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What Falls Away is Always

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

— Theodore Roethke, The Waking Poem

We might agree that our lives are a brief accumulation of ideas and ritual, happenstance and things, that are ours today and a part of our history tomorrow. We’re all winging it, it seems, following instinct and a compass that is drawn to comfortable and habitual. Learning this about each other and ourselves, most of us hit our stride in time. Still, some chafe at life and constantly turn it upside down in the hope that there’s more on the other side. What is the right path? Doesn’t that change too? We’re a work in progress, each of us, wherever we are along the path. The view and how we feel about it changes as we ourselves change.

Looking back is most striking. Old photographs and videos from another time in our lives betray who we were once, and that wave of change breaks over us, soaking us in memories. We recognize that we are not any one moment in our lives, we’re the sum of it, a character study transforming. We each see where we’ve been, but we learn by going. Who we were always falls away. The only way is onward to the next.

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