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Againing

HamSandwich

hamsandwich
Willem Claesz. Heda: Still Life with Ham and a Roemer (1631-34)


" … the very stuff of despotism."


I will qualify what follows in advance, explaining that while I only rarely delve into what some might classify as political speech—as opposed to my usual more philosophical babble—I remain capable of engaging on the political level. Political talk rarely ages well, though today's story might straddle the political and philosophical, and might thereby consider itself more timeless than merely timely. Its topic seems timely, as this story has been aching for me to tell it. It's been my experience that while I'm avoiding telling a story that deeply desires to be told, whatever else I might produce tends to lack a certain substance. In that sense, it's like talking about what's not supposed to be talked about. Whatever else one attempts to talk about instead of what's not supposed to be talked about tends to miss the point, like an unmentionable elephant in the room sucking all the oxygen out of every alternative. I hope this story will prove to be pointed.

When Our Supreme Court codified the myth of fetal personhood into law, they managed to trivialize both the law and human life.

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Sleep

sleep
Charles Bird King: The Vanity of the Artist's Dream
Former Title: The Anatomy of Art Appreciation
Former Title: Poor Artist's Study
Former Title: Still Life, The Vanity of An Artist's Dream
(1830)


" … only then could the aspiring artist ever come out to play."


Of all the skills that have eluded me in this life, Sleep certainly heads the list, though I should have had adequate practice with it by now. I early identified Sleep as an enemy and alien state, and set about trying to as much as possible eliminate it from my routine. It seemed such a sorry waste of time, time I might spend doing whatever else I might please. The wee hours, those downplayed by those who've perhaps never intimately engaged with them, seemed the perfect medium for me to practice as an artist, for a budding artist needs plenty of cave time. My earliest performances were barely fit for my own experience, practice far preceding whatever perfection might later emerge. My writing, too, demanded bounded solitude and could not be produced with any sort of audience hovering nearby, and certainly not with anyone even distantly inquisitive about how it was going at any time.

So I routinely stayed up way past my designated bed time, reading with a flashlight beneath covers, hugging my warm bread loaf-sized radio to my chest, master of my own wee hours.

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HolyDays

holydays
John F. Peto: Lights of Other Days (1906)

" … Have A Happy, anyway."


Us moderns do not celebrate HolyDays, we observe holidays instead. A Holiday serves as a secularized HolyDay such that even in the unlikely event that a Holiday started out as a HolyDay, most forms of actual religious observance, of humility, charity, or dignity will have been beaten out of any formal observance. One might succeed in privately genuflecting in the general direction of something genuinely sacred, but only if no spectacle's attempted. The spectacles belong solely to the secularists now, and are often performed with passion and fervor, but only in the general direction of mammon.

It's generally considered proper behavior to wish another "A Happy" on secular HolyDays, even if the greeting grates on one's soul.

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Seasonal

seasonal
Claude Monet: Stacks of Wheat [End of Day, Autumn] (1890/91)


" … it's not usual, whatever that means."


Each season here carries certain markers which seem to suggest and regulate certain behaviors. We've been experiencing some unseasonal weather this year which has thrown off my usual anticipations and responses. I complained plenty this Spring about the rain which kept me off the scaffolding and away from my repainting project, even though we here have been cautioned to never, never, never complain about rain. This semi-arid region can always, always, always use more moisture and last year saw us limping through on much less than usual. Last summer, too little rain. This summer, a little too much so far. The wheat crop, which likes it hot and dry, has contracted rust this year. Crop dusters buzz around the valley trying to rectify that imbalance before harvest. When I step out onto the back deck at four o'clock in the morning to gauge the day's prospects, if the sky spits at me, I feel moved to surrender right then and perhaps just head back to bed. I expected Seasonal weather but received different instead.

I remain fully capable of adapting, but something's clearly missing whenever I'm forced to fallback into adaptation.

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Being

being
Jack Gould: Untitled (party in laundromat, woman being pushed in cart) (1957)


" … the perfect profession for me."


