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George Frederic Watts: Love and Death (c.1885–7)
"HeadingHomeward seems an extended trance …"

Many activities carry some specific marker which somehow signifies their presence. These markers vary widely and often revolve around a specific food served as a part of some celebration, though many everyday activities carry markers, too. In The South, for instance, a simmering pot of Hoppin' John, a vile concoction served for good luck, screams New Years. Some families invite ham to their Thanksgiving table while others observe the day with turkey, refusing any substitutes. "It just wouldn't seem like Thanksgiving without a bird." A lunchbox packed on the kitchen counter served as one sure marker that my father was heading to work that morning. Bag lunches served as a similar indicator that us kids would be heading for school. Some activities, though, carry no such marker, and I speak of those this morning.

The Muse and I tend to find ourselves so deeply engaged in some classes of activities that we quite literally forget to eat.
This response, rather like Sherlock Holmes' dog that didn't bark, marks that we're well and truly engaging. We often severely delay lunch when we're out stocking the larder, arriving home overloaded with sustenance and also starving in late afternoon to fall upon a long-deferred lunch like ravenous dogs too weak to bark, and almost too feeble to even bite by then. If we're delayed until after four, I've missed my meal window for that lunchtime, since anything I ingest after four goes toward supper accounting. I'll eat then and skip supper or just wait it out a few more hours until supper's ready. We also tend to get engaged in certain special activities, packing seeming especially prominent among them and also remodeling, where thoughts of lunch just naturally never seem to come up. Time gets away from us and we usually awaken much later, surprised that we once again missed lunch or that lunch inexplicably managed to miss us.

I call these non-events MistMeals. We seem to experience no absent satisfaction as the lunch hour fades into oblivion. Perhaps we're enthralled within a flow state then, transcending physical want and need. More likely, we're simply spacing out a genuine need, distracted and distanced from sensory experience. Packing induces this trance in us, one overflowing with flooding memories. We're preserving our past while simultaneously revisiting it, and therefore seem transported somewhere beyond present space or time, a place lunch bell chimes cannot penetrate. We're late for more than the table then because we're actually somewhere else, in a land beyond time and lunch, a place no simmering aroma can penetrate. HeadingHomeward therefore induces some if not fasting days, at least fasting afternoons. It seems as if we cannot quite simultaneously bear the weight of both our possessions and a simple sandwich. In all of our diligent preparing, we miss the simple ritual which might better sustain us through our impending passage. If we don't inadvertently starve ourselves to death, we should be ready to leave here right on time.

Some days, workmen swarm the place leaving ladders blocking access to the larder and their trucks closing off the driveway. These days, I notice lunchtime receding, leaving me ever further behind. These days, I experience the desperation of the forgotten prisoner, held against my will, though I still try to maintain my welcoming disposition. Those workmen are my guests when they're working in my house. I won't usually disclose to them that I'm starving and instead practice what I imagine to be a zen-like patience, perhaps inviting a traumatized kitten onto my lap and attempting to read the latest New Yorker while my stomach clenches. It seems as if that work renders mere physical sensation irrelevant for the duration, such that even if I genuinely feel as if I'm starving, it seems unseemly to simply admit it, even to myself. I sense that I'm contributing to forward progress by forfeiting my need for lunch, just like the good little mensch I imagine myself to be. Pure fantasy.

Some activities can't seem to sit still long enough to even wolf down a quick sandwich. Long drives sometimes set up a flow state than no thought of any meal could possibly penetrate. HeadingHomeward often seems like just such a state, not precisely a state of mind, but perhaps more an out of mind state, one where early and late hold little relevance. So focused, we cannot see the normal, regular, inexorable daily living activities, as if normal time has been suspended until we're back in some semblance of home time again. Between now and then, I anticipate many lost lunches and several begrudging suppers and a few missing breakfasts as well. I can reliable tell when I'm engaged in something of true significance because I tend to lose my sense of self in it. Mere lunch loses significance. Physical desires excuse themselves until I disengage. I'll wash up later, half drowned from my engagement, and hope for something easy to prepare for supper or else cave into considering take-out again. If I experience much hassle upon re-entering, I'll usually call it even and just head for bed to dream of breakfast instead of fussing over eating supper. HeadingHomeward seems an extended trance which renders irrelevant normal imperitives, where we feast almost exclusively on future possibilities, I guess, in lieu of many lunches, MistMeals most prominent on that menu.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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