Rendered Fat Content


Raphael: Detail of Pythagoras with a tablet of ratios, from The School of Athens. Vatican Palace, Rome (1509)
"I'm not working myself to death here, but working myself to life."

Since I started working on this latest refurbishing project, I've received many well-meant messages asking me to not work too hard, wondering when or if I was planning on taking a few days off. I've mostly left those messages unanswered, as if their questions had been rhetorical, because I had no idea how to even begin answering them. For me, days off usually come as the result of some injury or infirmity and not for the purposes of recreation. I look through my garage and notice that I own none of the usual recreational equipment common to a fellow of my age and social class. No golf clubs, heaven forbid. No tennis racquet, thank heavens. No basketball. There's an old baseball mitt in there somewhere in the unlikely event that I find someone interested in playing catch. That hasn't happened in twenty years or so. All those years in Colorado, I never once felt in any way interested in skiing or fly fishing or mountain biking or white water rafting or parasailing, or any of the innumerable other ways people engage in recreation there. I don't have hobbies, either.

I do have my work, which has long been my life.
I consider my home my workplace. I not only work from home but work on my home as well. It's more than a full time job these days, with the refurbishing in full progress. I won't apologize if I appear obsessed by this work. It feels freeing to finally be here and engaged in renewing what we've long imagined doing something with. We've both, The Muse and I, spent long years anticipating this time when we might be able to perform this work which does not very closely resemble work at all, but a productive sort of play. It feels like the finest form of recreation and unlike golf or tennis or something, it has a purpose beyond stretching muscles and diverting attention from the fact that we're all dying. This effort feels like the finest form of living and so seems Easy, not much of a stretch, not effort with a capital 'E', just Easy instead.

The ethic at work here seems to be one of persistent dedication. Entropy always threatens any effort requiring more than a few odd hours of attention. These need sticking to lest they get away from you. A day off when so engaged can divert precious energy away for days and sometimes forever. It's as if this refurbishing effort induces a fragile trance which, if broken, might never return. The Muse asked if I wanted to drive over to Portland this weekend and I noticed how offended I felt at her suggestion. Drive to Portland and risk losing this focus? Just when I've finally reorganized the effort and it's poised to shift into hyper-production mode? Unthinkable! Unconscionable!

I suppose that a time will come, hopefully long into my ever-narrowing future, when I'll no longer be able to put in a full day's work however much I might want to. My time for this work is now, not tomorrow, not after vacation. It must become, it seems, the vacation of my dreams, my castle in Spain, my toodle through The Languedoc, my visit to the Smithsonian, my Paris. I am no mere man of leisure, but an Easy one instead, for it's Easy for me to wrap my head around my work, around living my life. My bucket list left when The Muse and I reclaimed this place. My desk presently overlooks the center of the known universe where both gravity and levity work properly. I need no escape from my effort. I need my work like I draw my breath. I find it Easy to engage and impossible to escape, as if I'd ever want to. I'm not working myself to death here, but working myself to life.


This was no ordinary writing week for me. I experienced it as a relentless countdown leading into the end of my sixties, certain to result in my entering my seventies, my eighth decade of living. Had I had any complaints, the passage might have proven more difficult. As it was, I kept my head down, tolerating the many distractions, and attended to my work. Time passes either way, whether I'm fruitlessly kicking and screaming, frantically searching for an exit, or simply acquiescing. It proved an Easy enough passage once I accepted that I didn't get a say in anything other than how I approached my work. I spent the week HomeMaking, as usual.

I began my writing week not inventing but
Repurposing. "Repurposing seems a definite and necessary ingredient of any significant change such that considerable old stuff remains after the change, but it gets used for different purposes."

I next entertained a touch of despair, describing the color and texture of the fire season light here in
MartianLight. "I'm seeing with my hands since my eyes can't seem to make out shapes in this haze."

I catalogued the process by which I figure out how to sequence my work in
SceneQuesting. "Implicate orders are inevitably emergent. We don't so much seek them as position ourselves so that we might glimpse their presence, their influence; so that they might find us."

My obligatory political screed for the week came in the form of a memory of a protest I participated in eighteen long dog years ago in
ToldYa. "There's rarely any advantage to being the more prescient person in any room. There could be no validation of which speculation would prove most accurate, and historical precedent holds no sway when one believes that their actions transcend history."

I described how I've been shifting our possessions from place to place to place as our great refurbishment has been happening and how that feels like moving tiles in a giant tile puzzle in
Tiling. "We refurbish a mosaic featuring movable tiles."

I then described the means by which I measure progress in
Achings. "I've lately been spending my days making fresh Achings, HomeAchings."

I ended my writing week celebrating my birthday by describing myself as if I was the pot of beans I had been preparing for my breakfast in
Outventory. "It might be that whatever anybody does is the equivalent of a Kabuki dance self portrait. Something in the ways we move might perfectly represent how we think and how we live, if only we could glimpse our performances."

I might blithely insist that the writing week receding was Easy, but it wasn't, not in the moment. It featured all the usual frustrations every week carries, whether on vacation or buried beneath a pile of obligations. I no sooner set up my pop-up paint shop then a series of urgent necessities kept me from inhabiting it. I gritted my teeth and continued, just like any of us would. By week's end, it seemed as though I'd earned permission to spend my entire birthday finishing two door fronts. I felt on top of the world, especially blessed after spending much of the week cursing my encumbrances. All might be well that ends well but I contend that even that which never ends might serve me well, as well. Thank you for following me through these unrelenting challenges.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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