Rendered Fat Content


Jean-François Millet:
Peasant Returning from the Manure Heap (1855–56)

"Nobody needs everlasting anything."

Returning rarely carries the cachet leaving exudes. Departure reeks of adventure, while Returning more often smells of dirty underwear and sour beach sand warming in late summer sunshine. Whatever the season, it will seem to have changed during the absence. Summer will suddenly be leaving, when a week before it had settled in until at least November. The first signs of Autumn will appear in some sunburnt Vine Maple still turning color despite the drought's malign influence. While leaving seemed an escape, Returning seems an acceptance. However adventurous the departure seemed, Returning requires genuine courage to face with renewed dedication what might have driven you away.

The hero never returns from his adventures.
His world changes in his absence. The past, suddenly sharply delineated, denies him entry. The sentinels will not recognize him and so turn him away as an imposter. His future will be different then, different than he'd naively intended it to become. He will not long remember his intentions when departing, but he might never shake the convictions he returned carrying. He learned something and thereby changed his trajectory. Nor did his old world remain idle while he traveled. It could not lie still in his absence. History resumed without his presence and left behind whatever he previously believed himself to be. Even if he was that then, he never could possibly be that ever again.

We call them vacations, but they're more consequential than a week's absence. We must leave naively, though, without much anticipation. We must believe we can return to ever muster up the momentum to leave. We must believe, or we will never abandon what grew suffocating. Our lives depend upon our pasts abandoning us while we agree to a brief absence. The absence will prove permanent. We must believe ourselves to be the masters of our universes, and this belief must inevitably disappoint us. What seemed so terribly important before departure might have lost every shred of significance in my absence. I might never remember what I once so fiercely defended or why.

I always leave kicking and screaming, unwilling to accept even my more modest fates. I always intend to infinitely extend my tenancy even when I know for certain this would prove very, very bad for me. Nobody needs everlasting anything. We more desperately need new beginnings we could never muster without fate's intrusions. We must eventually prove willing, relenting to accept the inevitable. We slip away early one morning, amazed at how refreshing the same stale air suddenly seems. We burn a few dozen highway miles before realizing that we're not really missing what we'd insisted we could not do without or afford to leave behind. Even the kittens might prove forgiving, having needed less care than I'd ever imagined. I return freshly impassioned.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

blog comments powered by Disqus

Made in RapidWeaver