It Just Takes Time

Winter feels as if it is moving fast. Maybe it’s that it has not been a hard one; we’ve had a few mornings below zero, but only a few, and though the snow has come frequently, it’s arrived in measured doses. Three inches here, four inches there. A trace, a dusting, a flurry, a squall. Or maybe it’s just because I’m getting older, and falling for that old cliche about time and age. It’s foolish, I know. Time doesn’t do anything. It has no agenda, no particular pace. It delivers nothing. It just passes.

A young man arrives at my writing class. 20-something, I figure. I haven’t seen him before. He is tall, and covered in tattoos. Lots of skulls. He says he’s been writing his whole life, hundreds upon hundreds of notebooks worth, all hidden away. He’s never shared anything with anyone. I say “ok, fine, you don’t have to share here, either, but if you want to, you can,” and when it comes his turn to read or to pass, he reads. His voice is shaky, and when he done, he lets out a long exhale and shakes his head. “Whoa,” he says, and takes a pull off his energy drink. Monster Galactica Rocket Extreme, or something like that. Later, he tells us that his father beat him every day. “I got what I wanted, just not the way I wanted it,” is how he puts it. He says it like it’s just another fact, which I guess it is.

The days tick by. Our oldest cow, Apple, goes down for the second time in a week. This time, we cannot get her to stand, even with aid of the tractor. We know what needs to be done, and so we do it. We’ve had her for nearly 16 years, and I think that in 16 more years, I will be 64. This does not seem possible, but there it is. In an email, an older gentleman reminds me how much life remains in the years before me. There must be something that gives him reason to think I don’t understand, and maybe he’s right. I admit to sometimes feeling old already. But then, sometimes I feel young, too.

I tell my students “let go of inspiration,” by which I mean “don’t wait around for inspiration.” Which is not the same as not enjoying it when it comes. Oh, yes, definitely, enjoy it when it happens. It’s a gift. But the rest of time? Do the work. Sweat it out. Put in the effort. Because if you do, eventually you’ll get what you want. Maybe not the way you expected or even wanted, but you’ll get it. It just takes time.


17 thoughts on “It Just Takes Time”

  1. This is absolutely lovely, Ben. All of it. And I am sorry about Apple, but glad you could do what you needed to for her.




  2. Been awhile since I commented, but I thought this an interesting snatch of your life these days. Seems quite different from where you were at the old place next to Melvin. Ah, but time never stands still, and so it goes …

    Sorry to hear about Apple. Say hi to Penni for me!


    Sent from my iPhone


  3. Sorry to hear about Apple. From your past writings about her, it sounds like she was quite a fixture on your farm, in your life. Good to know that she was appreciated for just being her, not what she produced.

  4. Ah Ben, wait till you’re my age. You won’t know anything you don’t know already, you’ll just know it in a different way. You’re right, that is how time works–no lessons, just the ones that grow inside you.

    I wonder what Apple thinks about it all?


  5. Hi Ben,
    There are years in life when we think we know it all. Then there are years when we question ourselves with self-doubt second guessing decisions and choices (hindsight is a wonderful thing), some with regret, some with pride, some that carry guilt. It’s the human nature of human beings. We err, we triumph, fail, succeed.

    My condolences on Apple’s passing. Each of the many animals I’ve had to euthanize in my lifetime was a time of deep sadness and in a way a time to celebrate the fact that suffering would be as short as possible, the pain if there would end and we could be pleased that we had control over this. It’s a kindness of sorts, a respect for the life shared, enjoyed and learned from.
    Thanks for this post.

  6. Thank you. Life without the stories we tell would be so much more plain. Hard or not, they seem bring a commonality to the surface. I trust you will continue to find a cow against whose side you can put your head. It is a holy spot as you well know.

  7. Oh, Apple! Thank you for sharing about her with us. For me, it is the animals that sometimes make me sit up and realize how long I’ve been on this Earth. When I think of how many of these wonderful beings have drifted in and out of our lives and the places they still have in our hearts, I know I’ve been here a while. And I am so blessed for it!
    Lucky student to have drifted into your class. I imagine you hear some pretty interesting things in that position. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Ben,
    This is Don Reynolds, Deanna’s husband. You, Penny and the boys have my sympathy on the loss of Apple. Your telling that story reminded me of the day that I came home from college, I could count on Butch our dog that was a little older than Apple, greeting me. Butch wasn’t around so I started my search and found him in the chicken house. His eyes were matted shut and he could not get up. I did what I had to. While digging his grave, I bawled and bawled. I in fact am a little blurry eyed, remembering that loss.

    You are active enough that you won’t get old as fast as a lot of people. Don’t worry about it.

    The second purpose in this response is to tell you that we visited with Ian and Caitlin Ackerman. We are in Clearwater, Florida and went to a farmers market near by. Deanna strikes up a conversation with everyone she meets, and found that they know you. They send their greetings to you and Penny.

    1. Hi Don,
      Nice to hear from you! Thanks for your story about Butch. That’s amazing that you met Ian and Caitlin. They are great people. Please give my love to Deanna.

  9. That is a real fucking bummer about that cow…….she was so cute. Those pictures of her with your boys are priceless too. The student you mention, bet you’ll both learn lots from each other….a ‘symbiotic relationship’ :}

  10. Enjoyed your post today Ben. Sorry about your cow. I’m almost 64 and I can assure you from experience, don’t worry, it’s just a number.

  11. Siri tells me that the average lifespan of a cow is 20 years, which is equivalent to 66 years for a human. Some of us don’t get there. Yes, it seems wise to not wait around for inspiration. Mozart nearly made it to 36 years, but today, I count 264 years since his birth.

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