Rendered Fat Content


Edvard Munch: The Scream (ca. 1910)
"I'm seeing with my hands …"

In ordinary times, The Muse and I would have plotted a day trip up into The Blues to pick wild black currents which grow in profusion along icy streams which feed into the Tucannon River. This year, that whole area has been cordoned off due to extreme fire danger. That country's on fire. The trail we walked back in March just after we arrived "back" home, searching for morels that were not there due to record drought, might have burned over again. It had burned a few years back. Down in town, smoke obscures even the rumor of sky, even threatening the concept of up. Horizons fade into similar nothingness. The usual view of the foothills from our back windows overlooks nothing but haze, with no hint of any proximate elevation. The heat which has been sitting on our faces for six weeks continues undeterred and perhaps encouraged by the poor ventilation.

My door and window refurbishing shop, set up in the driveway beneath a pop-up canopy, swelters after ten o'clock.
The blue canopy softens light already mush from the smoky haze. The place seems like an outpost on Mars, the light almost useless. Kurt Our Painter has been teaching me to see with my fingers, an essential skill, he insists, if one intends to produce flawless finishes. The fractured light provides ample reinforcement that I might be just as blind as Kurt suggests we all are, taking visual cues too much for granted when eyes remain easily fooled. The amber atmosphere deeply unsettles me. I feel abandoned on an alien planet, me at home but my home betraying me, starving me for attention. I crouch over my work, a mildly worn door, filled with existential dread. The sun, a faint red disk suspended in a milky haze, no longer reliably reproduces color, its usual gaze gone fuzzy and variable. The light haunts more than illuminates.

The trees seem like frozen fractal explosions of green with alarming scorched brown streaks beseeching the sky to quit. Unrelenting heat hangs in corners through the night, dusting themselves off the next morning, warning of worse coming. It's easy to sense that the world has it out for me or, if not me, somebody. I close up the house by ten, otherwise closing it won't make much difference. I try to remember which day this is to recall the proper watering rotation. I've become adept at moving sprinklers. There's a point around the first of August when the button weed and clovers explode. Any morning glory remaining becomes more insistent, more annoying, tangling into everything surrounding. The tomatoes seem unconvinced that this light serves as a valid replacement for what it expected. Fruits hesitantly set. Vine explodes with little red. Squashes and cucumbers appear overnight like mushrooms.

This weird light exhausts me. It encourages me to surrender and to not go out. Just opening my eyes and registering its disturbing color renders me complicit, as if I'd ordered it up. No home proves to be stabile ground. It's constantly changing. Sometimes subtly such that only I seem to see any difference. Sometimes radically such that the whole premise of the place seems threatened. Is this what The Muse and I so longed for over time? This was supposed to be our Home Sweet Home, not our bitter harvest. I felt last week that first hint of Autumn encroaching. Through days of unrelenting MartianLight, I had been holding out for that first appearance of that first hint that not even this condition will be permanent. I dare not hope yet. I hold evidence, though, just like I've held in prior years in early August, that the heatwave will break and bring back long-lost rain. For now, we inhabit an outpost on an alien planet, one hostile to our presence and antagonistic to our purpose. I'm seeing with my hands since my eyes can't seem to make out shapes in this haze.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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