What Is, Is Change
The title for this column is from a quote by writer and naturalist Edwin Way Teale seen above. It is worth noting that the last part of Teale’s quote, “What was, is not, and never again will be; what is, is change,” was written soon after his son died serving in World War II. After his death, Teale and his wife Nellie traveled over 75,000 miles by automobile between 1945 and 1966 to observe and chronicle the changing of the seasons all across America. He is best known for his series of books entitled “The American Seasons,” and won the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction in 1966.
There is a tension in autumn between the beauty we observe and the tinge of anxiety we feel that things are changing rapidly, that indeed time is speeding up. The leaves that were still green just a week ago are brilliant reds and yellows today. The leaves that were a mix of vibrant reds and yellows last week are gone today. Autumn reminds us that change is the norm in life, but it also reminds us of the beauty that can be experienced in the midst of change. We have numerous opportunities this time of year to practice living and being in the present moment. Yet the changing seasons remind us that our own lives are marked by seasons of change as well.
Nothing affects our emotional, spiritual, and relational wellness more than how well we negotiate significant changes. As a therapist, I have over the years had the honor of working with many people who were or are in the midst of a profound change. One thing I have found that is beneficial for them is to be able to affirm and hold on to the things in their lives that they see as not changing. I always ask, “What can you affirm and hold on to as changeless in the midst of the many changes you are now experiencing?” Each person answers differently, but the most common responses are such things as love, God, their soul, and their core beliefs and values.
Autumn reveals how suddenly the world around us can change, and yet at the same time, it shows the incredible beauty that exists for us to behold in the moment. It is so easy for us to miss this beauty though if we instead spend our energies worrying about what is to come. Just yesterday I was commenting to someone about how beautiful the colors were this year, and all they could say was, “I dread seeing the leaves turn because I know soon I’ll be cursing the winter snow and cold that is coming.” It’s a challenge for all of us to find and celebrate the moments of beauty that are right in front of us, even though we are keenly aware that they will not last forever.
As the leaves rapidly drop from the trees, time indeed seems “speeded up.” Autumn is just about over. Before it is through though, be sure to pause and enjoy both its beauty and some of the life lessons it can teach us.
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