The Break of Dawn in May

On the mornings I drive my 12-year-old son to the farm where he hunts turkeys, we are mostly quiet. It is a little after four in the morning, and I let him sip from my coffee, and together we peer through the mist that hangs low over the gravel road. Such a gift to be out at this time of day, or night, or whatever it is, alone with my boy and my thoughts and the sense of emergence.

On the drive home it is nearly light, and I think about my son when he was younger, a toddler, and how I never could have anticipated this. And what a gift that is, too, to realize how changeable and surprising life can be, how even a young human can determine his or her fate, choose things you’d never have chosen for them, and how those choices can lead you straight into this very moment, alone now in the early mist, driving slow, the window opened just an inch or two because nothing smells so good as the break of dawn in May.

20 thoughts on “The Break of Dawn in May”

    1. This one rewards close reading. Please everyone read it several times. Note the title. Follow the word “emergence,” the idea of “emergence.”

      1. I appreciate the attentiveness of your reading, Will. Sometimes you call my attention to aspects I wasn’t even consciously aware of.


  1. I love to get up before dawn,
    to watch the sky lighten and hear the sounds change as dark turns to light.

  2. “The Break of Dawn” is truly “The Break of Fin’s Life!” WHAT a precious, fleeting snapshot of life’s unfolding, so poignantly expressed. THANKS! 😋

  3. Lovely. Thank you. Yes. I have a 12yr old boy too – who has chosen a home school path for us – and it has brought us to this moment, to the precipis of making a leap away from this enormous city to seaside/country living. Wow.

  4. Thank you, Ben, once again. I’m off tomorrow to visit my now 40-year old son and his 5-year old son, my grandson, so this is particularly poignant.

  5. Again, I really like how you pay attention to the “little” stuff and then write so eloquently about it. Yes, nothing smells as good as dawn in May. Actually I think the fragrance of all dawns smell great! And the changes in life that lead us to where we are kind of thought provoking.

  6. Beautiful. My eyes are misting. It reads almost like a poem too. Just the right length. A quiet length….

  7. Hello Ben,

    I found you and your books this winter and have really been touched by your work. I just wanted to say thank you for writing and putting yourself and your life and your wisdom out into the world.

    Like you, I keep a blog to process my thoughts and share a slice of our life with family and friends near and far. After finishing your book in March, I wrote this:

    I just finished reading “Home Grown: Adventures in Parenting off the Beaten Path, Unschooling, and Reconnecting with the Natural World,” by Ben Hewitt. It is a deeply satisfying book about homesteading, homeschooling, and paying attention to the vibrant world around us.

    It is rare for an author to be both deeply sure and openly uncertain about his path in life. In this way, Ben Hewitt reminds me of Wendell Berry.

    I’m very grateful to have read his story and for the way it is helping to buoy me during these final weeks of winter. Ben writes:

    “Like most people I know, I experience moments of uncertainly about choices I have made. There are so many permutations of what it means to live a good life. There are so many ways to be. How can I ever choose between them all? But then summer comes, and I’m riding the hay wagon behind Martha, and I’m dripping sweat and my arms shake as I pass another bale back to Penny and the boys, and I feel the quiet comfort of knowing there is nothing else I want or need.”

    Thank you for this. And thank you for your post today about the sense of emergence in May. It is such a gift to be alive in spring.

    Warmest Regards,


    Zane Kathryne Schwaiger Leelanau County, Michigan http://www.zanekathryne.com


  8. I read it again per PloughMonday’s instructions. By the end, I was envisioning an opening flower or a growing tree. I wonder to what flower or tree you would compare your son.

  9. I just came across a 2014 piece of yours, about your young woods-scholars, in Outside magazine, and now I’m a fan!

    My daughter left school in 5th grade, because it was just IN HER WAY at every turn, and she spent all her days making workarounds. Dreaming up creative ways to make boring lessons interesting, packing lunches of real food so as to avoid the terrible school food, coaxing school friends to play pretend games and things that weren’t connected to licensed characters, zipping through homework so she could read what she wanted to read, etc. She worked with me in our family catering business, and could see and articulate that her straight-A report cards were meaningless compared to the real-life success and satisfaction of helping to support our family.

    Her wonderful unschool years weren’t spent in the woods, like your children, but she had a similar deep contentment with herself and the fact that she directed her world. She’s 26 now, with an exceptionally great college experience behind her, and she’s a happy, confident, aware woman. More than anything else, I believe that unschooling taught her to be good at being herself.

    Thanks for your parenting, and for your writing about your parenting!

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