News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Stephanie Salter

January 15, 2012

STEPHANIE SALTER: The more things change, the more they … change

Life is one big transitionWillie Stargell

 

What the late, great Pittsburgh Pirates slugger knew, so knew the ancient philosopher, Heraclitus, the Buddha and Andy Warhol. Whether we recognize it or not, accept it or not, change is always hovering nearby.

We can try to outrun it — human instinct isn’t to embrace it — but change never loses the race. Usually, it overtakes us, silently, and we acknowledge the transformation only in the past tense, when our interior or exterior landscape has been altered enough to notice.

Sometimes, change leaps heavy and hard upon us and slams us to the ground, leaving no doubt that, from now on, life is going be very, very different. After such a tackle (or mugging), the stealthy, silent sort of change often follows, like aftershocks from an earthquake.

In the past year, I have experienced some NFL-quality tackles — good and bad. Life has been turned upside down so many times, I’ve pretty much abandoned the hunt for solid ground. It all reminds me of the Scottish poet Anne Grant, who wrote, “Confusion is the hallmark of transition. To rebuild both your inner and outer world is a major project.”

Grant lived in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and she was speaking specifically of the way grief plunges a person into “an unknown territory,” in which “you might feel both helpless and hopeless without a sense of a ‘map’ for the journey.” I know that territory better now than ever before. I lost my mother six months ago, her absence leaving a void that will never be filled. I also lost a couple of important relatives last year and an inordinate number of good friends who had yet to live out their deserved time in the sun.

In a few months, I will lose my beloved church, St. Ann’s. On May 20, its life as a parish will end, another casualty of the changes in the Roman Catholic Church. Until then, our grieving process as parishioners will coincide with our celebration of St. Ann’s long, productive life.

Like many of my neighbors on the west and north sides of Terre Haute, I lost my sense of safety and serenity among the tall oaks and other old trees that canopied our homes and streets. A swift, ferocious straight-wind on May 25 made kindling of the leafy centenarians and has transformed the sound of anything stronger than a gentle breeze into an on-switch for post-traumatic stress.

 

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