Right now I’m sitting on the futon in our office, listening to the world wake up (including unfortunately the jackhammering guy at the construction site around the block, who kept me company all day yesterday, too.) Across the valley, I can see our friend J’s apartment, and just below it, a swirling gyre of swallows, picking out the early morning bugs. I will miss this view, and this small flat as well, this place that has provided me with sanity, quiet (most of the time), and refuge in an overwhelming, intense city.

Another thing I will miss deeply is our friends here. I’m kind of surprised by that realization, because up until a few months ago, I wouldn’t have expected that to be true. But friendships have a way of sneaking up on you when you’re least expecting them.

After our friend S stayed the night on Saturday, we shared breakfast while Gabe was sleeping, and we talked. It was the first time we’d ever really talked one on one, as our respective partners have always been with us whenever we’ve met up before, so we’ve never had a chance to really bond. I knew I liked her, but in talking with her at length, I discovered a great depth of feeling and complexity that I had only guessed at before.

Of course I figure this out five and a half weeks before we leave Lisbon, of which she is going to be in France for the last 3. Go figure.

Even so, I am so pleased and surprised to have made even one real friend here, someone that I can truly confide in and talk with about what’s going on in our lives. I hadn’t expected to really, as good friendships happen maybe once every couple of years, if you’re really lucky.

So here’s a lesson to be learned about sabbatical: it takes six to nine months to start to make that kind of friendship. You meet good people, you cultivate them, you tend your relationship carefully. Then, just as you discover that your efforts have paid off, it’s time to leave.

But as the saying goes, better to have loved and lost, etc. The same goes for friendship. I am glad to have made this and all our other friendships this year, as we’ve certainly found an extraordinary group of people here.