Monday, 28 September 2009

The Beach

Today Elizabeth and I walked on the beach, a lonely beach empty of other people. Heavy grey skies reflected pewter in the water. A solitary heron staked out the shoreline, poised and intent; seagulls swooped and squawked and squabbled.

Up on the hillside, the bracken was turning to rust, and autumn began idly plucking the leaves from the trees.

So still, so quiet, so magical. This place of eery peace felt as though it would be an easy step through into another world if only the entrance could be found or the right words spoken.

But we could not find the magic portal; our tongues could not conjure the necessary incantations. We left the wild and enchanting lonely beach, retracing our sandy footprints back to the land of humans.

But if I close my eyes, I can still hear the cry of the gulls...

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

The Mystery and Magic of Balance

Today is the Autumn Equinox, also known to the Pagan community as Mabon or Madron. It is one of only two days in the solar calendar when night and day are of equal length. As such it is a potent symbol of balance, and many Pagan celebrations of the equinoxes focus on this aspect.

The thought occurring to me today is how rare that perfect balance is in nature and in our lives. After all, there are 365 days in a year (or 366 in a leap year) and yet on only two of those days are night and day perfectly balanced. How often do we truly feel that we have the work/leisure balance right in our life? How often do we experience the right balance of sun, wind and rain for our gardens to flourish? How often is there a glut of this, or a scarcity of that instead of just the perfect amount?

It would seem that perfect balance is something to strive for in our lives. After all, life in perfect balance is a life of ease, right? Well, yes... kinda. But at the same time, to truly flourish, life needs change. True balance equals stasis, an absence of change or growth or decay or innovation or evolution. And admittedly, all that stuff can be scary. Change is scary. Don't we all often find it easier to stay in a difficult or uncomfortable situation than to break away and try something different?

Last night I watched a re-run of the film 'Pleasantville'. In the film, two modern day teenagers are somehow transported into the seemingly idyllic world of Pleasantville, a 1950's TV show about a wholesome and 'perfect' small town. In Pleasantville everything is, well, pleasant. The townspeople are cheerful and friendly. Everyone lives pleasant middle class lives in comfortable homes. The youngsters are sweet and innocent, the school sports team always wins. Everyone is contented with their lot. And yet... to the outsiders, the drawbacks to life in Pleasantville soon become glaringly obvious.

To maintain this harmonious lifestyle, Pleasantville is in a kind of stifling stasis. The people are friendly, courteous and 'nice', but have no meaningful emotional life or true connection to each other. Each person fulfills his or her role within the town, but they are incapable of breaking free from those roles or using their initiative. The road in and out of town is actually a huge loop, leading to nowhere but Pleasantville. The books have titles printed on the spines, but the pages are blank - no room in a world like Pleasantville for ideas from 'outside'. Of course, the arrival of the newcomers soon sends ripples of change through the community, inevitably leading to strife. And yet the benefits of change are seen to be worth all the upheavals they cause. Gradually, Pleasantville's monochrome world changes to colour; the pages of the books become filled with words, stories, ideas; the townspeople experience hitherto undreamed of emotions - love, happiness, anger - and begin to live authentic lives, with all their inherent joy and pain.

This is the mystery and magic of balance. That in order to achieve it, we need to be constantly changing. That once we find it, something somewhere will shift and change and oops - yet again we will be juggling and adapting and altering, but most importantly learning and growing.

On this day of balance, I take time to notice and be grateful for the areas of balance in my life. But at the same time I remind myself that change is constant, inevitable - and what life is all about.