Monday, March 13, 2006

Good Stay

(Written during flight to Dallas en route to Jakarta)

In Indonesian, the way to say goodbye is dialectical. A person wishing someone a good trip would say “selamat jalan”. But in response, the person who’s leaving says “selamat tinggal”, which means: good stay. It’s funny there’s not such an easy way to wish someone well in their life at home in English.

I spent my last Bloomintonian morning walking around in the pouring rain. It’s been a wet couple of weeks, and even when the sky dried up, grassy areas squished like soaked washcloths underfoot.

Having packed until about two o’clock last night, I found myself walking from our apartment to the Hotel 6 we’d reserved. The air was warm and breezy around “Lake Fernandez” in Millers-Showers Park. I used to live across from the park, which is really a broad median between one-way arteries at the town’s north gate. In fact, the building is called “Park View”. I used to laugh with my roommate Collin at the irony; the city clear-cut the park and turned it into a muddy wasteland during the year we lived there. Now it’s lovely, with reflecting pools, bridges, waterfalls, and walkways. But the landscape still bears the scars of newly cleared land, and it’ll be 10 years before it outgrows its architect-model sheen.

There was something magic about the walk, though. Last night’s mild spell seemed to inspire hundreds of the city’s songbirds to stay up late. I heard familiar songs whose authors I couldn’t name, and the affect was stirring.

So I’ll say goodbye to clean air for a while. And to vacant streets in the middle of the night. So long to Roots, The Bakehouse, Little Tibet, Plan 9, easements, the Jordan, and the tracks north of town. I’ll miss the sound of Westminster Chimes in the morning, and the howl of the train at night.

And to the people I’m leaving on the ground today, and you know who you are…

Selamat Tinggal.