Know what that is all around us, Winnie?” said Tuck, his voice low, “Life. Moving, growing, changing, never the same two minutes together. This water, you look out at it every morning, and it looks the same, but it ain’t. All night long it’s been moving, coming in through the stream back there to the west, slipping out through the stream down east here, always quiet, always new, moving on. You can’t hardly see the current, can you? And sometimes the wind makes it look like it’s going the other way. But it’s always there, the water is always moving on, and someday, after a long while, it comes to the ocean. (Natalie Babbit, Tuck Everlasting)
I grew up on a creek, a little way out from a small town. It’s the same home my mother and father live in to this day. The little place they settled into, carved out of a creek bank, built up, added onto to, tore parts off of, built.
There’s that little creek out back, running its long curvy way to the river. A question mark written in a shaky script along the creek bed and wrapping around all those beautiful Kentucky hills until it too finally finds the river and maybe eventually joins the ocean.
Along the curve of one part of that creek, about a mile or so from where my father currently lives, is a little outcrop of land where an old farm house sat until not too long after 1947. A fire took it and forced the family to move out. One of the members of that family was a baby, and that baby is my father.
I find a fitting poetry to the rhythm of that reality, my father grew up, was drafted to the army, flew half way around the world and never could shake that same creek off of his soul. It brought him back home, after enough time.
I know a thing or two about life near a stream. How the waters can, most days, look pretty much the same as the day before. But if you pull up a chair, as I am often to do, and sit quietly, contemplatively, as I imagine old Tuck did next to the lake all those days before the above quoted passage, you can’t help but to start to notice the details of life.
Life is change.
Tuck Everlasting is a fantastic read. If you haven’t read it already you owe it to yourself to grab a copy. It’s a story that read like a long narrative poem without the stanzas. It’s as much a story about a family that will live forever as it is about a place that is never the same no matter how much it may resemble former versions of itself.
There’s philosophy to this poetic story too. It asks, what would you do if you knew you would never die? But because we know we all are going to, what are you doing with the precious moments you have?
Read this text slowly, sip on it like your morning brew (green tea for me). Enjoy it for the story, but like that constantly moving stream, sometimes hidden, always there just under the surface, you’ll find philosophy too. Life lessons, big picture quandaries, the age old wrestling match for purpose and meaning.
Purpose and meaning, that’s something we need now more than ever, don’t we?
So, let’s go down the rabbit hole a bit and rummage up some old philosophers to see what they think about the matter.
Joshua J. Mark writes, “Heraclitus maintained that the very nature of life is flux, is change, and that to resist this change was to resist the essence of our existence.”
It’s a theme I’ve explored before in my article, It Ain’t the Strongest that Survive, Just Ask Leon C. Megginson. I wrote in that article, “Mr. Megginson believed in the power and raw potential of change. More than this, he believed in the conscious act of embracing change, adapting to change, and the power and potential found in that.”
There it is. Change is life, and it demands us to adapt if we are going to survive. Which takes us to a hard lesson I had to learn.
My grandmother died in 2015, but before she did, she and I both moved into my parent’s home for her care. I was in my early thirties and moving back home. At the time, I didn’t even think about it though.
She was diagnosed with Lung Cancer toward the end of August, just weeks after her birthday. A month later she died in a hospital bed in what had been the dining room of my parent’s home, and was for that month, her special place.
Her bed tucked in just below a window that opened to the backporch and that old familiar friend, the creek, just beyond. An ever present force in my life. And with it, the steady reminder that all of life is in constant motion, a stream always running out. Always being refilled. Always changing.
When my grandmother was diagnosed, I made a decision to stay by her side. I think I only went back to my apartment a few times total after that. One time to get some supplies, do some errands and such, another time to do similar, and the final time or two to pack up, clean, and move out.
You see, when she became ill, I decided to stay by her side. It wasn’t noble, it wasn’t even duty to family, it was and remains a steady love for someone extra special to me. So, when she was finally released from the hospital into Hospice care at my parent’s home, I rode in the ambulance that took her from Lexington to all those wonderful curvy roads she and I had driven so many times together before. We were coming home.
I moved in with my folks, and took care of my grandmother during the night. I slept and ran errands for the family during the day. I wrote letters to my grandmother, and poetry to no one but my self in between.
Losing my grandmother was one of the hardest things I have ever had to face.
Not that I hadn’t lost others before, I had. Not that I hadn’t lost close family and friends before, I had. I had lost my other grandmother not long after graduating High school, my grandfather when I was 4. I have lost aunts and uncles, friends, too many to name. Death is always a tragedy, and no matter how many times it is experienced, it is never the same.
It was also a painful lesson in learning how to let go that, if we’re honest, I’m still trying to learn. Life does its own thing, it doesn’t ask for our approval, and is completely emotionless in both its giving and taking.
Change is life. Change is the rhythm, the nature, the consequence and the constant reality that makes up the very essence of life. It is the stream we don’t always see moving, but know is there. It happens to the rich and the poor, the influential and unknown. So, we owe something to ourselves to understand it a bit better, don’t we? To learn how to adapt, to flow with the current, to embrace change.
That’s the lesson, life is constantly changing. The sooner we not only understand this, but actively embrace it, engage with it, and even make use of this reality, the better our odds to not only survive, but to thrive. And not despite the constantly changing realities of our life, but, maybe, even because of it.
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