Last night, I had a going-away party. About twenty of my friends showed up, a small fraction of the people here that I know and love. I live about twenty miles or so north of Seattle, in the furthest southern reaches of Everett, across a very busy road from Silver Lake. Many of my friends don’t have cars, and getting to my place is difficult. Others weren’t feeling well this weekend, as there’s a cold going around, and some are just tired from being too busy of late. Some had emergencies they had to deal with. Still others had previous commitments. Many simply live too far away. I wish they could have been here, but I understand why they could not.
I was so happy to see everyone who came. There were good conversations and a lot of warm hugs. Tea was shared, and teaware went home with some of my friends, as did tea I wasn’t keeping. A couple of my friends are mixologists and brought supplies for some lovely cocktails; they make their own liqueurs, and one of the most delicious ingredients they used at the party was a liqueur made from black cardamom, which has a sweet but smoky flavor. Blended with rose essence and honey syrup, along with other ingredients I didn’t think to ask about, we had some very nice drinks. I sent bottles home with friends – Ardbeg and Jameson’s, a small bottle of 18 year old Glenfiddich, some Frangelico. A bottle of Talisker 57 North is going back to the couple who gifted it to me for my 50th birthday a couple of years ago. It is intense and smoky, but there’s no way I’ll be able to drink it all before I leave.
There were steampunks and druids in my home, musicians and world travelers, language teachers and ferret-fanciers. My girlfriend’s band had been doing the final mix of their EP earlier in the day; their release party is two days after I leave for Italy. I’ll get to hear their music, but I won’t be there to see them play. Amid all the excitement of my move are my regrets. I won’t see Caera’s band at their release party. I won’t see my friend Brandy perform this season with the Medieval Women’s Choir. I won’t get to Abney Park’s New Year show at the Columbia City Theater.
In the wake of so much good fortune, I will miss the music that my friends make, the performances I would see, the people whose artistic work I would support with my tickets and my enthusiasm and my attendance. My friends are a diverse, talented, wonderful group of people. No matter what they do or where they do it, no matter what their day jobs are, they are creative and engaged with the world. They are kind and generous and loving and I will miss them all more than I can say. If our lives are measured by the friends we keep, I think I am living a very good one.
Today, my friend Casey is driving down from Vancouver BC in a borrowed car to help me deal with some of the boxes in my storage unit in Seattle. We’ll shift things around in my garage for my moving sale, sort them, and go through the boxes I packed assuming I was going to be moving to Seattle. I’ve known her since about 1985, when we were both writing in PaganAPA together. She has been a dear and constant presence in my life.
In a month, I’ll be in Italy. I will be lifted from my context and placed into a new one, adrift and seeking new friends and a new community. Because of the internet, I won’t lose track of the friends I have made here over the decades, and I am grateful for this. I’ll be able to stay in touch with people, and will visit them from time to time as I’m able, but they will not be so easily accessible for a cup of tea and a quiet conversation across a table as they once were. A week or so ago, one of my friends said, “It’s just starting to sink in that you’re actually leaving.” It is for me, as well.
Leaving my friends and my community is intimidating. I haven’t walked out alone like this in a very long time, not knowing what I will find on the other side of my journey. I can only trust in the goodness of the universe, the kindness of strangers, and in my own small strength, hoping that what awaits me will be something rich and beautiful, that I will find new friends as good as the ones I leave behind.