That’s How it Feels From Here

Coming in from morning chores at 25 below zero. Last day of the cold snap. 

Yesterday a warm and lashing rain, the snow disappearing fast, rivulets of water running down every slope, the tarpaper on the unsided exterior walls of our home ripping in the wind, the torn flaps thumping against the house. Hearing this in the night I had a sudden reminiscence from childhood, of how the branches of the trees by the cabin would rub against the roof in the wind, and how much I liked that sound. Yet I can’t be certain this happened; it was so long ago. So perhaps the memory is false, but I like it anyway.

By this morning, we’d lost 80% of the snow or more, though the temperature had dropped in the night, and the rain had turned over to ice, and then the ice, slowly, by degree, to snow. It is snowing now. I did chores with my shoulders hunched against the weather, 10 degrees and windy, the driven precipitation – whatever it was, snow, ice, sleet, freezing rain – sharp against my face.

Now we are firmly into the New Year. I am not one for resolutions – they’ve always felt too unyielding to me, and in my experience, that which does not yield eventually breaks. But I like the idea of intention, and if were to name my intentions for the New Year, I suppose I’d put openness at the top of my list. I’d like to remain open to possibility, to change, to being wrong, even, and therefore, to being humbled, because I think it’s a gift to be humbled, and I’d like to not lose sight of that.

I am doing some new things this year: For the first time, I am teaching a writing and speaking class at a nearby college, something that only a year or so ago, I would not have thought possible. Likewise, I have been accepted into the MFA program in creative non-fiction at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, though whether or not I will actually attend depends on a handful of contingencies, including finances, logistics, and (I’m not too proud to admit) basic courage. It is a funny thing to consider returning to academia, having dropped out of high school, and with only a modicum of experience in college-level learning. Sometimes I do not doubt my capacities; at other times, I do, a waxing and waning I have come to understand as being inherent to the human condition. Or to my human condition, at least.

And I am doing some things the same. Still writing for Yankee magazine, and grateful for an amazing editor there, and the latitude he gives me to follow my whim. Finishing up an illustrated book with a good friend, and cooking up more book ideas. Heather and I have a project in the works that we’ll be announcing soon. And I continue my work with Rural Vermont, an organization I love dearly, partly for the work we do, but equally (if not more so) for the people that comprise the “we.” I like people, always have, and the older I get the more I like them, the more I seem able to accept their quirks and outright flaws, even as I become more accepting of my own, more able to chuckle at them, and to present them to the world without embarrassment or shame. Well, most of them, anyhow. There’s a correlation, of course, between acceptance of self and acceptance of others. But you probably knew that.

I hope to continue writing here – no, I’m sure I will – though my schedule is busier than it once was, and perhaps about to become busier still. But in so many ways, this remains my favorite outlet, free of the pressure of money and editorial expectation, and always greeted by a gracious, compassionate, and generous readership. Or that’s how it feels from here, and I am ever-grateful for it.




17 thoughts on “That’s How it Feels From Here”

  1. I do not remember where I got the link for your blog but I an so glad that I did. I would be sad if you did not write here anymore. I look forward to it and it’s one of the only one’s that I read faithfully without skipping!

  2. All wonderful things, for you and your family, Ben!! Happy (and so very grateful) that you intend to still write here. Your writings have been such a blessing to me. So very happy for you!

    God Bless and Happiest of New Year’s.


  3. Congratulations on the teaching gig and the Mfa thing, whether you partake or decline. And yes to the upside of aging, the interest in and acceptance of colorful people. It’s been a while. Happy new year to all!

  4. Truly enjoy the posts. I look forward to them ….. them forget . and always do pleased when it reappears . Thank you sir

  5. So glad to hear this update. I love that I have been able to enjoy your words in so many venues, from when you did almost daily blog postings and the flurry of book releases to unexpectedly finding an article of yours in a copy of Outside magazine I thumbed through at the dentist. Oh, and the interviews, too! Can’t forget those as it is fun to put a voice to the…well..voice. I’ve been inspired and challenged by your writing since the beginning (I think about 6 years now) and I look forward to that continuing. Peace and Best Wishes in all your endeavors!

