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Things in General

Sunday morning. The cats wake me earlier than usual, and for a moment I’m unsure if it’s night or day, but slowly my eyes adjust and I can see faint evidence of daylight’s impending arrival. The days are notably shorter now, and if I count the number of weeks until probable frost, it does not add up to very many. It has been a good summer so far, a proper one, hot and dry and full. I allow myself a few extra minutes in bed, the cats pacing, daylight advancing, listening for the mountain stream, the distant water-on-stone murmur I love so much. But it’s gone, low and quiet again in the absence of recent rain.
Later, after chores and breakfast and the assembling of the tools necessary to the day’s primary task, I run my usual out-and-back route. I run for 30 minutes and am passed by one tractor and one truck, and see one black bear. My iPod settles on Iggy Pop’s The Passenger, and I am reminded of a story I wrote a dozen or more years ago for Runner’s World about an ultrarunner named Dean Karnazes and his attempt to win a 135-mile race across Death Valley. To report the piece, I assisted on Dean’s race crew, and I remember pacing him through the night almost 100 miles in, me on a bicycle, Dean running doggedly, and that song on repeat blaring through the open windows of his support vehicle. Every so often, he’d stop to puke or piss or shit, then shake himself off and start running again. He won the race, though it didn’t stop me from wondering why people sometimes do the things they do.
My family is gone for a while, and I’m glad for the solitude, so rare in my life. Though of course at times it tips into loneliness. But even that’s ok. Besides, I have the animals – the cats and the cows and the clucking hens – and I have more tasks before me than I’m likely ever to finish, or at least that’s what it feels like. I have friends just down the road; last night we sat outside by a fire until late, solving the world’s problems until fatigue compelled us to part (besides, there were no more problems to solve, we’d fixed them all!), and I drove the mile home up the gravel road, windows down to the soft night air, feeling pretty good about things in general.

A few things to share:

This amazing interview with Robin Wall Kimmerer

Here’s the piece I wrote about Dean Karnazes

A beautiful essay by Donald Hall about solitude and loneliness

Oh, and Iggy Pop’s excellent song The Passenger 

20 thoughts on “Things in General”

  1. Lovely. Enjoyed reading about your solitude and that of Donald Hall. I had read his piece once before, but it seemed to affect me differently, today. More time has passed, I suppose, causing me to view solitude and loneliness in altered ways.

  2. Thank you, Ben, I am very much looking forward listening to Robin Kimmerers interview. Her book Braiding the Sweetgrass has touched me deeply. Cried many times listening to the audiobook.

    I am thinking one of these days I will be able to get 2 weeks of complete solitude. That thought is sweet as honey pouring over the heart. For now, 5 minutes here and there are precious.

    Enjoy your shorter days of late summer when all gets slower and creeks flow low. We have a reverse phenomena in Arizona, after a slow dry May and June, then July and August get monsoon rains, when air fills with intense electric storms and sudden strong pourdowns with wind and hail and extraordinary sunset colors, its like summer roars in here finally with some greenery and lushness and mushrooms.

  3. 1.
    Things in general are always the best things.

    2. (via Iggy)

    Oh, the passenger
    He rides and he rides
    He sees things from under glass
    He looks through his window’s eye
    He sees the things he knows are his
    He sees the bright and hollow sky
    He sees the city asleep at night
    He sees the stars are out tonight
    And all of it is yours and mine
    And all of it is yours and mine
    Oh, let’s ride and ride and ride and ride

    3.
    I have driven by Donald’s house a few times always hoping to see him standing in the yard, or waving his arms at poetry, or, best, riding in that Ox Cart.

    4.
    “I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.” hdt

    5.
    Pleased to read you again, Ben

    1. Thanks, Will. Damn, with you and Renee and Bee and Tricia, it’s like we’ve got the band back together again. We just need Emmaeus and Dawn to stop by…

  4. I can’t remember solitude. It’s been 10 years. Yet I still get lonely….wtf? The only thing I really know about Iggy Pop is that he once went to visit Brian Wilson at his house. Brian sang ‘Mama’s little baby loves shortening bread’ repeatedly, I guess nonstop. Iggy wanted to get the fuck out, he said that Brian was too crazy. The end.

  5. Ah, Iggy Pop. Still rocking at 70, still perpetually misplacing his shirt. Ben, I can still hear you singing the chorus to Passenger in that tuneless way of yours. I’d call it endearing, but that may be going too far.

    Enjoy the silence. We’ve got a house guest this week, and last night I spent a half hour sitting on a pile of firewood behind the shed, just enjoying the absence of speech.

  6. I wonder why you run now, instead of bike? I’m getting back into biking, now that the boy has his first geared bike and is really talented at it. But we can’t ride out from my driveway; cars too fast, road too thin and winding. So we’d have to load up the bikes to ride for any length of time, and we never seem to do that. It’s fun when we do though.
    My coworker used to ride but now runs for exercise, saying it takes less time to get the same workout when running, so he runs. Plus, I guess I’ve spent a grand or a little more buying Craigslist bikes for the family, so there’s the expense too…
    Enjoy your time alone. Have a good one

    1. There’s great bike riding around here, but running is so damn quick and convenient. And my old bike is hurting, and I’m not in a place to buy a newer one, so…

      Sent from Mail for Windows 10

  7. Just curious, do you have any concerns about the black bears in your neighborhood endangering any of your livestock?

    I’m asking because a friend who lives within 100 miles of you in NH has stopped raising free-ranging chickens because a black bear sow and her cubs tore up his hen coop recently. He said that the cost of repairing the damage and replacing the flock of between 20 and 30 chickens made restarting not viable. As much as he dislikes Wal-Mart, or at least he says that he dislikes Wal-Mart, he is going to buy his eggs and chicken there for the foreseeable future.

    1. There’s been a ton of black bear activity this year. I thought about it a lot when our meat birds were out on pasture, but we didn’t have any issues. Our other livestock I think is bigger than a bear would go after.

      Sent from Mail for Windows 10

      1. Well, he just sold his goats, so… but we never had any issues. Though I suppose a bear could probably overwhelm a goat.

        Sent from Mail for Windows 10

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