NegativeSpace

Withouts
"Looking at a Waterfall", Geiami, 1480

"They seem to be discovering a world I desperately need …"

In the Japanese painter Geiami's Looking at a Waterfall, the focal point of the work, the waterfall, seems like negative space composed of the space leftover after he painted everything surrounding the waterfall. The painting plays positive off of negative to produce a seemingly complete image. Life, too, seems to present in this way. From my writing chair, the visible ridgeline seems projected against a negative background of sky, where nothing but 'not ridgeline' resides. The off-white wall between this room and the kitchen appears as a interruption, a negative space visually cutting off counter, chair, and floor when viewed from my writing chair. These words depend upon NegativeSpaces framing them. Even the now long-lived Stay At Home Order serves as a Negative Outcome Objective, its purpose being to avoid a result rather than to acquire one. Pandemics produce NegativeSpaces, haves and have-nots, where the have-nots seem to dominate.

I've been noticing how seductive the newly prominent NegativeSpaces seem.
When the pantry's half full it seems much more like half empty. That road trip I cannot take seems somehow more memorable than any one I've ever actually taken. The spaces I inhabit have grown so familiar that they largely disappear, over-familiarity breeding a kind of blindness to my surroundings. I notice my inabilities more readily than I appreciate my skills, so I natter before engaging in even the simplest activities. My correspondence has backed up, with seemingly nothing very much new to write about. I sit on the front porch and watch a world stroll by, just an invisible way station along a largely invisible hike. I eat glimpses for lunch, a half bowl whether half full or half empty. I seem to sense absence more than presence, as if time had become the defining delimiter, separating more prominently than connecting now.

On Tuesday, both Molly and Max, our nearly year-old kittens, frolicked away beneath a rising full moon, fire in their eyes. The clear, darkening sky seems to hold a huge NegativeSpace hole high above our mountain, and the kittens seemed absolutely entranced. I'd had them outside, watching them teach themselves about the world, thinking this a safe exercise since I was supervising, but I cannot slip beneath the neighbor's trap wagon or disappear up the cliff edge just across the road. I sit in my slightly rusty shell-back steel chair and call for them to return, offering kitty treats that I quickly learn can't compete with a full moon's alluring NegativeSpace. I sat on the stoop until long after sunset, spotting glimpses of their NegativeSpaces against the meadow and forest as they explored. Max waited impatiently on the deck next morning, but Molly never came home.

Or so this household had curiously convinced ourselves. Molly missed breakfast, an unthinkable event, then lunch and supper, too, and as the nearly full moon poked a fresh NegativeSpace in Wednesday's fading daylight, I sat on the stoop feeling stupid and enormously alone, as if that big fat moon had somehow sucked out something more than half of my life. It was clearly my fault that Molly had disappeared. I'd specifically sent her out into the evening to find her brother, a ploy that had worked on more than one previous occasion. She's close-to-home conservative and predominately skittish, frequently interrupting her external explorations to flee back inside. She'll quickly peek back out and slip outside again, but she seems to keep one paw inside, however far she might roam. Not this magical night. I spotted her climbing the cliff face, heading in the direction of the coyote lair, up where we frequently spot the red fox prowling.

I imagined her someone's supper. A neighbor had spotted a mountain lion earlier in the week. Bobcats have been prominent this spring. Owls whisper all night. I figured that it could have been anything, the surrounding woods filled with peril. I sat on the front stoop for two hours of self-recrimination last night, ruminating on what we'd lost. I went to bed bereft, and I could hear TheGrandOtter sniffling in her bedroom. Max, who seemed peeved that I had not let him out to roam that fine spring day, cuddled up unusually close and would not go away all night. He seems to longingly peer up at Molly's usual perch at the very top of the cat tower, it dominating the moonlit scene like its own NegativeSpace in her screaming absence. I rose once and checked, as any fool might, the front and the back, hoping that she might have returned, but I found only forlorn moonlight lurking there.

Weary of sleep, I rose around two thirty and slipped into my coat. I figured that I might more meaningfully mope outside, so I stepped out intending to stand in the middle of the driveway, the front yard's NegativeSpace, and gape at the sky. But something caught my eye as I crossed that space. I looked more closely and saw Molly trotting toward me. I quickly stepped aside, opening both screen and door, for she's skittish about even me standing too closely to her escape hatch. She stepped inside, erasing in that single small action, the largest NegativeSpace I'd experienced so far this incarceration. I'm uncertain if I've learned any lesson from this misadventure, for I still long to watch her and her brother discover wind, rain, and the smell of fresh clover in the grass. I expect my fresh terror to pass and to quickly get back to a certainly more circumspect existence. I will probably take more chances because I can't imagine not watching them discover. They seem to be discovering a world I desperately need, mine having been recently defeated by an influx of NegativeSpace.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved








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