Looking at the stars always makes me dream. Why, I ask myself, shouldn't the shining dots of the sky be as accessible as the black dots on the map of France? Just as we take the train to get to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to reach a star.
--Vincent Van Gogh to his brother Theo Van Gogh Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh Arles, c. 9 July 1888
It is so peculiar, all the little things that feel like home.
The couch in the family room that used to be in the front room.
The box of journals--each of their covers all too familiar--underneath my old bed.
The map of the interstate intersection.
The blackberry patch.
The adoration chapel.
The Bath and Bodyworks in the mall.
All the super bougie shops by 50th and France.
A small book with a loving inscription.
The turbulent colors of Van Gogh's Starry Skies.
The familiar scent of an old perfume.
The smell of weed and fried chicken on the sidewalk.
Italian sisters blocking the intersection.
Familiar, happy faces at the open bar.
The cluttered dining room table.
The website of your bank. (I don't know. It just does).
French-speaking tourists flooding the park.
Your ears clogging and popping as the train goes underwater.
The view over the reservoir.
Walking down 86th Street.
Seeing all the familiar faces of the people you don't really know at Mass.
Your desk: cluttered with all the props from your show.
The smell of school.
The cold floor of your bedroom. (okay now I'm just listing random things)
When you are home, at first, you greet everything as new and beloved: you take in every detail and notice what has changed: what's been broken, what's been fixed. And then there is a blissful period where you just take everything for granted--you don't spend your days staring at the rich red paint on the wall, or bouncing on your sister's bed, or stroking the ears of your puppy--you just dwell alongside of them in a contented haze, and enjoy it.
Then, as you are about to leave, you remember that you love everything so much and soon you won't be around it. So you have to remember all the little details as much as possible. You sit on five different couches, so you can remember how each of them feels, and how each of their soft, distinct contours awaken a different shade of security in you and foster a unique hue of coziness. You lay on your bed and thumb through all your books, to remember how they smell and how the print feels underneath your fingertips. You flip through the favored ones to find that once passage that always bolster your spirits or breaks your heart.
You watch your little siblings, who are not so little anymore, so that you can remember not just their faces, but the way their faces are: how they smile, how they grimace, how they scrunch their noses up at you and yell: "Renéeeee go awayyyy stop watching me."
You lay on the grass outside, while your dog growls at your shadow, and you stare up at the sky. You try to memorize each cloud, each star blocked by the suburban light pollution.
You just want to soak in each beautiful moment, because the pain of departure has helped you become that much more aware of each of them.
I do not like leaving. Leaving is sad (unless you are leaving a bad play. Then, it is a monumental relief). But, leavings and endings remind me always what a gift time--and the limitedness of time--is.
Endings are always a grace, because we are beings living in time, and we do not yet possess the ability to sustain an appropriate awareness of the world indefinitely, eternally. Without the imminent threat of ending, we would be forever in that contented, happy haze. Which certainly sounds appealing most days. But, in that happy, contented haze you have the audacity to live your pedestrian life each day, surrounded by so many marvels of creation without really paying them any heed. With the jolt of separation, you may actually begin to see them for the marvels that they are.
Being able to see how precious the world truly is makes all the partings joy.