On these midsummer evenings, I like to sit in the garage with the roll-up door open, and watch. The scene before me, freshly painted siding boards poised on two by fours balanced atop old cat litter tubs, my pop-up paint shoppe, various roses and flowers, seems like a microcosm of my life. The Schooner's parked a little further down the driveway, laurel bush out-growing its space, the mock orange that refuses to bloom spreading out behind. The cats will pass through, stop for quick head scratches, then crawl beneath something and give themselves tongue baths. They'll watch, too.

This feels like the apotheosis of my Being.

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Untouchables

untouchables
James McNeill Whistler: Amsterdam Nocturne (1883–1884)


"Just imagine how capable I'll one day feel …"


Now that The Muse and I have been back in The Villa for a year and a quarter, I'm noticing an increasing backlog of undone chores. Some appear to have become permanent and threaten to migrate out of Someday Likely To Get Done status into Untouchables, or apparent ones. These I will just consider to be features rather than problems, finished as they sit, however unsightly and indicting. Some will represent me coming to accept my limitations and others, my fundamentally lazy nature. A very few will permanently seem too daunting to ever seriously consider, bridges too far or too big of britches. However they became Untouchables, I will maintain them in that state with most of the dedication I also reserve for actually completing tasks. They will become as much a part of my identity as any actual accomplishment, that spot I can't see I never shave properly, the lucky shoes which will always look scuffed and worn and yet favorites. Idiot children.

I imagine that one day I might maintain a maintenance schedule as if I meant to maintain it.

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OutOfTheBlue

outoftheblue
James McNeill Whistler: Nocturne: Blue and Gold—Southampton Water (1872)


" … an old acquaintance, an even older friend."


It should not be news to any of my frequent readers that I sometimes suffer through some blue periods. I can get down on myself and feel downright worthless, then spool into despair territory. Nothing all that scary, just part of any normal trajectory. I personally never trusted anyone who could endlessly keep it bright and sunny, optimistic even in the bleakest times. I preferred the more human leader rather than some statue to virtue, and strived to show that I was not made of stone or anything invulnerable. Still, I despise those days when I cannot find my way. I become as if I were three again, small and overwhelmed, unable to figure out how to play the games surrounding me. I often attempt to sleep through these times under the First, Do No Harm Rule. I'm no doctor, but I figure that sleep might just be the all-around best medicine for discouragement and depression.

Then, something happens. It almost doesn't matter what.

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Misplaced

misplaced
The Old Woman Who Lost Her Dumpling:
attributed used to
Suzuki Kason (1902)


"I come to rely upon the understanding of kittens …"


Pardon me, but I seem to have Misplaced my identity. I clearly remember recently having one, though I can't quite recall when it slipped my grasp. I wonder how long this condition might last, with me an apparition of my former self, or is this the new and improved me I'd so long been aspiring to meet? This one might take some getting used to if, indeed, I could ever get used to this me, this great mystery.

We each seem to stand on a spot, a spot where we seem to belong.
Most of us stand there long enough to swear that it belongs to us, our special space, our place. Then we might Misplace that spot. Maybe we're nudged aside or just fail to notice it slipping away until it's too late. Once it's gone, it's lost as sure as any tool we just sat down then could never find again. Lost as certain as the scent of last season's flowers. Lost as certain as the certainties of youth.

A certain confusion should settle in. Where I once just knew, I can no longer quite imagine. Where I once stood ground, I now seem surrounded by insubstantial air. I might have gone anywhere but I seem to have disappeared. I left no trace. I chased after myself until I was no longer clear which direction I was headed. Already lost, I complicated my position. No way back to anywhere from here.

The most curious thing about being might be that it's not constant. Physicists insist that this all resolves to waves, ebbs, flows, pulses, and currents. Things as well as their opposites, with much more dark matter than anything visible. Life has always worked like this, like motion pictures where we mostly don't quite see the tiny spaces also projected between each frame, except sometimes continuity shifts and we're suddenly seeing the spaces instead of the movie, the blanks that always came with the story. Then, it seems as if we've Misplaced something, a key, perhaps, or the story. We were supposed to have remembered something we never quite registered as knowing, being something we always just were before without even trying. Trying then resolves nothing. What manifested without effort cannot, by effort, manifest again.

