“Ritual practice is the activity of cultivating extraordinary ordinariness.” ~ Ronald L. Grimes
This is the bench where I sat while I contemplated the day, my life, the world, even the boundlessness of the universe. I was restless. Untethered. I had just finished a project I’d been pouring my soul into for the past six months. It was time to send my work, my labor of love, out into the world. And though this was a time of fruition and celebration, it also was a time of saying goodbye, letting go, even a bit of grieving. I seemed to be going through a bit of postpartum blues after birthing my project and readying my official announcement to launch my Desert Wisdom Cards into the public realm.
Realizing this is a common reaction to the completion of a beloved project — joy coupled with letting go — I sat in solitude and let my mind wander. I decided to create a ritual to both celebrate and provide a sense of closure to this part of my creative life.
I took in my surroundings. The prairie grasses were yellowing, the summer flowers had set seed. The apple trees were over laden with ripened fruit, and some of the apples had dropped onto the earth. Cracked walnuts were along the paths. Yet there was evidence of bustling life all around me. Geese in flight, meadowlarks perching in the maple trees, the autumn flowers of the prairie — showy goldenrod, purple asters, daisy fleabane — in full bloom.
I considered what was happening under the surface. This summer has been one of multiple losses. I’d anticipated that the completion of my Desert Wisdom Cards would bring fulfillment and joy. They did, but they also touched gently upon more feelings of grief. I understood that this feeling was temporary, there were other projects waiting for my attention, but I also wanted to honor this time of transition.
And so I searched for a meaningful ritual, one that might bring a feeling of comfort and acceptance, of saying goodbye while looking forward with anticipation. So I asked a few questions…
What could I use as a guide? What components might be in a transitioning ritual? What would a healing place hold?
- the night sky, dark, abundant with stars
- open spaces, open minds
- spiritual spaces, resting spaces, thinking places
- a container that contained my curiosities, my questions, my collections
- quiet, slow, peaceful
- folk art, expressive art, art that tells a story, art that has heart
- kindnesses and little gifts (When traveling it is customary to bring tiny gifts in exchange for kindnesses received along the path and to those who share their stories.)
- a place in nature, ecological, in balance
- a place my great-grandmother would have loved
The last thought — a place my great-grandmother would have loved — was the trigger that helped me address my longings. I thought of the many things I’d learned from my great-grandmother when I was a child, of the many things she’d loved. I thought of the changing season, summer sliding into autumn, of the routines we had made extraordinary in their repetition as we did our late summer chores with love and respect and companionship.
We picked a late summer flower, a single blossom, from the garden every morning and placed it in a tiny vase on my great-grandmother’s dressing table. We gathered the remainder of the harvest from the vegetable garden before the first hard frost, cleaned and cut the vegetables, and made huge pots of vegetable soup with my grandfather’s supervision.
We cooked applesauce, apple butter, peach preserves. Then spent the last hot days of summer canning our bounty. We made dough, rolled it out, and cut the dough into long noodles. We dried herbs on racks in the pantry. We raked the garden and added to our compost pile. We pulled the quilts and blankets out of storage, and draped them over several back yard clothes lines to air in the breeze.
We adapted our evening rituals to the sun’s earlier schedule. Instead of sitting on the porch after supper, chatting with passing neighbors, we set up a table in the kitchen for puzzles and games. Once it started getting dark while we ate supper, we fell into a simple routine of cleaning the kitchen, then playing games of Parcheesi or Pokeno. We would take an evening walk around the outside of the house just before bedtime, making sure all was as it should be, admiring the starlit skies.
So much love and care and honor went into these simple actions. Home and hearth. Routines and rituals – all good for the soul.
Today I jotted down a few reminders – ways to prepare for the changing season, routines to ease the change from busy day to rejuvenating evening, rituals to remind me of the sacredness in the ordinary. Simple actions – gardening, cooking, preparation for autumn.
Do you long for a way to honor the changing seasons, for the ordinary turned extraordinary by the practice of ritual? What might you add (or subtract) from your days in honor of the ordinary, the sacred?
Bo Mackison is photographer, book-artist, collector of stories, naturalist, curator and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. Today I thought of my grandparents and great-grandmother and contemplated one of the gifts they gave me –the quest for routine and ritual.