When it Makes the Least Sense


When the going gets tough, the tough send their wife up the ladder.

I sometimes think I’ve forgotten how to write, which I suspect is one of those irrational fears akin to believing I’ve forgotten how to ride a bicycle (actually, it’s been so long since I’ve pedaled a two-wheeler that this may be true). Someone – a writer – once wondered to me what it must be like to be a “real” writer, referring, I understood, to the fact that I am paid to write, and support my family on these earnings. My reply, which I still believe true, is that a real writer is anyone who puts the time in. Nothing more, nothing less. By my own definition, then, I am not a real writer, or at least not currently. This bothers me less than it might.

This morning it snowed again, before changing quickly to a sleety rain. I milked fast as I could, cold and raw-feeling, none of yesterday’s ebullience at the high sun and the flowing sap. March felt long and hard to me, I cannot remember one colder and snowier and less yielding, though surely it’s happened. Even on April 1 we awoke to seven or eight inches of new-fallen snow, and I took the boys to Burke Mountain – our older son’s first time ever on alpine skis; perhaps the third time for our younger boy – and paid $133 for half-day rentals and lift tickets. It hurt me to spend the money – that’s a big chunk of change for us – but it hurt me more to realize how long it’d been since I’d done something like that with my boys. Not that we don’t do things together, we do, all the time, but rarely something so unexpected and… what’s the right word? Frivolous? Not, that’s not it, not quite. Hell, I don’t know. But God we had fun.

The house is sweet-smelling and over-heated from boiling sap atop the cook stove. We have too much sap and not enough fire; we need a proper rig, it’s ridiculous what we’re trying to do, but there’s also something compelling to me about the lunacy of it. Sometimes life’s most interesting when it makes the least sense.


20 thoughts on “When it Makes the Least Sense”

  1. Spur of the moment activities I found were always the best with my kids, no time to build up expectations that won’t be met, just fun and spontaniety. Your boys will remember those times more so as we all do…

  2. Which is best? Which is worst?

    a. Too much sap and not enough fire?
    b. Too much fire and not enough sap?

    Which reminds me of Frost’s “fire and ice.”

    And also (forgive me, Ben) of TS Eliot:

    “At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
    Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
    But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
    Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
    Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
    There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.”

    1. Well said, given the pictured tail of the rocket, no doubt just launched by one of the boys behind the house.

  3. Burke sure appreciates every one of those dollars… the little mountain that could.

    We’ve been done boiling for 2 (3?) weeks now… wish I’d thought of it sooner, but we could have loaned you our rig. It’s going north anyway, could’ve made a layover at your place for a bit.

  4. Are you worried about the humidity for your insulation? Mold issues? Did you put vapor barriers inside your thick (?) wall cavities?

    1. Not worried. We’re boiling on wood, which makes a big diff in terms of drying everything out. Plus, the windows are open. No vapor barrier… we used dense pack cellulose, which really doesn’t allow much moisture transfer. And again, with wood heat, moisture isn’t much of an issue.

      Six-inch walls. Nothing too crazy. Because we cook on wood, we need to generate a certain amount of BTUs just to eat… we didn’t want to make the place too tight, or we’d always be too hot. Also, I’ve been in my share of super-insulated houses… I don’t like the way they feel… the air just seems sort of “dead” to me.

      1. Thanks for the reply. Maybe I shouldn’t worry so much. I’ll have 5.5″ cellulose plus foam on exterior. No vapor barriers either. Like you, lots of windows and wood stove heat.
        Never been in a superinsulated house. Perhaps it’s the quietness that makes it feel dead? I’ve heard that they’re very sound insulated too, small wonder.

