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Eugène-Louis Boudin:
Vacationers on the Beach at Trouville (1864)

" … every other place an also-ran."

We simply must leave preparation for the very last minute. The Muse must run out to The Home Despot as the sun sets to buy replacement parts for the watering computers we hadn't used since we couldn't remember when. Leaving home in mid-summer makes no sense because who will water in our absence? We have a long history of losing plants when our automatic watering system fails. I can't use the damned things because their user interface is written in machine language. The Muse can even change their batteries. We stood in the sideyard, testing long-unused sprinklers, working out a strategy. I usually use three of our vast array of sprinklers, moving the same ones from place to place. We have no such luxury available in our absence. We must set zones so that every inch of the property gets watered without human intervention because we will be off Vacatering, absent.

I worry over the cats, who I know can take care of themselves.
They rely on me like nobody else depends on me, and their dependence gives my meager life meaning. I anticipate their comings and goings and pride myself on being there when they appear, more dependent upon them than they've ever been upon me. I remember too clearly the long year between cats, after our fondly-remembered Rose The Skittish Spinster Cat left, and how hollow my existence became. Without a cat, the house seemed uninhabitably empty. I was inconsolable. It took a while before I could trust myself to reassume that responsibility, and I was a sorry version of myself without that presence. I take my cats seriously and sense they miss me and my dependence in my absence.

The house will be closed up for a few days, missing its nightly airing out. The place was not intended to sit idle or empty. The houseplants will miss The Muse's attention, especially in this arid season. Slowly she's managed to create an extensive garden within these walls. She selects some new plant while I'm checking out and sort of sneaks them in. Now her collection's just short of overwhelming, her tending the most regular habit she has. There was that time when we hired a housesitter, and the furnace failed, and we lost most of our houseplants to ignorance. There's no recourse to absence. It's always an existential risk to leave.

As The Muse was finishing the final testing of our eventual watering system in the dark, her headlamp gleaming off her glasses as each sprinkler showed its stuff in turn, I was thinking about how many friends and acquaintances seem to spend so much of their time absent. They've gone to the beach or Iceland, for some reason, forever getting on a plane to somewhere else, and how I don't imagine myself traveling anymore. There was a time when I warmly anticipated heading somewhere else, but now I'm home. Home, for me, means never having to be leaving all the time. It's no longer feeling the need to go anywhere else: no prestige destination, no bucket list reservation, no impressive itinerary to tout. Home holds more than just my heart, and I feel no compulsion to leave what holds even more than my heart. I can see plenty of this world from right in my own backyard, an unrecognized eighth or ninth wonder of the world,
The Wonder of the World from my perspective, every other place, an also-ran.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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