Rendered Fat Content


Las Hilanderas [The Spinners] (c. 1655–60), Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez. Museo del Prado, Madrid
"Our nest feels fuller now. So do our lives."

The Muse and I have been empty nesters for most of our lives together. Our kids were almost grown up and out by the time we connected, and aside from a few fraught months here and there, and our accompanying cats, we've been on our own everywhere we've lived. Until last fall, we'd inhabited empty nest isolation for the ten months since Rose The Skittish Spinster Cat met her maker. Then around Halloween, everything began to change when The Muse invited her sisters, a niece, and The GrandOtter to visit. Our kitten Max arrived around then, too, and the place hummed for a few days before slumping almost back into an echo-y mausoleum again. The following week, Max's sister Molly arrived to herald in a new age, our formerly empty next infested with kitten play twenty-four hours of every day. Then The GrandOtter returned for a visit which has now turned into an impending full-blown relocation, and our nest seems far from empty now.

Curiously, the place seems larger full than it ever did when empty.
We use the whole house now, the full daylight basement finally coming into its own. I'm down there every morning, emptying the kittens' litter box, riding my exercise bike, reinhabiting my old oak desk from where I watch each sunrise invade our back forty. I relocated my toiletries to the basement bathroom, a formerly unused space, to free up what we'd called the guest bath, now The Otter's. Adding one more person to the nest, though, almost exponentially complicates life. Two plus one approaches infinity. The kittens prove to be no bother, for their needs hardly extend beyond a few vigorous bouts of 'kitty fishing' per day, replenishing their food and water bowls, emptying the litter box, and reserving some lap space for Max, the only tame one, when I thought I would be writing.

The Otter's almost invisible since she keeps zombie hours and usually stays plugged into a seemingly endless soundtrack of her curiously dirgy music library; everything there composed in a minor key. She's recovering from multiple traumas which I should not discuss here but which reverberate through every early evening, with The Muse admirably performing the role of chief confessor and cheer leader, as any grandmother might. She returns from another long day at the lab into another heart-to-heart, tears often accompanying, sometimes anger. Supper occurs accompanied by more conversation, which usually spills over into kitchen clean up and what was formerly, when our nest was emptier, some veg time before bed. Her veg time's been largely curtailed, an exhausting development.

High drama often follows trauma and while it's sometimes healing, it sometimes feels simply churning, stirring some bottomless pot without advancing anything nearer to anywhere. Further, drama shifts the historically placid atmosphere we've reveled in here. My friend Franklin observed that The Muse and I had largely inhabited our separate corners when empty nesting. We find few separate corners here now. Something lurks everywhere. A surprise kitten pounce or a fresh thread aching for unraveling. Our attention spans seem to be expanding, fresh awarenesses seeping in. Nesting sometimes seems more like dealing with a set of Russian Nesting Dolls, where each one holds seemingly infinitely recursive replicas of itself, with each opened mystery revealing ever smaller and more concentrated versions of itself. Resolution seems unlikely. We are not performing therapy but family, an all-purpose contraption seemingly ill-suited for any single purpose but also applicable to all, the Swiss Army Knife of human interaction.

I feel less lost now that our nest has filled up again. Each day brings purpose which hardly needs discovering. There's nurturing to be done, effort that's not always fun or particularly welcoming, but nonetheless necessary. My time seems more bounded as I no longer find myself the sole boundary tender in the place. Supper's served face to face and never in front of the television. We're still defining what constitutes the equitable division of chores and struggle sometimes to properly fulfill our roles, finding ourselves out of practice after so many years of merely falling into them. The same-old never needed explaining the way different-new seems to. We tip-toe sometimes, knowing we just embarrassed ourselves, leaving explanation behind until we find ourselves tangled in our nesting twigs and feathers again. I might lose my cool now and then before reclaiming it again from the over-used Lost and Found. We've lost our empty nest, which on reflection seemed constructed of altogether too much wasted space. Our nest feels fuller now. So do our lives.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

blog comments powered by Disqus

Made in RapidWeaver