I Guess You Had to Be There


The sun was high and strong for most of the weekend, and yesterday afternoon I walked up the hill to where our 30-ish buckets hang, listening hopefully for the telltale metronomic plink of dripping sap. But it was barely above freezing, and the trees had yet to loosen up, so I found only dry buckets and heard only the near-silent movement of a lazy breeze through the leafless forest. I turned and walked back down the old skid path, the red-and-yellow steeple of the old town church visible in the distance. I like seeing that steeple, it’s settling to me. The new leaves will hide it soon enough.

Just as well the sap didn’t run, I guess. We’d promised ourselves not to sugar this year, to instead apply ourselves to the long list of tasks forsaken in last summer’s quest for tin over beasts both human and otherwise. But then the days began to stretch at both ends, and we felt the sun on our sallow cheeks, and we began to overestimate ourselves the way we often do. In a fit of ambition, I took to a dense copse of spruce and fir that kept the garden in full shade during the mid-morning hours. Got a few sawlogs out of the deal and a big ole burn pile. I picked up three piglets to supplant the three that have yet to find their way to the freezer, but which will soon be making that one-way journey. Bucked up the first of next winter’s stovewood, a honking big red maple gone soft in the heart, and a smaller white birch. I love birch. Best quick-cooking wood there is, takes off like a rocket. Penny built a seedling shelf and prepped for onions. The boys hunted rabbits and we ate them for dinner one evening and again for breakfast the next morning. Michael owed us a day of work in exchange for the sawlogs I’d hauled for him, so he came by and he and Penny and the boys framed walls in the upstairs while I cleaned up some of the mess I’d made of the trees, and we joked that instead of paneling the walls, we should just add studs at three-inch spacing, as if the boy’s rooms were actually jail cells.

Well. I guess you had to be there.

My conversation with Erica provoked some interesting discussion (along with some great photos submitted by other folks). No doubt much more could be said about judgement and ambivalence and abnegation of self. Actually, I’m not sure what abnegation of self is, though it probably wouldn’t take too long to figure out.

But right now I mostly feel like shutting up and getting back to work.





14 thoughts on “I Guess You Had to Be There”

  1. Loved the interview. My main response was “Please don’t stop writing about your life!” I enjoy getting your posts! They add to my life and I appreciate your thoughtfulness.

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Enjoyed the podcast. And the thoughtful follow-up discussion.

    Sounds like a very interesting chat you are having with yourself. I think we all struggle to clarify what it means to be authentic, each in our own way. It’s a good reminder to me personally of the important benefits of soul-searching.

    Have to ask,.. Are you unfamiliar with the term “redneck”? Guess your radio dial isn’t likely to ever come to rest on a country music station. Pity. You might learn a thing or two. 🙂

  3. Love the pic Ben …..you look as tho your marching off with purpose:D:D:D ….no need for soul searching ….your blog is inspirational ANYWAY ….and too much soul searching can ‘f ..ck’ with your mind …trust me:D:D:D

  4. Like the pic Ben ….you look to be marching off with purpose:D:D:D ….and no soul searching needed …your blog is inspirational ANYWAY ….too much soul searching can f..ck with your mind ….trust me:D:D:D

  5. Interesting that when one is DEscribing their life that another might think that they are PREscribing their choices to everyone else.

    I, for one, love the descriptions of your life and never feel judged. I could go on and on about how different I am than you, but I say, ‘vive la difference!’

  6. I hope that next Fall I will see a picture of your boys facing the camera with big smiles on their faces as they drag home a big whitetail buck along that same snow covered track.

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