I swear that almost everything just happens. Our solutions and our intentions and our dedications chase experience, imagining stories that probably never occurred. As long as I can muster a half-decent leaning into, I seem to make progress. It almost seems as if this universe demands no more than compliance. Keep moving and meaning might emerge. Keep standing and vision and perspective might be the reward. Think too much and one might notice their spot Misplaced, some significant unnamable missing. Then this mystery deepens. I come to rely upon the understanding of kittens, who seem to seek me out then, needing some extra attention, which might be the very last thing I have left to give anyone.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved








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Concerting

concerting
Edgar Degas: Café-Concert (The Spectators) (1876/77)


"I'd packed two pair, two for each ear …"


I avoid attending concerts. Now, of course, because of the Damned Pandemic, but before, due to the fundamentally uncontrolled nature of the performance and the audience. I never took to being herded around as if I were just another sheep in an unruly flock. I also try to avoid landing wherever crowds congregate, the parking hassles, the turnstile troubles, the behaviors I only ever see when there's a crowd surrounding me. I never learned how to behave in such venues, my reticence a reasonable result of simple lack of practice. The last concert The Muse and I attended, I spent the whole evening curled up in the fetal position, ear plugs ineffectively in, trying to avoid the caterwauling coming off the stage. Everyone else seemed delighted. I, perhaps alone in that audience, felt terrified by it; assaulted.

I think it remarkable as I watch other people show up with the right kind of chair, for only certain types of chairs are allowed into the open air arena.

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MissingMeals

missingmeals
Unknown Japanese: Set of food dishes (mukōzuke)
(early 18th century)


"My work is my reward here …"


I measure engagement by how many meals I miss when working on something. I might just fail to notice when mealtime arrives or I might find myself so focused upon whatever I'm doing that I cannot quite face pulling away, and so meal time just slips by. Other times, I find myself indecisive, unable to imagine anything like a coherent meal arriving. Why bother? Meal breaks sometimes seem like a waste of my day. It's not like I'm in any danger of drying up and blowing away. For me, most meals seem optional. If lunchtime noses past about three-thirty, I'll usually just let it slide, deciding to let supper pick up the slack. Sometimes, I abandon supper, too, usually when I'm just too tuckered to bother. By the following morning, I might regain my appetite or I might find myself focusing in and away again.

Dining out long ago lost its allure.

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Fictions

fictions
Piero di Cosimo: The Misfortunes of Silenus (circa 1500)


"Hell emerges in the absence of Fictions."


The world was going to Hell that Sunday morning, so The Muse and I decided upon a round-about route, one which might offer us a few hours beyond cell range, beyond what passes for civilization over on the West side of the mountains. We wondered if we might so easily escape the thrall. It might have been that after going to all the trouble to take the route less taken, we'd find a caravan of weary flatlanders also following our plan to escape up and out of the heat and crowds, but we were lucky and the roads were lonely. A few odd stragglers quickly passed us, leaving us to move at our own pace, to find our own cadence.

While the world went to Hell, we ascended into a Heaven of sorts.

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Strangering

strangering
Vincent van Gogh: Adeline Ravoux (1890)


"I regain my attention …"


Other than passing through on the freeway, I'd never even thought to stop to see what might welcome me here, so I arrived without preconceptions, as a genuine stranger. This city could have been anywhere. I had no emotional attachments here. The waterfront attracted my eye, but I could not recall, if, indeed, I ever knew, the name of the bay. The city looked worn but worked over, as if considerable effort had been applied to prevent it from simply becoming derelict, with mixed results. This was clearly nobody's Disneyland. Its rough edges seemed prominent. I had never wondered about the history here, how it might have managed to turn out this way. I would be Strangering here within this mystery.

I much prefer to walk when Strangering, for driving moves me too quickly for me to see very much.

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Hoteling

hoteling
Gustave Doré: Liberty (c. 1865–75)


" … we still hold the instinct to survive … hospitality."


