Isn’t That Always the Case

Looking for fish

This morning I awoke early, thinking of a moment from the evening before. I’d fed the still-unnamed calf his afternoon bottle, then stood watching at the gate as he cavorted, running circles around the perimeter of his small, fenced-in world, kicking and twisting and stumbling on spindly legs, full of that particular new-to-this-world glee.

I tend to sleep soundly but am often restless at the half-lit hour of rising, and in recalling the calf I decided to run into the woods. Once upon a time I ran frequently, six or seven or even eight miles without pause, and I still remember the deep thrum of oxygenated blood, that muscle-bone-and-air way of being, and better still the strange, almost ethereal comingling of exhaustion and exultation. Runner’s high, I guess it’s called, but that always seemed to me like too crude a definition.

But all of this was long ago, and my strides this morning felt like a repeating cycle of stumbles and just-in-time-recoveries. There was none of the calf’s apparent glee, none of the effortless grace I once knew when I ran. I pushed on, shoulders tilted into the slope and, I imagined, the engrained inertia of body and mind. My lungs felt raw and scraped; my legs were weak and quivery, as if questioning their fealty to the task, and who could blame them. I’d not asked such in many years.

I earned the height of the land, then turned westward to traverse the sugarbush. The sun had risen by now but only just, and the light filtering through the canopy had that fluid, transitory quality I love so much. And now I was pleased to feel my body becoming fluid like the light, not completely, not perfectly, but enough that I sensed my mind unsticking, too.

I thought about many things, among them circumstance (or what passes for circumstance in our logic-driven brains), and then a comment someone left about the futility of trying to be a better writer, and whether that might be true, and what is the difference between good writing and bad, anyway? And who best to decide, writer or reader? Because sometimes I post things here that I think are halfway decent, and no one seems to give half a shit, and sometimes I post things that I think are pretty weak, at least in hindsight, and people seem to love it. And then I thought about the emails I’d recently exchanged with someone about our respective paths with writing (and life, yeah, that too), a continuation of a conversation I referenced here not long ago. It was a good conversation. They were good emails.

But mostly, I thought of habits I’ve held for too long, and particularly my tendency to resist doing some of the things I want to do (or claim to want to do), purportedly for lack of time or energy or money or any combination of the three. Of course, there are kernels of truth in all of these excuses, which is precisely what makes them so effective, and isn’t that always the case?

I ran a little farther, reached the stream where it crosses onto this land, and turned to follow it home. Not really running now, more of a stilted trot, the forest floor too choppy and the trees too tight for speed. I crossed over the stream and then back again, stepping quick and careful on the water-slick rocks. Now thinking of nothing but balance and dry feet and the stream sounds, and glad for it.

Then I was home, and it was light enough for chores. I could see the calf at the paddock gate, and I knew that he was hungry, so I gathered up the milk bucket and his bottle and set about my day.

20 thoughts on “Isn’t That Always the Case”

  1. If you’d of run longer the habits you’ve held too long and your tendency to resist doing things you claim you want to do would have fallen away. Just as right before sleep you realize your mind had been running but you’d stopped paying attention to it. The attention had shifts elsewhere. As in the case of the runner’s high where it shifts to the body. Attention shifts. Identification shifts. Kernels of truth shift.

  2. The true value of writing, like any other personal endeavor, lies in the process of creating it.

    This is especially true for me vis-a-vis my art. I can look at any one of my creations and recall how it came to be, where I was at the time, the music I played. What I relish in particular is the freedom I felt in allowing the piece to evolve, rather than trying to force the direction. So, it was always an adventure and I never really knew the destination until I arrived. There is something magical about taking that private journey. There is something mischievous about knowing the story behind the piece that frankly no one else will.

    I have experienced the same fascinatingly unpredictable responses to my writing as you have. I personally enjoy not being able to predict the external success from one piece to the next. As with my art, it’s a wonderful discovery to learn how others react. Generally, it’s a soul-warming surprise.

    1. Maybe that’s it.. to look at creativity more as an adventure.. like “taking a private journey.” It’s a curious thing to me why so many of the great artists/writers/actors were such tortured souls.

  3. this writing, and your in the moment tactile expression of running into the woods (metaphorically running into an ongoing issue to face it) head on, is a fabulous re-energizer for me. now i’m moving off this computer to work outdoors where my heart sings. as always, thank you.

