I look around and I see the torrential rains pounding against the trees, the muddy cars and streets, the aggressive and inappropriate police, the underground railroad bloodied by sweat and overworked civic servants, the endless rows of malls and stores that continue to push ahead time by precipitously changing the stock of clothes from season to season, holiday to holiday and fast as it goes I never seem to catch up and frankly I am pissed off because like a child, I am enjoying the sand and don’t want to hang up my bikini yet.
Just yesterday I found myself walking alongside tiny white rowed houses propped up by narrow sidewalks, Andalusian tiles and every once in a while a terra cotta awning barely providing for a shady patch. Cars and mo-peds speeding by, children and grandparents walking home at four in the morning talking street, gossip on every corner topped with a cold beer flood over tobacco and spit lined bar stools, a friendly face found on the beach and the heat that forces your bones to lay still, very still so that the tiny cool breeze will find its way through the maze of window panes and narrow hallways hopefully to land on you for long enough than a heartbeat, then morning -at least when the mountain and ocean dew meet for breakfast and then and only then will it be cool enough to enjoy a cup of coffee and fresh squeezed orange juice. I see poverty and anxiety and hopelessness and flat screened televisions blasting cartoons or the news, garbage bins piled high and overflowing, a torn mattress thrown along the curbside, a sign that warns of too many plastic bags swinging high over a recycling container that spits out bottles of wine and Casera. The older generation complains that there isn’t enough discipline and the younger generation demands liberation from structure and the little ones find themselves caught between the two, silenced voices as of yet, confused and raising themselves while the adults bicker about politics.
Looking outside, I find little balance. I want to choose sides, find the first class ride, make believe that I have a choice, contemplate a better life, think that somewhere out there is a place where I will be happy and free and the weather will cooperate with my mood swings. Somewhere there will be that perfect city where the streets will be clean but the police won’t beat people and the ocean air will float over all the pot holes so there will be no rancid smell of urine or dog feces. A place where we won’t notice any difference between people because there will be no rich and no poor – no immigrant and no citizen, all will belong and all will believe that the place that we live in is really, really just a home for just anybody. Work will be found and hopelessness will not lurk in alleys, bars will be places for joy and the doors will close long enough for people to visit the library, books and movies will be free and fancied like candy and all the while, people will spend at least one part of the day walking and wetting their feet on sand or in the grass, walking to the sound of music or the beat of the sun, clocking time with the rhythm and using this space to give thanks and remember.
There is never going to be balance looking at the outside. There will always be too much rain or too much sun if you look at life through the glass mirror that separates yourself from the world. There will always be a fault. There will always be an imperfection. There will always be something wrong with what you see, when you look outside. We are all desperately looking for balance and we are all so disappointed. Perhaps balance is really just accepting that life is made up of extremes? That our experience of life is like a pendulum – swinging back and forth but never stopping in between? It is a constant movement from one extreme to another and when you get to the far right, prepare yourself, it will return to the left and somehow in this dance, time moves along and life falls not on either side but lies down along the entire continuum. Life is not static – it is always in transit from and to, the ebb and the flow, the high tide will be followed by the low and the deep passion of the night will always be followed by the height of the sun – or the rain, if you are by chance in London or New York on any given day.
I had the opportunity to visit the beach almost every day this past month and many of you may know this, but visiting the beach is like visiting a relative. It is a very familiar place but you never know what you’re going to get. Some days the water is flat like a plate, gentle and calm and shining. Other days, the waves are jumping and the wind lifts grains of sand sending tiny pellets into your skin. Dark water spotted with seaweed, deep green and brown or diving deep under clear blue turquoise waves that rock you and hug you and speak soft stories into your ears. Temperature changes and rocks that you can’t see appear and sometimes there are days when it’s best not to wet more than your feet. Sit alongside it and respect the wisdom from slightly afar. On one day, I never got close enough to the beach because there was no parking and I rode home in the car and watched the sea from a great distance. I was often disappointed. There is nothing more painful than going for a swim and finding the waves too violent or the temperature too cold. But, on the one or two days when I found the perfect combination between the sea, and me-- well, it was amazing. I felt that I had tasted the great heavens. Floating and swimming there in perfect balance, harmony, and perfection. It was only several moments out of many, many - and like ecstasy, it was powerfully hypnotizing - the beauty. Yet, time has passed now since those moments and my memory of the beach is not confined to those two days. It is rather a collage made up of several moments each imprint a unique variation of the sea, the wind, the sand, my feet. All of them together continue to allure me back knowing that on any given day, I might not know what to expect, might not know how we both are going to interact – whether it be in mutual silence and respect or in absolute communion.
Visiting the beach, like visiting a relative is a good exercise in understanding life’s balance. While we are somehow in a familiar place, we really don’t know which way the pendulum might go. If we look for balance, we are not going to find it because our life energy is constantly flowing and moving the scales of balance from one end to the other. On those occasions when we allow ourselves to surrender to this movement, we will experience the miraculous joy of the heavens. There we can see the entire spectrum of colors, a prism of sorts-- when all of the variations and extremes come together to create light.