After two and a quarter years of housebound isolation, I find myself in a hotel room this weekend. I was once a frequent guest, traveling for business. One year, I managed to stay in more than one hotel room per week on average, and I stayed in a few of those rooms for more than a week, so I must have really been on the move that year. I became accustomed to the patterns and rhythms of modern Hoteling, which seem so different from the Grand Hotel tradition. No longer does one use the lobby as an extended sitting room, for instance, taking to an overstuffed chair to read or simply people watch. Modern hotel lobbies seem reserved only for transitions, for checking in and checking out and nothing else. They usually feature little furniture other than a front desk and a concierge stand. Everything's self service.

Hoteling's a kind of camping experience.

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DashingOff

dashingoff
Fan Qi 樊圻: Album of Miscellaneous Subjects, Leaf 4 山水花鳥圖冊 (early 1650s)


"We all eventually become the genius of ourselves …"


My friend Franklin reported that he'd participated in some online gathering that garnered him more clients than any other single event in his career, over a hundred. He went on to complain that he'd been invited to participate late in the cycle and so had not prepared his presentation as carefully as he most certainly would otherwise have. He's usually more careful than that, painstakingly preparing, often, it seems, almost asymptotically, as in preparing almost to the point of never actually achieving 'prepared.' This time, though, starved of sufficient time, he hacked out a quick almost good enough contribution and was fortunate to garner more paying clients than ever before from a single presentation.

Had he had adequate time, there's really no telling how many more clients he might have found.

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Suddenlied

suddenlied
France, Lyon(?), early 16th century: Time (From Chateau de Chaumont Set) (1512–15)


"… usually expecting the unexpected …"


Occasionally, I'll decide to write about a topic only to discover that I'd already written a piece with that same title. As you doubtless noticed, I make up a fair number of my story titles by fiddling with otherwise serviceable words, trying to better fit them to my purpose. My blog software keeps me honest by disallowing duplicate titles, complicating my life if I inadvertently try to slip one by, requiring some messy searching and deleting to correct the oversight. This morning, I innocently attempted to write a story about
Suddenlies, only to discover that I'd already covered that topic in a post from five years ago. I considered just reporting that story under the Againing banner, given that I've chosen repeating as my overriding notion this quarter. Then I decided that the very fact that this title came up twice might suggest that I'm dealing with a universal experience, a pattern notable for its subtle repetition, that I had just then been Suddenlied again.

As I said in the earlier story, things tend to continue unchanged until some suddenly appears.

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Scaredy

scaredy
William Blake: The Book of Job: Pl. 12,
I am Young and ye are very Old wherefore I was afraid
(1825)


" … some days I even manage to muster an appearance …"


I often feel afraid. It never takes much. The prospect of engaging in even the smallest activity can raise the hairs on the back of my neck, rendering me frozen for a spell. The serial insult of mounting the scaffolding some days drives me into an almost comatose state where I just cannot function. The Muse asks me if I'm alright, and I am alright, just cowering from another phantom. I eventually manage to face whatever dread presented itself and evaporate it by merely moving into it. Once I begin, whatever surface tension prevented my entry seems to disappear and I'm free to go about my activity, certain only that I've sidestepped calamity for then and that it might well return again tomorrow. I slink from place to place, mustering up either courage or foolhardiness in turn, never especially brave or foolish.

When I agreed to serve as a delegate to the state convention, I figured that I'd just attend virtually since the organizers in the party had touted that they'd designed a convention which would not discriminate against those unwilling to mingle inside a superspreader event.

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Againing

againing
Winslow Homer: Boy with Anchor (1873)


" … that must be my manner of living."


For the eighteen hundred and twenty-sixth time in an almost unbroken chain, I sit down this morning to write yet another missive. I hold one intention prominent, the very same one I've held for each of the preceding mornings. I intend this one to be different than all of the others. A different title, a different focus, at least a slightly different perspective. Some insist that each of my postings, each little chapter, sums to pretty much precisely the same thing and that, while not exactly nothing, isn't ever very tightly focused, either. None of them convincingly concludes yet each seems to be up to something. I've explained before that I intend to project here a manner of living, not explaining how to live or even how to live better, but rather merely how it seems to be that I go about my living. I've previously established that I do not hold myself to be in any way an exemplar, an example of how one ought to go about living, going so far as to insist in one collection of stories just how Clueless I've always been. My most prominent purpose seems to be exposition.

That said, I also write my stories to remind myself what it is that I'm doing.

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