Rendered Fat Content


Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette (Bal du moulin de la Galette), Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1876
"Isolation's how we come to acknowledge our fragility, a superpower of immense significance."

I noticed yesterday that only a couple of days remained in this winter season. My SmallThings Stories would go on their way, replaced by another frame which I have not started imagining yet. I felt humbled creating these small stories, which started with no more than a tickle of intuition, hardly an inspiration, born of that frustration accompanying a necessity more than with any apparent foresight. Yet SmallThings now seems the precisely proper framework within which to reflect upon the three months now passing. Started on the first day of winter, with holiday grandeur impending, big things seemed imminent. After Epiphany, the days seemed to grow successively smaller, as winter days always do. Whispers started coming through from China about another viral contagion, the sort that China seems to regularly spawn; another bird flu, yet another distant swine flu. The news seemed as tiny as any that makes the back pages before it exploded, another SmallThing suddenly writ larger.

As if I needed to amplify my founding premise, Covid-19 came along to scream its underlying message.
We might indeed be ruled by SmallThings. We seem to think in ever larger terms: globally, universally, but live microscopically. Tiny infinitesimals rule, their influence initially unnoticed if even existent. The Muse insists upon periodic dustings in the apparently unfounded fear that unattended, any light sprinkling might too easily become drifting dunes, an absurd proposition a few short weeks ago, not so silly-seeming now. We each have a fresh experience of exponentiation, that curious expansive ability to get out of hand that SmallThings possess. A moment of inattention might leave us overwhelmed. My instinct to defer until mañana might too easily become an act of self destruction. I must attend to my SmallThings. I do not relish leaving them behind.

Writing tends to work in mysterious ways. The significance of any individual piece might not appear until some time long after pen has left paper behind. How did I know that we might forever remember this time as The SmallThings Season, that time when whole societies ceased to function due to the emergence of a virus we could not detect? Well, I didn't know. I didn't even suspect. I consider it an accident, a touch of synchronicity surprisingly common to the writer's craft. Good fortune visits sometime. Attempts to replicate these accidental convergences can turn any writer's practice into parody, for no formula has ever existed for mass producing them to scale. One must begin on faith no larger or more significant-seeming than that proverbial mustard seed. One seed might make two, and two, four, and before very long, the store of seeds might pour out the door and into the streets. We call this viral explosion and its too terribly rare to be relied upon. Mostly, the end product manages to accomplish no more than preserving that original seed. Nobody possesses much influence over anything in this SmallThings world. One can only do what one does. The universe always decides what's next.

I'm not beyond taking advantage of my great good fortunes, these the accidental products of simple routine. Discipline seems necessary at the unpromising beginning, to overcome initiation's considerable inertia. I remember feeling unconvinced that I'd chosen well when selecting SmallThings as my theme. I struggled to find anything germane to my intentions, my stories breech-birthed at first. Later, a rhythm emerged as I finally managed to refocus my attention on the ever smaller. Over time, SmallThings seemed to stalk me, hardly needing discovery. They were just there, the meta-story unfolding. In retrospect, the progression seems to make more sense than it ever did during construction. FinishingUp, these stories seem to have always supposed to have been the way they emerged, sequence prescient, content almost wise.

It might be a while before any of us gather together for any fresh Dances at Le Moulin de la Galette. We're isolated at home for now, trying to prevent the rapid proliferation of Covid-19, our SmallThing of this hour. It's a really big deal now. Us writers, though, experience no shocking shift, for we always were sequestered, living isolated lives. We have little advice for the freshly hibernating as this year's spring arrives. It sure is boring sometimes. You'll have to learn to cope with the isolation or nothing will work. Distractions seem too few and too far between, and with luck, might come to seem less important than before. Time should seem heavy in your hands because it has always weighed a ton. Had you not noticed before? Isolation's how we come to acknowledge our fragility, a superpower of immense significance. Now that we cannot take anything for granted, God grant us the begrudging ability to more fully appreciate SmallThings.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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