Currents of Change

Photo by Tony L on Unsplash

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance. —Alan Watts

I live seven blocks from the edge of a bluff that was left standing by a larger, older, and mightier Mississippi River than now flows along its banks. These sandstone bluffs continue to erode. Wind, rain, and ice sculpt its edges. Saturated with water, rocks loosen and small disturbances trigger rockslides, hunks of stone give way and rumble to the bottom.

Water flows, carves, wears away whether in liquid or solid state. Water is an agent of change. So is a virus.

We continue to wander through a world in transition. We are a little clearer on where we have been, but not yet certain where we will go. Surely, by now we should be back on firmer ground, back to the way things are supposed to be, back to knowing what is next! But who knows what that is? Our memories are short. What was it like before?

The early 2020s have been like a cascading river of change that gains momentum as it flows to its terminus, wearing down boundaries, sweeping away vulnerable landmarks, washing up whatever lies in its path. A tiny virus mutates over and over stealing lives, trust, and routines so engrained we considered them sacred. A changing climate brings deadly heat waves, torrential rains, and drought induced wildfires. Racism and gun violence terrorize communities. The reemergence of power-grabbing autocrats threatens democracy in ways not seen in a century. And then there are our own personal and relational changes!

Change is no longer a choice. Change is coming, has come, will continue to come. Can we change with it? Will we? What if we refuse?

I am not always amenable to change. Sometimes I am like the bluffs bordering the Mississippi—fixed, stolid, rigid. At other times I am more like the broken tree limb swept down river, eventually snarled by exposed roots along the shore, going with the flow until I get entangled by my own fretful fears. Rarely do I float along, trusting it will carry me where I need to go.

However I meet it, change inevitability comes. In the end, I must either cross treacherous waters or stay stuck as the world moves on.

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I embrace some change—winter moving to spring, an enlarged circle of friends, the fresh coat of paint that brightens the stairwell. I resist others—my physical diminishment, the collapse of a relationship, the loss of communal gatherings.

Changes I expect, choose, or foresee I accept more readily. Even if I don’t want them, like the darkening skies of November, I don’t deny or fight them. The trouble is life brings changes that are not welcome, changes I haven’t solicited though I may have chosen some by my own unconsciousness.

Joining fellow travelers might take a little longer but I am much more likely to make it to the other side.Change brings sorrow and loss. French author, Anatole France, says, “All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” In the midst of all this change, we must stop to grieve what is gone. Otherwise, we drag it along like a trailer of broken artifacts looking for open shelves in someone else’s museum.

How do I navigate this wild river of change? Where is a safe harbor? How do I get to the other side?

I am a hiker. When I come upon a rushing stream or river I need to cross, I look for stepping stones—the flat rocks just above the surface where the water breaks as it meets the stone. Often, I only see one secure spot from the shore. I trust that once I get there, I will be able to find another. One by one I make my way across the water, step by step. In this current river of change, my habits and practices—mediation, journaling, daily walks—are the first stepping stone. They give me an interim landing spot. There are days I can only take that first step, not yet seeing what might follow. I choose a practice to begin—perhaps I meditate or go for a walk. Once I am there, I trust the next stone will appear.

When freedom seeking slaves crossed the Ohio River to reach a non-slave state, undercover guides pointed the way across dangerous waters, coached them on where to go next, and who to trust. We can find our own guides to help cross the roiling river of change. I have wisdom people in my life to whom I turn when life’s complexities and challenges ask more of me than I can give. I turn to trustworthy confidants, a spiritual director, authors, both living and dead, that are wise and knowing. I sink into their wisdom and braid what they give me with what I already know.

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Another way those who came before us crossed difficult waters was to form a bridge of helpmates. Communities crossing the plains in horse-drawn wagons traversed rivers and streams. Connected with each other, they forded flowing waters, forming a chain of people. As a child of our American independent spirit, I like to think that I can manage whatever comes my way all by myself. I feel brave and heroic when I attempt to cross these challenging times alone, until I stumble and am swept away by the velocity of the moving water. Joining fellow travelers might take a little longer but I am much more likely to make it to the other side.

We are not meant to be alone. We are born dependent upon our caregivers. We seek play-mates as children. We choose life-mates as adults. We form families of kinship or friendship along the way. We are not meant to navigate difficult times alone.

What changes are disrupting your life? Where are your stepping stones? Who are your wisdom guides? What community holds your hand through these arduous times? What have you left that you still need to mourn?

These rivers can be crossed but it won’t be easy. It will take many of us working side by side, extending a hand, seeking wisdom together. I have confidence that we will do this, but not alone, not quickly, not without stumbles and wounds.

We are living at a time of great change. I count it as a blessing.


Mary Lou Logsdon provides spiritual direction and leads retreats in the Twin Cities. She can be reached at Logsdon.marylou@gmail.com.

Last Updated on September 6, 2022

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