The balance of the day

Today is my favorite day of the year. It's Winter Solstice, when the light returns and the days begin to lengthen. Earth itself appears to pause in its journey for about four days as it rests at aphelion—its farthest point from the sun. During these few days the earth is perfectly balanced between dark and light.

But here on the planet itself, with our feet on the ground and gravity to contend with, finding balance can be difficult. A child can learn to balance a bicycle, but living a balanced life is harder. We build mental constructs to justify or defend our actions to ourselves, to bolster our weak egos, or to conquer an old pain. These constructs weigh heavily on one side or the other and we slip, fumble, careen into places we don't want to be. This year we were mesmerized by a series of events that threw most of us off balance, driving us to lean right or left, in defense or in fear.

The ponderosas here are typically tall, straight, and heavy, and they sit on a root structure that is generally shallow, except for the tap root. But some trees do lean. Today, on my morning walk, peering through rain-spotted glasses, I saw a tall pine, an old tree that had apparently been leaning since it was young. From my perspective on the path it tilted slightly to the right, and on that side I noticed that the branches were shorter than the ones on the left. The tree had grown more weight on its uphill side and thus achieved balance.

Nature is wise. She knows what needs to be done and she knows that all those random ideas and plans and worries that keep us tilting in one direction or another are nothing but chimeras. Unlike the ponderosas, who stand still on shallow roots, we can find balance simply by staying present and breathing. We are more complicated than trees but they are far more accepting—that is a lesson we can learn. Life is not a contest or challenge to be overcome. It's simply a chance to be here, on this Earth, circling the sun in a vast expanding universe. We all need to pause and take a deep breath, and rest in the balance of this day.