Dear Mount Holyoke,
It’s been a long time since we talked. So much has changed since I last saw you. How have you been?
It’s been eight months, and I still miss you every day. At least now the pain is duller, subtler. I don’t cry as much anymore – or at least, not about you.
The last time I saw you, I was not the woman you thought I was. It was late October, the time when everything around us dies in the most beautiful shades of orange and red, and I hadn’t seen you in months. In my head you were still exactly as I had left you – an explosion of green, a warm mid-May breeze, one long day of golden sunlight. But I was different. Changed. Aged by time and heartbreak. I half-expected you to be the same, your clock tower somehow weathered, your stepping stones broken, your lakes emptied. But you were just as beautiful as I remembered you, just as vibrant and serene. I wept for your unchanging beauty, entered through your gates knowing that once I had left them, I could only ever temporarily return. I wish you hadn’t seen me like this, undone, unbecoming of you, of us, of everything we had been.
The first time I ever saw you, you were bare, aching towards spring. Early April, snow still blanketing the ground in thin layers, your trees grey but almost budding. When you appeared to my eyes, I knew it was you. I knew it had always been you. I knew it always would be. It was sunset, the hour of reckoning. The sun sat low, painting your stones in shades of orange and gold and rusty red. I had never seen you, hardly knew anything of you, was young and naïve and unsure of everything. But I wept for you. My heart recognized you in that moment of dying light, and I was yours.
I will always remember the last time I ever returned to you, when you were still mine to return to. It was only days before my final departure, and I came to you as I had come so many years ago, in the exploding light of sunset. It was as if no time had passed, and centuries. The beauty that had filled me with hope so many years before broke my heart now, in the bright promise of May. I knew then that I could never love you any less than I had that first day, and every day since.
I could tell our story, fill pages with the tale of you and me. It would be my life’s work, the last page penned on my dying day, never quite finished — always more to be told, unearthed, recovered from the depths of us.
But I am writing today because you cannot be the only one I will ever love. I chose you, and for a season you were all of me, and I was all of you. When I lost you, I lost the all of me I was because of you. And I survived. We both did. I have to find a way to be all of myself again, without you, just as you are all of yourself without me – vibrant and serene and strong enough to survive the winter.
And next time I return, maybe we can meet at sunrise, when the world is awakening to light. Maybe we don’t have to live our whole lives saying goodbye, losing, becoming undone.
Maybe we can just become.
All my love,