Long Way From Here

Opening day of rifle season. At 3:30, I hear our younger son rise and start a fire in the cookstove. I drift off, but 20 minutes later am roused again by the sound of something frying, spatula scraping pan. At 5:15, I rise, too. Lay a couple sticks of wood on the coals the boy left behind, make coffee. Sit a while. Do chores. The kid’s long gone, leaning against a tree somewhere. Or maybe still hiking to the tree he has in mind. He’s got his driver’s license, got his truck, got just enough work to keep the tank half full most of the time. Well. That happened fast.

I clean up fencing and store it for winter. Split some firewood. Drink a second cup of coffee, then a third. The other boy is off paddling some river in Maine. The wife is off scouting trees for basket material. The cats watch me split, one perched on the hood of the car, the other on a rock. I imagine they’re imaging the fires to come, how they’ll splay themselves across the floor in front of the stove in the most inconvenient spot possible, the one I never quite have the heart to chase them from.

Later, I ride my bike. It’s snowing a bit, but just a bit, and the cold air feels good, drills right into my face like a low voltage electric current. Up Flagg Pond Road, past a bony German Shepherd who tries to run alongside me, but his hind legs aren’t working right, and he stumbles. Then onto Gonyaw Road, where I spy a woman sitting on the ground near the roadside, and I think maybe I should ask if she needs help or something, but she smiles and waves. She’s just sitting, just watching the world go by, or whatever portion of the world goes by on Gonyaw Road, which can’t be too awful much. But enough, I guess.

The houses all have smoke coming out their chimneys. The sky is low, clouds layered one atop the other. Pressing down. Winter feels close now. I think of that old dog. I wonder if he’ll make it to spring, which suddenly seems like a very long way from here.

25 thoughts on “Long Way From Here”

  1. It is wonderful how you get into the souls of others: your son off for his dawn deer . . your wife off scouting trees for basket material . . the cats lazily assessing your actions . . the woman sitting on the ground watching her Gonyaw Road world go by . . that bony German Shepherd whose hind legs don’t work right. Suddenly I find myself in Stannard. It’s a GREAT place to be! Thanks!

  2. Thanks for bringing me a smile this Sunday morning. Im well. Turned the corner I think. Hope you are holding up ok. Next time you’re home alone and feel like shooting the shit, give me a call. No rush.  Here is my attempt to return the gift of the smile. My sons bday in full lock down. Good friends ignored it and stayed for a few days. thank god. Son Tlaloc (he is half mexican) was a great companion for Sebastiaan despite the language barrier (both bi lingual but no cross over..)Take care Sim

  3. Hearing about the kids as they become young men has been very helpful to me. They were such an important part of your stories and books for so long that I am grateful to glimpse, every so often, how their lives are continuing. As a homeschool mom, it’s a key element to lessons I’ve learned from you. Thank you.

    1. I agree! My boys are now the age Ben’s boys were when I first started reading his work several years ago. His words have often served as reassurance that all will be well.

  4. I have said it before – you are a great “noticer”, a skill I hold in high regard. While people often look for the dramatic, you write about the everyday which is really what life is made of. Thanks for the beautiful word pictures.

  5. Another great read – especially as I am here at the cabin and can know what you are seeing and feeling weather-wise (still neighbors somewhat, just a bit farther apart 😉). The imagery you conjure with your words amazes me sometimes, but a good writer does that.

    Loved the time reference in ‘that happened fast’. Ken’s boys are a year behind yours and I so relate. Where did time go?

    Keep showing us a little slice of VT life – it keeps me grounded during my time away. See ya around one of these days.

  6. ‘Hope that Rye has a successful hunt, even better if he punches his tag with the old Savage 170.

    I tagged 2 does yesterday, one at about 9AM and one at about 1PM. Didn’t see any bucks that were worth shooting, since I only bought one buck tag and can buy an unlimited number of doe tags in some management areas.

    I’ll probably shoot a few more does, keep the tenderloins, and donate the rest to the local homeless shelter. Funny thing, the people who feed homeless people aren’t picky about where their protein comes from, but the people who prepare meals at our church for wednesday night family dinners wouldn’t accept it, as there was a risk of contamination since it was processed by me in a clean, but not sterile, environment.

    Life seems to have too many 2s; kids growing up too fast, summer and fall being too short, winter being too long, spring being spring, summers being too warm, winters being too cold, never enough time to get everything that you want to get done.

    1. No deer today, but he did get a moose a couple weeks back, so no one’s going hungry this winter. Hope you’re doing well, Jeff.

      1. Rye must have been lucky to draw a moose tag in Vermont.

        A woodshed full of dry, split, wood, a freezer full of meat, and a root cellar full of garden harvest gives a person a good feeling going into winter.

        We bought some cattle back in the spring when the meat processing plants closed down and ranchers had cattle that were ready for market. We kept them on grass and then fed off a couple at a time on corn that was at the bottom of a couple of 20,000 bushel storage bins before taking them to the local meat locker.

      2. Wow, a moose! I haven’t seen one in our area for years, and that was down by Elmore. Ken really wanted to see one while he was here the first two weeks, so I’ll have to let him know they weren’t all that far away after all. I head back end of week, so will see what this season brings us. We have SO many deer out our way because of the farms. Good at hunting time, but not so great when one hits your car. 😔

        Ken and the oldest may go out this weekend. Hoping they get something as we would really like to have more canned venison for the winter chilling making!

  7. I have this theory that the people who can appreciate simple things are the ones who are going to make it. I’ll leave it up to whomever to decide what ‘make it’ means… You’re going to make it :}

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