Season by season

I love ritual. I depend on those things that we make happen season by season. I like knowing that some of the things I do are exactly the same as those my mother did, and her mother, and her mother’s mother. On a clear autumnal afternoon, I tuck away the swimsuits, flip-flops and camping gear scented by summer winds, and begin to daydream about soup, sweaters and pumpkins.

The transition from summer to fall is gentle. Brilliant blue skies muddle into cloudish grey atmosphere that cools the air and casts long shadows across the toasted grass. I long for moonrise and observe that the sun is leaving us just a bit earlier every day.

The light has changed. There are fewer roses and the sunflowers dip toward the earth, their warm petals falling. Autumn brings jewel-colored blossoms, deep crimson mums and rich goldenrod. I buy a great armful at the farmers market down the road.

Yesterday we trouped to the Oregon Zoo to gaze at cheetahs, chimpanzees, and crocodiles. Miles’ first soccer team is named the Cheetahs and they won their first game by approxiately fifteen goals. I lost count. The joy in scoring was real, but the other team seemed to have just as much fun as the five-year-olds played three-on-three with no goalkeeper to protect the pocket-sized goal. For many years, the month of September meant back to school and soccer practice, games and notebooks and friends. I wonder if my sons will remember these days as summer slips softly away.

Ritual has been present in nearly all known human societies, past or present. While my own traditions sustain and delight me, I enjoy learning about others’ rituals, too. Even if it isn’t one I practice, it feels good to know that something meaningful is happening out there. A few nights ago some friends celebrated the Jewish New Year by sharing symbolic food, reading and prayer by candlelight. Rosh Hashanah is not my tradition, but it feels right to recognize the diversity and deep roots within and among us as human beings.

As we bid adieu to summer, I go outside first thing in the morning and stand on the deck. The air feels different. The garden is tumbling, overflowing and dying in bits and parts. It’s not quite warm yet not at all cold. I gaze skyward to silently greet my loved ones passed, and prepare to meet the day.

In a few months I will open dusty boxes of holiday decor and delight. One by one I will unwrap precious ornaments, fragile balls and wooden reindeer and fuzzy Santas and leftover candy canes. I will recognize them as old friends whom I haven’t talked to in so long. They are shiny and old and full of sparkle.

Two years ago, my eldest actively participated in trimming the tree.

He did the best he could. It was both hilarious and heartbreakingly adorable as it didn’t occur to him to reach for higher branches.

Ritual. Past. Present. Future.

Our great-grandparents undoubtedly took part in ritual in their homes, schools, and worksites. Some of it hurtful, probably. Some of it inspiring.

What and where we come from doesn’t define who we become but it does play a role in who we are.

What are your rituals?

Have you left any behind? On purpose or with regret?

Begun any new traditions? I’d love to hear from you.

8 thoughts on “Season by season

  1. Lottie Nevin says:

    Funnily enough I was thinking about seasons and rituals just earlier. I was writing to a friend and explaining how strange it was not to have four seasons now that I live in Indonesia. I miss them! Lovely though baking sunshine and a tropical climate is, I genuinely miss the pattern of a year and all the things that you write of above. For years and years I’ve had my seasonal rituals, things that I look forward to doing once the weather changes, festivals, holidays etc but here, everyday is flip-flops and being a prodominantly Muslim country, Christmas is not quite the same. I’m sure in time I shall get used to it but there’s no doubt that aside from missing my kids, family and friends, the changing seasons and the associated rituals that connect me to them, are the thing that I miss the most.

    • skpadilla says:

      Weather and environment are powerful influences on our daily lives. I lived on a Caribbean island for two years and also found it quite strange to celebrate Christmas under the hot sun. Thank you for reading!

  2. Lauren says:

    Beautiful writing. Isn’t it amazing how you can tell just by *something* in the air that it’s fall? It has yet to really hit here, but it’s coming — I can tell my the crispness in the morning air.

    I do enjoy the putting away of summer clothes, and the replacement with fall clothes that happens every year around this time. The change in seasons was a little crisper in Northern CA than it will be here in Texas — we’re likely to have temps in the 90s off and on for a little while yet — but it’ll still be the same process. It’s a small thing, but I like it, and the transition it symbolizes.

  3. sandra tyler says:

    True. there is great comfort found in rituals. And one of my favorites is that, packing away the summer things to pull out the cozy warmth of sweaters etc. I guess I am a fall girl!:)

  4. says:

    Hi Sweetiee,

    I enjoyed this column but wonder what some of your great grandparents “scathingly hurtful” rituals might have been. Ceemonial amputations? Ritualized suicide? Mass torture?

    Just wondering.

    Love, Dad

    ps Have you swum since out swim?

    • skpadilla says:

      Hi Dad,

      I wasn’t necessarily speaking of my great grandparents, but rather of all the great grandparents – sort of like the royal We. I don’t know… hurtful ritual has existed as long as helpful ritual and not always recognized as such. Mayan bloodletting and virgin sacrifice. Seasonal auctions to purchase humans. And so forth.

      Yes, I’ve been swimming.


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