  5. Oh, man, can I relate to that last sentiment. We’re in the thick of searching for a new property, leaving the house and farm we built 12 years ago (sound familiar?) when the easy thing to do (in many ways) would be to stay put. But also, in many ways, it wouldn’t be the right thing to do so off we leap into the great unknown! Something about leaping and growing wings on the way down keeps playing in my mind. Hoping that is true and taking inspiration from those, like Ben, who have already done so. 🙂

    1. I like the image of leaping and growing wings on the way down. I hope your adventure is just that, and that your family grows from it and enjoys it. I can tell you, it’s super hard to see into the future. That’s a lesson I’ve learned well. Blessings to you.

  6. Our moments of lunacy provide us with the best fun…often after they’re over, but nevertheless. A very long time ago now I had some children’s books published…apparently that made me a proper writer, although it still doesn’t feel like it 🙂

  7. Ben,

    Ever since I’ve “known you”, I’ve always thought of you as a Northeast Slopes (in Corinth) sort of guy. Their throwback culture seems more “Hewitt” than any other lift served alpine ski area that I can think of.

    When I was a kid, I wanted to attend Burke Mountain Academy, but my stubborn and, some would say, slightly abrasive personality was out of sync with what would have been my highly competitive granola eating peer group. Warren Witherell, Chris Jones, Finn Gunderson, Marty Heib and all of their successors have been great ski coaches who have helped a lot of kids realize their dreams, make the USST, and, in the case of Mikaela Shiffrin, win an FIS World Cup championship and an Olympic Gold Medal.

    PS – With Northeast Slopes in mind, my preferred ski area “out west” is Red River in New Mexico, as it is, personality and size wise, like a New England ski area circa 1970 transplanted in northeast New Mexico.

  8. We want to check out NE Slopes one of these days. The big issue is that they don’t have rentals, and the boys don’t own gear or have friends who alpine ski to borrow gear from… so we need a place with a rental shop. We’re talking about buying some used gear for next season…

    1. I haven’t skied at Northeast Slopes since I raced there while in high school over 40 years ago. At that time it had a high speed rope-tow that took you up the ski hill faster than you could safely ski down, definitely old-school in every aspect.

      PS – ‘Sorry (at least a little) that the undocumented immigrant discussion got a little heated, but somebody has got to shake the sycophants’ world on occasion.

    2. Ben, be aware of your grandmother’s older sister Florence’s son Philip Cianci (cousin to your pa), who has run, and now owns, three ski rental shops (The Ski Renter) in the S Lake Tahoe area, at the foot of Heavenly. Phil turns 60 this weekend.
      He is quite motivated to get folks, particularly family, onto the slopes. And I would be happy to get behind the effort myself.

  9. Ben,

    I was thinking of you this morning during my daily visits to New England.via the following ski area web cams:

    Cannon Mountain in Franconia, NH, at http://www.cannonmt.com
    Dartmouth Skiway in Lyme,NH, at http://www.darmouth.edu/skiway~skiway/webcam/
    Gunstock in Gilford, NH, at http://www.gunstock.com
    Sugarbush in Warren, VT, at http://www.sugarbush.com/mountain/webcams/
    Wildcat in Gorhma/Jackson, NH, at http://www.skiwildcat.com

    The summit cams at Cannon, Gunstock, and Wildcat offer nice panoramic views. I particularly like the view of Mount Washington and Tuckerman’s Ravine from Wildcat and of Lake Winnipesaukee from Gunstock.

    Back to the original point, I saw that Cannon Mountain is selling their rental skis and boots and since Cannon isn’t all that far from you, about 50 miles or 1 hour, I thought that might be of interest.

    The temperature is forecast to hit 77 under broken clouds here in Omaha today. Sunshine and rain means that I’ll have to breakout the lawn mower very soon. The lawn irrigation guy doesn’t come to turn on the sprinkler system until the 18th, so I hope that it will rain just a little between now and then to dissolve the fertilizer pellets that I’ll spread after I mow for the first time. Talk about vanity! We pay to fertilize and irrigate the yard so that the grass will be lush and green, then we pay to cut and trim the grass so that it will look nice, then be send the waste container to the landfill.

    ‘Hope that you are all well in body, in mind, and filled with GOD’s Holy Spirit!

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