Rendered Fat Content


Altichiero da Verona: Portrait of Francesco Petrarch, from a 1379 copy of the latter's De viris illustribus
"I've been cultivating dreams while inhabiting Fallowtimes since."

After giving and receiving the traditional Thanksgiving gratitudes, Fallowtimes settle in for an unimaginable duration. I might speak then in vague abstractions about last summer or a coming spring, but neither concept really settles in as likely coming or even distantly possible. A chrysalis too-securely covers my senses. My gardens, past and future, dominate my dreams and even some of my waking times then, for of all my friends, my gardens have seemed both the most dependent as well as the most dependable. Some I feel certain will never return. A few might resurrect, though likely in different forms, but I remember the placements, where the Bleeding Hearts sprouted each spring and where the buttonweeds grew the fiercest. I came to deeply understand each habit and habitat, each frustrating tendency and each payout. I freely submitted myself to their well-being, even when doing so would take too much out of me, for they represented a greater good, an association within which I could feel genuinely proud without ever experiencing a threatening pridefulness. I merely dug dirt.

The dilemma Fallowtimes present centers around to what I might satisfyingly relent, for an existence must, in my estimation, submit to something.
Mammon always calls. Habits both short and tall, endlessly whispering, seem best kept almost secret, never dominant. Literature usually fills my Fallowtimes bill of lading, though this provides none of the satisfaction removing damp gloves and sodden boots bring. The knees of my yard pants never need any scrubbing during Fallowtimes and might not leave their hook for months and months. I catch myself immersed in daydreaming, lying back while curating another garden walk. I know my subject almost too well, having touched every cubic centimeter there, mostly many more times than I can count. I've fought with bedrock and tenacious clay, improved loess and laid on mulch, pruned and scratched and frustrated myself. I miss every minute of it.

Whatever work seemed most pressing seemed to have been the work I'd find most depressing to address. I preferred something just on the edge of reverting back into its native untended state. The most difficult job I've undertaken here, where tended gardens remain especially rare thanks to omnivorous deer, has been to nurture the back forty back into the deer meadow it once must have been, a challenge requiring me to exhibit Herculean volumes of strategic indifference. Contributing almost nothing to the furtherance of my objective left this inveterate fiddler feeling almost insane, so accustomed I'd become to being the one who made the difference. Only my absence could produce the difference I desired, I became the sire committed to immaculate conception, experiencing little pleasure or pending obligation.

Next year, I've always told myself, will be the year my contributions will finally come into their own. Since the exile began and we abandoned our gardens to the care of other hands, Fallowtimes have brought a painful longing, the tugging of heartstrings never successfully disconnected from their source. Of course, I'd pantomime playing there by picking and poking around wherever I'd landed, unconvincingly pretending I was tending anything that mattered. I learned to snap off each giant bamboo sprout and how to lighten soil better suited to throwing crockery and grew accustomed to not being able to compost anything lest the festering product attract bears. None of those gardens there ever once felt like mine. They will probably only rarely come to mind when I'm back tending mine again, the one I left behind believing I would one day return. I've been cultivating dreams while inhabiting Fallowtimes since.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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