I woke up from my dream with tears in my eyes.
I can't remember if I was crying, or if I had been crying in the dream, but I certainly woke up with a silver sadness lining the bright morning sunlight.
I felt watery and adrift.
I quickly forgot, as one tends to forget dreams.
But then, someone asked me: where do you want to go?
Everywhere, I thought.
Sometimes, we think we are talking to just another person, when we are actually talking to a prophet. This person tells us what we often thought we had already heard, but never really listened to.
This person spoke of his longing for the sky. I had just seen the sky, I foolishly thought, back home in Minnesota. I saw the sky there, and I had even appreciated it. I appreciate it for being vast and Midwestern and very blue, unlike the sky here in New York, pock-marked as it is by skyscrapers, and muted by smog.
But no. He spoke of the stars: when was the last time you saw stars? he asked, which is maybe the second most important question I have been asked in the past nine months. It is an important question, because it leads us to the truly most important question: when will you see them again? Once you have seen the stars, how will you see them again?
He hadn't seen the stars for something like eleven years. Right then and there, I vowed never to let eleven years pass between my star-gazings. Eleven years is too long. You can forget the stars in eleven years.
That was when I remembered that I'd woken up that morning with tears in my eyes, and the taste of crying in my mouth.
Someone asked me: Have you gotten to say good-bye to all these different places that you love here in the city? It had not yet occurred to me to press pause on the quest forward to see always more and more of everything, and to take the time to bid good-bye to all the places that have been more than muses for me.
The first good-bye hit me in the face when I walked towards Starry Night. It was crowded by the MOMA Friday night tourist crowd.
And I remembered when I first ever walked towards it; and that I was saying good-bye to it now. Starry Night was my first friend in the city--a comforting touchstone, when I felt like there were no stars to be seen, before I'd seen Orion hanging above the Reservoir on a clear winter morning, when nothing was familiar, and nothing seemed to speak to that deep well of beauty inside of me that was longing for starry nights.
Van Gogh's infinite swirls of light and darkness reminded me of the past--of fond, comfortable memories of late-night couches and soft voices, of beaches and endless expanse of oceans--and it held a promise for the future.
Good-byes are really thank yous. They are acknowledging that someone has given you a part of themselves, or a part of yourself back to you. Good-byes are mostly thank yous for that.
The second good-bye was to Monet's water lily murals. The water lily room is a haven. A haven where your eyes can go when they are tired of being punished by city wind carrying city dirt, or straining for the next train around the dark subway corner, or avoiding eye contact with sidewalk passers-by.
The water lily room is where you can go to think and see clearly, and write down what you behold. It is one of those places you can sink into and stay forever. Time stops there. And I wish I could always be in the water lily room.
In the water lily room, I haven't made any missteps, or said all the unkind things I say, or been impatient, or lazy, or wasted precious time. I have not fallen short in here, or fallen in love. I have never broken anyone's heart or my dignity, I have not wounded what I love, or wounded by my love. In this room, I am not hurt or injured, or mistaken. In the water lily room, the past hasn't happened yet, and the future is the present.
There is one place I will not say good-bye to until I am seventy-five and living in my hobby farm in the West Village, and that is the Impressionist wing of the Met, where I fell in love over a Degas statue, an endless successions of painted points on canvas, and the drum-roll-thrill of seeing stars awakening the sleepy dog days of late July.