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Of No Less Value

I was in the pond early this morning, washing away sweat and soil from the previous day’s exertions. The water was notably colder than it was even a week ago, and on the opposite shore, a flock of Canadian geese waddled to and fro, paying me less attention than I paid them. Fourteen, I counted, then dove again.

Later, but still early, barely 7:30, I picked up a pair of hitchhikers, a man and a woman probably in their 50’s. They were dressed in insulated jackets, though it was 70-degrees. It’d been a while since I’d picked up a hitchhiker – since the last time I wrote about it here, I think – and I was glad for the opportunity, even if they smelled strongly of stale beer and something else even more sour, though I couldn’t quite put a finger on it. They lived just up the road in a mobile home and were headed into town where the man has a job cleaning the carwash, which greatly pleased my sense of whimsy (washing the car wash?), though I kept that to myself. “Yup,” he said, “then I’ve got a real good job at…” he interrupted himself “What time’s that at, hon?” He turned to the woman in the back seat. “Eleven?”

“Yeah, eleven.”

“What’s the job?” I asked.

“I’m helping kill 150 chickens. I’m cutting the heads off.”

When I dropped them at the car wash, he cast an appraising eye. “Looks pretty clean,” he said, clearly pleased. They thanked me and got out of the car.

I love these little windows in other people’s lives. I love for a minute trying to feel what it’s like to be them – to be hitchhiking to my job at the carwash (“not too fun in winter,” the woman told me), to be excited about the opportunity to cut the heads off 150 chickens, to walk that road with my thumb out, wondering in turn about the people in the passing cars, and why it’s always the ones with all sorts of shit in their cars that stop, forcing a frantic roadside reshuffling of (in my case) a roll of tarpaper, a can of diesel, and numerous tubes of construction adhesive.

How quickly and completely we lose sight of the fact that everyone has their own story, their own ways of perceiving the world, and their own beliefs, all rooted in an experience of being themselves that they and only they can truly know. Which only exposes the futility in my attempt – there’s simply no possible way for me to understand what it’s like to be them, full as I am of my own feelings, assumptions, and perceptions. But still I think there’s value in trying, or even in just understanding that the way this man and woman experience the world is different than the way I experience it. And of no less value.

When I returned home a few hours later, I walked down to the pond to see if the geese were still around, but they’d flown. For a quick minute I looked for a dropped feather, a reminder of their visit. Finding none, I headed through the woods toward the house, noticing how already the leaves on the weaker maples have started to change.

 

 

 

 

15 thoughts on “Of No Less Value”

  1. I’m glad that someone can still pick up hitchhikers and have it yield an interesting story. Never been brave enough to do it myself but have always enjoyed hearing about these chance encounters. My version is interesting people I meet waiting in line. Like you say, everyone has a story and many seem to have few opportunities to tell it to anyone.

  2. Thanks for treating people like human beings regardless of their ‘situations’ or economic status and seeing the beauty in people, despite their deemed flaws (by society)….it’s refreshing/healthy.

  3. Cleaning the car wash! My 5 year old used to clean the Waitsfield carwash every day last August, he gathered up every little penny there that went back decades and all types of other crud. 🙂 I think we still have Vermont junk bag some place in the van.

  4. How quickly and completely we lose sight of the fact that everyone has their own story, their own ways of perceiving the world, and their own beliefs, all rooted in an experience of being themselves that they and only they can truly know. Which only exposes the futility in my attempt – there’s simply no possible way for me to understand what it’s like to be them, full as I am of my own feelings, assumptions, and perceptions. But still I think there’s value in trying, or even in just understanding that the way this man and woman experience the world is different than the way I experience it. And of no less value.

    “Sorry not sorry” to copypaste this much of your writing: so profound and cuts like a knife. Sadly, I sometimes fear we are losing this simple yet necessary way of viewing the ‘other’. Was reading about mindfulness last night, the concept of all those others being yourself was a bit mind blowing. Similarly simplistic but complex in it’s depth and potential.

    Thank you again for sharing your thoughts with us, for these reminders (intended or not). I still look forward to each post.

  5. Invite the demon in for tea. (Not that the hitchhikers are demons but you know what I mean) And if you don’t… yes, even Antifa and Neo-Nazis have their story. I wish we could stop long enough to listen to each other’s stories. We’re so busy resisting.

    Not us though. Right? We never resist. Right?

    I want all extreme people to get sent out in a space ship and look at this beautiful place from outer space. You can say that I’m a dreamer…

  6. We do love to “cast our appraising eye”, and you make it might easy and joyful with this writing, thank you, Ben. I am also wondering whether “Of no more value” may hold more validity for me, when low in confidence.

  7. It sure would be nice to get the Lazy Mill Farm waxing of the total solar eclipse, which I watched yesterday from a point on the “blue line”: Magone Lake, near John Day, OR. Wishing certain sharing folks certain stunning and privileged perspectives.

  8. One thing you taught me, and continue to remind me of, is about the validity of other people’s realities. Maybe it was in your book, or a deleted essay here, but somewhere I remember you writing about the “real world” vs your boys’ realities. That has stuck with me and opened my eyes.

  9. Ben, I just wanted you to know that as a recently new blogger, I received a nomination for a Blogger Recognition Award. In turn, I had to recommend 5-15 other blogs for nomination. I don’t read all that many blogs. I’m too busy living and writing myself. But there are a very few that I always go back to. Yours is one of them :). I appreciate you for your inspiration and the stellar way you have with words. I live a similar lifestyle and have been following your blog off and on for years. I own and love both your books. So, this is to let you know that I’ve chosen you as one of my few nominations over at dandelionsacre.com/blogger-recognition-award. Thanks!

  10. As I type these words, the Earth is tilting toward Autumn, with the Fall Equinox only 10 days away. It is getting to feel like Fall in the Colorado mountains, low temperatures in the low 40’s and high temperatures in the mid-60’s. Outside of cities along the I-25 corridor, Colorado is sort of like a bigger, younger, rougher Vermont. Agriculture and tourism pay the bills, plus lots of Subarus and well worn and frequently mud splattered pickups, some of the older ones sporting home-made flatbeds in lieu of factory made steel.

    Before too much longer, the cattle will be rounded up, with some going to market and those that have been bred going to Winter pasture in the high desert of southeastern Colorado where they will keep the cow/calf cycle going for another year.

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