Life in Balance
It’s the beginning of summer and yet, outside, the sky is gray and the temperature cool. Our weather seems caught off balance going from sweltering heat to torrential downpours with no middle ground in between. Today, I’m wearing my long sleeved shirt since I can’t tell if it is going to be warm or cool. I try to follow the cues of nature around me and take what comes, using it to my advantage. The landscape is thriving, fruits are growing, flowers unfolding, despite the weather’s meandering path.
Life follows a similar bumpy journey. I try to stay on course to the end but the winds push me side to side, the sun beats down on me unmercifully, the rains drench my skin. What keeps me on the path and rooted is the foundation I’ve set for myself. Just like a plant putting its roots down before it can grow upward, I know I have a network below me when life’s weather unleashes its extremes. That’s what gives me balance through the chaos. As I seek refuge and solidity, I think about the cathedrals I have walked into. They stand so solid and have stood for many years, sheltering pilgrims, following life events, inspiring awe.
I remember the first time I approached the Cathedral of our Lady of Chartres, in Chartres, France. Out of the train window, the cathedral loomed large already, sitting on a hill, seemingly surrounded by fields of gold, as wheat stalks waved against a brilliant blue sky. As we walked up from the station, it dwarfed the surrounding houses. On the outside, sculptures made by hand endure the centuries of weather and war and already give me high hopes for what I will find inside. As we step through the portal and into the lowlight, it is like entering another world. Our eyes are immediately drawn upward by the arches reaching to heaven and by the stunning colors of the stained glass windows, teaching us the stories of this religious world. The air is cool and earthy. My nose picks out the scent of wax and incense that have burned in this space for thousands of years, and my feet follow the worn path of many others around the spacious interior. When I stand in this space, I let go and clear my mind and find balance. These heavy stones piled in this place have turned into a lightness that takes my body beyond these walls, and makes me realize that I am but a very small part of a huge world. And yet the hush of that world does not penetrate here within. I safely can regroup on this holy ground. And I light a candle for all those off balance times I’ve lived through.
When I am not near a cathedral, the woods, with its trees reaching to the sun, become my terra firma. I see the root fingers digging deep, I follow the path that others before me have taken, and I stand in awe of those layers and layers of growth, taking my eyes upward and out. The forest becomes a shelter, a quiet place where I gather myself and feel renewed. As I leave these foundational places, the path ahead becomes clearer and I carry their strength from years of facing whatever comes their way. I again find the balance to go forward and continue my journey until that final setting sun. As midsummer comes and goes, I hope you find those places as well.