Over the years, I've often been caught up with full heart, mind, body, and spirit in a trip, or conference, or some other adventure with virtual strangers who, by the end of our time together, feel like—even are—good friends.
The experience is frequently intense, completely removed from the day-to-day (any of ours), infinitesimally life-altering.
And then: it's time to say goodbye.
In the past, when I was younger and more naive, unworldly, we exchanged addresses and phone numbers (before the days of cell phones and computers) and promised to stay in touch.
But of course we didn't. We went on with our lives. And carried the fond, fine memories with us.
As it should be.
Though there's a bittersweetness in the severing of such a connection, however tenuous. Wouldn't it be nice if all those sweet, temporary ties that we make in this life could continue to resonate, like ever- multiplying strings of a sitar. Each coming together another pluck of the plectrum; each a further note in the melody of our individual lives, with infinitely ringing harmonics. By the end of our lives we might be living in an all-encompassing ooooom of pure harmony.
And maybe we are. Maybe that's what we find at the end, if we stay attuned.
Today I said goodbye to some eighty other writers—most of whom I had little contact with, although there were many opportunities for sharing, so I did meet quite a few lovely people in passing, and had some great conversations with a few whose names I never quite caught. I did eventually learn the names of all thirteen others in my own workshop, with Mark Doty (fourteen including my sister-in-law Patty, whose name I of course already knew): Margie, Lainie, Michelle, Heather, Nancy, Jacqueline, Lauren, Marie, Sal, Jamie, Kate, Jan, Shana.
This morning fourteen of us shared our own work for the first time in this session, and it was revelatory and inspiring. So many different voices, so many different stories, so much talent.
All through the last few days, there have been readings, and panel discussions, and in-class sharing and interpretation, and deep lunch- and dinnertime talks. A lot of connection.
Me, I'm not very good at connecting. So I didn't forge many bonds these last few days. But there were a few people who, when I said goodbye, I did wish I could know better.
But I didn't offer my phone number or any promise to stay in touch. Maybe, though, I'll see them around. At another writing conference. Because we're all floating in this soup of words together. And that right there is consoling and energizing.