Leaving and goodbyes
This time last year, I was sitting under a canvas rain cover held up by 2x2 boards and some rope writing letters to forty people who changed my life forever, mulling over the notion that this would be the last time I saw many of them. This year I’m doing the same mulling, the same thinking, about what will happen when I leave this field station where I’ve met so many leaders, world changers, and lookers-out for others. They all also happen to be scientists studying climate change and biology “at the top” at over 9,000 feet in the Rocky Mountains. It’s not a place I’m keen to leave.
This group of people will never exist again when the summer is over. It’s an abrupt dissolution that has already begun, as people return to normalcy, to homes with friends, routines, teachers, and grant proposals, and for some, flat land. Some are returning to friends they’ve met here, some, like me, will be going home to a familiar that does not quite encompass what they’ve experienced here. It’s certainly a gap social media and phone calls won’t fill, as conference calls can’t quite foster community. And even worse, what do you say when you’re likely on the brink of “goodbye, forever?”
I’m reminded of a story my co-counselor told me the night before I left for the airport, writing letters and letting each of these people know how much I love them, thinking of the light they put on in my life. It’s been mottled by retelling and re-remembering and most of it has been lost to time, but the most important bits I can visualize quite well — it began with the author of “Le Petit Prince” on a night time flight above glowing cities. That evening, Luigi recalled the author’s thoughts on those lights in the distance, each a signal that a home was alive and lived in. Each light a reminder in the distance that humans in general were persisting in the goodness found in dinner with family, the laughter, and holding children tightly. When we leave fast-formed, short-lived communities, we become these pilots. Each of these members we’ve come to know and to love, whose presence has illuminated our time together, becomes a light in the distance. We each take light from this special place in space and time to bring it back into the world, spreading it, doing good things with what we’ve learned together. The thought of these friends reminds us that the impression they’ve left on us is not isolated, and they are still working in the world beyond our immediate perception, still illuminating what has felt more and more like a long, long night.
We can not know when we’ll have the chance to see each other again, the only certainty of this kind of goodbye knowing we won’t know this space again. In a tangle of longing, loving, and apprehension as we disperse, I hope we can be comforted with the knowledge that we bring pieces of each other and our community, hopefully bringing the good we found here to what we’re dreading there, and remembering each other’s lights.
To all of the friends I’ve made at RMBL, I’m going to miss you like crazy. My life in Raleigh will not be the same, and your absence will be sorely felt. I hope most of your goodbyes will not be permanent. Each of the people I’ve met is brimming with curiosity and radiating generosity, sincerity, and compassion, you are all passionate and so so good. I am so excited to see what the year holds for all of us and where we’ll find ourselves as we move throughout this world. I truly hope our paths will cross again through either intention or happy accident, but if they do not, I’ll be remembering the light you cast on this world.