Rendered Fat Content


Paul Klee: Twittering Machine [Original Title: Die Zwitscher-Maschine] (1922)
" … it's all about minding chickens."

There seem to be rather well-developed rules for starting and finishing things, but less distinct directions for what to do when in the middle of something. Perhaps those who create instructions consider middles more or less steady states requiring no description. I woke this morning to find myself in the middle of summer and felt myself startle at the recognition. Beyond the aspirations of spring and the easy appreciations of early summer, days have slipped into a routine, as if they were never different. The brown spots in the yard have definitively proven themselves incapable of greening, so I've stopped aspiring for them to green up. They'll rejoin the living after autumn returns. The garden's no longer becoming, but full-blown become now. It needs little tending and even less nurturing. The Muse reports an outbreak of squash beetles requiring complicated intervention involving diatomaceous earth and soapy dishwater. I'll let her handle that one. I'm busy Middling. Watering's found its schedule and hardly seems disruptive anymore. Days dawn and set with little variation. It's that part of the year when the melody suspends and the rhythm section tends to maintain the cadence; nothing's beginning and nothing's finishing, either.

I find myself in the middle of more than this season.
Our massive repainting project, ten days in, has reached its doldrums. We've figured out what needs doing. Now we just need to put our heads down and do. We cannot see through to the end of our efforts and we're well past our innocent beginnings. We're complicit now, for better or worse, and just need to stay the course with only small adjustments likely ahead. No grand strategic decisions impending, how utterly boring! The vitality of such work mostly comes from the aspiration, for the desire to have done it, not usually from the actual doing. It's strange to mention this, but the doing, the actually achieving, seems more demotivating than rejuvenating. It's like we've finally taken a bite from an alluring apple, brazenly stolen it, and now face a period of personal responsibility, chewing and swallowing what we'd earlier just imagined. Our aspiration felt enlivening. The queue of work before us, especially now that we're well into scorching the previous with prep work, needs completing before we can even walk barefoot around the place again. Remodeling seems, in the middle of the effort, just a particularly concentrated form of inconvenience. Worse, one we brought down upon ourselves. Little recommends it in the middle of the mess.

There's no safe shore to flee back toward when in the middle of the crossing. What were diverting efforts earlier in the season have become a form of oppression, almost punishment more than blessing. The yard I gladly mowed a few short weeks ago has become an active procrastination. I'm no longer nurturing it into being and not yet nursing it into overwintering. It's become a rampant teen, impossible to civilize or keep clean. I let it run a little more wild than I otherwise would. We seem between everything, horizons distant, indistinct present. Even the cats seem bored with the numbing sameness. Not even stalking dragonflies turns them back into kittens.

I talked big and now face the obligation to deliver on my promises. It's almost time to transplant the iris. I should prune the apricot, too, and the viburnum, and the overly enthusiastic elderberry bush. I promised The Muse that I'd thin out the overgrown periwinkle by the garage and that I'd crawl beneath the back deck to root out that reverted rose, but I haven't. I tell myself that I have more important priorities, but I see that I have no way to juggle my many and growing responsibilities. I'm in the middle. I have no edges against which to judge progress. I keep my head down and keep doing, knowing for certain that I'm steadily losing ground. I do not wonder why people take the last half of July as vacation. They feel the overwhelming need to simply get away where they could not possibly be held responsible for accomplishing anything. But as my neighbor reminds me, somebody has to stay home to mind the chickens. I have no chickens and no eggs, either, yet I understand his wisdom. When Middling, it's all about minding chickens.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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