Sifting


"Their home seems more like a castle somehow."

Once every fifty million years or two, some cataclysm besets this world. In between times, change seems to occur exclusively via insignificant increment. A snowfall starts as a sifting whisper, like wrens' pin feathers floating by outside, barely noticeable through the window. By the next morning, a foot of accumulated insignificance blocks my drive. Then, all my attention focuses upon digging out from under the insult. Before, it's eminently ignorable. Were any of us more activated by whispers than hollers, we might manage to keep up with the blooming significance and never face the back-breaking digging out, but we usually don't. We feel dumped upon instead.

As a species, we seem attracted to BIG things, as if true significance came only in volume and mass.
I am learning that small things tend to wield more impact than their bigger brothers. A glance absorbs more information than a steady stare down. A step in any right direction influences the rest of any march. A whisper might impart more passion than any towering oratory. A loose shoelace effects cadence more than an accompanying marching band. The tiny family of wrens who've been living in our backyard pine tree have persisted into this fourth winter here. The parliament of magpies frequently convenes in the wrens' tree without seeming to notice their presence over their own posturing and cawing.

Sifting flour adds volume by fluffing up the stuff rather than by increasing mass. Sifted flour becomes a more subtle substance with air injected between its particles producing lighter cake and fluffier puff, both of whose substance is more defined by a certain absence than mere more density. Less becomes more; more, less. I struggle to produce a perfect supper, one unmarred by leftovers. Few components come in 'just enough' sizes, but brag about their excesses instead. Our Tupperware gets over-used.

Satisfaction lies somewhere between abundance and austerity. Abundance seems to render us stupid. Austerity instills a sense of insufficiency. Neither cures anything, for both seem evidence of extreme. Little dissolves into too little or altogether too much, neither extent necessary nor sufficient. I strive to see the small sufficiencies, the little largesses, the fine sifting intrusions intended to deeply inspire me. I imagine the wren family thriving in a world framed much smaller than my own, our looming Villa shading more than reassuring their existence. They scour the smaller limbs snatching up gnats and pine blossoms, occasionally zooting over to the adjacent tree more for variety than necessity. They retire to their small red-roofed home, the one my neighbor made then helped me hang. It reminds me how sufficiency might appear, a single room hovered over by sifted, snow-laden boughs. Their home seems more like a castle somehow.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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