The Illusion

img_4482Driving north of here, through a corridor of orange-hued tamarack, on the outskirts of a small and nearly empty little town, the boys and I come across a dead deer. A little button buck, two of its legs folded at unlikely angles from impact. Still fresh, so we heft it into the back of the truck and carry on. When we return home, our younger son begins to butcher the deer while I go back to work at the farm down the road, where I’ve been trenching for water and power lines.

I like this work, the utilitarian simplicity of it, the pleasure of the fresh dug trench and the towering piles of the displaced soil at its side. The farm owner’s younger daughter arrives home from school, and I invite her onto the excavator with me, folding my creased palms over her small hands atop the controls. Offering her the illusion of control.

I know this girl and like her, she’s a pistol, a real live wire, my kind of kid, and I wonder if she’ll notice that it’s really me directing the machine, and if so, if she’ll complain. But no. She seems content to let me do the driving, to let her hands stay still and soft under mine, accepting our shared, unspoken illusion.

Or maybe not. Maybe, in that way kids so often understand things they don’t know they understand, she knows the truth most adults spend their lives attempting to deny: That control is always an illusion. Maybe it is she who’s accommodating my need to believe I’m in control, rather than the other way ’round. I think briefly of the deer, of the moment of impact, the leg bones splintering. They must have made a sound.

The digging is almost finished. The girl and I climb off the machine. She thanks me and jumps across the trench, sticks her landing, scampers away. I need to head home. There are still chores to be done, and it gets dark so early now.

Music.  New from Davy Knowles. Love it. And a fun one from from Gin Wigmore. Ok, another: Local boy Bow Thayer doing one of my faves. 





20 thoughts on “The Illusion”

  1. Hi Ben,
    Been a reader of yours for awhile now, I’ve commented once or twice. Saw a trailer for a documentary called ‘Peter and the Farm’ and it made me think of you/your family/this space. Maybe you’ve seen/heard of this but I wanted to share in case you hadn’t.
    Thank you for your work, the words, and all the rest,

  2. Hello all close readers. Pretend for two minutes that you’re back in college and knee-deep into your first (maybe only) literature class. The professor is hard at work trying to show you and your mates how crafty writers craft their essays. Here’s what he’s saying:

    The author (Ben Hewitt) titles this piece “The Illusion.” With this in mind, notice the placement of the following two sentences that conclude the 4th paragraph:

    “I think briefly of the deer, of the moment of impact, the leg bones splintering. They must have made a sound.”

    Can anyone think why the author would choose to include these sentences at this point? Do they add to, or help unify, the essay as a whole? How do they underscore (indirectly) the theme of the essay?

    1. I’ll bite since I’m not getting graded on this. (or am I?) My first response off the top of my head (love that image) is that the author is giving us his stream of consciousness narrative. A natural chain of thoughts into which is inserted a random thought of the deer in the middle of the thoughts about control. Which is an example of how there is little control or possibly none. The deer has no control also. Stuff happens. So whether planned or not the sentences do contribute to the essay as a whole. And underscore the theme.

      Now let’s hear from the sassy side of the peanut gallery/close readers. Fun!

      1. As I was reading I paused at that part, too, and thought about all our illusions of control, safety, protection, ideas about sad things and reality. How much is just life? As parents, wildlife enthusiasts, whatever- how much can we prevent the inevitable, can we truly know peace or happiness without their opposites?

        Yes, it was definitely meant to buttress the whole illusion/control prompt.

        Then, as just a reader, I was a little happy that someone cared enough to make good use of this tragic death, which somehow softens things a bit. He will live on through the Hewitt’s.

        Thanks Ben et Fils.


        B happy — F
        Rene-L-Benoit- A+
        Bearpaw- F
        emanuelbz- F
        Olive- A+
        ncfarmchick- F
        scott- F

      3. C’mon Will, I am currently watching some good talks by Dr. Peter Gray on http://ednextgen.com about non-grading and here you go with the grades.. Great talks on there by the way by Charles Eisenstein, Dan Siegel, Chris Morasky, and so many others – if anyone interested to check out new education ideas.

      4. As I live in the Land of No Data (hardly a cell connection, even, since our repeater died again) and I took Monday off to work on the house, I am just getting to this post. So I’ll contest my F! 😉 But happy to be called out.
        I appreciate the quiz; it makes me think about the finer points of the writing, which I might not do of my own volition.
        Thinking of the illusion of control on the digger, and the ways we try to control our lives probably led Ben to think of the deer, itself probably trying to avoid getting hit. Sometimes the illusion of control is a nice comforting companion, necessary to bolster confidence. Other times I like to try to think how small and insignificant I and my flailing pursuits are, really, in the context of the world and universe.
        Lots to think about, and I haven’t taken enough time recently to sit under a tree and think.

    2. Scott, we used to live in the same Land that you live in now. It was pretty nice. We’d go into town and look for a newspaper to tell us what we missed. It was never much. Really.

      During the day I feel control. At night I feel none. During the day I experience the illusion of a what I call a “sky hat” that covers us all and protects us. At night I see the “reality” that we are just one miniscule spec in a vast, unbelievably vast thing. I like having both even though sometimes the vast thing weirds me out

  3. Aww… sweet story. I like that she managed an invite onto the excavator – who can resist a fun and spunky kid? Maybe she was in control, after all. (Softie.)

  4. It’s something to touch another human being’s hands. It can tell you a lot about a person really fast. Small humans hands are mostly all the same though… yes, soft and squishy, new. But mostly what there is to tell is a bunch of innocence, honesty and love. I stare at my daughter’s hands a lot, and holding them puts me in a blissful state. When I was young I used to ride on my grandpa’s tractor with him. He used to let me ‘drive’ as well, while his hands were over mine. I knew he was helping, but what I liked was the feeling of protection his hands gave me. It wasn’t so much about the driving but the moment of closeness and feeling safe for a brief moment. I think small humans like feeling safe…

    1. On untraveled surfaces (meaning there won’t be plowing and therefore an insulating layer of snow), four-feet is standard. If it’s going under a driveway/roadway, five is a pretty safe bet.


  5. Timely topic. Your writing offers a glimpse of a life being lived as it should,.. about what’s important. A life of purpose, with no time to quibble over semantics or worry about whose in control.

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