Rendered Fat Content


Jackson Pollock: Going West (1934-35)
"Let the record show that I came to genuinely love this place …"

HeadingHomeward induces a perhaps necessary hardening of the heart toward this place I'm leaving, even though my relationship with this place has always been a forced marriage. It was not anything like the sort of place in which I'd ever imagined living. My first impression caught me wondering if I'd actually been reduced to living in something like this. It was way too new for me, stylistically strange and curiously laid out; ceilings too high and yard too narrow. The views seemed fine, even extravagant, though one does not inhabit views, or so I told myself. I told The Muse that I could see myself living here, though I really couldn't. Not then, but we'd been searching for someplace to live for six discouraging weeks, we'd only seen variations on worse, mostly much, much worse. I was ready to be finished searching and in light of then present conditions, this place seemed good enough. I told myself that our commitment wouldn't be forever. We both knew we'd be moving on in five years or so, so we settled. Forever.

Settling involves accumulating small affections.
I learned to love the lofty ceilings, encouragers of lofty thoughts. The garage, at least until that second car came, served as a genuine man cave. The basement, finished but cold, contained a perfect larder room and that fourth bathroom I'd eventually adopt as my own. The view from my desk took years to learn to accept, but I even came to love that perspective after dozens of mornings watching the cats wander around out there in the pre-dawn morning and seeing deer trail through on their rounds. Even the ground, with bedrock caliche six inches beneath the surface, eventually bent to my will to instill a begrudging acceptance. Through the usual calamities—that roof-shredding hail storm and the lost pet—the place grew on me to somehow resemble more and more of my identity. It became the strangely attractive home, always pulling me back whenever I headed out somewhere, my central point of orientation. It filled with the usual knick-knacks and accretions, blind spots of clutter we never thought of straightening, odds and unfinished endings, long-deferred renovations, proud creations, clever repaintings. It became our home. It even came to look like us.

Leaving demands AlienatingAffections. We had not intended to fall in love with anything here. We'd perhaps naively presumed that we could inhabit this place without it also overtaking us. There are no platonic relationships with any house. Even the memories of the long-maligned Deluxe Executive Towne Home we'd inhabited during our transition here almost six years ago still elicits twinges of nostalgia, for even it had its attractive features beyond its infamous forty watt Easy Bake Microwave Oven and unkempt communal crematorium grill. Now, I've touched every surface on the deck and its railing a half dozen times and balanced life-threateningly along precarious roof lines, retrofitted dozens of adaptations never intended by the builders or previous owners. As a result of all of this, we own this place and it owns us, soul deep, somehow, and departing transcends sweet sorrow. We're stuck in the middle of more than we'd originally bargained for.

I noticed last summer, as our departure started looming, that I grew increasingly gloomy. I'd let the immaculate lawn grow a week or two longer than usual and forget to find my usual time I'd allocated to routine maintenance. My relationship with the place started slipping, my heart hardening for the time I'd be forced to abandon this once dalliance. I felt as though a friend was dying and I wanted to both distance myself and never leave. I wanted to avoid an inevitable experience and felt far beyond even beside myself. No divorce ever overtook me this insidiously. I started failing to distinguish which of my presences accurately reflected me. Perhaps I'd already left, abandoning a shell to complete the separation dance while I inhabited some interim shadowland. I very clearly hardly recognize whomever I've become. I feel terminally distracted, unwilling or unable to focus, neither here, there, or anywhere for the duration. I suppose I'm simply AlienatingAffections.

The Damned Pandemic complicates what might have in other times become a mindless process. Leaving feels like an overwhelming inconvenience, an insistence upon revisiting every possession and to pass harsh judgements. I sense an expectation that I really should be lightening my ballast now, that I should be revisiting every casual possession and choosing to abandon some of them here, if only to avoid dragging them overland to the next landing point. My heart's not drawn to winnowing, but aches only to hold on longer. I understand that once we leave this land, we'll never return except in odd revere. When we leave, we'll be permanently gone, and along with our absence will come some regretfulness that we could not stay, so I'm actively AlienatingAffections.

I would prefer to have hated this place, to have never found the slightest sense of refuge here. I cannot erase the days spent huddling against blizzards and the mornings shoveling us out again, or the mornings—I think I was up for every one of them—where the sun crawled up out of the prairie to light up the rocky Front Range, promising more than it ever delivered, but still delivering plenty. Let the record show that I came to genuinely love this place and that I had to deliberately engage in AlienatingAffections to leave.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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