You never step in the same stream twice. The water is constantly changing. There are many versions of this saying, in many different languages, all true. The water is moving, changing as it flows downward, lower, and lower until it reaches a level place. Even then, it seeps into the ground or rises as a gas into the air. Change is the only constant.
We humans have the idea that we are the ones in control. That the world and what is in the world are ours to command. We can blow up a hill, shove the debris out of the way, and make a road. We can burrow into a mountain and remove stones to cut and polish. We can cut down the trees, chop them up, and plant something else. But, even then, we are causing change.
Attempts to return to where you were before is inexact. We are never the same and neither is the place we seek. We remember a place, an atmosphere, but only as we perceived and understood it. To reenter is to come again to a physical place that has changed as we have changed.
I walk each day in the meadow below my house. My husband mowed a path for me across the field and in a loop among the high weeds near the creek. I know the way but each day it is different. The grass grows higher. Flowers bloom. The wind blows twigs and spent leaves from the tall trees. I disturb a white-tailed deer from its daytime resting place. It is never the same, yet it is the same. I seek the peace of the growing things.
When we reenter a place, be it an office or a retail establishment or a friend’s home, we notice what has changed since our last visit. It may be as minor as a book left on a chair seat or as major as the rearraigning of the products for sale.
My first visit to my neighborhood grocery store after the pandemic quarantine had me roaming in puzzlement. Where did they put the eggs? It is not just the place that has changed. I find myself anxious. Too many people crowd around me. Some are masked as I am. Some are not masked. A friend calls out and I find myself babbling, talking too much because it has been so long since I talked to anyone outside my family. I am apologetic that I will not come closer and explain that I am only recently feeling safe enough to come to the store. Later, I am embarrassed at my vapid comments. Each visit brings me closer to comfort.
As we all reenter the world, we must have patience both with others and with ourselves. None of us have escaped this pandemic unscathed. There is an element of trauma that will haunt us all. We mourn the losses but must acknowledge growth and change. Remember that the only constant is change. Go with the flow.