Rendered Fat Content


Camille Pissarro: Bois de châtaigniers à Louveciennes (1872)
"We're improvising our exit scene …"

As Our Grand Refurbish neared its end, progress became erratic. Crew called in sick or excused themselves for appointments. Expectations smeared. I feared that we might never finish, that we'd become one of those good ideas that never quite coalesced and remained permanently undone, and this outcome could happen to anyone. We tend to envision an end state but not the last furlong of the race. We seem to expect some sort of grace to nudge us over that last hump, when finishing, Phinishing, might be a unique and separate art, like the kind a closing pitcher practices, almost but not entirely unlike the skills that formerly produced the start and progress. The production mindset seems in need of disruption to finish, otherwise it might just continue to replicate itself into never-endingness. We need the opposite of that now, and it seems likely that we'll have to violate some deeply ingrained habits to pull that off. Phinishing's not just stopping work, it seems a serious disassembling process. Rather than building, we're set to take away now.

The inertia of motion argues against ever stopping.
Equal and opposing reactions to long-repeated actions become self-reinforcing. They need no real reason to continue. Their very presence and longevity justifies their presence and longevity and suggests nothing about their cessation. The process by which we've been creating outcomes was always ruled by verbs. It imagines its future in motion rather than in stasis. Our Grand Refurbish, once a well-oiled machine, is fixing to become legend, at which point it will become a collection of persons, places, and things, and no longer characterized as actions. It's future will be as statuary, not the productive activity it's grown to know itself to be, so Phinishing's a state change and should spark a serious identity crisis.

It's always galled me that the general reward for performing well usually turns out to be no more performing. We're not on tour. We're not delivering the same set list to different audiences as we toodle West. We're more like digging a hole with a reasonable bottom. Once we reach that depth, the purpose for our cleverness evaporates and leaves us holding shovels. Then the question becomes where to stow those shovels and what to do with all those digging muscles so recently tuned for performance. The transition probably isn't a life or death struggle, so it should surprise you if it suddenly feels like a life or death struggle. Who will I have to be now to maintain that sense of productive well-being, now that I'm no longer refurbishing? That will become the question.

I expect the Phinishing to be the messiest movement in the whole concerto. It should certainly demand of us most of what we learned in the receding process, but in different contexts. There will be a final test and it won't be multiple choice, but more finely focused. One last door to frustrate reaching closure. One novel application of that putty-like epoxy. Screws missing from a lockset I was depending upon. One (hopefully) final snowfall of sanding dust drifting across the carpets. A sudden backlog of painting calling when it's gone too cold to reopen the Pop-up Paint Shoppe out by the garage. The Muse asks if we can move that chair that's blocking the doorway and I reply that I cannot quite see how right now. Be patient, I attempt to tell myself, this, too, will finally Phinish. We're improvising our exit scene and trying to pull it off without seriously wounding ourselves.


Writing weeks end inelegantly, too. However productive I might have felt while producing my week's work, facing Friday morning always challenges me. I've already spoken my piece for the week, so whatever I might write on Friday morning will become next writing week's preface and I haven't even really considered what I've left behind from this week yet. One might imagine that writing eventually becomes repetitive, a process perfecting itself, but it's much less like that for me. For me, it's more like serial discovery. I never know beforehand what I'll see, what might visit me, and what that visit might mean. The thing about discovering might be that there's not too much process there behind it. It relies upon a method, of sorts, but one more governed by openness and observation than by rules and regulations, more influenced by acceptance than adherence. It is just whatever it is, if that.

I began my writing week
TouchingUp what I'd imagined to be previously finished. "It's fitting, then, and touching, too, that one can only properly turn a screw with sensitivity, by touch."

I next described how I live when engaged in something bigger than myself in
Monkish. "I mumble my vespers to myself because nobody else could possibly understand their meaning or significance."

My most popular posting of the week proved to be PureSchmaltz, in the way that my sister Kathy insists that my travel writing tends to be my best. In
FestivalOfLights, I visit my hometown on one of the darkest nights of the year. "Because nothing says Happy Holidays like a big, huge bucket truck festooned with lights."

I next, quite stealthily, engaged in play, also known as YardWork. "It's like playing catch with the kids. It's not the catching or the ball but the playing that's important, just the presence."

I experienced
TechnicalProblems which ended up being more psycho-illogical personal problems than electro-mechanical technical ones. "I determined that the problem had been between the chair and the keyboard again and that my life's work had not been deleted, but remained secure."

I shared what might have been a deep reflection or perhaps an over-reaction with
WindingDownish. "I left a few once-shiny screws which I intended to use to hold impermanence together. Rub some Brasso on them if you get the chance."

I ended my writing week on a relatively higher note,
SpoolingUp for what comes next. "I re-realize again each year that the best antidote against the effects of longer nights and shorter days tends to be some warming anticipation."

And that, dear reader, seems to summarize what I understand about Phinishing. It's largely a matter of TouchingUp, about touching. It's probably another Monkish experience providing opportunities for satisfying obsession. It might be a festival of something, might just as well be lights. It's more play, actually, than work. The TechnicalProblems emerging when Phinishing might more likely be features. Reflecting on the receding past might be enlightening, but can prove disheartening. The key to Phinishing might be to stay focused upon whatever's coming next. May it be at least equally alluring as what's passing away. Thanks for following along.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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