“Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky…”
“That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all.”
-T. S. Eliot
A friend died a few days ago. His name was Rishi. I don’t know what you’re supposed to do after someone’s death–“feel your feelings,” someone said. It’s good advice. I’m trying. I’ve been on several long walks. Rishi and I were part of a little group that used to walk together, discussing poetry and the way the fields blow in the wind. Which is also poetry, he said. It was on one of those walks that Rishi told me to go read T. S. Eliot again. I’d never liked Eliot that much. I’d always felt like I didn’t understand him. But Rishi told me to listen again, and that conversation, those walks, come back to me now.
I still don’t understand. Perhaps that’s the point? I don’t understand how to say goodbye to Rishi, or what to say to some of his other friends as we mourn and remember him. Still, though, his memory makes me smile. In a little group we walked out through old hills, touching the rocks, watching the wind. Let us go then you and I. We wandered along through what we didn’t understand. I’m glad for that.
A few weeks ago, a high school senior asked how you stay in touch with friends once you’ve moved away. I told him I didn’t know. I’ve tried it: sometimes it’s worked, sometime it hasn’t. This student and I talked for a while longer, and stumbled across this: perhaps you just remember that you want to stay in touch. You keep the intention, you return it, and though that isn’t a path, it’s a view towards where you’re headed.
The group that Rishi and I walked with didn’t ever get where it was going. There wasn’t a place we were going. We found paths, and left them. Like our feet, our ideas found possibilities, and followed them, and turned aside to something new. And perhaps all of that was as it should be. That is not it at all…the path was never exactly right, but we were out, looking for it, and sharing the confusing, happy work of wondering along.
None of this is what I meant to say. I don’t know what I meant to say. But I think Rishi would understand that, and might say that the important part wasn’t the path we’d walked but our attempt to walk it with an open heart.
Thank you, Rishi.