Sunday, September 24, 2006

Balance

At exactly 12:03 am, EDT, on Saturday, September 23rd, the sun crossed the celestial equator on its journey south for the winter. In scientific terms, the autumnal equinox occurred when the ecliptic and the celestial equator intersected. Although this journey has happened billions of times before, it's worth noting. At exactly 12:04 am, EDT, autumn began.

For most of us, particularly those with school-aged children, autumn started on September 5th when schools across the country opened their doors for another year. Gone were the careful, lazy days of summer, replaced with the ardent routine of homework, packaged lunches and making it to the bus on time. Evenings are now filled with meetings, practices and other commitments and lives have returned to their pre-summer busy. With it all comes an increased urgency. With autumn upon us, can winter be far behind?

It's a shame really. The autumnal equinox is literally about balance. It marks the time of year when our days and nights are dealt out in equal portions; when light and darkness take equal turns. It's about the sun going down in time for little ones to go to sleep at a reasonable hour; it's about cool grey mornings of serenity before the sun jangles us fully awake.

It's about fulfillment. The summer's furious growing season is coming to an end. Farmer's markets and roadside produce stands are bursting with all good things grown from the Earth. Tiny seeds, planted back in the early months of spring, warmed by the sun and kissed by the rain, have exploded into food for us. After a little more than half-a-century on this planet, I still cannot fathom this incredible process. Life from dirt, a seed, sunlight and water. That's a miracle.

It's also about maturity. This is the season of doing things: moving forward, improving oneself, taking courses, learning something new. It's somewhat ironic that this season of balance seems to also remind us that life is a constant struggle to maintain some kind of equilibrium. Almost as soon as we reach a level of comfort, time steals it away from us, and once again we find ourselves scurrying to find a balance in our lives.

That struggle is particularly difficult for me this year. This past summer I lost my father. It was my first experience with losing a parent, and after my grief began to subside, I realized that his death also marked a dramatic change in my status. In generational terms, I'm now at the head of the pack, the next one up to bat.

The fact that my father's birthday, September 23rd, fell on the autumn equinox this year is a bittersweet coincidence that is not lost on me. As long as we have parents, we can live in that eternal sunshine of endless summer. Their passing marks our own very personal transition into the autumn of our lives and bears witness to the fact that in the eternal changing of the seasons, one day they will stop altogether.

I take heart, however, that at my age, my father had just started his career as an extreme athlete. He took up marathon running at 52 and celebrated his 60th birthday by completing the grueling Hawaii Ironman. In his 70s, he made the Guinness Book of Records when he and his equally aged team mates successfully completed the world's most grueling bike race, the 4,675 kilometer Race Across America Marathon (RAAM). Last year, he celebrated what was to be his very last birthday by cycling 80 kilometers, one for every year of his life.

The greatest lesson that I take from my father as I enter the autumn of my own life - the lessons that we all must learn to take to heart - is that regardless of where we are on the timeline, regardless of the season of our life, every day is a perfect gift. Every time we open our eyes we have an opportunity to celebrate the miracle of life - not just our own, but the life and the seasons of our garden planet. Enjoy.

RELATED WEBSITES

Wikipedia has lots of great information about autumn.

For free, downloadable autumn coloring pages (or any other season or celebration, for that matter) visit coloring.ws.

Geomancy explores the realm where human consciousness meets and dialogues with the Spirit of the Earth. It empowers the harmonious interaction between person and place.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Allison said...

Suzanne -- I am so sorry to hear about your dad's passing. I hope that you find strength through his zest for life and desire to make each day count. Thanks for sharing his story with us all. Namaste.

September 29, 2006 2:34 PM  
Anonymous Geneva said...

Great post! I love the way you describe equilibrium and it's relation to human life(in your case with your father). Sorry about your lost, though I know your doing very well now:-)
Thanks for sharing this and here is a link I want to share about coloring pages, Thecolor.com.

April 24, 2009 9:33 AM  

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