What today brings
"The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind." William Blake, an English poet and painter in the early 1800s, makes a wonderful point. It's fall again, we are barreling toward the end of another year and the only thing we know for sure is it will be different. The leaves will be different, some trees that stood last year have fallen, maybe we won't have the same neighbors or some family members that were here last fall are no longer with us. Time alters everything, sometimes in giant ways and often in almost imperceptible ways. Life is a moving, changing thing. The world insists we be flexible, whether under the circumstance of a natural disaster, the tragedy of loss at home or simply because your daughter has married someone you just can't stand! It's dangerous to have an inflexible mind. We can honor our beliefs and instincts and yet not imprison them, sticking stubbornly to a set of principles and opinions we formed in another time and place altogether. This last Saturday many of us in our community gathered together downtown to celebrate the season at the first Versailles Fall Festival. Deanna Ramsey, Dru Thompson and many others brought us together on this beautiful afternoon while vendors sold handcrafted wood and ironworks, wool scarves and purses, books and fudge, locally made spices and wines. Others shared information about their local yoga studios and hair salons, all in the effort to celebrate what our beautiful town has to offer. I may not have enjoyed such a day as much as I did this Saturday if I had not gone around the globe in search of the peace, beauty and kind spirits I found right here where I started my journey fifty-two years ago. Many of my old opinions, attitudes and ambitions no longer suit the woman I am today. As each of us do, I have grown and changed season after season. I shed the quiet child to bring forth the wild and insecure teenager, I let the insecure teenager go to become the blindly ambitious girl in my twenties, I let her go to become a wife and strive to make someone else's dreams come true. As that woman came tumbling down, it made way for a stronger but more introspective person to emerge with new challenges, health and survival topping the list. Each decade has pushed me to grow irreversibly even when I didn't want to change. As Oprah said, "Lord don't teach me anything new today!" Life does not afford us stagnation. What has kept me moving forward is the fact that there are so many ways to move forward. Through each version of myself, from Elm Street in Versailles to Farmington, Maine, Lubbock, Texas, to Las Vegas, Nevada, Los Angeles, and back to Elm Street, the fact remains I have always had the opportunity to learn and grow. Through all of the constant changes thrust upon each of us, we all have the opportunity to learn and grow. One little trick ushering me into this fall 2017 is the age-old practice of gratitude. Each morning when I wake up, before I open my eyes, I think of three things that I am grateful for. Then when the day is done, no matter what thrill or disappointment came to my door, I stop again to acknowledge three more things I am grateful for. Today it was my dog, Charlemagne, his floppy ears, his soft caramel coat and that he has been in my life for 13 years. I am also grateful for the twists and turns, even the weakness I experience due to an auto-immune problem because it was what brought me back to Versailles to recognize that through all of my travels, nowhere on earth has felt like home in every cell of my being more than that stretch of road on Elm Street between the railroad tracks and Camden Avenue. I get to grow old here and it feels like a blessing. The third thing I tipped my hat in gratitude to this morning was the ability to alter my opinion. So grateful am I that I have the power to surround myself with people and things that represent happiness to me now, regardless of what made me happy a decade ago. There is so much to fret about environmentally, politically and personally, but I choose to see those challenges as the 1 percent. The other 99 percent are the good things offered up for us to see, hear, and wonder over. It takes patience and an attention muscle that I'm trying to grow to be more aware of all that is good. This is our life and we get to mold it any way we want. I choose to make something beautiful and invite you all along as we discover new ways to do just that. Erin Chandler holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University, a Master's in Theatre from UK and is a Professor of English at BCTC and teaches playwriting at the Carnegie Center. Learn more about her at erinchandlerauthor.com.