for the slumbering farm-hand with the milk pail empty on the ledge is a hoot!)

  • Sandra Ragsdale says:

    I think to feel gratitude requires a certain amount of maturity and perspective. Even then it’s very human to just take things for granted and not be grateful.

  • renee-lucie benoit says:

    Do you write every day? I’m a new subscriber. My husband and I caretake a 1,000 acre cattle ranch in Northern California. I really related to your blog “Carrying the Stone” but I got to thinking “Where does he get the time to write and re-write and edit?” Your blogs are wonderful. It’s like that movie “As Good as It Gets” where Jack Nicholson says to Helen Hunt. You make me want to be a better man except in my case it’s “You make me want to be a better writer.” – Renee in CA

  • Trish says:

    Hi Ben,

    The other day I was at the grocery store and a father was very annoyed with his preteen daughter. He wasn’t yelling, he wasn’t swearing or anything but he was just being cranky and abrupt with his daughter who by this point was in tears. Seeing this scene brought me to tears because the feelings of grief overwhelmed me from the loss of my daughter. What I wouldn’t give to have those moments back. I am sure the father had legit reasons to be cranky, and I know kids cry and whine at the drop of a hat, yet I would give everything up to have those moments back. I didn’t say anything to him because I remember being a parent to a pre-teen in the midst of a cranky mood and I would have been even more annoyed if someone said this to me.

    When you talk about gratitude, I know you are grateful for all those moments but I guess I am trying to convey to you, to all parents, to attempt to be grateful of those moments, when your kids grate on your nerves, the moment it is happening. Like you said today is now. Yesterday during the bad moment was also “today is now”. I know if someone would have told me this when I was cranky with my daughter, I would have said “uh huh yes I know this but right now I’m really pissed!” but still I feel compelled to say cherish the bad and good parts of parenting right then and there because you don’t know if you’ll ever have them again.


  • dawn says:

    Even at 2 years of age, my oldest has already picked up my habit of taking a deep breath when he hears me count to ten. Funny how they pick up on our moods and habits, good and bad. I think you gave your boys a good example of not holding a grudge – a lesson a lot of adults need to learn. Hope today is a better day!

  • Sandra Ragsdale says:

    To continue, I think gratitude comes easier if you’ve had to do without in some way, for example, being unemployed for a while will make you appreciate things, or losing a loved one too early can make you count the blessings you still have left. But of course what can children know about such things.

  • Elizabeth says:

    Do you ever read Ann Voskamp’s blog, Holy Experience? She keeps a gratitude journal, and discusses what a difference consciously being thankful for things can make in one’s life. I don’t keep a gratitude journal, but I do try to make a point of speaking my gratitude aloud as it occurs to me, in part so my children will (hopefully!) assimilate the idea of appreciating the life we have. It’s a long lesson to learn!

  • Wendy says:

    Hey there Ben –

    Sounds like you are doing what the natural world does – living in the moment – and being what you are meant to be in that moment. Good for you! The boys will see things more clearly as they grow – always in hindsight – as we have. They will grow to be very grateful for how they were raised, I’m sure. Autonomy is one of the best things parents can give (with a little wise oversight at times) – it instills responsibility, maturity, and self-respect as they grow. I was grateful for that lesson.

    Oh, and the one thing about getting older is – yep, there’s a line in the sand that we cross at some point (each differently and at varying stages) that lets us know ‘we ain’t as young as we thought we were’! I believe you just crossed line #1 – the ‘after 40′ line. Recovery is still pretty easy then – not so much as you progress!

    I can honestly say I felt your pain – I was throwing wood and moving brush all weekend, clearing my house site from all the young trees that had been cut. A little arnica, ibuprofen, and magnesium later and I was back! Magnesium is my #1 first aid these days – a daily ritual actually – and my muscles and nerves are very appreciative of it! ;-)

    ~ W.

  • Great post about the ups and downs of parenthood– and a good reminder that unschooling doesn’t need to mean unparenting (i.e., unaccompanied hunting!)

  • Eumaeus says:

    When Perseus is being chased by gorgon sisters around the world he flies by Atlas who begs to be turned to stone. And Perseus shows him Medusa’s head. And Atlas becomes the land. He becomes a mountain range.

  • amy says:

    I was wondering… mentioned peeing on your fruit trees…..I have several that I have planted and am curious why you do this. I could google I guess but I enjoy reading your blog and realize you have a bit of experience regarding such things. Thanks.

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