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ugène Delacroix - Lycurgus Consulting the Pythia (Circa 1835-45)
"I'm reaping precisely what I've sown."

Moving injects mystery back into a life. Like shuffling a deck of cards, the mere act of boxing up possessions transforms them into both more and different from whatever they previously seemed. Perhaps the act of boxing increases their potential which, through continual proximity, had before grown narrow and familiar. The labeling helps amplify the mystery. In a packing frenzy, we did not provide the most descriptive possible labeling, choosing to broadly classify contents and likely target room within which they belonged. Quite a few of the boxes contained contraband which could not quite qualify as kosher according to a stricter reading of our agreement with the movers. Prominent among those were the contents of the many, many boxes simply labeled Basement Pantry, for they largely contained home-canned jars of various provisions: Our precious tomatoes and their variants, roasted, nectar, and juice; My sacred stocks: goose, chicken, veal, and beef; The Muse's jams and jellies: Mirabella, apricot, apple, and apple butter; along with various and sundry leftovers from my over-large batches of beans and stews: pease porridge, pork and beans, green chile chicken stew, and quite a few never properly labeled quarts which appear to contain barf.

These boxes sat for a month moping outside our basement pantry, an unheated corner of the venerable basement featuring crooked wooden shelves, crumbling concrete walls, and a perfect year-round wine cellar temperature.
The room needed sweeping and the shelves, some serious cleaning and lining with fresh cardboard to compensate for their innate imperfections. The room has always seemed perfectly suited for the purpose of storing canned goods. It's a quick zoot down the basement stairs and located just beneath the kitchen. It's nothing to slip down there to snatch some special ingredient during a frenzied preparation. Further, it continues a proud local tradition. In the house I grew up in, remnants of an ancient summer kitchen remained just down the creaky basement stairs from the regular kitchen and beside that, a whole room lined with shelves and a double-wide closet which we always called The Fruit Room. I swear that my mom refilled that room by the end of every August. When she finally left for assisted living, I cleared out dozens of quarts of her canned plums with at least a thirty year heritage. They remained just as sweet as the day she'd canned them. The Muse insists that we'll never leave a mess like that for our kids, but I suspect that we probably will. Fruit rooms tend to become black holes and some treasures cannot escape their gravity until their creator departs. It's apparently a law of the universe.

Yesterday, we set up a production line of sorts where I unwrapped the contents of those boxes while The Muse flattened the packing paper. I'd packed the boxes so their contents should not have surprised me much, but I could never quite predict any box's contents until I found myself well into unpacking it. A few unpacked cleanly, a uniform succession of fine finished quarts of identical color and content. Others were mixed, as they'd sat on the last larder's shelves. Never completely ordered and classified, the old larder pantry had been partly deliberate classification and partly hectic cramming and had always seemed to successfully evade explicit classification. In theory, it should be simple to just set the baking-related items separate from the condiments, the dry beans, rices, and pasta separate from the crackers, but I've never seen that happen in practice, for many items cross between classifications and a few defy any general label at all. I mean, where does Maca powder belong? About half of the typical larder gets sorted into Miscellaneous.

I roughly sorted as I unloaded the boxes. I figured that I could at least place the jams and jellies together, but red herrings kept intruding. I'd just have achieved something approximating a flow state when some too-familiar reprobate would show. Those would go on a lower shelf until that shelf filled. The later boxes proved most difficult to even roughly sort, and I toyed with the idea of organizing a mass extinction event where a few unopened boxes might mysteriously go missing, but I lacked the pluck to make good on that intention. Each box, freshly mysterious by the mere dint of packing, held definite allure. Our future could be hidden inside the least of them somewhere. I took to imagining myself engaged in an extended divination, as if the contents newly revealed might foretell my future. Tarot jars. I kept finding an increasingly disturbing number of jars apparently containing barf and began fearing for my immediate future. I admit that after The Muse gave me that gasketless pressure cooker for Christmas, I sort of lost my head. Suddenly convenient to preserve for the ages, my batches increased in size and my larder shelves groaned. I'd almost never wander down to snatch a quart of some previous excess for lunch, so my inventory grew distressingly large then larger. Of course I packed it all for transfer here. Now, I fear, my fortune predicts that I'll be eating barf breakfasts and lunches for the next few months. I'm reaping precisely what I've sown. All just another part of SettlingInto.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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