Insubstantial

insubstantial
"The considerable spaces between molecules far out-measure the span of substances themselves …"

It first seemed as Insubstantial as pollen. I had to squint to see it at all. Even then, I felt uncertain whether I should trust my vision. I'd been fooled before, moonlight casting a convincing illusion of snow, though I was prompted by the weather report to believe a real dumper was coming. Even when I stepped outside, I simply could not tell for sure whether it was really snowing or just blowing around a little freezing fog. I stopped watching, focusing my attention on my inside chores instead, and shocked myself an hour later when I found the start of substance accumulating outside. The onslaught continued into the night, finally sticking to road surfaces around sunset. I'd check from time to time, still unable to tell if it was really snowing out there, whisps of blowing snow coming off the roof edge my only intermittent clue in the porch light backlit by darkest night. The ten o'clock news reported that the freeway was shut down for the twenty miles West of us, cars and trucks spun out in what so recently lacked any substance at all.

The next morning, the deck seemed knee deep in this so recently tenaciously insubstantial substance, a genuine undeniable presence by then.
The driveway had even drifted some, and I quietly cursed myself for not having come out the night before to shove off the first few inches to reduce this morning's chore. Neighbors above and below were cranking up their cranky snowblowers and I said a silent insincere prayer for one of them to notice me and take unneeded pity. I could graciously accept their unnecessary assistance, I thought, before digging in to clear what the fates had left especially for me to resolve. It was hard work and an apparently impossible job. I could shove the stuff about three feet before its weight and my lack of momentum stalled me out. I stuck with it, resorting to lifting and throwing, always a desperate tactic when removing snow. Better to simply shove except when shoving won't budge anything.

I took a break halfway through, my fingers freezing in my fingerless gloves. Our fifth winter here and I've yet to properly outfit myself for freezing temperatures. I wear my down vest with a thin windbreaker over it in lieu of a proper snow coat, my stocking cap compensating as best it can or ever could. I take frequent warm-up breaks instead or rely upon immersion in the effort to distract me from shivering, cold seeming at root another insubstantial thing easily ignored in any short-run time-frame. Winters here have so far each devolved into a series of short runs, snaps, punctuation separating more moderate temperatures. I convince myself that I'm adapting rather than fully denying my condition, surrounded by such insubstantial threats I cannot quite believe they pose any real cause for concern to me. I tuck my pants into my boot tops and wade in shivering.

I will not find any reason to play out in the stuff. Even if I had more substantial gloves, I've nobody to throw snowballs at. I don't throw stones, either. Ours is not quite a glass house, but it's considerably less substantial than what meets the eye. It stands as if it might eternally stand there, though some siding board edges already curl with sun rot; too much of even such a really good thing can also become an undoing. Doing, like undoing, always seems insubstantial, only accumulating into something over longer inattentive time, like seconds become hours, and hours, eventually, days. The considerable spaces between molecules far out-measure the span of substances themselves, all of it destined to melt in some later-morning's fierce sunlight.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved








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