It was an ordinary moment that did it for me.
Perched on the edge of your bed, you pulled garments from the cherry red stained dresser and laid them prostrate on the smoothed out space of the comforter. Your hands methodically stroked the denim, fingers lingering along each variant crease. With eyes sparkling like some serious L.A. bling, you pursed your lips and purred “Ohhhh, I love my jeans”.
And you stayed with those designer jeans, in the moment, and must have been recalling the memories stuffed into the pockets like timeworn coins: the sweaty city tromps with your girls, the ass-shaking morning beats, their fiber giving way to a yoga position mid-sentence, sliding into a chair at the Coffee Bean for that must-have pregnant latte, and the way they peel off for your lover and land in a clump on the grain of the bamboo.
It was only after you ironed them with your palms again and folded them into thirds that you finally returned your gaze to me. The silk scarf wrapped snugly to your hair reflected its swirls of reds and yellows in the waning light. In an instant, the air expanded and closed in on me.
And that’s when I knew for sure you were leaving me.
“The caged bird sings with a fearful trill
of things unknown but longed for still
and his tune is heard on the distant hill
for the caged bird sings of freedom”
I’ve not had to let a caged bird free in many years. Twice this occurred in my youth, after realizing I could not longer care for them and that their wings were ready to spread to places anew. Standing on the porch – always on a fair and golden day – I’d open the rickety, wire cage door and coax the bird onto my finger. As the bird took an awkward leap into the open sky, I wished them well on their journey, yearning for enchantment and adventure to greet them.
Following the gray and minty hues of their feathers, I squinted until I could no longer see them. I secretly hoped they would somehow regret flying away and would find their way back to me. Truth is, they probably starved to death, due to being caged all their lives and used to not having to search for food. I will never house another creature in a cage or enclosure again.
It’s not that I see you as a caged creature, but rather as a being of light so radiant that you cannot stay in one place too long lest your light grow dim. You must travel on, sharing that effervescent glow, illuminate new mysteries. Yet it pains me to let you fly on, though I know that your spirit guides call you to such enlightened duty.
It is time. I know this crackly and vapid city has drained you. We’ve sunk into your cranberry sofa together and gazed beyond your French doors – always with a bit of kid-sized, painted hand prints on the panes – bemoaning the heat of the summer while our children with pent-up energy chop each others hair and dip their bare bodies in the water of the dog bowl. You have worn a path to the local market – and your savior The Coffee Bean – carrying the growing spirals of two babies in your womb. You’ve birthed one of those babies into the swirl of water. And now this next one begs with a tiny tap-tap for you to keep moving, keep flowing, keep stretching, keep going. And so you listen.
You are the first of my adult friends who I’ve had to release from close proximity. You are a founding member of our tribe. You honored my healing journey, holding my space gently in the safety of your sacred mortal body and pumping heart. Thank goddess I got in tight witcha before you stopped accepting “applications for new friends”. You are the star sister I searched for as I wandered the Ozarks, dipping my hand into the coolness of the creeks and noticing how my reflection morphed in rippled waves. And in knew in that moment that my body had the same capability and that I’d surely traveled the cosmos, feeling the breeze of your passing comet-tail along the way.
I do not know the protocol for these sorts of goodbyes; do I cry, do I smile, do I hug you 20 seconds longer than I think I probably should, do I stand in your drive way waving slowly until the taillights of the camper round the corner? As I drive home, do I let the tears I’ve held for so long slide down onto the leather of the seat, softening it a bit more – just as you’ve managed to soften my heart? How do I explain to my girl that her “SulaMia” and “MaryBeff” is leaving and that she will not cavort in the mud of that backyard again, smiling back at us 30-something Mamas on those sofas?
You have led me to a deeper acceptance of the transience of life, to the brevity of moments as pure as the snow… Snow you just may watch drift into the bare branches of trees on that divine day you meet your baby. You ignited a fiery space in my soul and this, I know with a certainty, will continue to smolder.
The ocean calls. The wind beckons. The rain quenches. The mountains pray. And so, my Gift, may you flow with the waves, raise your face to the drizzling skies, bow in gratitude with the peaks, and soar on the wind. Yes, yes, mostly may you soar.
I will not regret your ascent.
So don’t ask where I’m going
Just listen when I’m gone
And far away you’ll hear me singing
Softly to the dawn:
Rivers belong where they can ramble
Eagles belong where they can fly
I’ve got to be where my spirit can run free
Got to find my corner of the sky
– From “Pippin”
***Listen, I know I should have saved these words for later, for some official send off. And yet, my intuition told me to set them free – that it would indeed help me surrender to your leaving. This would function as my “pre-goodbye” so I could just say a casual “See ya later, girl” on the eve of your departure, thereby bypassing the pool of gushy emotions I’d likely become in front of you.
Sitting inside of me, these words were making me all wobbly and messy and incoherent. So I offer them to you, letting them mix and spin with the energy of the whole “multi-verse” (as you called it). The world deserves to know how unforgettable you are.
And plus, you know I always have more words.