Well how ‘bout that? A moment of calm and peace. It looks to be just prior to departure for Ireland (the “greener scene” he has booked passage to) and the job waiting there, but in the meantime, there is the semester to finish, the students waiting in class tomorrow, even an office hour appointment. The poem captures that complex state before an adventure, mixed with regret over what’s being left behind, anticipation, trepidation, the work remaining to do. The man’s overtaxed brain is poised between finishing and going.
The night before I leave, I always find myself wishing I didn’t have to go. I like being places, including home, and there’s always something left to see, or know, or experience. Travel is upsetting and difficult. I understand Thoreau on this, who claimed to have traveled a lot in Concord and was only just getting started learning about that little corner of New England, but felt wider travel was pointless and shallow—that was partly a pose, since some of his greatest work outside of Walden was written about travel, but that’s what he said. But that’s all momentary for me. When the plane takes off, the boat pulls away, the car pulls out of the driveway, then you leave it all behind and look forward eagerly. That’s a great moment. And then you get there, and there you are. Same person, same weary eyes, same sore back, but in Paris now, or Budapest, or New York, or the Rockies. Mountains with snow on top in August. People speaking outlandish Hungarian, old ladies with scarves on their heads, strange architecture, weird foods that might be delicious or might make you sick, or both. Monuments that never seem in person like you thought they would from pictures and TV. And then your routine unfolds, and when it’s weeks or months later and time to leave, you don’t want to depart from there either. But it’s time to roll up the rugs. It’s like pantomime of death, I suppose, or practice for it, and maybe that’s why we have mixed feelings about departing, but it’s also why we fear dying and sometimes long for it too. There are all sorts of thing to discover within life, and after it.