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.