Rendered Fat Content


Frédéric Bazille: Queen's Gate at Aigues (1867)
" … to let some inside out and some outside back inside again."

A man's home, long reputed to be his castle, stops feeling very much like home as soon as he starts using it as if it were a castle. I know, paradoxical. The problem seems to lie in the fundamental difference between home and castle. Castles exist first and foremost as defensive barriers, as fortresses rather than as commons, while homes, it seems to me, need to be open to mean anything. Closing up a home transforms it into a mausoleum, the sort of place only tell-tale hearts might ever inhabit. Whether in response to a heat wave or a snow storm, when a HomeMaker has to hunker in, his home becomes his castle and doesn't feel all that much like home for the duration of the defensive action. Castling ain't HomeMaking.

The Home-As-Castle analogy might apply to a whole class of human responses when exercising liberties or freedoms.
What might initially appear as clear latitude for unfettered action and might, indeed, even extend full permission, seems, upon closer inspection, to have been if not a false choice, at least an unwise one. We're free, for instance, to speak freely, though doing so might well cost us dearly. We're free to own a firearm of choice to defend our home, though gun ownership transforms a home into a sort of defensive castle, just as if a man's castle could ever be his home, which it can't. Not all choices seem equal and many just seem self destructive if chosen, fine in comparison but universally lousy in actual practice. Just because a man's home might become his castle does not mean he'll live happily ever after once he starts treating it as if it is his castle.

The Damned Pandemic deeply affected home. The Muse's home became her office then started to feel somewhat less like home thereafter. Home always holds multiple use permits, but not all those alternative uses seem all that compatible. If home becomes office, where does one come home to after the work day ends? Some separations seem essential to keep the universe in balance. Home office seems oxymoronic because it's one or the other, home or office, not simultaneously both. When a home's a castle, it's not a home but a castle. Home seems a jealous mistress, insisting upon exclusive choices. It can be one or the other but never both and together. It's where the heart lives, OR the spleen, a place of renewal OR defense, livelihood OR recompense. Never both together.

With a heat dome hovering over our home, I've been feeling more imprisoned than secure. The cats seem anxious and miss their simple freedom to step out onto the back deck in the morning and disappear into a garden or hop over a fence. We're safe from the blazing sun and fierce winds, but it hardly feels like home in here. It feels more like a castle, especially in the basement where the concrete foundation keeps the rooms coolest. With windows closed, this doesn't so much feel like home. When the AC's running, the place seems on life support and so prevented from fully engaging in the usual activities of daily living. Hunkering down's no way to live. Castling only feels like living once the drawbridge comes down and the turreted gates open wide to let some inside out and some outside back inside again.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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