Constants in Change

Today I have a special guest post from my friend Elizabeth Syson! We met in  writing classes during undergrad and traded eye rolls and shrugs across the room during the more amusing lectures. I love reading her insightful blog posts and am thrilled to have some of her words here today! Enjoy.

 

Two of my earliest memories:

I’m two years old, in a car seat, watching the blur out the windshield. We’re leaving Camdenton, Missouri, and I vaguely understand that we’re moving. I don’t know where we’re going. I don’t know how long we’ll be driving, but it’s long—longer than I remember ever being in the car before.

I’m four years old, beside my mother, watching the illustrations turn with with the pages. She’s reading “The Highwayman” to me, and I vaguely understand that the rhyming words tell a story. I don’t know what it means. I don’t know why I love it, but it’s beautiful—more beautiful than any words I’ve ever heard before.

These are my constants: always another transition, and always words.

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The beautiful thing about words is that they grow and change with you, but they remain, becoming trusted companions when you leave people behind.

Anne of Green Gables has been with me during every big transitions. I see myself in Anne more than, perhaps, any other fictional character.

It begins with transition—significantly, with a lonely girl searching for a home, relying on her imagination to keep optimistic. But even after Anne moves to Green Gables, she continues searching for home. She makes friends and enemies. Along with everyone else in Avonlea, she grows up. She says goodbyes. Friendships change. Anne changes.

The last chapter chokes me up every time: “The Bend in the Road.” So much of life is one bend after another—changes you can see coming, but can’t see past. It looks like the road ends. But Anne always encourages me:

“. . . my future seemed to stretch out before me like a straight road. I thought I could see along it for many a milestone. Now there is a bend in it. I don’t know what lies around the bend, but I’m going to believe that the best does.”

a bend in the road

The Lord of the Rings became my transition book when I moved back to the States in junior high. I read it over and over and over—until the library demanded I return it and informed me that library books were not designed to be kept for a full year and read six times before being returned.

It carried me through huge transitions, perhaps because Tolkien never suggests that nauseating cliché—that every change is for the best. Changes throughout the book spread darkness. Danger grows. Friends betray one another. Hope slowly becomes despair. And yet, in the end, the sun returns and the shadows fade, leaving, not the same, untouched world as before, but the seed of hope.

At the darkest moment, when the world seems doomed after so many changes for the worse, loyalty and sacrifice win out. Things get worse before they ever get better, and nothing will ever be the same again, but you keep breathing, you keep moving forward, you keep living. Perhaps Tolkien knew the truth about transition, after all, because the last chapter shares the most beautiful goodbye I know—the juxtaposition of Frodo:

“Do not be too sad, Sam. You cannot be always torn in two. You will have to be one and whole, for many years. You have so much to enjoy and to be, and to do.”

And Gandalf:

“Go in peace! I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”

Perhaps words don’t help me survive transition because they address it—perhaps they help because they don’t try to. Like a good friend, they know when to simply remain with me when everything else in my world changes.

 

Elizabeth Syson is a bibliophile who, fuelled by shocking amounts of coffee and tea, writes everything she can and pursues an unnatural love of copyediting. She also enjoys music and languages, riding horseback, sketching very badly indeed, and periodically recommitting to yoga. Check out her twitter at @ejsyson or her tumblr at ejsyson.tumblr.com.

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