Rendered Fat Content


Wassily Kandinsky: Composition X (1939)
"The checker might come to recognize us coming and feel the compelling need to take a break just when we're ready to check out."

I know myself to be a mystery to myself. Not a complete mystery, but enough of one to occasionally leave the detective puzzled, a real head-scratcher. I often wonder in vain, resolving nothing before deciding to just move on to the next thing in line. I work diligently, like a bee, but with little sustaining purpose. I don't, for instance, write four books each year to sell four books each year, but apparently for no ultimate reason at all. I often engage as a simple matter of form or custom. I'm unsure why I decide to mow my lawn just so, it just seems proper to do so, and so I dedicate a part of myself to replicating that pattern. Routines stick in my head and if I don't wake up dead, I'm engaging with them before the sun starts showing each morning. I flop down into fallow hours, too, apparently without good reason. The Muse might find me not exactly napping mid-morning and ask if I'm feeling okay, and I am but something's taken over my mind and I feel compelled to noodle it to ground. I'm unsure why. I frequently stump myself. I could be both the guest and the panel on What's My Line? and feel just fine about that. I'd guess correctly about the same percentage of the time as the real panel might, and wrong often enough to keep the proceedings entertaining.

The Muse and I play a game when we're shopping, one in which we enlist the hapless checker without asking.
We call this game Stump The Checker and we, if not the checker, find it terribly amusing. If we've selected something the checker cannot identify, we award a point to ourselves. We award no demerits to the checker, who we figure makes a wage too minimal to expect them to have memorized The Encyclopedia Brittanica of Vegetables, but we do think of ourselves as helping broaden their baseline knowledge. Only a few shoppers ever deign to purchase radicchio, anyway, so it's no foul if the checker's stumped by the challenge. This game leaves us feeling a little superior. We have traveled in Europe, after all, and personally know the proper pronunciation of even the most obscure of the chicories. We show off a little. We thank the checker for engaging in our little game of Stump The Checker before departing, a muffled sort of cursing following us out the grocery store door.

I often inadvertently engage in a version of StumpThe when asking for help at The Home Despot. I know the proper name of very few of the fine products any hardware store stocks. I own two books purporting to name everything found in hardware stores, but they haven't helped. I also earn a wage inadequate to justify my memorizing The Encyclopedia Brittanica of Tools, so I ask after things I can at best only vaguely describe. I resort to metaphor and allegory, which often further confuses the inquiry. I often leave disappointed, for however much I might have stumped the clerk, I've stumped myself worse. Even worse, I increasingly forget the names of things I'm seeking, though I usually seem to remember that I used to know them. I can easily stump Google because I can't muster even a distantly related keyword to describe what I'm seeking. Google, basically a pumped up library catalogue, proves useless unless one know the name of what one's seeking. StumpThe might be communicable.

It might be that the purpose of StumpThe was never really to find the correct answer, but deeper engagement. Our attempt to self-check some broccoli rabe stumped both us and the checker, as the vegetable had apparently not been correctly entered into the grand self check-out computerized inventory system. We summoned help from another hapless checker who quickly discovered that the rubber band around the bunch held the code for asparagus. He looked up, recognizing us as we recognized him as he said, "Oh, it's you again! Didn't we do this once before?" We had, of course, and after several long minutes, he found the name our humble rabe had been inventoried under. It's one thing to stump ourselves and another to stump the checker, but StumpThe inventory system and one might be delayed through the balance of an afternoon. The checker might come to recognize us coming and feel the compelling need to take a break just when we're ready to check out.


Come some Fridays, I feel as though I've been playing an extended round of StumpThe with myself through the week. I look back at what I've produced and wonder if I've advanced anything. I've quite clearly not definitively resolved a single great mystery of life and yet I continue sleuthing, If not precisely trying, at least persisting. To what end? What was the point again? Perhaps the point was nothing terribly profound. I proposed, long ago now, that each day might well prove noteworthy, even extraordinary, and might well always be if only we (or, more properly, I) just noticed. So I attempt to notice. Some attempts only deepen some pre-existing mystery, though some, maybe even many, manage to somehow satisfy me enough to motivate me to continue engaging in sometimes seemingly endless rounds of StumpThe Writer.

I began my writing week feeling as though I'd been jumping through
Hoops. "Surviving serves as the best reward for jumping through Hoops, surviving and the stories only a veteran can ever tell, about that Spring of '21 when he was kidnapped by the Walla Walla and run through a dizzying gauntlet."

I then went on to a more seasonal theme by considering my hesitancy when facing
Plantings. " … fresh beginnings rather than irreparable ends."

I next declared that I'd entered the Put Up Or Shut Up Stage of SettlingInto with
PuttingUp "PuttingUp seems partly just reward and partly well-deserved punishment, only a vaguely anticipated part of SettlingInto until we arrived."

I then went on to describe a frequent pattern to how I often engage in
Dreading "One day I might come to behave as I know I should, to stand up tall and swallow my medicine without first over-dramatizing the situation. I wonder if that could work. I doubt it."

The most popular posting of the week recounted a past event while also recognizing something significant about the present in
Anvernursery. "Living here reminds us of how very much started with us sharing those declarations with our community who still sustains us. Family. More than friends. The kids we're still growing up within, without expecting to ever really achieve maturity. Kids in deceptively big bodies, never grown ups. Pups, not Big Dogs."

My least popular piece of this period followed, one in which I fussed and whined about the challenge of organizing my workbench in
Sequencing. "As long as I continue pretending that I might one day know enough to start, I'll remain stalled and sorting through half-opened boxes and ever more proficiently doing without."

I ended this writing week with a whimper with
Whinering, where I relearned the lesson that some mysteries only get solved when the detective stops sleuthing. "I resolved the unplannable workbench dilemma by allowing my tools to find their own places there, by not insisting that any precedent guide my hand."

My game of StumpThe Writer will likely continue into next week, too, and perhaps in perpetuity. It might be an element of the eternal human condition that we sometimes simply cannot find the proper name for something, like writing, which is not very much like transcription, or living, which ain't half as physical as it might seem, and appreciating, which seems so darned understated when mentioned. Thank you for continuing to follow my foibles. SettlingInto also seems to entail enduring rounds of StumpThe Writer.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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