Saturday, March 22, 2008

On Balance and Rebirth

© 2008 Oona McOuat

Last night I slept like a baby for nearly 12 hours, curled up in my comforters against the spring chill …. The kids I teach are coming down with whooping cough and scarlet fever, and my body needed a good long rest to build its strength.

Yesterday was the Vernal Equinox - the point of equal day and equal night when the balance turns from the dark towards the light.

Photo by Leigh Hilbert

I love the dark, the deep, rich mystery of the unformed. Although I often long for the sun and warmth, the turning inwards of autumn resonates with my soul. Since I was a teenager, spring has meant hay fever and a burgeoning aliveness that quickens my activity level and frequently sends me into overdrive. All of the springiness of rebirth can throw the plodding and methodical parts of me a little off balance. That's when it's time to get my hands in the dirt.

Plants have always anchored me in my body and the physical world. I remember the first spring I explored on my own as a child. I was old enough to bicycle solo into uncharted territory. I had just read Louisa May Alcott's "Under the Lilacs" and I was on a quest for lilacs. I would ride my bike past unknown houses and if I saw lilac bushes in the yard, I would creep up and bury my nose in their rich mauve, lavender, and deep purple glory. I don't remember sneezing…

Decades later I am living near the place where I grew up, striving to reclaim the grounded, gentle rhythm I followed as a child. It is spring and I've hardly sneezed at all! Perhaps I am learning to not take on more than I can peacefully accomplish as I temper my in-the world-self's tendency to mirror the quickening of nature. 

Photo by Leigh Hilbert

As I was making the bed this morning I was reflecting on balance: equal day and equal night, the dark and the light, linear time and eternity, ego and essence…..I have jumped on the Oprah bandwagon and I am reading Eckhart Tolle's "A New Earth" as I take the weekly online class. At first I registered because I thought I should be aware of what this potentially huge shift in global consciousness was all about. Within 10 minutes of being in class I knew it could help me grow. Eckhart's presence reinforces the peace inside me and encourages me to understand why and when I lose it.   

So, I was making the bed this morning, ruminating about time. Last week Eckhart spoke of rooting ourselves in the eternal. I personally love floating through the unframed, unformed magnificence of eternity. 

Photo by Leigh Hilbert

Yet there are things I want to get done here on earth. Do plants and animal know they are going to die?,  I wondered as I pulled the top sheet up over the bottom one. I doubt it. Is that why they can so purely surrender to their soulful and instinctual nature? Are us humans addicted to our day planners and Blackberries because we are afraid of dying? I started thinking about (I know, according to Eckhart thinking is ego based, but sometimes a girl's got to do it..), I started thinking about how anchored in linear time the cycles of nature are. 

Crescent Moon
Photo by Leigh Hilbert

The Moon orbits around the Earth in 29 ¼ days; the Earth orbits around the Sun in one year. It takes 9 months to gestate a child, 6 weeks to distill a flower essence; it will be 6 moon cycles before the wheel of the year returns to the next point of balance. Our bodies are anchored in linear time; our spirits hunger for the eternal.

Photo by Leigh Hilbert

I am still learning how to dance between these two points, how to live and create authentically and spontaneously, while flowing down the "to Do " list like a river sure and true. I've recently decided I need to put my creative self on a schedule, dedicating consistent, structured time to her unfolding rather than letting inspiration alone dictate when I work. My free spirit balks at this, but I am so good at implementing meaningful distractions and putting more pressing commitments ahead of my personal projects.

The natural world around me moves through linear time with seamless grace. I let her ground and guide me. As I walk through the woods on a newly discovered trail that goes right from my backyard up Mt Maxwell (!) I gather young, brilliant green nettles. For five nights in a row I cook and eat them and feel wonderful. In a month or so, the nettles will be too "old" to eat this way. By autumn, they'll be gone.

I watch as the first brave snowdrops give way to tiny wild crocuses. A convention of sweet, heart-shaped leafed violets suddenly gathers under the elms. Birds whose names I don't know are arriving at my doorstep, filling the air with music. Soon the wild lilacs will appear. 

At Burgoyne Bay, a field of gorgeous daffodils miraculously sprouts up by the sea. I am reminded of the delight that flooded me at age four as I stood in my Nana's field of tall, yellow daffodils, surrounded by a large and happy family of flowers singing and bobbing their heads.

As I focus on the process of creation, I turn to nature to model how I can move my ego-mind self out of the way and let things take their course. My thinking self can step back in to edit, shape, and form when needed, but how can a garden flourish if we are continually hovering over any new growth, pulling up anything we don't recognize and calling it a weed?

Sweet balance is helping me drop into, fall into, stumble into a place where life is full and rich and real - full of many cycles of death and rebirth, many letting go's and openings to the miraculous. Blessed balance is helping me know when to act - to say no to the garbage dump down the road or the horrendous situations in Iraq and Tibet, not because I am opposed to the horror, but because I hunger for and believe in justice, peace and beauty.

As within, so it is without. Let me be and create what I believe in. As we work and play, and love and heal ourselves, each other, and the world, let us all remember the pure, eternal, unscripted joy of rebirth.

May Springtime, all time, fill you with a happy heart!

Carmel Point

by Robinson Jeffers

from The Collected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers. © Stanford University Press, 1989.

The extraordinary patience of things!
This beautiful place defaced with a crop of suburban houses-
How beautiful when we first beheld it,
Unbroken field of poppy and lupin walled with clean cliffs;

No intrusion but two or three horses pasturing,
Or a few milch cows rubbing their flanks on the outcrop
Now the spoiler has come: does it care?
Not faintly. It has all time. It knows the people are a tide
That swells and in time will ebb, and all
Their works dissolve. Meanwhile the image of the pristine
beauty Lives in the very grain of the granite,
Safe as the endless ocean that climbs our cliff. -As for us:
We must uncenter our minds from ourselves;
We must unhumanize our views a little, and become confident
As the rock and ocean that we were made from.

Photo by Leigh Hilbert

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