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History used to live in books, large tomes featuring sepia photos of people wearing suits while farming. Now, it follows me around like the neighbor’s cat, a quiet, constant presence. I’ve spent so much of my life in this town, like a wheel spinning in place, that I find ruts most everywhere I look. I’ve dug this dirt before, and I recognize then remember the small idiosyncrasies each plot carries and every plant exhibits. I’ve resolved most of these difficulties before. They’re back again in slightly different guise.

I took my sweet time the first time through, thinking I was changing for the ages, but age seems determined to convince me that nothing I do will preserver beyond a season or two. Next Spring will come needing my attention again. If life doesn’t exactly feel stabile, it sure seems like it should be. Of course it isn’t, and never was, history being a smear in practice, like one of them old-timey tin-types where somebody moves before the exposure’s complete. We call that good enough, and believe we’ve captured time, though it certainly escaped our grasp again.

I am not grasping at time here, or buying time, or even vying on a new lease on this life. I feel present here, present and, as the teachers in my now torn down elementary school used to say, accounted for. I acknowledge the folly of trying to clean up anyone else’s mess, so I’m cleaning up my own, using this old yard as a fine medium for work I need but cannot adequately describe. Digging, pruning, plotting, and watering, these are useful distractions. That others might believe I’m making progress or even accomplishing something won’t be guiding my hand. I have work to do, and that’s plenty and enough.

History accretes around the places where people work, not where people plan and strategize. The history books focus upon the grand abstraction while the historical never saw beyond their own situated horizon, and never lived beyond their time. They might have worn coats and ties, but they were farmers in practice, inhabiting their time.

©2014 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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