Departure of the Joads, Thomas Hart Benton,1939
"Detention offers opportunities to more deeply appreciate …"

The cats Max and Molly "accidentally" escaped again last evening as I was finishing up the grilling. Fact was that I felt in need of escaping, too, accidentally or otherwise, for my heart felt like it was no longer home here. Oh, I hold the old place dear enough, but I'd had more than enough and needed something different in my diet. The lamb and veg kabobs were nicely finishing, and those two baby eggplant featured perfect grill marks, but I'd seemingly lost my appetite for home and hearth, which had by then accumulated a half-summer's worth of shirked maintenance. I'd accumulated a seemingly insurmountable backlog of everyday ordinary activities, somehow supplanted by even more mundane things. I felt out of place at home and caught myself aching to escape, so I staged a Great Escape for the cats, who seemed doldrum-ish and anxious to roam, too. I had grilling to do and The Muse was almost through making an emergency batch of homemade Tzatziki. The cats hadn't immediately disappeared, seeming to complain about the wet deck surface an earlier rain had left behind. Not even liberation produced the exuberance I expected from them. We all felt as though we were still in Detention.

Max was waiting when I opened the slider just after three this morning, and Molly appeared an hour or so later.
Both retired to the food bowl before crawling up onto their usual lairs, Molly on the bentwood rocker and Max to his perch in the basement. A little later, Max stopped by my writing desk, acting a little anxious, so I picked him up. He nosed around, completing a little typing with his big furry paws before curling up on the keyboard. I closed the machine and moved it to one side, and he curled up again, looking as if he really needed a friend. I complied, scratching his head and rubbing his neck. He stretched, batting at my pens and flexing his claws, digging into a pile of file folders. We shared more than a long moment, and I wondered if he'd claimed a fresh permanent perch. I had been searching for the proper illustration for whatever I was going to decide to write about today, and kept finding restricted images but nothing capable of really inspiring me. He persisted, sniffing at my nose and seemingly unready to go anywhere else. I decided that I might need a few moments with myself, some time not attempting to project anything out into the world, but a time where right here and now might somehow suffice.

I find myself sometimes unprepared to go anywhere, especially when I seem to desperately need to get out of here. Liberated, the cats didn't go far. I'd spotted Max beneath a tree down across the lane out back and Molly sitting on the incline above, longingly looking at where he was. She chased deadheaded petunia blossoms I'd dropped from above, but soon lost interest in favor of sniffing around the gooseberry garden. I'm unsure where they eventually disappear to when they finally melt into the landscaping. This late in the summer, grasses have grown long and golden, and even the cats' tails seem far shorter than the flora they investigate. They're still learning, still strangers here, and almost everything seems surprising to them. Outside has not yet become an extension of home for them like inside has evolved to not feel that much like home for me. I needed a few moments of revere, just Max and me, at my desktop this morning. I had been mourning before he stopped by to remind me where I am.

When the lockdown came, I'd already made other plans for my summer. Our future seemed then finally ready-to-hand, a straightforward and simple matter of collecting up a few remaining pieces. Our Walla Walla home, the one we long ago imprinted upon, had finally come within our grasp and The Muse and I were both ready to let the time past since we last actually lived there pass into interesting stories. Then the barriers emerged and our former freedom to move more or less evaporated. We might as well have been incarcerated here for all the freedom we felt to finally collect our due. If we only knew before hand, we might have made more realistic plans, but one never knows beforehand and all plans can be brought to naught without prior notice. Later, though, we noticed, and a fine life in a decent location became indistinguishable from a form of Detention. We're here, it seems, for the unforeseeable duration.

We cannot know how long the duration might be: more than a month, maybe a year or three. Nobody can see through clear to the end of this one, though many continue to act as if their will might prove sufficient to put an end to it. Each upstart response has been quickly slapped back down. There's no slider to "accidentally" leave open, no yard to contain the escaping kittens. I'm taking deeper breaths, trying hard not to get all depressed about the way things are, understanding that we haven't got much of anything hard here. It's a genuinely beautiful morning, too lovely to be spent in mourning for anything. Some future will very likely bring our aspirations into bloom, whether sooner or later, and the NowHere might just as well settle for what it already possesses. Detention offers opportunities to more deeply appreciate whatever you were formerly trying to escape from or into. Two fawns and their mother just slipped through our deer meadow backyard. I had to awaken Max for him to notice.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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