  4. Love this, definitely one of my favorites. I have a special love of running through the woods. If I’m going to do it and stick with it, the woods is where I go to run.

    I’ve been trying to not think about the excuses I make for not doing the things I want to do and now you’ve brought it up. Guess I’ll either have to think more about it or stop making excuses…

  5. I do believe that there is no end to the possibility of our bodies gaining the feeling of becoming fluid like the light, despite our ever-increasing age. We don’t have to be fast for that. We just have to be awake, and say “no” to any resignation that might want us to give up trying for that fluidity. (I start bicycling westbound across the nation on Monday the 23rd. I refuse to believe that that fluidity is unavailable.) It’s good to imagine you, Ben, earning the height of the land.

  6. I think you are an amazingly talented writer, Ben Hewitt, a natural Storyteller. What you share about wrestling with words is particularly insightful and valuable, but you do blow me away with the pictures you paint. And the smells, the sounds . . .

    But not every reader responds. Some of us simply quietly appreciate your gifts.

  7. Dear Ben, I do not respond to your blogs.. at least not in this public forum. I talk about them with John and send them to some dear people in my life (trying hard to never take credit for your writing, though I want to, really I want to) I have written you at least one full letter, which is still in my journal, in response to your piece that day which called up my own life in the Michigan woods. A lot of people around here don’t know that about my life.. I’l send it to you sometime. When I can send it to just you. I’m shy around your friends. We don’t know each other. But I’m happy to be knowing you a little bit more. And always happy to peek into your days when you do post here. You are a truly fine writer, you inspire me, and often give me hope for our crazy world. thank you. xxooliz

    1. Hi Liz,

      Thanks so much for your note; I really appreciate it. I’ll look forward to your letter when the time is right.

      Say hi to John.


  8. Hey Ben,
    From way out here in California a few minutes from the Pacific Ocean 🙂 Please know that your writing has not only inspired me to write more often, it has also inspired many of my Leadership students to start their own blog. I share bit and pieces of your writing or the lessons your blog teaches on a regular basis with them. They love it. Please keep sharing if you will. It is having an impact.

  9. I don’t think it is a matter of someone being a good or bad writer, or even of a piece being well or poorly written. A poorly written piece may be full of heart, pouring stories out of a soul that touch others. A well written piece may also be boring, not drawing in the reader with anything wonderful to grab onto.
    For me, I do like HOW you tell a story. That’s part of the fun in reading it, but really, I’m pretty sure you could tell a story in a really awful way and I will still be drawn in. It’s the story that speaks to us.
    Oh, one more thing. I THINK that sometimes something can be a diamond, absolutely written well and the best story ever told but without anyone commenting. Possibly because they are too busy FEELING it, mulling it over and having a hard time expressing how BIG it was for them. So silence, at times, may prove the pinnacle of good writing.

  10. Some professor at Northeastern had a mantra of “Write, then get it right”. He believed that you should write in a stream of conscious sort of manner and then take a breath and edit it. I think that most people try to edit themselves concurrently as they write, so they get frustrated and quit. I’m glad that Ben makes the time in his incredibly busy schedule to write a little, as much of what he writes brings back my forgotten memories of growing up in New Hampshire.

  11. Hi Ben, this morning I felt a bout of generosity coming up (alas these spells don’t last very long, generally, although my bankaccount is quite happy with their short duration…) so I ran up to the computer as fast as I could, went to your website and wanted to transfer some filthy money to you, only to have Paypal tell me my account was under limitations that made it impossible to complete this transaction. I am not aware of any limitation I put on my account, though. Maybe it’s because I am from Europe (Holland actually) and it’s hard for Paypal to morph Euro’s into dollars? Who knows…
    Although of course I live in totally different circumstances (or maybe because of it) for a while I was addicted to your blog. I admire you guys greatly for leading this adventurous off the griddish lifestyle. Especially I was moved by the stories of your sons rambling around the woods. I am so happy for them that God (or whoever else is in charge of this amazing universe) gave them parents wise and courageous enough to allow them this amount of freedom. Pity all the poor dwellers in the instutionalized hell called the educational system!
    Anyway Ben, I hope I will be able to transfer to you this little dough that is so rightfully yours for giving me hope, inspiration and amusement for quite a few desperate and lonely hours of my life (it beat online porn for sure in satisfying me).
    All this just to say these amazing words:
    Thank you…

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