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As my fingers fly over my computer keyboard, I think about Alice in Wonderland and her encounter with the White Rabbit who has no time to say hello, goodbye. He’s in a stew because he is running late for a very important date.
Images fly through my head of a creature hurrying for the sake of hurrying, running past life to an event that is never concretized. His concentration is on the hurrying and worrying. Life is passing by while he runs. Conversations are ended before they begin. Engagements with others are stopped in their tracks. There is neither hello nor goodbye.
Another image enters my mind. I see Jennifer Arnold, a tiny pediatrician and spouse of Bill Klein, who is featured in the reality show, “The Little Couple.” Despite her husband’s amused reactions and in direct contrast to Alice’s rabbit pal, she always gives herself the time and space to say goodbye as she departs from each life experience to enter another.
Sometimes, the farewell is permanent. Often, it is not. In all cases, she believes it is necessary to bring closure to one moment in life so another might be opened. She must say goodbye before she can honestly say hello. She can never run so late she misses those opportunities.
Neither can I. I am convinced it is yet another way of living the adage, “Let go and let God.” To say goodbye is to let go. To say hello is to let God lead the way into the next adventure.
I say I am convinced of this truth. Yet, I am always exhilarated and exhausted by the prospect of doing it. I have said farewell too much in my life and then forged into wonderfully new greetings. There was also a wrenching sadness, a lurking desire to stay the course, to remain comfortable where I was, to forfeit the unknown without ever entering it. In a sense, I was rushing past, declaring a lack of time, trying to busy myself into avoidance and denial. It never worked. Eventually, I had to say goodbye before I could honestly say hello.
Each incident became an episode of remembering and being remembered. My memory bank filled. Joy deepened. Sorrow intensified. Wisdom increased. I was changed. I was put back together again, but differently.
With age, it seemed those occurrences would lessen. I was wrong. Just when I thought I had everything put together, life beckoned change. It came suddenly, or so it appeared. I was only “window shopping” for a new home. I was just looking to see what was available and feasible for us. This was to be a long-range plan, a calculation of future possibilities. Instead, I found myself “inside the store,” so to speak.
Once gazing at the merchandize, evaluating it and assessing its worth for us, I was suddenly buying. Everything happened in whirlwind fashion. Despite the running pace, I had to begin a mental farewell.
We have lived on the banks of Sasspan Creek for 18 years. It has been a delightful, a wonder-filled time. Awakened by the raucous call of the great blue herons and falling asleep to the mourning doves’ deep sighs, Hubby Dear and I have enjoyed the tranquility of country living.
We have seen snowy white egrets preening themselves on our dock, sometimes wrestling with each other for space and place. We have also lived with and through the visitations of wandering raccoons, hungry deer, a fox family, and likely many other creatures that have remained both invisible and anonymous.
It is hard to say goodbye to them. I can only commit their presence to memory and know that the past 18 years has been a gift we opened and used and loved each day.
We will miss the sound of an angry ocean, vibrations that could be heard in the distance. We will miss the rush of the changing tides, the turtles that popped their heads above water to greet us, the splash of a jumping fish, the sight of fiddler crabs single-handedly saluting the air above them.
The unique odors of marshland will no longer salt our noses. No longer will we delight our eyes with the serenity of sea grasses turning the water into a golden pond each autumn. To all of this, I say goodbye.
Human neighbors are equally valuable and dear to our hearts. Life on a dirt road calls for a different understanding of neighborliness. We don’t do coffee or cocktails or card parties. We don’t even see each other on a daily basis. As one dear neighbor tearfully said, “But, I always knew you are there.” We were present to each other, ready to be helpful when needed; eager to respond if necessary.
In the manner of good friendships, these were slowly gained over time. It hurt to say goodbye. Thankfully, this particular farewell is not a permanent one. This goodbye is a hello in disguise, since we are moving a short four miles from our present location. The goodbye to our neighbors is an invitation to come say hello at our new digs.
Last of all, comes the farewell to our home. It was never simply a house. Hubby Dear designed it. His mark of love is on every cabinet and countertop. From the brick floors for passive solar heating to the clerestory windows that allow moonlight to brighten dark nights, our uniqueness as individuals is claimed and witnessed.
It is hard to say goodbye; however, it is the only way we can say hello to a house we will make our home. Someone else designed it, but we now have the opportunity to take that design and transform it. We have the fun of letting its newness penetrate our being and renew us. We have the marvel of memories that will take all our goodbyes and turn them into eternal hellos, remembrances that will re-member us.
Unlike the White Rabbit, I am not going to miss that chance. I am not going to allow the busyness of daily life to keep me in a rabbit stew, running late and breathless. Instead, I am stopping to say hello-goodbye, not necessarily in that order.