This was a powerful full moon. One of my dearest and (I realized after she tallied the years) oldest friends invited me to a moon meditation to welcome it. The instructor led us through some simple stretches and short sitting meditations, and then had us walk very slowly around the room.
At first, I felt faintly ridiculous. Slow stalking is all very well and good when you're trying not to startle the elk, but when you're tiptoeing around a stuccoed yoga studio in Santa Monica in a line of leotard-clad moon-worshippers...well...but I got over it. I fell into the age-old swaying rhythm, one foot, then the other. Never quite fully balanced, never quite falling down.
"No matter how lofty your goals, no matter how terrible your burdens," the instructor intoned, "this is how we approach our lives. One foot in front of the other. One foot, then the other."
And isn't it the truth. At the end of a long day, I look around the house and begin to pull together the pieces. Once again, I reassemble the shell of our home, piling clothes worn hard into the hamper, washing and drying and stacking the dishes that held dinner, tossing the props of my children's burgeoning imagination back into the toy bin. Mending ripped fabric, gluing torn pages, relacing shoes. Making up the beds. Plumping the pillows. Packing lunches. Sweeping up the grains of rice beneath the table,mopping up the suds that escaped the bath. Echoes of laughter, conversation, jigsaw bits of lives lived fill up the dustpan, the dishcloth, the mop. A misplaced wrench: my son's first bike ride. That paper on the floor: a thank-you note from his first teacher. Our lives are scattered all around us. This is all there ever is.
It is easy to lose track of the beauty in this sort of work. Knocking the dirt from the soles of their shoes, scrubbing the toilet. But putting it all together again gives me the chance, now that all is quiet, to reflect on what tore it all apart: the dinner we shared, the games we played, the giggling kung fu tournament that rolled madly through here an hour ago. And I remind myself, yet again, that there is never a moment when everything is perfect and we can rest and enjoy our lives. Life happens in the dust and clamor and turmoil. Life is that one moment when you catch your two-year-old's eye and you both burst into gales of laughter, right there between the tantrum and the diaper change. And, if I'm quick enough to catch it, it's my eldest son trying to get my attention when I am grouchy and preoccupied with finding next day's bus fare, asking me why noses are, in nearly every species, located just above the mouth.
Building things back up, every day, I slowly catch on to the beautiful arithmetic of motherhood: you don't subtract the difficulty, the miserable moments, from the wonderful ones. You sandwich them in, using them as a setting for those bits of glowing time when life makes sense, and you can hear the poetry. One foot. Then the other.