It’s Not Usually What We Know

Riding my bicycle up a long climb I pass a man riding in the same direction. He’s older than me, wearing an orange tee shirt and a white helmet, and he has a holstered pistol on one hip. I say hi and he says hi back, friendly enough but neither of us trying too hard. I keep pedalling, not looking anywhere but where I’m going, deciding not to be unsettled by the presence of that gun, which is now behind me and out of sight, though not quite out of mind. It helps that I’ve seen the man riding before, at least a handful of times. I’ve noticed the pistol before. It’s not like he’s trying to conceal it. I might be more unsettled if he were concealing it, like most people who carry around here. But of course if he were concealing it, I wouldn’t know about it, and therefore wouldn’t know to be unsettled, even if maybe I should be. Funny how life works. It’s not usually what we know that gets us.

There’s not much left of summer. It’s going the way every season goes: Slowly at first, almost imperceptibly, then picking up speed until you’re waking in the dead dark and thinking you better get the hearth for the wood stove finished so you can get the damn stove hooked back up real soon. Besides, you’re sick of tripping over the stove which is sitting in the middle of the floor next to the big laundry rack you’re also sick of tripping over, but which is pretty much a permanent fixture at this point, so you’ve come to accept it. Or so you claim. Still, it’s going to be a nice hearth, big slate tiles set flush with the floor boards so there’s no more stubbing toes on the grubby old bricks that were always supposed to be a temporary solution. And here you are only six years later making good on that promise.

The pond is still warm. The last of the blueberries are so sweet and a little soft. The cows are on their final rotation of pasture. I watch them graze in the fading light, it seems to me as if they’re forever eating, eating, eating, fattening themselves for the winter that in their bones they must surely know is coming fast.

21 thoughts on “It’s Not Usually What We Know”

  1. We were just saying today that we really NEED to get going on some kindling. There is an urgency that comes with this transition of seasons. But, I love it.
    Was thinking of you this week when I read the new book by Gary Paulsen, “Gone to the Woods: Surviving a Lost Childhood.” It just came out this year and is the story of his childhood which led to so many adventures that he gave to Brian in the Hatchet books. I have you to thank for recommending them several years ago and we have now read them all. They brought about the best conversations with my boys as I am sure they did with yours. If you haven’t read this latest, I think you would appreciate it. Hard to read as a parent who loves their children fiercely but astounding to read how he ended up as he did.
    Best to you and yours!

    1. Gary Paulsen! So many hours of reading his words aloud to the boys. Thanks for the recommendation. And yes, I sorta like the urgency of the transition, too.

  2. I don’t blame that guy. I’m going to get a pistol too. That way when they try to ‘jab me’ I’ll just wave my gun around and run into the nearest woods never to return. Back when I was a Liberal, I used to think gun control was a good thing, now I see exactly what all the fuss was about over there on the red side. I can’t wait for fall….the cool air (damn this humidity!) and less mosquitoes (damn those mosquitoes! Had 500 fly out at me from my tomato plants….wtf??? Another use for a pistol….shoot mosquitoes…).

  3. Hi Ben…..Here and there I see the slow encroachment of fall. Firebush is turning red as the summer continues its’ slip from view. Locust trees, that never seem to cease shedding something regardless of time of year, are losing leaves. They are the first to drop their leaves and the last in the spring to show them. If it wasn’t for their magnificent bark I might not like them at all but they do burn hot and long in a wood stove. Which I don’t have.

    The human race, at least in this country, seems to be replacing self-confidence with exposure of weaponry. Are we really that fearful of each other?

    Thanks for this post that started this September First for me!

  4. It will “officially” be Autumn in just a couple of weeks, harvest season here in Nebraska and leaf peeper season there in Vermont. I hope that the businesses up your way that depend on the tourist trade to pay their bills and maybe put a little aside have a banner crop of them this year. I think that people want to get out, but the Delta strain of COVID has kept a lot of folks closer to home than they’d like. Crop prices and yields are both looking to be good, we’ve had enough rain and have mostly missed out on wind and hail, so our farmers are about as happy as farmers ever get. We got together to cut and split several cords of firewood this weekend, mostly cottonwood, locust, and oak. Ate a few sausages and drank a little beer too!

    ‘Hope that you, Penny, and the boys are all well in body, in mind, and filled with GOD’s Holy Spirit!

    1. I wonder why people carry firearms in low risk places? What are they going to shoot,? Surely not somebody’s barking dog, no matter how annoying it might be, and how often do you really run into a rabid critter?

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