More snow, this time upwards of seven inches, enough to shovel and plow and ski. The lattermost I do the morning after the storm, before the former two (priorities, ya know?), guided by the thin tunnel of my headlamp for the first 20 minutes or so, until enough light has come to the sky that I can flick off the headlamp and stash it in my jacket pocket.

On my way home through town, past the old church that sits across the road from the town hall, I see Kyle, who comprises the entirety of our road crew. This means he runs the grader and the plow and the backhoe and the dump truck and pretty much anything else that needs running in the service of the 16 or so miles of gravel roads that fall within town lines. He’s stepping out of his tall F250, on his way to drop his time sheet for the previous week.

Right next door to the town hall, I happen upon Peter, who’s out shovelling his driveway with one of those big, blue push scoops. Peter lives alone, has an old Massey tractor he uses to pull an old wooden wagon he uses to gather firewood to heat his old farmhouse. I’m guessing he’s 60 or so. In May, when we had our covid-friendly, outdoor town meeting, we had to talk loud over the clatter of Peter’s tractor, but no one seemed to mind.

I stop. Peter asks how the skiing is; I tell him it’s good. He comments that the weather doesn’t look too bad; I agree. We both have something to say about what we’ve heard from someone who knows someone else who supposedly said that the Farmer’s Almanac is predicting an up-and-down sort of winter, so I know it must be true. I ski on.

It’s hard to believe it’s already December. It’s hard to fathom another winter of this virus, though I notice how many people seem to have stopped trying so hard not to catch it. It’s difficult to imagine exactly what awaits on the other side of this winter, or the one after that. I keep hearing the phrase “new normal” as if there was an old normal, as if we’ve somehow forgotten that this is what life does – give and take and ebb and flow and bend and straighten over and over again. Always the newly graded road needing grading again. Always the snow falling in the wake of the plow, blowing and swirling into drifts that disorient the landscape. Always the fire burning down to ashes that by dawn have gone cold.

17 thoughts on “Always”

  1. Beautiful Ben…just beautiful. Still following you, although no longer living in Vermont. You capture the world I remember.

  2. Beautiful.

    On Sat, Dec 4, 2021 at 6:01 PM Lazy Mill Hill Farm wrote:

    > Ben Hewitt posted: ” More snow, this time upwards of seven inches, enough > to shovel and plow and ski. The lattermost I do the morning after the > storm, before the former two (priorities, ya know?), guided by the thin > tunnel of my headlamp for the first 20 minutes or so, until” >

  3. Reading your posts always makes me grateful for the people in my community, those that keep a rural area and all its inhabitants going. I realize a whole story could be written about each one of them. Gladys Taber is an author you might like, if you haven’t read her stories. I never thought about it before but she wrote about very similar subjects as you do, albeit from a woman’s perspective and during the 1930s and 40s. Check out her books if you haven’t already. The Book of Stillwater is my favorite so far but I am reading all that I can find through my library. I think they are all out of print. You always need more reading material for long Winter nights, right? Be well and thanks for the post.

  4. Fantastic piece as always. I can picture everything you say. Then I read another piece – I include a link – and I thought of you because you are, or have been, a writing teacher. And of course, you ARE a writer. I thought that it was particularly insightful for anybody who writes. I write and I have been an artist. I gave up being an artist because I can’t do everything and whatever is ignored or not appreciated is extra work for no purpose to me. I thought you might find this interesting: https://dev.lareviewofbooks.org/article/schadenfreude-without-shade/?utm_source=pocket-newtab

  5. Hi Ben….I certainly hope that life does straighten out after the bends of the last 23 months. I like to be positive but I don’t feel such with this. And these bends make me even more sure that where you live is perhaps one of the best places to be and causes me to think I should move there, even at my age of 71. I wonder if I can still cut and split hardwood?
    Thank you for this post!

  6. ” We both something to say about something we heard….” A more apropros statement on rural life has never been uttered. Thanks Ben, GT

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