Some Heavy Shit


The moon shining through the window wakes me earlier than usual. It’s so bright I can see the unlit numbers on the little clock I keep on the windowsill above my head: 4:27. I won’t fall back to sleep, I know, so I tiptoe downstairs and light a fire. Do the coffee thing.

Last night I skied after dark, except it wasn’t really dark, already the moon was casting ethereal light, enough to forgo a headlamp, even in the deep woods, and the trees seemed to stretch upward forever against the blue-black sky. It was cold and so, so quiet. I skied a different route than usual, straight down the driveway and through town, past the old church, plenty of snow to ski the road’s shoulder. A car drove by and honked a friendly honk, just the briefest tap to the horn. I turned into Bob’s field and started to climb.

It’s been an amazing winter, maybe not one for the record books, but still. Snow on the ground since mid-November, and only a handful of brief, inconsequential thaws. I just finished clearing a half-mile driveway that hadn’t been plowed all year, up the road another 500 or so feet in elevation, and in places the undrifted snow was an honest 5 or 6 feet deep. Even with the big bucket on the tractor it was like bailing a bathtub with a teaspoon, and it took nearly 20 hours, but now it’s done.

I have skied and skied and skied, and twice a week or so my sons and I drive 15 miles to a small basement gym where we lift weights and laugh, then drive home, loving that flush of sweet blood to our labored muscles. It is a humble little gym, none of those complicated machines, just a couple of benches and lots of iron. There are smelling salts on the window sill, and the first time we went, against my best advice, the boys thought to give them a go. They haven’t done so again.

So this has been my secret to surviving this eternal winter: glide through the moonlit forest, staring up at the endlessly reaching maple and birch, stopping where the stream still runs under the depths of snow to hear its muffled gurgle. And then, twice each week, descend the creaky stairs to that little room with my two teenage sons, put the music on loud, and lift some heavy shit.

14 thoughts on “Some Heavy Shit”

  1. Hey Ben – This has been a bad winter out on the prairie too. And we are setting records for days of snow, inches of snow, average temps, etc. When I was a young man in Vermont I remember liking all the snow, but as an old man in Nebraska, I regard it as a major pain-in-the-ass. Perspectives change doncha know!

  2. GREAT to hear your voice Ben! Your writing evokes feelings sensitively expressed in Henry Beston’s “The Outermost House.” Keep it up!!

  3. I was wondering about you guys. Watching the news gave me an inkling but hearing you say it makes it real. Crazy. How do you ski on so much snow? Do you have trails that are packed down? You ski Nordic-style. Correct? Last weekend we got 6 feet of snow in one day in the Sierras! In one day!

    1. We have wide, backcountry-type nordic skis. It’s hard going when there’s lots of fresh snow, for sure. Great workout. Six feet in one day! Wow.

  4. Wow, you and I have some stuff in common, and now even more: two teenage sons lifting weight with their parent. My 16 year old bench presses (we got him some weight lifting stuff for his birthday and christmas presents), and he’s teaching me how to do it, except I have to lift about one third of what he does. My 14 year old is trying to teach me correct core strength exercises (which after giving birth to three kids is lacking sorely). Pun intended.

    And cross country skiing! I have an old, ghetto set of skis and poles that was given to me years ago, or maybe I got it at the Goodwill, I don’t remember. But these skis have been my life saver in this winter wrought with snow storms and countless power outages.

    1. You guys jogged my memory. Back in the day, in Iowa, circa 1973, I had a pair of cable binding nordic skis that the publisher of the daily newspaper gave me. I worked in the ad department there. I bound the skis to my ankle high farm boots and swooshed around in the corn fields. I thought I was pretty dang cool. I was the only one around doing that.

  5. I just recently found your blog and enjoy *going skiing with you* haha This one struck me right away simply because of the bright moon bit and going to light the fire and “do the coffee thing.” I do it, too. Our house is just one room and we’re all piled in one bed, so I have to be extra quiet.
    I wish I knew a way to add a photo I took ofe the moons shadow on the floor from the other morning. Anyway, thanks for sharing. I’ll keep reading! I love your peaceful writing style 🙂

  6. I want to glide through the moonlit forest goddamnit! I saw a pair of used X country skis at this resale shop yesterday, and was tempted. No boots included but I’d be halfway there. But what would I do? Ski through a cornfield? When a cornfield is your ‘nature’, you’ve got problems.

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