|[a] Arctic Sea RF|
Although it is hardly rare, it is not particularly common for anthropologists to end their ethnographies with stories of their departures. In other words, leaving is built-in to the life experience of the ethnographer, but it is only occasionally a prominent part of the telling, the analysis, the written account of the fieldwork. It is far more common to see word portraits of the approach—the first encounters—and we have already seen one good example of this on Round and Square.
So what is leaving like? Let's just think of the process in our own lives. A flurry of emotions can be unleashed in the weeks and days approaching a departure. We've all experienced it. I remember distinctly the time in the summer of 1987, when I left Taiwan to begin my graduate studies. There were rounds of dinners and parties and gifts and goodbyes. I even got to see a ghost (a story that I am saving for later). And then I got on the plane and flew to Chicago. Only later did I learn that, almost the moment that the plane carrying me had left Republic of China soil, the government officially lifted martial law. I like to read-in a little playful cause-and-effect: "Rob's gone; it's o.k. to dance and associate freely."
|[b] Icy RF|
Part of what gives the book its humanity and narrative tension is the difficult position in which Briggs finds herself in a society that does not value the free expression of emotion. Keeping control of her feelings—and writing intelligently about the complex process—makes for, at once, a tense and rewarding reading experience. She channels that tension all of the way to the conclusion, even amidst joyful scenes of fish gutting and caribou eating. It also contains—at the end of the penultimate paragraph—one of the most memorable "goodbye" lines in literary history.
Never in Anger
Jean Briggs (1971)
At this news, the fear that had never quite died—the fear of another change in the emotional climate—was reawakened. Did Allaq perceive that I was eager to leave, more eager than I myself knew, or was it she who wished me to leave? Watching her with the suspicious alertness of anxiety, I could not be sure. Once in a while I thought I caught a glimmer of hostility. On one or two occasions, in pouring tea for the family, Allaq forgot to fill my cup, and her laughter, when I remarked on the omission, seemed to my ear as excessively hearty as her laughter on another occasion when she had caught herself neglecting to offer Niqi a cigarette. I heard an unaccustomed stridence in her laughter also on another occasion, when I castigated myself, jokingly, as a "bad kapluna" for cutting the back instead of the belly of a fish I was gutting. On the other hand, her friendliness disarmed me, so I chided myself for letting imagination run wild. I puzzled, until one day a remark that Allaq made to Niqi tipped the balance, and I resolved, finally, to leave. Allaq and I were alone in the iglu when Niqi popped in on one of her brief visits. Allaq, standing on an oil drum by the door, was scraping the night's accumulation of frost feathers off the ice window, a morning routine, while I sat, writing as usual, on my corner of the ikliq across the way. Niqi, making conversation with me, remarked, as people occasionally did, that Utku would be unhappy (hujuujaq) after I had gone.
|[d] "Cold" RF|
We left a week later: Inuttiaq, Mannik, Ipuituq, Qavvik, and I; it took that many to carry my several hundred pounds of gear. Allaq proffered last tidbits of data even as she helped carry my things out to the sled. And when Inuttiaq's team was harnessed and the other sleds were already sliding out across the river, she came and silently, in a most unusual gesture of farewell, clasped my hand. My mind went back to the only other farewell handshake I had seen. It was the parting of the old man Piuvkaq with his adopted son when Piuvkaq had mistakenly thought the government plane was taking him away to the hospital, probably to die. I, too, might never return, though I had said I would like to, if I could.
Pala also gave explicit recognition of my departure, and, doing so, sharpened my sense of separation. "So you are going to Gjoa Haven," he said. "If you don't freeze, you should be all right (naamak). And Niqi echoed him: "Don't freeze or be cold." The other women who stood on the slope were silent. Inuttiaq motioned me to the sled and with a tug at the anchor and a sharp-breathed "ai!" released the team. We slid down the slope in the wake of the other sleds, Inuttiaq running alongside to steer with pulls and shouts. I looked back. Pala, Allaq, and the others were black shaped on the dog-stained slope with its domes of snow—motionless, still watching. "The neighbors," said Inuttiaq. He waved, and I waved, too.
|[d] Parting RF|
I had letters from Back River twice before I left Gjoa Haven in March. Allaq said: "Saarak asks where you are and mistakenly thinks you will come soon." She and Inuttiaq both said: "I didn't think I'd care (huqu, naklik) when you left, but I did (naklik)."
|[e] Restart RF|