Monday, July 5, 2010

Greetings and Goodbyes

Between the self and the world stands the greeting and the goodbye: the former an act of integration, the latter an act of separation. But despite their different functions, both are verbal indicators of involvement if not entrenchment in the world, a partaking of communality either for a moment or over a lifetime. Both are the essential, diametrical vocabulary of amor mundi, or love of the world.

Though we often attribute to taking leave, to our goodbyes, a poignancy, a difficulty, and an emotional drain, greetings, too, are enveloped in their own peculiar kind of anxiety. Greetings expose us to rejection, judgment, and self-doubt. Sometimes the greeting will enlighten and enrapture; other times the greeting will frustrate and enervate.

Take, for instance, two recent botanical greetings. Carpathian harebell (Campanula carpatica Blue Clips), which I welcomed to the garden on Friday, enjoys his new position, and cheerily tolls his bright blue-violet flowers, announcing his arrival with vigor and enthusiasm (even after I accidentally dropped a bag of mulch on him). Carpathian harebell surely is forgiving; perhaps his forgiveness is an homage to the orographic and geologic distinctiveness of its namesake mountains, a grouping of diversity that demands, whenever the unlike are thrown together, forgiveness, tolerance, and eventual acceptance. The smaller of the two Provence lavenders that survived the winter blizzards and which I transplanted last week (as Tall Purpletop Verbena was severely encroaching on its space), however, visibly remonstrates against her new residence. This week’s 100 degree plus temperatures and blazing sun surely won’t help her case, and I fear for her existence. A reluctant goodbye stands poised on my lips.

Yet any ache that may come from a failed reception to a greeting is invariably tempered by the fact that no previous relationship existed, and thus the losses may be minimal. And that is precisely why the goodbye possesses “a reputation.” Linguistically, we cover the goodbye with ‘see you later’, ‘so long’, or ‘until we meet again’—all in an effort to mask (perhaps) the pangs of sadness or loss we feel.

I approach the precipice of a goodbye in my own life, and this goodbye, though it shall be but a temporary one, weighs upon my heart (not to be overly dramatic about it, but also to be overly dramatic). Adventures await, life unfurls before us (we hope). This goodbye and its associated heaviness is very much an expression of amor mundi and the efforts expended on that love. But the division between that which came before and that which will come after demands to be marked: and goodbye is the most succinct symbol of demarcation that we linguistically, and perhaps emotionally, possess. Silence will not do.

And so I look to nature for my cue and my model. The spider waits ever so patiently, quietly, and when that particular vibration is felt across its web, it moves with alacrity, performing the necessary work to ensure a future meal. For the unfortunate, wayward insect, the parting is, I surmise, quick. Thus it shall be with this goodbye: recognition of the love, recognition of the life, a laconic verbal act of parting, and then a turning of the head to face the days ahead.

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