Balance is something often sought but rarely attained. Twice a year, however, for a brief moment, the earth achieves it. On the equinoxes, the planet stands suspended, the day and night equally long, light and dark perfectly matched in their powers. This year, as an added bonus, the equinox coincided with the moon being exactly halfway between full and dark. That’s some pretty powerful energy, and I’ll admit it, I was looking forward to feeling balanced, even if only vicariously.
For my part, I always imagine balance will feel like peace, the steady, centered sensation of neither too much nor too little. I also imagine it will feel like ease and precision, the steadfast recognition that you’ve figured life out, you know how to hold it all. You’re doing it and it’s working. But the truth is, balance just means the best and the worst are equal. Neither is overpowering the other. Or anyway, that’s what this equinox taught me, here in the middle of my life, the balanced point between youth and old age. But more on that in a minute.
I spent the official equinox in a hotel in Deadwood, South Dakota. I was scheduled to be part of the annual South Dakota Festival of the Book, but with our recent terrible luck concerning vehicles — I STILL don’t have my car back from the deer hit… — I was fully expecting I would not actually make it to my shows. Thus, when my daughter spiked a fever the day before the trip, I was nonplussed. “Of course,” I thought. “This is exactly what I expected.”
Miraculously, she was pretty much back to normal by the next morning. Still a little headachy, and a little less vivacious than normal, but she and her dad both agreed they would be fine without me. Meanwhile, though the trip itself was fraught with difficulties, it was equally marbled with genuinely joyful moments. I was literally in tears of frustration and disappointment and then laughing a moment later on multiple occasions.
I was reflecting on all this yesterday, the day after the equinox, as I was walking the dogs. Autumn arrived exactly on time, and the evening air was chilly and crisp — “like a good apple,” my daughter said. It had been raining all day, but the clouds were scattering fast, letting in the last of the day’s sunshine. The sun, low in the sky but still somehow bright with summer’s sweetness, pulled the yellow and gold from the shimmering trees and dancing grass and turned them into a brilliantly shifting kaleidoscope, reflecting off the mud puddles and lingering raindrops.
Across the pasture, the shadows were long and the darkest blue, a harbinger of what’s to come, which made the gold all the more glorious. Beneath the branches of the small grove of cottonwoods that guard my little pasture, the retired, slope-backed geldings, Amigo and Cowboy Repeat, grazed beside Little Sally, our winsome sorrel colt. Everywhere I looked I saw it: Balance in the marriage of opposites.
The poet Kahlil Gibran, who I greatly admire, wrote, “Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy. Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.”
Standing here, between so much that is hard and so much that is soft, I am experiencing firsthand that it is equally true that balance can be achieved by holding the fullness of both, and that is a wholly different, but no less beautiful kind of blessing.
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