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Tomorrow is the equinox. The Earth will be tilted neither towards nor away from the sun, meaning that day and night will be equal – exactly twelve hours each.
Of course, I’ve always had a vague idea of what the equinox is, but I’d never really thought about it until recently. How can it be true, I wondered, that one the same day everywhere in the entire world will be balanced evenly between night and day? It hardly seems possible. After all, I’m up here in Seattle where, in the height of the summer, we were having nearly sixteen hours of daylight, and come wintertime we’ll get a measly eight and a half. How can it be that on September 22nd Seattle will have the same length day as places much more south than here– and much more north?
As crazy as it seems, it’s true. For two amazing days each year (the other equinox is March 20th), the earth is positioned such that every single spot on the globe gets equal light and dark. Of course, after the equinox is over, northern places like Seattle start losing daylight hours at a much quicker rate than places in the south, and the days and nights become uneven once again.
Maybe the equinox is a good time to think about balance, and how hard it is to achieve. Unless you live smack dab on the equator, there are only two days a year when you find this perfect, ying-yang balance between night and day. And similarly, unless you have learned the secrets of the universe, (and I doubt you have), you probably live a less-than-balanced life.
There are so many things to try to balance! I am always trying to figure out how much I should save and how much I should splurge, for example. And I constantly struggle over how to balance my time between work, writing, and all the other things I do (volunteer, exercise, clean, and, now, guitar lessons). As if that’s not enough, I also have to work on a balance with my writing activities. How much time do I spend revising my novel versus working on a new one? How much time do I spend writing blog posts versus submitting short stories versus reading what others have written? Which of these deserve more time, or should I be giving them all equal attention?
Speaking of balancing acts, my grandmother is obsessed with the famous family of tight-rope walkers, the Wallendas. She remembers, as a little girl, going to see Karl and the Flying Wallendas at Madison Square Gardens, and she has this convoluted story she likes to tell about how her great aunt used to be the Wallenda’s lawyer. Recently she called me, bubbling with excitement over Nik Wallenda’s latest insane venture: walking across the Grand Canyon on a tight rope with no harness or safety net.
“You have to watch it,” she told me. “It will take your breath away.”
No joke. Nik Wallenda toes his way across an impossibly thin wire over the freaking Grand Canyon. Towards the middle of his journey, thirty mile-per-hour winds kick up, the rope starts to sway, and he has to crouch down to keep from falling. He finally gets up and keeps going, and then, he runs – runs – the last few feet along the wire and into the open arms of his wife and young sons. How they could stand there and watch those twenty-two minutes of torture, I’ll never know.
Nik Wallenda takes balance to the extreme. It’s great for him, I’m sure, but I don’t think he’s the best role model for the rest of us. We need a more sane way of staying balanced.
We should look to another balancing act (one that isn’t quite so terrifying): the hanging mobile. It’s perfectly in balance, and yet, not exactly equal. In the example above, there are more items hanging from one side of then mobile than the other. Yet it’s still finds a way to stay straight. With a bit of planning and consideration, even the most seemingly lopsided of mobiles can hang in perfect balance.
It’s a lot like our lives. We’re never going to be able to spend an equal amount of time on everything we need to do, and, in fact, we wouldn’t want to. Our lives may seem too heavy on one side or the other, but if we pay attention and plan and make the proper arrangements, we can still find a way to balance.
I’m not sure I’d want to live at the equator with the same season all year round. I like the way the days get shorter in the fall (it’s cozy) and longer in the spring (it’s exciting). Being in balance doesn’t always have to mean equal.
And, you know, maybe there is something we can learn from Nik Wallenda after all. When the wind whips up, life begins to overwhelm you, and it seems like you might fall: stop a minute. Wait, pray, reestablish balance. Then stand up and continue on your way.