Monday, April 6, 2009

The Patches Make the Goodbye Harder Still

When I was dating the Stoner Carpenter Guy, I fantasized that we would get married and have children. (In fact, we broke up shortly after September 11, which seems to have been a huge crucible for New York relationships, separating the ore from the dross.) One day, as we were walking down West 14th Street, we saw a tiny glove lying in the middle of the sidewalk where it had fallen from a child's stroller. "Do you see that?" SC Guy pointed at it with uncharacteristic, near-histrionic despair. "If you have children, you have to deal with that EVERY DAY." I knew that he didn't mean the annoyance of children losing things, but rather the dreadfulness of life's quotidian losses and separations, the casual sunderings that time and carelessness bring and that remove us inch by inch from those we love, until they're so far away that we can only wave to them from the horizon and hope they recognize us. As Holden Caulfield noted, growing up means that you have to carry suitcases in elevators and miss people.

My hardest Lenten sacrifice this year, and in previous years, is striving to become aware of all the goodbyes that we say to those we love, especially the goodbyes we must say on a daily basis. Here is a song I've always loved, "Oh Very Young" by Cat Stevens (above), that describes those goodbyes.

(My dissertation is about an iconography of penitence in the Western art-historical tradition that employs music imagery, and thus I'm interested in penitent musicians, like Hermann Cohen, who's appeared on this page more than once. Cat Stevens might fit into the penitent musician category too, since he seems to have almost completely jettisoned music after converting to Islam. He was also, I'll admit it, the object of my first crush.)

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