  6. I am grateful you intend to continue your blog in the new year. I so look forward to them. I feel a calmness and contentedness from your posts. (Of course I’m reading in my cozy chair while you are the one out in negative degree weather for morning chores/easy for me to feel content;) I believe that contentedness only comes with a living a life in tune with the natural world and our own beliefs. Good luck with all your plans for the 2018.

  7. I am grateful that despite a busier schedule (than usual) you will continue sharing your writing here. It’s good – and much needed & appreciated – medicine. Thank you Ben!! Congratulations on so many wonderful opportunities!

  8. Hi Ben,
    Just wanted to encourage you in the academic arena. I quit my job and went back to college last year at age 49. It’s turned out to be the most empowering, enlightening experience. Scary, hell yes. Exciting, too. Fun, believe it or not. Hard, sure. I’m learning from great teachers again, and sharing ideals with like-minded folks, some much younger than me. It’s really opened me up in ways I didn’t expect. And on a side note, it’s kinda fun to sit down with my teenagers and do homework together. I think they’re seeing that learning happens at every age. Anyway, whatever you decide to do, I enjoy reading your posts here, and I wish you all good things in the future.
    Cheers, Elizabeth

  9. Excited to see what you and Heather have in the works! I’m still quietly reading all of your posts. We took at trip to Vermont this fall and even went to Cabot. We went to the cheese factory and I also stopped in at the Cabot General Store. One of the highlights for me was visiting Hardwick. I had read your book “The Town that Food Saved” a couple of years ago and it was fun to see the town in person. We met many friendly locals and learned a lot about the area. I thought you might like hearing that someone travelled somewhere because of something you wrote. We were a little all over Vermont from Burlington, Woodstock, Killington, Stowe…it was great to explore! We are
    a homeschooling, perhaps unschooling (or just undecided), family so it was nice to be able to take our time and truly appreciate the different places we went to. We’ve been inspired by your books and writing. I signed up for the last “workshop” you hosted with Heather, all about home education and I find myself often thinking of the conversations from the recordings and returning to some of the material I printed. We have 4 kids, the oldest is 5 so the days can get crazy but so far we have found a “rhythm” inspired by all of the readings, podcasts, workshops, discussions etc from people who have walked this path before us. It isn’t perfect and it’s forever changing but I am learning to just slow down, following my children’s lead and trust the whole process. I guess this one little comment is turning into quite a long post but I just felt the need to share that your work has had such a big impact on our lives. Who would have known that for us, reading one book would have such a major impact on how we thought about educating our children and also how we live our lives. I think that we always had these plans and ideas in the back of our minds but once we saw it all written out by someone who was doing it we realized that it was totally possible. We are thankful for people like you who share pieces of their daily lives and allow us to connect in some way. I considered going completely offline for awhile but instead have used the internet to connect with other homeschoolers/unschooled….so maybe it’s not so bad after all. Sorry for the long post and good luck with all your upcoming changes and decisions.

    Emilee Boisvert

    1. What a lovely comment! Ben has similarly inspired our family though we have yet to make a pilgrimage to Vermont (some day!) Thanks for sharing your experience. 🙂

      1. Thanks! We really have no excuse for not exploring Vermont. We live in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada which is a very short drive to Vermont. We absolutely loved it and will be back for more exploration soon I imagine. The kids also love crossing the border, last time there was a border services dog checking all the vehicles and they thought that was spectacular!

      2. Wow! My children would love that, too. Even though I am a born and bred Southerner (US), my dad and grandfather used to go fishing up in Ontario and once, took me and the rest of the family along. I remember every detail of that beautiful country and it left a life-long impression on me. I’m sure you love it. Peace and Blessings!

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