Awumbuk: a life-experience-in-a-word for which I must thank the Baining people of Papua New Guinea
When a guest (or family member) leaves home it creates an air of heaviness that can be alleviated by filling bowls of water that are placed where the missing person might otherwise be, the better to absorb the weight of absence. The next day the water is thrown away – the emptiness with it – to restore a more natural vibe and the house rests easy again.
I imagine this can be repeated as necessary – but to be honest I am guessing about that.
I have never been to Papua New Guinea but it feels to me like a low-key act of mourning, the acknowledgement of a loss however transient. Sometimes goodbyes play out in the mind for longer than is expedient to the day.
When Edens Yard closes at the end of the season, I am grateful to awumbuk, it’s existence as a word validates the stop-shock emanating from every dormitory. I cannot believe that the hospitality sector has not evolved its own word for this.
Brightly however, the very idea of awumbuk creates headspace for a reciprocal force; one you sense as you prepare for a new season or intake; It is as though the incoming presence, far from being heavy, has an advance orbit that fizzes and blinks through space and time like the herald of events and people yet to be.
Our guests are coming, they are shuffling tickets, petrol receipts and clutching printed emails, squinting to see screens against the sunlight with your address and directions, they thrill at the glitter of sea from a hilltop, they cast eyes quizzically at the strange mine-spoil skyline of mid Cornwall.
Mostly they are forgetting zoom.
In normal times at the yard many of our guests do not even know they are coming to us until they arrive dusty footed and ask if we have a spare bed or two.
The fizz of increasing proximity and probability zaps ahead of them, usually reaching us first whether their source know the plan or not.
The Inuit have a word that does not quite sit in awumbuk space, it is less dynamic, it describes the anxiety of looking out for guests, scanning a frigid horizon for signs of activity. It may be similar to message response anxiety where the brilliant colours and landscapes of internet content become just a flat blizzard of white noise; you keep an ear out for the ping you feel sure must be heading your way through it all.
But that is another blog.