Rendered Fat Content


Camille Pissarro: Young Peasant Having Her Coffee (1881)

"… rewards there for the taking."

The hapless homeowner faces a fecund entropy through the month following mid-August. The garden's finally producing and achieving exponential returns. The Eurasian Stinkbugs find their prey, too, and threaten to spoil The Muse's long-awaited tomato party as well as the rhubarb. Weeds take full advantage of the often frantic watering as humidity levels plummet to the lowest of the year while solar radiation threatens to burn everything in place. It's usually a frenetic pace, a plate-juggling class of fruitless efforts. Self-esteem plummets in the face of overwhelming opposition to the regular rules of order. Fertility leads to pregnancy and pregnancy to a disruptive addition to the family. I struggle to fulfill my resulting unintended obligations.

I think of our Villa Vatta Schmaltz as one of our SafeHavens, a secure spot within the chaos.
The rest of the world slides ever closer to Hell while we maintain steady civility here. The yard's like a sanctuary garden most of the year, organized more along the English Country Garden Plan with soft edges and minor encroachments keeping it all in hand. A weeding every few weeks will usually prevent the worst invaders from producing seed, the point where gardens tend to get out of hand. We've improved some corners and left others to their own command. Every yard demands a little wildness like every garden insists upon some civilization. I pride myself on keeping this place in hand.

Each year, my experience traces a little further from my ideal. Before our exile, even traveling constantly, I remember keeping better reigns on the proceedings. Lately, I have remained an additional step or two behind between that bout of bursitis and terminal distractions. I let the lawn grow an extra week before mowing. I almost lost the fuchsias due to distracted neglect. I never really found my rhythm, which has always made my efforts easier. Doing anything without its natural rhythm can make even the most effortless actions seem next to impossible.

I'd even fallen a month or more behind assembling my latest manuscript, an excruciating bit of work that exemplifies the very definition of busyness. Yes, it produces that final submission-ready copy but it adds no real value through its process. Not a word gets changed other than to edit Today's into This at the start of every story. I'm just shifting format, stealing the introduction from my Facebook intro—copy and paste—then grabbing the body from my blog software's master roll—copy and paste to match style—then changing the style for the buried lede and the illustration caption. Finally, I copy the illustration in two operations: first, from my list of current images into the manuscript editor's resource folder, then from that resource folder into the applicable chapter, a drag-and-drop operation I successfully complete a little more than half the time. This process is just intricate enough that I can't quite go unconscious while doing it. When I keep up, adding each day's story as I finish, it's maybe five full minutes if I'm lagging. Deferred for a month, it becomes half a morning's work, a significant diversion, the literary equivalent of weeding, an effort I too often find myself procrastinating in the face of, a form of actively producing backlogs.

So, long-deferred weeding and manuscript editing came together in the same week this year, just as I was entering the tail of this wildly fecund season. I'd been writing like a madman, having finally found the rhythm of this Honing series, a typical experience for me to catch on just before I finish. The weeding had been calling, and I had not been listening or, I had been hearing but actively deflecting through afternoons far too hot to work through and campaign obligations. Some days, I've bartered away with obligations before I tie my shoes. My sacred routines felt far beyond me to maintain, and I felt their absence.

Once re-engaged, the manuscript making felt almost sacred, a religious observance, a desk-bound church service. I felt amazed that I had somehow created that volume, that backlog of finished stories. I felt every bit as if I was engaged in my life's work, not just busyness—routine maintenance—but an engagement of real substance. Likewise, a couple of days later, I finally found my winged weeder and commenced to hand plow through the front gardens, harvesting weeds. I moved like a well-seasoned combat veteran, almost on automatic pilot. I was distanced from the performance enough to reflect while engaging in it. I felt surrounded by so much familiar that I lost that sense of alienation my wildly fecund prior month had induced. I felt fully re-immersed in my most treasured SafeHavens, writing and weeding. The world could go to Hell, though I'd miss it terribly. I was temporarily suspended in the space intended for me, manuscript-making and weeding, two seasonal rewards there for the taking.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

blog comments powered by Disqus

Made in RapidWeaver