Friday, February 19, 2010

What We Leave Behind

What we leave behind.  A forlorn scarf waiting for another bitter winter.  A used college textbook.  A pair of frayed shoes that walked themselves across Europe.  This scarf that protected you from 5 months of wind chill, chin nestled safely in merino wool.  The book you once meticulously memorized to earn a degree. These shoes that were worthy of an honorary passport.  And we walk away.  We walk away (or we run); parting with former treasures to the upside of abandonment.  These objects which once held our life force are now left to chaos.  Our once prizes are left curbside and us: shutting the door and deliriously abandoning oneself to the adage that one man's trash is another man's treasure.
More than family heirlooms or old photographs consciously and selectively organized for safekeeping; perhaps it is these deserted items that define our lives.

I recall an artist who created an exhibition using everyday discarded items.  Trash, garbage, rubbish, we may call it: gum wrappers, used paper cups, Dirty napkins.  Can people be defined by what they do not choose?  

to leave (v) : to go away from; to terminate association with; withdraw from
-Merriam Webster

I left my hometown to pass a year in the exotic unknown with a simple suitcase and a backpack slung over my shoulder.  I left the remains of my adolescent innocence (and ignorance).  

Stripped naked of social statuses, relationship affiliations, I came to discover myself without and create a self-definition around what I didn't possess.  I became an accepted local in a stranger's guarded domain.  And then I left.

I left mountains unclimbed, conversations half started, conversations half finished.  I left strangers who became friends and friends who became strangers.  I left countries and cities.  Villages and vistas.  I left three giggling children on a dusty road.  I left an old woman with the eyes of my grandmother.  I left beggars and maimed street destitutes attempting to carve out a living upon the thousands of people who year after year, pass by and never return.  And all these I left are now slipping.  Slipping into the faded ghosts that have always resided where I sleep.  I let them slip at the risk of forgetting (or with the intent to forget).  I let them be condensed in one bookshelf box.  A box where left items (business cards, concert programs, handwritten notes and scribbled thoughts) go to decompose.  

As I get older and more experienced, I learn how to leave with more grace, more style.  Learning how to seamlessly exit and enter and then reenter and exit again.  Perhaps there is an art to leaving.  Learning how to wave your hand goodbye without wiping a tear.  The skill of packing a suitcase in 3 minutes flat.  Developing a heart with an inside soft enough to stay awhile and steely crust strong enough to leave and never turn your head to what's already behind.  

And soon I will look around my room, at everything in its place.  The smiling photographs, the vase of flowers, the pink walls now decorated with Vietnamese calligraphy scrolls. This somber yet beautiful masterpiece selected for a traveling art exposition.  And I will leave my hometown as a cloud, promptly departing as the fickle wind blows.  

But somehow (thankfully) I realize that leaving is motion.  And if I never left, well then, I would never arrive.  Perhaps we must leave everything in order to gain anything, as the left foot must leave the ground to keep walking.  How relieved I am to practice the art of leaving to avoid a life of standing still.

No comments: