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Don’t You Dare

Morning ski through town

Six days a week my son’s alarm goes off at 4:30. He’s working a big sugaring operation an hour-plus drive from here; they start at first light and end at last, and some nights even later than that. They’ve got maybe 5 weeks to make it or break it, and those 5 weeks start about now. Last year, they broke it, and so did pretty much everyone else making syrup. It won’t be good if that happens again, though I hear prices are up, and some are speculating that all the cold nights we’ve had are setting us up for a good season. Then again, someone’s always speculating about something, are they not?

Over the weekend, I ski with an old friend, someone I haven’t seen for nearly two years. I take him on my favorite loop, the one that climbs up through a shallow saddle, then veers up and to the right to the knife’s edge of a ridge that drops in a series of cliff bands to the east. We trace the ridge northward along the edge of the cliffs, then cross to the next ridge over, and follow it back to our starting point. The new snow – six inches or more – is so, so smooth and light, there’s hardly any moisture to it at all, it’s like cold dust, like smoke, like something that appears in a dream from which you awaken unable discern fact from fiction. And maybe even unsure if such discernment is necessary.

The news unfolds in slow-moving tragedy; one hardly knows how to respond. Renounce the Russian vodka, I suppose. Pay what it costs to fill the damn truck and be grateful you’re not huddled in some damp basement waiting for the strike you know is coming, just not when. Hope for the things that seem the least possible, while not closing an eye to those that seem the most.

Then just do what needs to be done. Get up in the dark with your son. Light the fire. Make the coffee. And for God’s sake, don’t you dare forget to give him a hug as he walks out that door.

12 thoughts on “Don’t You Dare”

  1. Vodka….quite a bit is distilled here in Kentucky now! Be careful what you pour out 🙂
    I too am following the news and daily more unsure of America’s place in the world. New revelations from those who follow the treaties we’ve signed and the CIA’s involvement in the Euromaiden and the Orange Revolution make me want assurances that we’re the good guys….right? Aren’t we? All this on top of Assange, Snowden, Ellseburg, Mockingbird, Smedley Butler, the MIC and and and…… There are some good guys….somewhere, right? Who knows what’s really happening.

    Better to find a simpler path and enjoy some maple syrup on a hot biscuit.

  2. Hi Ben…..Thank you for this post and the photo.

    What is happening to the good people of Ukraine makes everything else pale in comparison. Many cannot escape the utter horror of Adolph Putin’s absolute cruelty, those who can don’t have a warm bed for their children, food, a hot shower or a roof. We have all of these things. Makes me feel fortunate indeed.

    Here’s looking forward to a terrific sugaring season!

  3. Ben, as usual, your post resonates with me here in Colorado. You know, they call that “cold smoke” in Montana. Feels so delightful when cross country skiing on that soft cloud of snow in the stillness and quiet of the trees, hillsides and flats. Makes me cry thinking about my delight in the simple snowfall, when terror fills the hearts and minds of people on the other side of the world when the aggressor takes a bold offensive…to what end? All I know is that the beauty of the freshly fallen snow, the peaceful mundane of the kids waking up to begin their regular days, the warmth of our home, the kindness of our neighbors…is to be treasured.

  4. Love the end about the hug for your son. Heartwarming and, as you say, so important to be grateful for all we have and for each other.

  5. I don’t think it is an accident I just started reading “A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy” by William Braxton Irvine. I have long been a believer in the Sphere of Influence and putting the majority of my energy there. I admire (and generally follow) the Keep Calm and Carry On mentality. But, stoics often get a bad rap for being unfeeling and sort of shut down. Reading this book combined with my own experience makes me think that it is more about feeling all the things AND carrying on (maybe keeping calm more often than not) all at the same time. You gotta do what you gotta do. Acknowledge all the horrible things and just keep going. Ski with friends, fire up the wood stove, hug your boy (and, I would add, drink lots of tea.) Then, get up and do it again. Since this is what I can do, I must. And I do. And, at the risk of sounding insensitive, I feel joy in the doing. Thanks for sharing what you are doing. Reading your words always makes me feel better, too.

  6. You’re right about hugging your kids and telling them that you love them every time that they leave, ’cause you just never know when they could be the victim of a random, or not so random, accident. Getting up to prove logistical support before the crack of dawn is an extra nice thing to do, but good parents make sacrifices for their kids.

    ‘Hope that the maple farmers have a good year, both in terms of production volume and prices.

    I find it amazing that Putin thought that the Ukrainians wouldn’t fight back when his Russian forces invaded their Country or that NATO wouldn’t push back. This has illuminated the weakness of the UN, given the irony that Russian currently holds the chair of the all-powerful Security Council and as one of the five permanent members can veto any resolution that they don’t agree with. Putin is to Ukraine in 2022 what Hitler was to Czechoslovakia in 1938.

  7. Thanks for your post and the comments others have made.

    Everything in the world is shaking. I keep a steady hand on my trowel.

    On the same day Russia invades the Ukraine, I am planting ramps. It’s late February, the perfect time of the year to plant ramps where I live. I do not know what sort of timing is at work in the minds of the Russians or Ukrainians. I only know that where I live, the experience of a large number of people strongly suggest that I should plant the bulbs now.

    To have given up illusory hope is not to be hopeless. Spring will arrive as always, this war will end, the ramps will reach into the soil, and I will dig deep and, like you, focus on the next thing that needs to be done. One lives as one can. Be well.

  8. Ben, I admire your ability to so thoughtfully keep up with this space. Your words and observations provide comfort to many. I’ve not written anything for months that feels palatable for public consumption. Feels impossible to tie certain things up with a pretty bow, I suppose. It’s been easier to just keep it superficial over at IG these days. Emily talked with her host mother in Russia just last night. She works at a sports stadium and while it is still open, the games are all Russian against Russian teams (not the norm). The economic situation is becoming intense and is deeply felt. It’s getting more and more difficult for Emily to communicate with friends there (and in Ukraine, Belarus, etc.), as various forms of social media are going offline left and right (a handy way to communicate internationally… usually). Anyway. I think of your family often and hope all is well. We had the prettiest flock of snow buntings spend winter with us, a first for me! They left a few days ago… I hope their time here was well spent, we thoroughly enjoyed having them!

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