A Very Long Time

I’ve been absent this space so long that I’ve received emails of concern (thank you very much, you know who you are), and yet I’ve had a hard time returning; there’ve been a lot of false starts over the past weeks, but the words just sort of get caught in my throat, and I walk away. It’s not writer’s block – whatever that means – as I’m writing plenty for other outlets and projects. Perhaps it’s merely that I’ve been too busy to stop and take notice the way I’m always admonishing my writing students to stop and take notice, and if this space has been anything over the years, it’s been a recounting of thing’s I’ve noticed. 90% of good writing is paying attention is what I say, although I have no proof of this whatsoever. It could be 75%; it could be 95. It may even vary from day-to-day. (This is why you probably don’t want me for a writing teacher)

But yesterday I promised myself I’d pay attention, and so it was that when I emerged from the wood on my skis in the early morning light I could feel the cold stinging my cheeks and see the stars dimming slowly in the sky, and sense already the tentative pull toward spring: light coming a little earlier, the promise of a sunny day, the mid-point of January now past. It’s been a good winter, a come-and-go-and-come again sort of winter, not a hard winter, but not a mealy one, either… there’s been enough of it for a fellow to sink his teeth into.

I skied through the old churchyard, a half moon hanging over the steeple. Just like I’ve done a hundred times or more before, and probably written about here, too. My breath frozen on the zipper of my jacket. Over the bridge, and up the hill, just to the side of the gravel road. Simon came jogging past and we exchanged greetings, and I could hear his departing footsteps in the frigid air for what seemed like a very long time.

17 thoughts on “A Very Long Time”

  1. Glad you’re back, Ben! Seeing Lazy Mill Hill in my Inbox always makes my morning a little brighter! After a really mild December, it is full on winter on the Nebraska prairie. Yesterday/last night alternated between snow and freezing drizzle so there is a very crunchy crust on everything this morning. And a brisk wind out of the NW, which makes it pretty miserable out there.

  2. Hi Ben,
    Waking up in Miami on this Saturday morning I open the computer and a banner says that a new post from you is available. This is wonderful news to me and starts my day off on the right foot. This is a nice feeling filling your recent absence that I felt over the last few weeks. I think it speaks of the importance that your writing here means to me (and others) and how in a way it has become a small but essential part of life that carries value that delivers a certain kind of peace I don’t get from any other source. I’m grateful. Welcome back! And BTW…Happy New Year!

  3. Very comforting to hear and feel your words and your presense, Ben. The spaces we find ourselves, the circle of breath inside the coat zipper, the echos of crispy footsteps, it is all magic. Many hugs to Vermont.

  4. So good to hear your voice. Your writing can stop me in my tracks. And the wee reminder to just notice met its mark, too. So thank you from a sometime writer in midsummer New Zealand 😊

  5. I often think of you as my writing teacher even though my writing consists of letters and journal entries that only I (so far) read. And I would say noticing is essential for life as well as writing about life. I am still amazed at what good “noticers” my boys are and they continue to inspire me daily. After filling bird feeders behind our house today, I sat and did exactly that – noticed what happened for about 20 minutes. My boys came around the corner and looked at me and looked at what I was looking at and the youngest said, “I think the birds are glad you are around.” I hope so.
    Your name comes here at least once a week. We split wood on Sundays just as you do (I assume you still do?) and I have probably mentioned your comment comparing wood-splitting to church-going a million times to my family. It’s just one of the many things you’ve written that sticks with me on a very regular basis. Fortunately, they are kind enough to not roll their eyes or remind me that they know, already. We usually split wood next to our pond which is halfway up a holler with the trees climbing up the mountain to the ridge. My husband once looked up from his work and said it looked like a cathedral there with the sun lighting the tops of the trees. I think he gets it, too.
    Anyway, always good to see a word from you! Still re-read Homegrown every so often as I continue to find inspiration, reassurance and comfort there. Thanks for that!

    1. Your boy sounds like mine… Says something heartfelt and deep, and doesn’t even know he’s profound.
      That’s one of the many things he’s written that sticks with me regularly, too 🙂
      Thanks for the post, Ben, enjoyed!

  6. How funny, I was JUST thinking today that I haven’t seen a blog from you lately. Yours is a truly unique, welcome voice that is calm in today’s world. Glad to hear you are still here. Hope all is well with you and your family.

  7. Would you mind sharing here, where else we might find what you’ve been writing? Been through all the books. My head and my heart are always wanting more.

    1. Hi Cristin, most of it is for Yankee magazine. You can find a bunch of my work on their website. Thanks for your interest!

  8. Thanks for writing in this space when you can. I always enjoy it when I catch a new post. I’ve been visiting here for maybe five(?) years now and in that time I’ve acquired a three year old and an eight-week old (they’re pretty cute and awesome) and am really enjoying Home Grown–making me so excited for the adventures my little guys have ahead. Thanks again

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