Rendered Fat Content


I remember a pristine garden, edges sharp, beds clearly purposed, shrubbery freshly shaped. I recall the textures leftover after sweating out a particularly recalcitrant stump, the scrubbed-clean scent of the dirt I purposefully disturbed, improved, then raked smooth. My arm still holds a small sore spot from carrying tub-loads of castoff out to the refuse pile, as if I’d never quite recover from that transformation. As if that work would be permanent. As if I’d accomplished something.

But this world tends towards weeds, which means my work here must always be at least partly composed of cleaning up and clearing out. Planting ain’t the least of it and harvesting hardly a blip on a lifetime’s radar; passing fancy. Prepping and schlepping account for much more than 90% of owning anything. Little sitting back to rest on laurels when that laurel bush really needs pruning. It will always need pruning.

I am no green-thumbed fatalist. I love the clearing out and the cleaning up, and openly revel in the challenge. Others, who might view weeding as mere toil, praise my sacrifice as if to motivate me further into it and on, but it’s no degrading effort for me. I give more than I take from the work, but I need to give more. I have no shortage of unfinished business, but little of it can be so casually dispatched. I know the wily ways of every weed, and the best of them are no match for me. This is no fair fight, one I’m destined to win, and one, season to season, I can never possibly master.

This doing must become its own reward. Yes, I will stand rather too proudly when I finish, wiping the sweat dripping down my back, and genuinely feel deep accomplishment. I will successfully delude myself into briefly believing that this garden, this world, might have been changed by my toil, by my play, but this will be useful fiction. I’ve just played my small part in a cycle strongly trending against me, and next season, perhaps next week, some entropy or other will have all but erased my momentarily powerful influence.

None of this would matter if it didn’t matter most; more than almost anything. Life will certainly win in this eternal clash between life and life. I will convincingly pretend I won and you will appear sufficiently contrite, showing fresh-turned soil where my blade shaved you, but you will be back when my back will be turned. I’ll be off attending to another bed or someone else’s garden, and your mile-a-minute growth will overwhelm the gentile azalea again. Your milkweed will overnight stand taller than my iris.

This clash between competing eternals will change nothing. Not even that prior owner’s pavement lasted even half of the forever he believed it would. This work is for nought but the engagement, which must be pure of heart while permanently soiling those jeans. Those well-oiled leather gloves will wear through first one finger, then another, until they fill up with dirt to make every grasping finger into a thumb. The swamp elm suckers will irrevocably bend one turning fork tine and I will eradicate those damned roots anyway. He will be back next year. So will I.

I am aware today of the years I’ve sworn I would be back. I once believed I might permanently return, though I suppose I secretly understood that there never could have been any going back, any real arriving. It’s weeds now and forever, as it was weeds then if I honestly sort through the memories I thought I’d successfully discarded with my prunings. I left an impermanent mark then, and make one today. I am as back as anyone ever could be, making about as much difference as anyone in the history of this world ever has made, and I praise every day spent bent over bending some seedbed my way.

©2014 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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