All change is constant: Reflections on the passing of time

“Direction isn’t always easy to find.”
(Photo by: Heidi Fin)
“Direction isn’t always easy to find.” (Photo by: Heidi Fin)

Written by: Janet Lauterhahn

Editor’s Note: A short story from the very first edition of Southern’s Legacy literary magazine, published in the 1965-1966 school year, deals with the theme of constant change. 

Some look back on the “good old days” with a feeling that, at some nearly definable point,“things began to change.” But stepping into the world of a former Southern student, we are reminded that things have always changed. We are also reminded that we are part of a community of Southern students that extends beyond our present time; as with everything else, such groups of people and ideas also change as time unfolds. But that does not make us less connected, less united. Growth is also change. 

“All Change is Constant,” by Janet Lauterhahn

Detours were in order, for it was such a short way home and there was a whole school day to do over the way I’d wished it would happen.

I walked the railroad tracks from school—spelling out my loves. A, B, C, D . . . I stumbled off on D for Duffek. Fate had given me weak ankles. How I loved that boy! He was such a whiz at multiplication tables and such a good softball player.

Sometimes I would loiter along—humped over like a hunchback—just looking for fossils. Any kind of fossils, but especially the Petoskey stone. Napolean Christensen, the depot master, had told me that if you put a petoskey stone on the tracks you could hear the trains coming south from Petoskey, the other end of the line. And old Nap was a smart man—he could talk with the telegraph.

So I always came to the depot on my journey home from school. Sometimes Nap would let me use the Dr. Pepper caps when I played checkers with him (they were luckier than the regular checkers), or he’d let me go back into the freight and pretend I was Jesse James’ girlfriend guarding the holdup loot.

But usually I just sat next to the pot-bellied stove and waited.

Daily my eyes scanned the room (just in case something might have been different, but it never was). There was the same old 1949 cheesecake calendar, some yellowed prints of Williamsburg in the roaring lumber days, that sign—ALL CHANGE IS CONSTANT (I’d been so smug when I learned to read it even with the S peeled off) , the dingy swinging clock, and finally that severe grey bench (I’d never seen a passenger spend more than five minutes on it). Nothing ever changed—except to get more dusty.

Nap would sense my impatience and grunt.

Then just when I thought it had forgotten for sure—the telegraph exploded in a tirade of choppy chatter.

“How much longer, Nap? When will she be here?”

But I never gave old Nap time, I was out the door and squinting down the tracks before he could reply.

Who knew what might be on the train. Maybe someone would get off at the “Burg” tonight—some dignitary like Sgt. Preston of the Yukon, Gene Autry, or someone’s grandmother with presents from Petoskey. Somebody might get off . . . but usually the scattered passengers just stayed on the train and stared at the mail being thrown off.

“No trains go to Petoskey anymore”—that’s what the demolition crew told me. They were dismantling the depot for what lumber they could get out of it like scavenger gulls—picking a board here and there

. . . exposing the venerated white pine

ribs of a roof intact since lumber days.

I watched a cattle truck amble over the crossing followed impatiently by two cars eager for speed.

The Bouncing Bet had surely grown up between the ties. It almost kept a body from walking the rails properly.

All change is constant–I mused. Where had I heard that before?

A note from Kathy Zelidon, current Legacy editor:

The Legacy magazine has been a part of Southern Adventist University since 1965. It was created to showcase the artistic and literary works of Southern students. A dive into the magazine’s past issues provides a key to connecting us to the students who came before us.

Those who submit their works have a chance to be a part of this culminating album of art and story. We are still accepting submissions in poetry, short fiction, and creative non-fiction until January 31st.

Tell your story, leave a legacy.

For more information, follow Legacy  on Instagram @saulegacymagazine

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