When Goodbye is Thank You

Goodbye is often another way of saying “Thank You.”

I finished my year of anthropological fieldwork in Switzerland 2 weeks ago.  The weeks leading up to my departure on November 14th were a flurry of farewells and goodbyes, often in the form of cakes, pies, and last suppers.  In some cases, I was counting down the minutes as I ran to the homes of friends just to see them one last time and, more importantly, thank them for opening their houses and hearts to a meek anthropologist.  I’m learning that farewell-time is one in which an often latent world of social ties suddenly comes out of the woodwork, like a sudden sprouting—all of the not-always-evident relationships and even the loosely held links (in addition to the long-standing friendships) suddenly revive and become visible again.

The farewell compels this flowering; it’s a reminder of temporariness, and is a period of recognition and acknowledgment.  I left my field wishing I could carry all of the lovely people and their sweetness back home with me, but I overlooked that “home” had now stretched its boundaries.  It only took a year (!), and I can only hope and resolve that the things I learned and gleaned will somehow carry over and translate into a new life.

In spite of the goodbye flurry–or because of it–I was able to get some drawing in (less blogging).  Here are 3 of the handmade thank yous I made for friends and family.  The time spent drawing into the wee hours of the morning helped me to make the imminent goodbyes more than just an ache in the chest.

Scherenschnitte heart

Heart in paper. A first stab (or snip) at Scherenschnitte, the intricate Swiss 
art of paper-cutting (with which I fell deeply in love).  
More on this in a later post.

Merci papillon

Merci, watercolour butterfly.  

Bolbol - Soraya
I'm finally learning to love technical pens.
This is a card in Farsi with a bolbol (nightingale).  
Kheili mamnoon: Thank you very much.


12 thoughts on “When Goodbye is Thank You

  1. It is a fine reminder of the ‘moment’ we live in. I can’t help but see the temporary nature of life at this point. Neither good or bad, it is simply the truth as we experience it. I think it an important step for one to realize this fully and build appreciation and a willingness to ‘hold ones breath’ to fully experience the moments, which is not easy. These tiny slices pass so quickly one onto the other they make life feel like a film running by instead of a series of still photographs. And yet it is the moments that carry resonance and resolve.


  2. I agree. As you put it, there are things about this period I hope to fully experience and appreciate, but–and you’re right–the slices do slide by quickly. I think sustaining a regular drawing practice is probably one way for me of getting at the ‘stills’ (or making them!). Thanks for these lovely thoughts, Mark. I hope you’re well!


  3. Beautiful! I feel you’ve grown in your art and skills, and diving in new direction with your work, probably because of the journey you’re in and what you are experiencing. I’m absolutely enjoying watching 😀

    I always felt a goodbye was a door that shuts but when we’re inside we often open a window (a thank you?) Hope you’re enjoying the view while that window is open 🙂


    1. Thanks, Claudia! Yes, a major change can be a good opportunity to shift gears a little bit and keep things new. I really like your very visual metaphor for goodbye–a door shuts, but we still have a view of what’s on the other side. How bittersweet and beautiful. Thanks for your lovely thoughts on goodbyes…it’s funny that this year had some big farewells for both of us. 🙂


  4. Kind of you to take the time and make cards for your friends. Is the paper folded first before you start cutting? Love the inky drawing of the bird, full of personality. Russell.


  5. Yes, for the paper, I folded it and started cutting, using tiny sewing scissors to make those hard to snip corners. It’s really fun, and the more expert pieces get really intricate.
    Thanks for visiting, Russell!


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