The discussion touched on many subjects: the year that had passed since my father died; my inlaws' upcoming 50th wedding anniversary; our 17-year-old son's first romance; our 14-year-old daughter's transition to high school; the trip to Scandinavia she and a friend were planning for the summer; careers that were moving forward, others that were drawing to a close.
My wife sighed. "Our lives are changing," she said. "Fast."
Change is a funny thing. Like water smoothing stones, change is always happening. But we never seem to notice until the stones are worn through and come tumbling toward us all at once. Then change is everywhere, leaving us breathless and wondering, "What next?"
When we talk of times of change, I think we really mean times when we notice change. Our family has been changing since day one, but it's only now, as those changes culminate, that we can see it. And we're realizing the old ways don't always work anymore, that we need to adjust.
Institutions, too, often miss the little signs of change along the way, then shudder to the foundations when they realize the world they inhabit is no longer the same and that it will move on without them if they don't retool. Institutions that are secure in who they are and why they are meant to be will view change as a challenge, even an opportunity, not a threat. Institutions that resist change may simply be masking their fear.
Not long after our car ride through the spring countryside, my wife and I found ourselves on a rocky beach on the east coast of Vancouver Island. The sky was a brilliant blue and the tide was out.
We were wobbly from an early morning and still rattled by the hellish plane trip that got us there. But we could not resist the urge to shed our shoes and socks and clamber among the rocks and tidal pools.
We grabbed at sand dollars until we realized the beach was strewn with thousands of them, and we chuckled at the little crabs doing their side-step routine from rock to rock. I breathed deeply of the clean salt air and felt wonderfully calm -- as if the mere existence of the tides, of the Coast Mountains rising out of the haze across the Strait of Georgia, spoke of things eternal in this season of change.
At that moment, change seemed to lose some of its dread and mystery. The waves lapping gently at the shore seemed to say that change happens, it's part of the natural order of things, and it's okay.
* Speaking of change, an obvious one this month is that I, not Muriel Duncan, am writing in this space. Muriel, whose deep wisdom and love for the United Church have been Observer cornerstones for more than 30 years, has taken a well-earned early retirement. I am privileged to have apprenticed under Muriel, and consider the times we sat across a desk from each other, brainstorming headlines, shaping stories or sharing a country music discovery, among the high points in my working life. All of us at The Observer wish Muriel the very best in the years to come.
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