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Attention is Definitely Not

Early morning ski to Dead Moose Pond

It snows, then thaws, then freezes hard again, creating a crust that I quickly punch through when I try to walk on it. Later in the day, driving, I pass an older mobile home far down the other side of the mountain, where two young girls and a dog are running across the yard. The crust is strong enough to bear their modest weight, and it’s true that I’m a little jealous, but it’s also true that maybe that’s exactly the way it should be, that part of the magic of childhood is being able to do at least a few things the big people can’t: Scamper atop the crusted snow, nap whenever fancy strikes, squeeze into small places. Watching the girls and the dog, I remember riding my BMX bike atop the frozen snow around my parents house, that incredible sense of freedom to go anywhere I pleased, up and over and around the natural hummocks of the forest floor, the whole world (or at least what seemed like the whole world to a 10 year old boy from Vermont) transformed into something that defied the laws of physics as I’d previously understood them.

Pedal and swoop, pedal and swoop. Four decades ago but damned if I can’t feel it now, exactly as it was. Exactly as if all those intervening years only prove the simple truth that time is an illusion. But attention is definitely not.

18 thoughts on “Attention is Definitely Not”

  1. Hi Ben – “….time is an illusion. But attention is definitely not.” You pay attention and your readers benefit in such big ways. You teach us. Thanks for that. Very much!

    How did Dead Moose Pond get its’ name?

    1. It’s a not the official name (no idea what that is). Came from some fellas who also ski back there on occasion. I guess they found a dead moose in the water a bunch of years ago and the rest is history.

  2. Beautifully said! I am definitely wearing a grown-up costume but the 10 year old is still there. I would also love to know the story behind Dead Moose Pond. If it’s not more than what it seems, you can make something up. 🙂

  3. Seems that everyone is interested in place names. I live near Louisville, KY and today I drove across Wolf Pen Branch Road AND Lime Kiln Road. I should research the history of these names, but I think I like my version of the back-story. My parents are both from Gravel Switch…..name is related to the gravel deposits used by the railroad.

    Mr. Hewitt, I’m always interested in what writers read….what three novels would you put at the top of your list?

    1. Love Gravel Switch. Novels. I’d go with Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, In the Fall and/or Lost Nation by Jeffrey Lent (another Vermonter), and right now I’m reading and really liking Neither Wolf Nor Dog by Kent Nerburn. How about you?

      1. Thanks, I’ll check them out. Mine? I’ll go with (1) Sartor Resartus – Carlyle. (2) The Book of Disquiet – Pessoa. And (3) Swann’s Way – Proust. When I retired 3 years ago, I had a…..bit of a spell and started reading classics. Here’s a few more I liked and some I didn’t. https://borderlandjournal.com/recommended-reading/

        You haven’t said much lately (that I recall) about teaching….are you still doing that?

        Keep up the great writing. I’ve shared your work with my daughters. I love the insight and the tranquility.

      2. Thanks for the book recommends! I’m still teaching in some capacity, thanks for asking. I work with student journalists at the University of Vermont as a mentor, helping them develop story ideas and also craft their stories. It’s through a really cool program called Community News Service (https://www.communitynews.net/) that pairs students with local newspapers; in my case, the Hardwick Gazette, Barton Chronicle, and Cabot Chronicle. I also facilitate the occasional workshop through a program called Writer’s For Recovery (https://www.writersforrecovery.org/) that works with people in the recovery community. Love ’em both.

  4. Beautiful as always Ben! The last two lines strike me as very Zen. Probably because I’ve been tuning into much of Thich Nhat Hanh’s memorial services lately. I bought a wrist watch once at one of his retreats and at every hour, instead of a number, it just says, “now.” Your writing conveys such deep attention. Thanks again for the glimpses into your world. Also, wish there was Writers For Recovery in WV. Looks like a profound program. I lost my brother to addiction almost five years ago and have since developed deep friendships with recovering addicts with so many stories to tell.

  5. Methinks you should write a book about paying attention, being present, and appreciation because you are really really good at it.

  6. Well written Ben. I’ve never ridden BMX bike on a snow crust, but your article brought other 70 year old memories of things I could do then that I will no longer do to mind.
    Don Reynolds

  7. I’ve read that the indigenous people love the time of year, often now to April, when the snow was crusty enough so you could walk on it and go anywhere you like. It is magical…as long as I get back before the afternoon sun softens things up.

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