the melancholy of departure.
i get lost every time I stand in the presence of this painting by giorgio de chirico, “gare montparnasse” or the melancholy of departure. the stark, industrial angles, the dark shadows, the nondescript perspective that equally places you in the middle of the scene but also never exactly being able to get lost in it. and then, finally, while contemplating the gravitas of the title your eyes wander to two dark shadows in the right middle ground of the painting. their bodies nearly indiscernible but the intimacy between them palpable, you realize finally the magnitude of this title. two people, parting ways. departing from a trip or from home. sharing one last look, one last touch, a few final words that will seem to fall short. a moment all too familiar to lovers and travelers. the light of the day casting elongated, dramatic shadows behind these two invokes the knowledge that the moment and memory is fleeting. that the idea of them and memory of them will exist long after their presence is gone. that they are victims to the passing of hours, to the setting sun, to the reality of time as we all are. these two beings, their slight, dark silhouettes among the only rounded, and lifelike shapes in this painting, convey a sense of realness and humanity among the industrial landscape. a glimpse of hope amid chaos. a beauty in the turmoil, of significance in the desolation, a melancholy in the departure.
and although my life has been marked by so many melancholic departures, i crave this feeling more than almost any other. the last view of a city from the back of a cab on the way to the airport. the last look into the eyes of a lover as you try to hold your tears until you pass through security. the squeeze of a hand from your mother trying to feel confident and assuring although you both know you’re hurting inside. the beautiful tragedy of goodbye. be it to a person or a place, a moment or an opportunity. and the inevitable uncertainty as to when you will feel that next- what road you will be on that it will hurt so badly again to have one last look, one last inhale, one last goodbye.
that, is why we travel.