Yes, it was a couple of weeks ago, but we just passed the autumnal equinox, and the lesson that I learned about it as a metaphor for my life still lingers on my mind. So pretend that it didn’t snow this week and hearken back to those 2 weeks of September when it still felt like fall.
There are two times of the year when the day and the night are in balance. From the vernal equinox, the daylight increases and we remember birth and renewal. I start looking for the bulbs to sprout. They are by far my favorite types of flowers, because when I plant them in the fall, I do so with hope for the spring. Then, just when I begin to believe that spring, in some great anomaly of nature, will never come, up pop the crocii.
From the autumnal equinox, we experience more night, and we enjoy and give thanks for the harvest season. We slow down (well, except for when we’re knee-deep in parenting, then it seems like approaching the holiday season requires a certain speeding up). The first day that we get lots of snow I always have mixed emotions—frustration that I haven’t yet completed all the yard projects I planned, and relief that there’s little I can do, anyway. I will just have to wait until spring.
The metaphor of changing seasons is nothing new. I’m beginning to sound like The Byrds.
However, for the first time this year I thought about the equinox in terms of the balance I’m striving for in my life. For two magical days, the day and the night are exactly the same. However, a day of equinox doesn’t come around very often. In fact, 363 other days of the year, things are not in balance. It’s a worthy goal, but sometimes it requires the very act of absolute imbalance to help us come back into equilibrium. In fact, if everything were always perfectly balanced, we would miss the beauty of the solstice.
With three kids, I find myself continually washing the kitchen floor. Or, rather, continually sticking to the kitchen floor despite the number of times it gets washed. I’m learning the electric guitar. I’m trying to spend one-on-one time with each child and I’m trying to nurture my marriage. I’m going back to school and I’m trying to carve out time to volunteer. I have Halloween costumes to get ready and I have scones to prep for Trick-or-Treaters. And a storage room to clean. So many roles, so many places to spend my time.
Pema Chödrön teaches us, though, that with all the chaos swirling around, with trying to keep everything in balance, there is hope. It comes in embracing the moments as they come (and it certainly requires practice!). In her book The Wisdom of No Escape: How to Love Yourself and Your World, she relates the following:
“There is a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds on to the vines. Looking down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well. She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down. She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly. Tigers above, tigers below. This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life; it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.”
May you find a big, juicy strawberry today and enjoy!