I am running an experiment in perfection, and yesterday, I had a perfect day.
I worked in the garden. Cabbage moths have infested the pac choi. The tomato supports are failing, and their branches trail the ground.
I drank coffee, read a book and tried to meditate in the sun. I was sleepy, and the coffee had gone cold.
I stretched, and walked down to the end of the lawn to salute the gods at our outdoor altar. I felt the life in my connection to my gods again. I bowed to them and said hello. The icons on our altar are different heights, and do not look like gods. Anyone but me would probably think that they are absurd.
I made lunch from vegetables I’d grown in our own garden. The mustard greens are getting old, and the salad was slightly bitter because of them.
In the afternoon, I walked to the beach, a beach chair strapped to my back. It was good to feel my muscles working, and it was good to feel the water against my skin. Ugly pollen floated on the water. After a while, the beach chair hurt my back. The homeward walk was hot and sticky, and it gave me a headache.
I picked black raspberries behind my house. There are so many of them, they burden the canes. I stabbed my thumb with an especially large thorn, and my arms and legs are scratched all over. Mosquitoes ate me alive.
Friends came over for dinner. We shared intimate talk, and wine, and food. It was too hot in the kitchen to cook. Sweat stuck to my skin and stung in my scratches. My headache got worse and worse as it got late.
I never wanted the day to end.
I never wanted the day to end.
Because I am a school teacher whose only child is an adult, every year I have a chance to re-invent my life.
One of the frustrations of my life during the school year is how little time I have for any outward practice of religion. From Labor Day through the end of June, my daily spiritual practice is the meditation I perform behind the wheel of my car in the morning; that is the only time I’ve found to sneak it in. While the summer vacation of a modern school teacher is not the mythical oasis most Americans imagine (it’s two months long, not three, and three weeks of it actually belong to continuing education and prep for the coming year) it still grants time to experiment with my life.
What an amazing luxury! Every year, I get to ask myself, what is the right way to live? In particular, what is the right way to live a spiritually-centered life? What would my spiritual life be like on a perfect day?
Of course, starting out with such grand questions in my mind, I set my expectations much too high. My summers always begin in disappointment, as I must relearn that Nirvana can’t be booked like a room in a seaside hotel. Reality never seems cooperative with my experiments in spiritual balance. The house is grubby after a year of neglect, there are countless chores calling for attention, and typically, the summer begins with several muggy, mosquito-plagued days to make me feel glued to the couch, slothful, resentful, and depressed.
But I rally. Eventually, I remember how to cope with having time off. Eventually, I remember that spiritual balance and contentment are built, brick by brick, and that it is not the having but the building that is satisfying. I remember, and I begin my experiment again.
Yesterday was the day I began to remember how it is done. I remembered the place of balance in a Perfect Day. I remembered the place of imperfection.
For me, for this Quaker Pagan mystic, a Perfect Day will include thorns. It will include mistakes, and bitterness… work and stillness; solitude and company; the cool relief of lake water and the sweet tang of a raspberry on the tongue. Inevitably, I will savor my raspberries at the very moment I hear the whine of a mosquito in my ears.
A Perfect Day means taking time, and being present, and being real.
Perfection is ordinary. I am the one who must change.