Rendered Fat Content


Unattributed photo of stacks within old Main Branch of the New York City Public Library, pre-1955, now demolished.

" … by the grace of something …"

I had not noticed. How many could provide the same testimony? They hadn't noticed. An absence does not always or even often make itself felt. The hole, having no content, doesn't seem to exist. Empty often defies definition. Name the dog that didn't bark.

I put my books into boxes eight months ago, and there they sat as The Muse and I moved a third of the way across the country.
There they still sat as we attempted to settle into our old home place without unpacking many of our boxes. We achieved a landfall but never quite settled into. Unsettling into might better describe our state. We set about accomplishing The Grand Refurbish without that anchor which had before been so present as to defy identification. It was just context grown invisible with presence, hardly seen and hardly appreciated, yet nonetheless anchoring. Without that anchor, or, more properly, without it on display among us, we became rudderless. Still afloat but aimless. Still proceeding but without procession. We did bare bones one better by omitting a few bones from our skeletons, the balance of them packed in boxes, and I hadn't noticed.

I'd certainly felt twinges, emotional surges I had not connected to any disconnection. I was busy exploring. I was nudging boundaries and traveling light, I told myself, though I was no longer traveling at all. I was attempting the impossible, a common human condition. I thought that I might feel at home without having a room of my own, one widely recognized as my place within this place, my space. Without such a designation, I felt, I recognize in reflection, displaced here. I returned from exile to be a refugee. Not homecoming, but maybe homecaming. I thought I'd arrived but hadn't. I'd attempted but fallen short. I could engage but without the ability to recharge. I could waste myself away refurbishing the house with no way to refurbish or even meaningly refresh myself. I'd become a diminished shadow of my former self and I had not noticed. I hadn't noticed.

Then the time came to open those boxes which had sat like a phalanx in the middle of whichever room we'd designated the warehouse. I'd labeled them well, nonfiction books, with alphabetical range: Ho-Ki, for instance, so I sat them out in rough order before my reshelved bookcases. The preparation injected a tangible tension into the chore. I moved slower to savor the sensation. The first box almost exploded when I cut through its tape. There was A and the start of B, and the beginning of that anchor I hadn't noticed missing. Even the pattern of the titles arrayed on the shelf induced a flood of recognition. Such familiar patterns. I was among old friends. So reassuring. My only copy of perhaps the finest book I've ever owned, Lifting Heavy Things, sprang out at me and took his place on the shelf. I felt myself flooding into my body as if a dam had been breeched and a river restored to flowing water again.

I can see now that I'd boxed myself in. Usually, a move will conclude over the course of a few short weeks, and perhaps because of that, few people notice that they didn't just box up some possessions, but that they'd boxed up themselves. Their possessions shift in then back out of boxes so fast that everything's restored before its missed. In this case, though, the transition extended far beyond what's usually tolerated or experienced, and the transition became more dominant, and one perhaps universal truth became stunningly obvious, We put our selves into those boxes and cannot really thrive until we arrive and unpack. To arrive and remain unpacked creates a contradiction one might not notice until finally unpacking. Then, all that was lacking floods the space and by the grace of something, self's restored again.

Other than that, I was just UnBoxing. I hadn't noticed.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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