Last month I wrote about my impending vacation. This month I write having returned from it, well rested, filled with the peace and beauty of the San Juan Islands. Now I just want to stay that way! (Sigh. Already: a challenge in life. Who’d have thunk it?)
I spent a lot of time on the deck of the beautiful little cabin we rent on Lopez Island. The cabin is in the woods, high on a hill, with the glass front of it open to the view of tree tops, rolling fields, and the ocean (the Olympic Mountains form the view boundary on the left, and straight ahead lie the tip of San Juan Island and, beyond, Vancouver Island, with, at night, the lights of Victoria). While the rest of my family kayaked, hiked, and biked their hearts out (starting before breakfast most mornings), I took a decidedly different approach. Yes, I took a few hikes with them, ate and cooked meals with them, rode the ferry with them, but a lot of the time I spent alone out on that deck. I read Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth, journaled, meditated, even stretched and danced (believe me: no one could see me up there!).
But probably what I did the most of was sit and look and let the sun bake me through to my spine. The chair I sat in swiveled, so it was easy to stare first at the top of one tree, then turn just enough to stare at the top of another, then turn again to the sun-silvered water. Knowing that my family was out really engaging the island, feeling its rocky trails, its meandering roads under bike tires, its waves beneath kayaks, I occasionally felt guilty “just” sitting there. I must be a really lazy person. But very quickly it came to me: no, I’m not lazy. I’m sitting here like this precisely because I’m not lazy. Ordinarily, I work 24/7. Since a vacation is to do the opposite of what you do ordinarily, then just sitting is appropriate. It’s all about balance. The idea of balance became my mantra.
I thought of the people I know (and have admired and thought I should emulate) who “work hard and play hard.” Suddenly I realized: if you work hard and play hard, you have a hard life. Everything is hard! Everything is the same. There’s no balance. I even re-thought the phrase that used to guilt trip me for years, GI Joe’s slogan “Seize the weekend!!”. I hoped no one would ask me on Monday what I had done on the weekend. I’d have to admit that I did not seize the weekend. (On the deck, it came to me, “And look where seizing the weekend got GI Joe!”)
This is a universe of balance. It shows up in the play of shadow and light, winter and summer, activity and repose, the homeostasis of our own bodies. Balance is a spiritual concept, from karma to yin and yang, to the even-handed benevolence of God Itself. I’m spending this month investigating this idea and, hopefully, living it as well. September is the month of the equinox, when day and night are in perfect balance; we live at the 45th parallel, half way between the Arctic and the Equator. Let’s seize the balance!