It’s said that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and I think that this is true with regard to one’s love of people, as well as their love of places. Today I’m writing about absence as it pertains to the latter.
It was over coffee and dinner with my friend Kristen the other evening, as I answered all of her questions about what life is like in the north and my reasons for being there that I realized the awesome in being absent from a place. And, it was over conversation with M, and dinner yesterday evening with C and C (three colleagues with whom I’d taught my first year in Tasiujaq), as I answered all of their questions about how things have been going and how people have been, sensed how much they missed it and their genuine longing to go back there that I realized that my own (albeit brief) absence has made my heart grow fonder.
Absence is not always ideal – in fact, it can actually be unfortunate and quite challenging (and I’m saying this from personal experience) depending on the circumstances. However, the awesome that I realized in absence from a place is twofold:
First, absence helps you to see the place from a completely different perspective. When you’re absent from a place, you’re no longer in the midst of its flaws and no longer at the brunt of its challenges. Being absent from a place is taking a physical step away, to a distance from which you can see the place in a much more flattering light (perhaps I just have a propensity toward the positive, but I find that I always look back on places that I’ve been with fondness, regardless of the challenging experiences I’ve had there).
I’ve only been absent from Tasiujaq for a few days, but it was enough for me to be able to look beyond the darkness, the cold and the challenges that have arisen as of late, and to remember my affinity for the north. It was enough for me to forget about the reasons behind my yearning for a break from there, and to remember its majestic beauty, its extraordinary uniqueness and its allure. It was enough for me to actually begin to miss it.
Second, absence means going to a place in which you’re surrounded by people who may have never experienced for themselves the place that you are absent from; it means going to a place where you’re able to have conversations with people who feel real exhilarated intrigue for the place which, for them, is so exotic but to which you’ve grown familiar and blasé. My conversation with Kristen, much like my conversations with other friends who’ve never been to Nunavik (or anywhere in the north for that matter) had very little to do with the negative and almost everything to do with the positive as I told her about the landscape, the people and the culture, as well as some of my personal adventurous experiences there.
Absence from a place is awesome in that it makes you see the awesome in the place. Being absent, I not only see the awesome in Tasiujaq, but of all of the places from which I am currently absent. To all those places and the people I know there: I miss you! And to Tasiujaq and its lovely Tasiujamuit, I look forward to seeing you tomorrow!